by Dr. Susan Block.
Modern love, sex and dating have always been tricky to navigate. But the Coronapocalypse has turned a rough path into a veritable obstacle course.
That’s why I created this “Guide for the Perplexed” (with apologies to Maimonides).
The good news is a vaccine is around the corner. But in the meantime, how can you make it through the pandemic, achieve your relationship goals, satisfy your dating desires and have a good time running this crazy course without falling flat on your unmasked face into an infected puddle?
Dating in the Time of Coronavirus
…with apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Say you’re single. You want to connect with other singles for dating, a relationship, love, lust, kink, intimacy, marriage, holiday festivities or just for fun. What could be more natural and good for you?
Except in a pandemic, when it’s all fraught with danger, worry and hassle at every level. First, there’s the physical risk: you could catch Covid-19, die, get sick and/or infect other people. Then, there’s the mental turmoil: even if you don’t catch it, you might be extremely stressed out by the thought of catching it, maybe even paranoid to the point of social paralysis.
Dating in a pandemic is like taking a bite of the forbidden fruit. It might taste delicious, but it could toss you into a wilderness of trouble. It’s not a foregone conclusion that you’ll catch Covid-19 if you kiss, hold hands, share a meal, a drink, a dance, a spank or a roll in the hay, but is it a risk worth taking?
Then again, maybe you don’t care. Perhaps you don’t believe you’ll catch Covid-19 or that it’s even real. Here at the Institute, we think you’re wrong, of course, but just say, for argument, we don’t know what’s right or wrong. Still, even if you believe “Covid-19 is a hoax,” you’re trying to meet “new people” in a dating world where most folks think you’re nuts and/or pretty irresponsible.
Not a good dating look, except maybe for QAnon Singles.
For most of us, neither of the extreme alternatives—being a complete shut-in or throwing caution to the wind and out the window—is very appealing.
The question is, how might you minimize the risk while living your life, if not to its fullest, at least to a degree it’s worth living? How do you get close to someone new while everyone’s playing physical “keep away” on a grand scale? How can you satisfy your personal, interpersonal and sexual needs under these crazy, impersonal, sex-negative, date-demolishing conditions?
Need to talk about dating, mating, self-love, fantasies, fetishes, problems, pleasures or anything else that you can’t talk about with anyone else? You can talk to us. Call the Therapists Without Borders of the Dr. Susan Block Institute anytime 24/7 at 213.291.9497. We’re here for YOU.
Let’s NOT Get Physical
First, let’s establish our terms. “Social-distancing” is a misleading misnomer. It makes it sound like we have to stop socializing, communicating, connecting with or caring about one another. That’s not very bonobo, or very human, let alone conducive to love, sex and/or dating.
Here at the Institute, we prefer the term “physical distancing,” which is bad enough, but not as bad. To “flatten the curve” or just minimize risk, we need to “physically distance” ourselves from each other—maintaining a physical distance of six feet or so, unless we’re masked up, and even then, it’s best to forego close physical contact.
Unlike the virtual “viruses” that “infect” our digital systems, the Coronavirus is a physical bug. Therefore, we don’t have to do “social distancing” at all! We can maintain, deepen and expand our social relationships, including dating, mostly through our otherwise demonic devices to our social-lite/influencer hearts’ content.
Yes, our devices can be vices—bad habits, stupefying sources of alienation, depression, misinformation and a host of other social ills. But in our battle against COVID-19, they are proving to be lifesavers, a vital means of communication, a loneliness balm, a method of connecting, a means to let off steam, and a way to stay or get in touch without touching.
It’s still possible for singles to meet physically—and very romantically—like the “Romeo and Juliet” of the Italian Coronapocalypse who actually met on their respective balconies during a lockdown—in the city of Verona where Shakespeare’s play takes place! Unlike the Bard’s star-crossed lovers, this Romeo and Juliet’s tale has a happy ending, and now they are engaged.
But alas, we don’t all have balconies positioned fortuitously across from eligible singles or that kind of sheer luck.
If you’re politically motivated, you might meet someone at a protest, one of the few types of large gatherings that’s allowed during quarantine. At least, then you know they share your political views.
But the great majority of in-person events have been cancelled or postponed and most bars, clubs, hotels, nonessential stores and restaurants are closed. Gone are the days of hooking up with a hottie at the club. Gone is the fated rendezvous at the local bookstore or coffee shop.
