In the time of Coronavirus, virtual dating apps and video dating have seen a giant surge in popularity. Many singles and couples have embraced Facetime sex, Zoom sex, and other virtual platforms like never before. Virtual spaces like these have provided a much-needed source of connection for a world that has been asked to keep their distance and quarantine. But could this trend change the face of dating for the long-term? Let’s explore.

While virtual sex might never replace human-to-human contact, digital encounters can help us to meet at least some of our needs for connection and pleasure. Embracing sexuality and pleasure on camera can also open up new doorways of erotic exploration and fantasy. They give us permission to try new things and be vulnerable with our partners in ways we might have never imagined before. 

Virtual Dating as the New Norm

Not long ago, people were reluctant to admit to their family and friends that they had been dating virtually. These types of connections were still considered taboo, unsafe and not realistic. In the last decade however, that taboo has gone out the window. 

In fact, meeting virtually is now the most common way for U.S. couples to meet. According to this PBS article, 39 percent of heterosexual couples reported meeting online in 2017 – and that number goes up to 60 percent for same-sex couples. So these days, there’s very little shame in participating in the online dating game.

Unsurprisingly then, the global pandemic has led to an unprecedented interest in virtual dating apps. The most popular dating apps have reported a massive increase in users since lockdown hit the U.S. Tinder, for example, saw more engagement on March 29, 2020 than any other day in its history. 3 billion users swiped right that day to connect with others. Popular dating site OK Cupid saw a 700 percent increase in users going on virtual dates. 

Man video dating

The Rise of Video Dating

While apps like Tinder and Bumble, and sites like Match.com and OK Cupid have been in the game of connecting people for quite some time, a new trend is emerging this year: video dating.

This new visual tool has experienced an incredible boom, and the New York Times even suggested it may have changed the dating game for the better. The potential of video dating was in question before COVID-19 – only 6% of Match.com users tried it prior to March. After that, up to 69% of Match.com users were open to video chatting with someone they had met on the site. 

Video chatting and dating gives people permission to slow down and return to more traditional dating approaches. They are embracing getting to know someone before jumping straight into physical intimacy. It also takes some stressful components of dating out of the equation – like deciding who’s going to pay for that expensive restaurant bill. Instead, video dating allows people to focus on chemistry and connection.

Experts also suggest this trend is more conducive to the human brain and its capacity to make choices. In a world of swiping right or left, we can easily experience cognitive overload, electing to altogether avoid the choices in front of us.

Virtual Sex – New Opportunities for Discovery? 

But the virtual dating space hasn’t just led to deeper connection and a change in dating dynamics. It has opened up a whole new world of exploration of virtual pleasure and arousal. At a time when physical closeness and casual sex have seen a decline, it’s become an important place for people to get their sexual needs met.

Virtual sex in some form or another has served as a source of pleasure and connection long before this pandemic. Many people think of Zoom Sex or camgirls when they hear the term – in reality the umbrella is much wider. Virtual sex is anything sexual happening in a digital space, including sexual activity on or using the internet. This includes sexting, phone sex (which has been around since 1918!), video chat, camming, or playing with internet-connected sex toys

According to a recent study from the Kinsey Institute, 43.5% of people had seen the quality of their sex life decline during the coronavirus pandemic. However, 1 in 5 respondents reported adding new things to their sexual repertoire, such as sexting, sending nude photos, or watching porn. 

Due to the lack of physical contact, some people have questioned whether virtual sex is real sex. Though our culture generally tends to define sex as the penis-in-vagina variety, sex experts have long asked us to broaden our views of what constitutes sex. After all, using words or touch to arouse themselves or others has several benefits. It lowers the risk of STIs and unwanted pregnancies, is inclusive of all bodies, and provides a chance to explore new erotic terrain.  

