We’ve never really been through something like this before. The COVID-19 pandemic is tragic and heart-breaking for many families and individuals: those who have lost loved ones and those who are struggling financially due to lost work.

It has also more broadly changed our society in ways that we can’t even fully calculate yet, but one thing we know is that it is testing our patience and discipline. Married couples find themselves quarantined with one person (or a family) for over 6 months now with no end in sight.

Single people find themselves alone in a puzzling situation whereby they’re really not supposed to even be going out. Even the dating apps recommend doing virtual meet-ups instead of meeting in real life (or IRL, as some of you might say).

It’s ironic: couples and spouses are trapped inside, yearning to be alone; and singles are trapped inside, yearning for romantic companionship.

The Good, the Bad, and the Virtual

The claustrophobia and isolation has culminated in a vibrant online community of quarantiners hosting virtual dance parties, online karaoke, and, of course, sex chatting and FaceTime hookups are at an all-time high.

We’ve never really seen this many people so lonely and sexually frustrated at the same time. It’s like the whole world is a teenager again. There are good aspects to this and bad aspects.

The good side is that more people are exploring ways to safely express their sexuality. Those who take the pandemic seriously know that it’s just not safe to go on dates with veritable strangers, especially if they have a compromised immune system or take care of elderly parents.

If you don’t have a partner and are stuck inside by yourself, there is an age-old solution to such a problem. Masturbation doesn’t have the stigma it used to carry and sex-positivity doesn’t have to mean sex with a partner. Innovative companies have ramped up the sex toy market with state-of-the-art vibrators, pocket pussy devices, and dildos.

Imagine where this could lead in a few years or decades: virtual reality dating, android partners, OS companions like Samantha from the movie Her. We’re not there yet, but during pandemics of the future, you might be telling your grandchild about how you had to make it through COVID-19 without a cybernetic lover.

Additionally, the pornography industry has really tapped into the zeitgeist of the pandemic by encouraging people to stay at home and, well, consume pornography. During the first month or so of the pandemic, Pornhub even gave everyone free access to their premium service to help them during these “hard times.”

For strippers, online virtual shows allow them to supplement work lost (most strip clubs are operating under heavily reduced hours and patronage) while at the same time experimenting (and helping others to experiment) with sex-positive kink in the comfort of their bedrooms.

The bad side of all this sexual frustration is that more people are having virtual affairs than ever before. According to data from a new study, “Individuals who are dissatisfied in their current relationship are more likely to explore alternative options and the increased stress from the pandemic may be contributing to more negative perceptions for individuals of both their partner and their relationship.” 

For new couples or couples who were already struggling with their relationship before the pandemic, such an extended period of time together can bring perceived flaws and negative feelings into sharper focus. For some couples, this could ultimately be a positive thing: they will learn more about each other and discover what that person needs to feel happy.

For other couples, well, this could be the beginning of the end. After all, who wants to hunker down and quarantine with someone they’re no longer attracted to who drives them crazy?

Where all this is headed remains to be seen. We don’t know how much longer the pandemic will rage on without a vaccine. In the meantime, if you’re frustrated, this is a better time than ever to get in touch with your sex-positive side.

If you’re sick of your partner but still love them, this is an ideal time to have a heart-to-heart conversation about what you need physically and psychologically to make it through these hard times. Who knows, someday you could look back and realize this period of time strengthened your relationship.