As for something to do together on that first, second or 10,000th date, gone are those simple nights of “dinner and a movie.”
Hopefully, this state of human physical isolation is temporary, and the new vaccine will free us soon to meet again. But right now as of this writing, the American Covid-19 death and hospitalization count is surging, it feels like the physical world has become a vast social wasteland as the virus, like Thanatos the Angel of Death, sweeps its poisonous way, through our lives.
Virtues of Virtual Dating
In the meantime, just beyond the physical world, there’s a gigantic universe of souls awaiting your connection just a few keyboard strokes or phone pad taps away.
Hopefully, those “souls” are connected to real living human beings and not bots or fake accounts. Such is one of the many risks of dating in cyberspace.
It’s a risk well worth taking, especially during a pandemic when, outside of balconies, protests and masked-up meetings in Whole Foods, there isn’t much choice.
For many singles, that means a dating app. The type of app depends on what you’re looking for, some temporary fun or marriage and a family? For instance, if you’re looking for a more serious relationship, you might try Hinge, which allows you to set your relationship preferences, then curates your matches in terms of ideals and interests, lowering your chances of being matched with Mr., Ms. or Dr. Wrong. It also recently added a “Date from Home” feature, which allows you to video chat with people you’ve messaged.
Regarded by many as the Holy Grail of hookups, Tinder is one of the biggest dating sites. Perhaps because it’s so popular, it can involve a lot of swiping before you find someone worth putting on your mask, not to mention getting off your couch, to break quarantine and actually meet.
In most societies, though we ladies tend to flirt with our eyes (still possible, even with a mask!), men are traditionally expected to initiate verbal contact. The Bumble dating app bucks tradition by only allowing women to send the first message, i.e., make the first move. If the woman doesn’t respond to the match in 24 hours, the connection is lost. This is very bonobo in terms of female empowerment, giving women some control in a time where many are bombarded with unwanted messages and, let’s face it, dick pics (precursors to Zoom Dick, they’re still flourishing and mostly nonconsensually). However, what’s great for some isn’t the best for others, and Bumble can be frustrating for shy gals and more dynamic guys.
OK Cupid is considered best for providing accurate matches based on preferences, sexual orientations and gender identities. It lets you set your preferences regarding family, religion, political leanings (crucial these days) and Zodiac sign. It even lets you use certain Covid stances, like lack of Covid safety, as deal-breakers. The main problem with OK Cupid is that, unlike Tinder or Bumble, you may get caught in an avalanche of unwanted messages.
Just like love itself, no dating site is perfect for everyone.
What about special interests? According to a recent article by Digital Trends, top sites catering to hobbies or orientations include Kippo, (for gamers), HER (LGBTQ+ women), Pure (good for hookups) or NuiT (astrology buffs), and then there are the more traditional websites like Match and Plenty of Fish which still lead the pack in popularity for singles of all ages seeking relationships of all kinds.
Advertising for Love
Just about all of these dating apps and sites require that you post at least one photo and a description of yourself. If you’re not used to singing your own praises without sounding like a lame duck, this could be a daunting task.
If you need some guidance, check out my classic book, Advertising for Love: How to Play the Personals (William Morrow Publishers). It may be over 35 years old, but it predicted the current online dating boom and, though dating apps are a lot quicker than those old newspaper personal ads, you still have to write something catchy, not too threatening, humorous but not offensive, honest but enticing. With all the advances in technology, you’re still essentially advertising for love.
Of course, you don’t have to confine your search for a soulmate, addition to your polycule, hot phone sex or whatever your locked-down heart desires to dating apps. Lots of people meet the new love of their life on “traditional” social media sites, like Twitter or Instagram, or hook up with old flames through Facebook (links go to my accounts because, hey, I’m always looking to make new friends!). But no, LinkedIn is not a dating service; no matter how awesome you think you are, don’t try to hook up with people hoping for job offers.
Speaking of mixing business and pleasure, don’t be like Jeffrey Toobin and catch a bad case of “Zoom Dick”—which can be worse than the virus… for your career. It’s usually best to keep your sex and dating life separate from your online business meetings, insanely aroused as you might feel around your co-workers. There are exceptions, such as if the “work” you’re engaging in is sex work or if you fall in love with a co-worker, and you’re both ready to deal with the consequences… but even then, you shouldn’t do the cyber-equivalent of PDA (public displays of affection) during a work meeting.
