Let’s Talk About Sex — in Quarantine

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Intimacy app creator Isharna Walsh shares her tips for keeping magic in the bedroom alive — whether you’re going at it solo or partnered up.

Wasn’t quarantine supposed to be sexier? And taking part in a revolution racier? We know we’re not alone when we say that the stress and unpredictability of the last several months have put a damper on, well, feelin’ ourselves.

Isharna Walsh is the founder of the Los Angeles-based intimacy app Coral, which aims to provide users with concrete tools and language to navigate their sex lives. The sleekly designed app features expert science-based advice, interactive quizzes, practical guides and stories from its community. During the first wave of quarantine, Coral conducted a survey of more than 3,000 of its users. “We asked, is intimacy more important in the time of COVID-19?” Walsh says. “Sixty to 65% of people said it feels much more important. But of that same group, 38% of people said they’re having much less sex.”

Walsh notes that it’s an unprecedented time when many are either stuck at home without an intimate partner, living away from their significant other or in forced proximity with their partner.

“I think a lot of people are in a situation where they’re like, oh my God, I’ve literally never spent this much time with you,” she says. “And then you’re layering on top of that this huge amount of stress, whether it be from having children at home or uncertain employment or just the reaction to the overall health situation. So because of those two things, intimacy and connection are under a lot of pressure — despite it being very much the comfort that we seek.”

Coral app
Coral is a Los Angeles-based app designed to facilitate sexual education, acceptance and connection. The app has seen a huge uptick of users since quarantine started. Photo courtesy of Coral.

Sex isn’t only about comfort and connection — it also comes with health benefits. Several studies have shown that an active sex life can help individuals relieve stress and get better sleep. With our mental health and immune systems top-of-mind, we talked to Walsh about how to keep intimacy alive — even during our current crisis, whether you’re with a partner, solo or in a long-distance relationship.

What are your tips for maintaining intimacy during quarantine?

One of the most difficult things is that you’re always with your partner, and you’re seeing them in their most mundane setting. A lot of us are working from home, usually in sweatpants, and we’re not making as much of an effort as we usually might. And so I think the biggest thing is creating the space for a different context. That might mean sending the kids to bed a bit earlier one night — and actually having a proper date night in which you make an effort to get dressed and actually show your partner that you’re showing up.

You might make a different dinner than you usually would — or something, where you can consciously connect in that it’s a date-esque sense, even though you’re at home.

Hopefully, following that is creating the space to connect intimately — without the pressure for sex. Whether that be a sensual massage, whether that be watching porn together — if that’s what you’re into — or playing some sort of a game that you both enjoy, where it can evolve into sex, but there’s not an incredible amount of pressure for it.

What about if you don’t have a partner, or you simply want to connect sexually with yourself, any advice?

It’s actually a very similar process. I guess less impetus around it when you’re alone, but it can be a beautiful escape to seduce yourself. And it can be a really entertaining, fun thing to do. Maybe it’s drawing a nice bath, eating something really nice, lighting candles that smell good, making sure your space is clear — that sort of thing. … Coral has a lot of great guided self-pleasure exercises, where they encourage you to get out of, sort of, your routine. I think most of us, whatever your agenda, tend to have a masturbation sort of script that we follow. So to engage with your body in a different way through something like a Coral exercise — and it doesn’t have to be exactly that — can be really nice.

What if you’re not quarantined with your partner?

We wrote a guide on virtual sex for Coral, and if you want to connect intimately with someone virtually, it’s a very similar thing — it’s all about consciously creating the space for that. There are a few things in that guide, which I think are important around that, and one of them is negotiating boundaries ahead of time. So before you’re actually in a sort of virtual sex scenario, have a conversation with your partner about, is this something you would be into? What would you like to see? What would you like to do? How would you feel if I asked you to do things? It’s really important to have that conversation ahead of time.

I think now … is a good time for if there are any aspects of life that we want to work on or areas where we want to improve ourselves because that gives us a sense of control over our destiny when it feels like there’s so much we can’t control.

Los Angeleno