Girl with phone in bed, having virtual sex

Ideas for Virtual Sex

Exploring virtual sex is a chance to let your imagination run wild and be free of the sexual pressures you might experience in person. Need some ideas? This list will get you started:

Zoom Sex or Facetime Sex

Sharing sexual pleasure with your partner over video can be awkward at first. You may not know where to put the camera, or how to deal with those less-than-flattering angles. 

With some practice however, you can get comfortable and feel empowered to explore your eroticism on camera. Create a sensual scene by changing the lighting, burning candles, and wearing clothes that make you feel good. Prop your camera up so both of your hands are free and play around with different angles. Most importantly, have fun! It’s okay to laugh at the awkwardness as you both find your sexy groove on cam.

Sexting

Rising in popularity for quite some time now, sexting is a great way to add some spice to your quarantine life. Taking away the pressure of being on camera, sexting gives you the opportunity to get creative with your words. Tell your partner what you would love to do if you were in the same room, even if it isn’t possible in real life. Get specific about your turn-ons. Sexting often leads to mutually shared self pleasure. If you are comfortable doing so, send seductive photos throughout the session to up the turn on. Curious to learn more? Read this article on How to Sext – and become a Master.

Cybersex or Phone Sex  

Our biggest sex organ is our brain. Weaving erotic stories can be a big turn on and give you the opportunity to explore what really turns on your partner’s body and mind. Cybersex and phone sex allow you to explore dirty talk and fantasy with your partner(s), creating anticipation for future rendezvous. Here are some more tips on How to Talk Dirty

Virtual Sex Toys

Technology has made it possible to bridge the gap between digital and physical connection. There are heaps of sex toys on the market that allow your partner to control the pleasure you receive from afar. In fact, the term “teledildonics” was coined for those devices that make long-distance remote sex possible. Ready to play? Check out We Vibe’s offerings.

Risks and Precautions

While virtual dating and sex eliminates STIs and unwanted pregnancies, there are other risks to consider. One of the main considerations is your risk to privacy. When sharing explicit pictures or videos, there’s no way to guarantee the person the receiving end will keep that information private.

Experts recommend using an encrypted connection if you want to protect your privacy online. It’s also important to establish trust with your virtual partner. Screenshots are a real thing and there’s no guaranteeing your intimate moments won’t be captured. Trust is crucial when stepping into this level of vulnerability and intimacy with anyone, both online and off. 

As with any sexual encounter, it’s important to communicate with your partner and set boundaries.  Some agreements around virtual sex might include deciding to keep your faces out of the frame, or agreeing to delete all sexy photos after a certain period of time. Consent is also crucial. Be sure to check-in along the way to make sure both parties are still a green light.  

It’s important to listen to yourself and take things at your own pace. Just because it’s virtual doesn’t mean anything goes. Someone you meet on a virtual dating app might pressure you to send explicit photos before you are ready. Take it slow – especially if you are new to the virtual dating territory. Online spaces can stimulate creativity, connection, and great pleasure when all parties work to establish safety and trust. 

Get Your Virtual Sexy On!

Sure – we are dealing with significant changes to our social and dating lives right now. So why not embrace it? Now could be the perfect time to establish fresh connections and explore new erotic territory online.

Engaging with a new space can be a bit scary though – so why not get some help from a sex coach? An online sex coach sees clients via Zoom or another video platform, and can help you get comfortable communicating your sexy in this new medium. This directory of sex coaches online helps pair you with the perfect coach.

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Danielle Harel
Danielle Harel is the co-founder of the Somatica® Institute. She trains coaches in the Somatica® Method of Sex and Relationship Coaching, and has her own private practice in Sunnyvale, where she supports her clients in having amazing sex and relationships as well as passion-fueled lives. She has published original research on Orgasmic Birth and is the co-author of three books: Cockfidence, Making Love Real, and Coming Together. Danielle has her Masters in Clinical Social Work From Haifa University in Israel, and her PhD in Human Sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality (IASHS). She is also a Clinical Sexologist, Certified Sexological Bodyworker and a Certified Body Positive Facilitator.