So, just take this as a general Zoom Dick Prevention rule, don’t pull it out in the wrong online meeting any more than you would on stage at a conference (hopefully you wouldn’t, and if you would, forget dating; you need sex therapy).
There’s nothing wrong with showing off sexually; just do it in the right, consensual situation. Some social media sites actually encourage you to let your kink flag fly. Whether you’re an experienced Top or bottom, or just a kink-curious newbie, these sites let you learn as you connect with people. Probably the most popular kink-positive social media site is Fetlife.
If you’re a little adventurous, check out Bonoboville, a great place to connect, show off, share your thoughts and/or find a prime mate!
Need to talk about dating, mating or anything else that you can’t talk about with anyone else? You can talk to us. Call the Therapists Without Borders of the Dr. Susan Block Institute anytime 24/7 at 213.291.9497. We’re here for YOU.
Getting to Know You…
Once you’ve successfully advertised for love, and it appears some lucky person is interested in what you’ve got, congrats! Now it’s time to reap your dating reward and meet your potential mate IRL (in real life)… or is it?
In these treacherous times, most single people opt to build a rapport online before meeting in person. Many daters try Zoom, FaceTime or other forms of video chat before taking that next big step to an IRL rendezvous. This alleviates some mystery so at least you can be pretty sure you’re not getting catfished, and it also helps you to get to know each other before taking the plunge…into going out and about in the midst of a pandemic.
You may even choose to have the first few dates via video. Try a Zoom dinner (sure, Ramen’s okay, but do dress it up a bit) and a movie, cocktails, a smoke or whatever you’d like to share. Make it fun and festive, though splosh might be taking it a bit far…
Of course, it’s not as much physical fun as in-person dating someone awesome. But if you realize midway through your cyber-date that your date is an asshat, at least you don’t have to Uber your way home. You just have to come up with a credible excuse why you have to leave the chat a little early. Have a few excuses handy, as in “Oooohhhh… this Ramen Alfredo is making me sicko!” or “Uh oh, Fido just knocked over the trash, and there are hypodermic needles in the driveway—gotta go!” Do not say you just got a text from your sister that your Mom caught Covid; that’s bad taste and very bad luck.
One benefit of virtual dating is that your conversation won’t be drowned out by restaurant din, club music or the raging drunk at the other end of the bar.
You can even use your “sexy voice.”
Another plus: no awkward moments when you have to figure out who picks up the check. Hey, if you keep your camera focused on your upper half, you don’t even have to wear pants!
You may both feel so close, you decide to have cam sex or phone sex even before meeting IRL. That’s fine, just make sure the feelings are mutual and consensual before you strip down for your date. When in doubt, keep it “clean” and release your inner bonobo (tiger, horndog, pussy, anaconda or whatever applies) consensually, maybe in a webcam therapy session.
Going Out IRL
Eventually, unless you are both agoraphobic, you will want to meet IRL (in real life). At this point, you should know your date’s personality, philosophies, life goals, voice and appearance so well that the only thing that could turn one of you off is their smell. Then again, in the Coronapocalypse, you shouldn’t be getting close enough to detect such intimate aromas, at least not on the first IRL date.
If it was difficult to plan and carry out an in-person date before, it’s double-tough in the Coronapocalypse. A walk through the park six feet apart? A masked brunch?
If you’re cautious, you and your date should get a Covid test before meeting IRL. Yes, it’s a bit of a pain, but testing is getting easier in most places, and consider this: When you’re ready for sex, you’d probably get an STD test anyway, so with the pandemic, there’s just a little more testing involved.
Even if you’ve both tested negative and you’re (presumably) Covid-free, wear your mask on first dates which are probably in public places and might involve all sorts of other people. Best to continue physically-distancing, even if you’re both tested, and especially if you aren’t.
At least, if you live in a place where all the restaurants are closed, you’re not going to argue over where to eat!
So, what to do together… especially when your area’s in quarantine? Even in lockdown mode, most local governments let you walk your dog (Fido’s got to go!), so if you both have pooches, take them for a stroll together… six feet apart. Careful the canines don’t get too friendly though; nonhuman animals can catch Covid too.
