For my single friends, the worst part of lockdown was not being fingered regularly. As a smart hoe, I moved my boyfriend of three weeks into my flat at the first inkling of quarantine and luckily (for my heart and for our now shared rent) we’re still making it work. While I - and nobody else - anticipated the initial restrictions in March would still be in effect in some way right now, the impact on our ability to be intimate with each other is being felt not just by the single population, but between friendship groups, people in relationships who don’t live together, non-primary partners in polyamorous relationships, family units and every other conceivable kind of pairing.
As naturally sociable (and usually physical) creatures, navigating the new socially distanced world is tough and again, not just for the shaggers among us. The importance of a hug from your best mate, a high five from your dad or the first, tense time showing a second date your favourite film has never been more sorely felt. In an attempt to salvage intimacy, many have moved towards a new dawn of digital intimacy - which is more than just sexting and sending selfies, btw.
Feeld, the dating app for finding fuck buddies and kinky kindred spirits, has taken the concept of digital intimacy and ran with it, creating a new website named FOR PLAY where you can invite lovers, loved ones and literally anyone into a webpage that turns your front camera view into a blob, and lets the blob bounce off other people’s blobs. This will make your phone vibrate, light up and emit squeaks as your blob interacts with other people, hopefully instilling intimate feelings through sensory stimulation. It’s innovative for sure, but upon actually trying out the site, the experience feels a lot more iRobot than intimate.
Lohani Noor, a psychotherapist and psychosexual therapist, thinks that digital intimacy doesn’t need to be so complicated to capture. She suggests that we focus more on the intimate side of the concept over technological advances.
Fostering digital intimacy
Noor explains, “Whether online or in person, and regardless of the level of additional information we receive [by looking at a someone's social media, for example], in order to develop intimacy we still have to go through the process of building trust, communicating authentically, committing to the relationship, balancing autonomy with inter-dependence and knowing ourselves and our partner sexually.”
Milly, a 24 year old data analyst who has been single for both lockdowns, said intimacy for her came through phone and video calls. “Phone calls were easier if I didn’t want to get dressed (I spent all of lockdown in a dressing gown) and I liked feeling like the person was in the room. There also then was less pressure to constantly message, finding comfort in our silences too.” Milly explains, “Once I was more comfortable with this one guy, I would end up video calling when I was in the bath and that was pretty nice, again, because it felt like they were in the room. If anything, intimacy grew more often and more quickly than it would usually do when dating irl.”
Hannah, who lived apart from her partner during lockdown one, emphasises the importance of allocating specific time to share together online, “We adapted the things that we would normally do together, like watching films and drinking wine, so every week we set a day and a time, got a bottle of vino from Tesco and watched whatever we fancied at the same time. We would send each other commentary sometimes but I don’t think that’s where the sense of intimacy necessarily comes from!”
She continues, “Instead it is about knowing that we’re both doing something familiar, something that we love to do despite the shit situation we’re in. Committing time to that sort of intimacy has been just as important as our sexual intimacy, and I really think that made all the difference. Nudes and sex talk are great and fulfilling in one sense, but knowing that you and your partner have like a specific prioritised time for each other where you do something normal has been so nice.”
Taking time to date and interact with your partner is exactly what Dr Noor prescribes for keeping up digital intimacy too. She also suggests, “To enhance the experience of feeling connected, you may want to send each other gifts in the post, a book, a sex toy or the t-shirt you slept in last night. Having something to hold from your partner will help tighten the feeling of connection.”
“Intimacy is a deep emotional bond that must be grown by investing in care, nurture, trust, respect and mutuality,” Noor describes, and in a time where we cannot nurture these feelings in real life, focusing specific energy and time into this journey together online is the only way intimacy will survive.
“You might not be able to kiss and cuddle but use this time to deepen your understanding of one another: Get to know your partner, their thoughts, dreams and ambitions. Plan ahead for all the things you can do post lockdown. Whether you are planning holidays or your five-year life plan don’t hold back. Build mutuality by happily negotiating the details of your combined ventures and life together.”
Essentially, don’t think that keeping your Snapchat streak alive is enough upkeep for intimacy in a relationship. By dedicating yourself and your time to the other person, as well as being open about what you need from them, your relationships are destined to succeed in the digital age.
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