With the aid of digital technology, love knows no geographical limits. Long-distance relationships seem to be on the rise, as couples use devices to stay connected and committed. Even for partners who live near or with each other, these tools can come in handy: A little sexting can turn up the heat for a later rendezvous.

But now, in the era COVID-19, long-distance romances are more common and complicated than ever before. With borders closing and travel becoming impossible or inadvisable, many partners are navigating new ways of experiencing intimacy with each other.

In this project, we surveyed individuals in the U.S. and U.K. about the digital tools and sexy strategies they use to keep attraction alive from a distance. Whether they normally do long distance or have been separated by social distancing, how have couples pursued closeness and pleasure while away from their partner?

To find out what we discovered (and take note of their tactics), keep reading.

Intimate Technologies

In so many ways, smartphones have revolutionised how we seduce and stimulate our partners. Our respondents went beyond mere phone sex or sexting and used a range of apps and approaches to get sexy with their significant others. 



While phone calls and texts were the most common modes of sexy communication, Snapchat and FaceTime were quite popular as well. A significant percentage had even used video-conferencing platforms such as Skype or Zoom to turn up the heat with their partners (these services have also played host to virtual sex parties during quarantine). 

Interestingly, couples separated by COVID-19 differed somewhat from those who usually did long distance. Compared to the typical long-distance crowd, newly distanced lovers were less inclined to sexting and more likely to make sexual plans for when they are able to meet up again. They also seemed significantly less comfortable with stripping, masturbating, or wearing lingerie over video chat, perhaps because many couples worry that sexy video chat activity may feel awkward.

Overall, 41% of respondents described making sexual plans with their partner as the most sexually satisfying method they’d employed. This finding may seem counterintuitive, as planning future intimacy seems far less explicit than sending nudes or masturbating via video chat. But experts say building anticipation can be extremely satisfying in the long run, and discussing romance in advance can increase sexual tension in the most positive way possible. 

Connecting Despite COVID-19

As COVID-19 presents new challenges in so many areas, our sex lives have certainly not been spared. Among couples social distancing separately, many said maintaining their sexual connection required more effort while delivering less satisfaction.

In fact, 46% of respondents said keeping their newly long-distance sexual relationships demanded “extreme” or “moderate” effort. Additionally, most said COVID-19 separation had caused some degree of stress in their relationship. Unfortunately, no technology can perfectly substitute for a partner’s presence: Scientists emphasise the importance of physical touch in feeling and giving affection. 

Moreover, more than three-quarters of these respondents said the quality of their sex life had suffered due to social distancing from their significant other. Similarly, two-thirds reported experiencing less sexual pleasure. This might speak to the long-distance learning curve: While there are plenty of ways to keep things steamy while apart, partners unexpectedly separated by COVID-19 may not have attempted, let alone perfected, them yet.

Indeed, while 33% said they were being more creative in their sex lives, 43% said they were actually less creative than when they were together in person. Perhaps suboptimal sex experiences will give them the push they need to try some new techniques. 

Tips and Toys

Sex toys can be a welcome addition to a long-distance dynamic, and many respondents were already well acquainted with their benefits. For some couples newly distanced due to COVID-19, the pandemic produced new interest in these toys.

Of those whose relationships were normally long distance, more than half reported using sex toys while apart from their partner. Among those separated from significant others due to COVID-19, nearly a third had also used sex toys. 

For some in the latter camp, this required a new purchase: About 14% had bought a sex toy during social distancing. COVID-19 has ushered in a boom in sex toy sales, and our results suggest newly distanced couples may account for much of this trend. 

Indeed, of those separated from their lovers due to the pandemic, more than half reported that their sex drive was higher than usual. Psychologists report that this unprecedented crisis can have varied impacts on our libido, causing some to heat up while others shut down. Of course, gratifying one’s sex drive doesn’t always require a partner, even if you’ve got one. Most respondents said they always, often, or sometimes preferred to masturbate solo rather than involve their significant other. 

Which kinds of sex toys are most popular against the backdrop of the pandemic? The classic vibrator led all alternatives, followed by masturbation sleeves. But a significant number of respondents said they used more technologically advanced toys, such as long-distance, remote-controlled vibrators and butt plugs. According to industry experts, “teledildonics” have particularly benefited from the COVID-19 crisis, as couples increasingly seek internet-connected options. 

Spark and Sexual Health: Maintaining Both at a Distance

Our findings reveal an impressive degree of variety in keeping things intimate and interesting during the health crisis. From using a wide range of apps to discussing an array of sexy subjects, our respondents were creative in their approaches to sexual satisfaction while separated from their partners. 

Overall, these results should be encouraging to long-distance couples everywhere, whether they’ve lived apart for a while or have recently been separated by COVID-19. Whether it’s reminiscing about past sexual experiences, sharing sexual fantasies, or trying out a brand new toy, there are plenty of options worth trying to keep the spark burning bright.

The key is exploring what works for you and your lover and creating the trust necessary to have some new experiences together. No matter which digital technologies you use, some basics remain the same: Respect and communication are key to keeping things sexy – however near or far you may be.

Thankfully, there are also long-distance solutions available for other aspects of your sexual health and enjoyment. Superdrug Online Doctor makes it easy to get great care without leaving home. Our secure and confidential telehealth process spares you the inconvenience and embarrassment of a doctor’s visit with quick delivery of any medications afterwards. That’s one form of social distancing that lovers everywhere can appreciate. 

Methodology

Using Clickworker and Amazon Mechanical Turk, we surveyed Americans and Britons about their experiences being in a long-distance relationship. In order to qualify for our study, respondents had to either be currently in a long-distance relationship or currently living separately from their partner and unable to see them due to COVID-19. We had 184 couples temporarily long distance due to COVID-19 and 190 couples who are long distance regularly.

Those completing our survey were comprised of 200 women, 163 men, and 2 nonbinary respondents. Their average age was 30.7 with a standard deviation of 10.5.

This survey has not been weighted and relies on self-reporting, which could lead to over- or underreporting by respondents. Therefore, there are limitations to this data and it should be used for exploratory purposes only.

Fair Use Statement

Have a friend with a long-distance lover who might appreciate our findings? Or perhaps you’d like to share a few spicy suggestions with your own significant other? Whatever your reasons for sharing our project, we welcome you to use our images and information for any noncommercial purposes. If you do, however, please link back to this page to attribute our team appropriately.

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