True, it’s not exactly a “hot date.” But look at it this way: Good teasing and foreplay usually makes sex a lot better and orgasms much deeper. So maybe all this getting to know each other while physical-distancing will enhance your erotic relationship if and when you’re finally in each other’s arms and humping each other’s brains out.
No one’s saying it’s easy, but it’s possible to find love and lust in the Coronapocalypse, like AJ and Ronnie who met on the HER app. After getting to know each other virtually and then taking the necessary pandemic precautions, the pair, from two different states, decided to meet midway for a secluded night of hot romance… and as of this writing, they’re still sexy Pandemic Partners. As A.J. opines, “Who says you can’t find love in quarantine?”
It happened for them. It can happen for you.
Need to talk about dating, mating or anything else that you can’t talk about with anyone else? You can talk to us. Call the Therapists Without Borders of the Dr. Susan Block Institute anytime 24/7 at 213.291.9497. We’re here for YOU.
Reach Out and Touch… Yourself!
Not everyone is up for the challenge of finding love or even lust in the Coronapocalypse. If you’re happy being single (at least, for now) or exasperated with advertising for love, maybe it’s best you use this “down time” for self-love and improvement.
Let’s start with self-improvement. Now’s a good time to get in shape (most gyms are closed, but you can exercise at home and take the time to eat healthier), start a new hobby, create some great Coronapocalyptic art, practice meditation, learn to play an instrument, write that screenplay that’s been in your head since you were 12, build a new business (not a restaurant or bar right now; something pandemic-friendly like an online shop), take a virtual class (how about a virtual kink class?), catch up on reading great books you never finished or watch some awesome old movies—all things likely to make you a more interesting, desirable partner by the time we get through this crazy pandemic and back into the swing of things.
It’s great to exercise, eat healthy and “love yourself” platonically. But loving yourself erotically is also good for you, and it’s natural. Aside from grasping tree branches and smartphones, human fingers are made for stroking, strumming… and self-loving!
As George Carlin said, “If God (or the Goddess) had intended us not to masturbate, S/He would have made our arms shorter”… and our fingers less adept.
Bonobo fingers are made for self-love too. You see our close Great Ape cousins, the bonobos, as well as other primates, doing it so much in the zoo (when the zoo is open, which most are not these days), you might want to tell them to “get a room.”
Of course, there’s no reason you can’t go bonobos for self-love all year around; but the Coronapocalypse is the perfect time for you self-love slackers to step up your game. Do it in memory of my beloved mentor, the Godmother of Masturbation, Dr. Betty Dodson, single for all but five of her 91 years, but never lacking for orgasms, thanks to her hands, her vibrator(s), a great imagination and a heart full of love.
During isolation, you’re more than likely spending extra time with yourself, so why not really enjoy your own company? Exploring masturbation is the easiest, safest and most convenient way to enjoy sex during physical distancing, and also explore your body and desires. Just remember, wash your hands before you start choking that chicken or polishing that precious pearl!
According to the New York City Department of Health “You are your own safest sex partner.” As backed by health professionals, masturbating is the best and safest way to enjoy sex without physical touch. And…it can also boost your immune system. Right now is also the perfect time to try new toys and positions. Invest in yourself and your pleasure. There are plenty of places to buy toys and sexual enhancement products online, including Dr. Block’s Pleasure Shoppe (currently under construction, but check it out!).
Moreover, you don’t have to be “all by yourself” as you make self-love. Remember, we’re just physical-distancing, not social-distancing. So, feel free to socialize as you strum your sexual bass guitar, and maybe you’ll find someone to play with. As long as it’s consensual (no Zoom Dick work or family calls, please), like the old AT&T song said, you can “reach out and touch someone” (virtually)… while you touch yourself (literally).
Of course, self-pleasuring isn’t dating, though Zonker in Doonesbury calls it “self-dating.”
So, how will you go on this date with yourself? By car, plane, train or a bicycle built for two? What virtual sex medium is best for you?
Everyone has their preferred d’vice and method for erotic and/or intimate pleasures.
My personal favorite is good old-fashioned phone sex. It’s a lot sexier than abstinence, safer than a hazmat suit and very stimulating in a sapiosexual way. It’s aural sex. You can enjoy it with a new partner (if they let you know they’re game, please don’t just start moaning or heavy-breathing on a casual phone call) or with a professional service.
