As we wrap up the second year of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and head into junior year of masks and mandates, it may be easy to forget the pandemic time when physical distancing led us to be a little more ~physical~ with ourselves, but it’s time we remember.
Below, sexuality professionals dive deep into the reasons 2020 and 2021 were the years of quarantine masturbation, but celibacy for others. Plus, share tips for getting back into or upgrading your masturbation practice.
Why Some People Quarantine Masturbate(d)
The start of the pandemic saw a w-h-o-l-e lot of jerking off. Indeed, one 2020 survey found that 36 percent of young adults wacked-their-mole more at the start of the pandemic, than they had during the BC (that’s before COVID) years. But why was this exactly?
For some, the increase can be credited to the fact that partnered nookie had to take a deep nosedive. “Due to travel restrictions and safety protocols, many couples were forced into long-distance relationships,” queer-inclusive sex educator Lisa Finn. “Other people were forced to stop their hook-up protocols. And because, as the New York City Health Department stated, we’re all our own safest sex partner, people replaced team sports (unsafe) with solo endeavors (safe).
“Others masturbated more because their libido increases in response to stress,” says kink-inclusive sex educator Carly S, the founder of Dildo or Dildon’t, a pleasure product review and sex educational platform. And with (most) jobs going remote, gyms and restaurants shuttering their doors, and schools going virtual, the pandemic certainly brought on a lot of stress.
There were also people who began masturbating more not because stress makes them horny, but because they know there are stress-busting benefits associated with getting off. “Orgasming releases hormones like oxytocin and serotonin, which make us feel good,” she explains. So assuming someone brings themselves to orgasm, they’d experience similar stress-busting perks to that of meditating or walking outdoors.
“Some people masturbated more because they had more time to watch porn, read erotica, watch movies with hot sex scenes, and consume other arousing media,” says Finn. And others did it just because they were bored. “The reality is most people have way more time on their hands because we were stuck inside without the option of getting out and socializing,” Carly S. says. And many chose to use that time to (ahem) use their hands.
It’s Normal If Your Solo Sex Life Went Lockdown
Of course, not everyone started downstairs DJ-ing more when the pandemic started. Another report saw that a quarter of individuals totally lost interest in self pleasure, which also makes sense.
“Stress may be a libido booster for some, but it can be a libido killer for others,” Carly S says. “So, as stress levels rose over the course of the pandemic, many people saw libido levels dip.”
Further, between gym closings, the lack of reasons to put on ‘real’ clothes, and lack of separation from living mates, led some people to feel unsexy. “It’s a really normal response not to want partnered or solo sex when you’re not feeling sexy,” says Carly S.
Some people masturbated less because masturbating made them feel guilty. “Some people felt guilty doing anything that brought them joy while people were dying, losing their jobs, or going to work in unsafe conditions,” says Finn. And nothing says coochie or cock block quite like guilty!
Related: With so many misconceptions surrounding masturbation and self-pleasure, we speak to some sex experts to bust those masturbation myths.
Pandemic or Not, Masturbating Is Healthy
Regardless of the state of the world, sexuality professionals generally agree that so long as it doesn’t feel like a chore or compulsion, masturbating is healthy AF.
“There are a lot of physical benefits to masturbating,” says Finn. “It can reduce headache, create a feeling of release, reduce stress and anxiety, and help you sleep.” For some people, it can even lessen menstrual cramps and period pains.
Beyond that, solo sex can set you up for more pleasurable partnered play. “Masturbating gives you an opportunity to get to map out your own erogenous zones and get to know your preferences better,” says Carly S. “And when you bring that information into partnered and group sex, and share it with your partner(s), the sex you have is going to be better.” Makes sense!
And of course, there’s the fact that it feels phenomenal, which is reason enough to add it to the menu…
How To Get Back Into A Masturbation Practice
If you’re enjoying your time away from two-finger tangoing, that’s great! If, however, you miss flicking the bean and/or its aftermath, good news: Getting back to toe-curling pleasure can be as easy as starting!
“If you’re just getting (re)started with masturbating, take some time to set the mood,” suggests Carly S. Whether you light a candle, doll up in lingerie, pull the black-out curtains, or pour some wine, she recommends setting the scene with sexy scents, tastes, and sounds.
Next, “find some erotica media that will get your juices flowing and help bring your thoughts to the task at hand,” she says. If you’re a bibliophile, check out the horny books making their rounds on #booktok. If you enjoy audio erotica, look into Dipsea or &Jane. And if you enjoy (ethical) porn look into CrashPadSeries or Bellesa.
Finally, remember that masturbation includes far more than just hands on genitals. “You don’t have to go from zero to clit or zero to penis,” says Finn. “You can pleasure yourself by touching your other erogenous zones.” Hell, your first solo sesh back just be a sensual soap-and-lather session in the shower, or leg lotion rub-down after a bath.
How To Spice Up Your Masturbation Practice
If you’ve been masturbating more since the start of the pandemic and looking for some horny hacks that’ll upgrade your beaver and meat beating time, we got you covered.
Or, flipping your body over “If you normally masturbate on your stomach, try doing it from your back—and vice versa,” she says. This switcheroo will alter the pressure applied to your genitals, which totally changes the way the touch feels.
You could also try anal masturbation if you haven’t before. “If you have a vibrator that’s anal safe, you might try using it to stimulate your ass,” says Finn. All the attachments for The Cowgirl are anal safe and can be used for internal or external anal stimulation. “You could also try wearing a butt plug like the Trio Plug while you masturbate to layer the sensations,” she says.