I love the phone so much I wrote a poem about it:
This is an Ode to My Telephone,
My plastic fantastic lover, my smooth operator,
My companion, confidant, savior, friend.
An ordinary yet revolutionary instrument
that I press intimately against my ear and mouth.
O, how I love thee, O Telephone, I touch your tones,
your push-buttons that beckon invitingly,
your mellifluous ring, your wiry ways,
your voluptuously curling chord,
your ever so receptive receiver,
your amazing ability to communicate!
To sing! To shout! To whisper secrets,
confessions, fantasies, intimacies
we’d never reveal face-to-face.
Around the world and into the new,
you transport my love,
O Telephone, I touch your tones…
You are my aural paramour.
The phone is especially conducive to erotic hypnosis, guided masturbation and exploring the erotic theater of the mind. I’ve guided many women through their first orgasm, taken many men into fantasies they’ve never shared before, helped many trans people enjoy voyages of sexual discovery and much more.
No doubt, the Coronapocalypse is lousy for most things, but it’s a great opportunity to explore new erotic horizons through phone sex.
Need to talk about anything that you can’t talk about with anyone else? You can talk to us. Call the Therapists Without Borders of the Dr. Susan Block Institute anytime 24/7 at 213.291.9497. We’re here for YOU.
Cornoapocalyptic Cam Sex
If you’re more visual, go ahead and bump uglies on webcam. Why not enjoy some consensual Zoom Dick—or Zoom Pussy—if it turns you on?
However, Zoom itself is not a great place to get naked. In fact, some Zoom sex parties have been busted, as they are in violation of the platform’s “acceptable use” requirements.
But fear not, there are many safe havens in cyberspace where you can release your inner exhibitionist consensually and without fear of being evicted from the platform by the Zoom Dick Police.
These include Skibbel and Bateworld, which match you with another eager stranger who shares your desire to connect and possibly even your kinks, fantasies or fetishes. Other sites, like Chaturbate, Adult Friend Finder, Masturbate 2Gether, and The Wank Cam, let you be a voyeur and/or join in on the camming fun.
Hook several of you together in a cam multiplex and you can have a veritable webcam orgy!
If you’re self-isolating in the family room with your parents or kids, you might want to forego the camming and get into sexting.
On second thought, maybe you shouldn’t be masturbating in the family room.
Lots of people like sexting these days, mostly because they’re used to texting. Also, it is quieter and much easier to do with other people in the room than phone sex or camming. Then again, maybe some Sext Machines believe their erotic utterances to be sheer poetry. Maybe they are!
Whatever the case, keep in mind that unlike phone conversations and webcam chats which are gone when you are (unless one of you hits record), sexts are almost always forever embedded in the memory of your—and your sext partner’s—phone.
This has proven highly problematic for many sext lovers, including celebrities.
But hey, if you don’t care if your auto-corrected declarations of passion and perversion are tweeted to the world, sext away!
Whatever your d’vice of choice, carve out some private space and time for sexting, phone sex or Zoom sex.
Or just ditch the d’vices, and do it yourself.
Sometimes, with the right training and mindset, you can even hypnotize yourself. The possibilities are endless.
No Time Like NOW
If you haven’t self-loved yourself yet this pandemic, you’re overdue! Set the mood, buy yourself flowers and a dildo or vibrator, tell yourself you’re gorgeous (and make sure you really mean it!) give yourself a massage (c’mon, you can reach your feet) and make beautiful self-love.
You deserve it.
Whether you have a partner or not, don’t use the Coronapocalypse as an excuse to have bad sex or no sex.
So what are you waiting for? Wash up and get busy!
© December 3, 2020. Susan Block, Ph.D., a.k.a. “Dr. Suzy,” is a world renowned LA sex therapist, author of The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace through Pleasure and horny housewife, occasionally seen on HBO and other channels. For information and speaking engagements, call 626-461-5950. Email her at [email protected]. Editorial Assistance on this article provided by Adriana Gomez-Weston
Need to talk about dating, mating, self-love, erotic hypnosis, fantasy roleplay, fetishes, problems, pleasures or anything else that you can’t talk about with anyone else? You can talk to us. Call the Therapists Without Borders of the Dr. Susan Block Institute anytime 24/7 at 213.291.9497. We’re here for YOU.