#GetQurious: 9 experts share their thoughts & tips on sex & dating in the era of the pandemic

9 experts share their thoughts & tips on sex & dating in the era of the pandemic

Let’s begin the conversation. Let’s rid of the taboo.

By Samantha Pérez 

 

In the spirit of Quanna’s recent launch of Oomf we’re celebrating what it truly means for us to #getqurious. In this article we are inquiring about the disparity in sexual gratification between men and women, where the “orgasm gap” has grown to become a recognized cultural issue because penetration and clitoral stimulation aren’t viewed as “equal” sex acts. We are also examining the impact on the dating culture in today’s Covid/Delta ridden world and if that may mean the end of romance as we know it...or better yet how this pandemic has reimagined it.

 

We have reached out to 9 diverse experts for this project, all incredible trailblazers in their respective fields of psychology, sexual education, and more. Please stay tuned throughout the article to learn not only their advice, but also their significant backgrounds and efforts to revolutionize the betterment of sexual health and education.

 

Dr. Laurie Mintz

Dr. Laurie Mintz | @drlauriemintz

Dr. Laurie Mintz is a feminist author, therapist, professor, and speaker whose life's work has been committed to helping people live more authentic, meaningful, joyful and sexually satisfying lives through the art and science of psychology. As a tenured professor at the University of Florida, she teaches the Psychology of Human Sexuality. Dr. Mintz has published over 50 research articles in academic journals and six chapters in academic books. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, indicating that her work has had a positive national influence on the field of psychology. The author of 'Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters and How to Get It' and 'A Tired Woman's Guide to Passionate Sex: Reclaim Your Desire and Reignite Your Relationship' Dr. Mintz has made it her mission to empower women sexually.

 

How can we close the pleasure gap and why is it important?

First, it’s important to define the pleasure gap (sometimes called the orgasm gap). This is the consistent finding in the research literature that when cisgender men and cisgender women get it on, the women are having substantially fewer orgasms than men are. While sex therapists will routinely tell you that goal-oriented sex (i.e., the goal to have an orgasm) is less likely to result in orgasm than pleasure-oriented sex and that not all sexual encounters have to result in orgasm, the orgasm gap between women and men tells us that there is a cultural problem going on! That is, women are much more likely to orgasm when having sex with other women than with men, and much more likely to orgasm when pleasuring themselves rather than when having sex with a partner. This tells us that the problem is not women’s bodies, but the way we do heterosexual sex. Specifically, in heterosexual sex, we generally revolve the whole encounter around penetration, considering it the main and most important event. Given that the overwhelming majority (4% - 18%) of women don’t orgasm from intercourse alone and instead need clitoral stimulation (either alone or coupled with intercourse), the solution to closing the pleasure gap is straightforward: We need to stop valuing intercourse more than clitoral stimulation. We need to stop considering intercourse the main event and foreplay just a lead up to that! So, why is this important? It’s important because, frankly, it’s just not fair or acceptable to have about half of the population not enjoying sex as much as the other half!

 

Do you believe that Covid has changed/impacted the dating culture and are there tips to navigate this new landscape?

I think that dating in the age of COVID has been, and continues to be, legitimately and understandably very scary for a lot of people. However, on the upside, I believe it has pushed issues of safety and communication. While before COVID, communication was (hopefully!) generally about consent, communication, and safety (i.e., STI prevention), COVID has added a new dimension to this and increased the value on communication, especially early on (e.g., “Are you vaccinated?” “Should we wear masks?”), and this is a good thing! Additionally, we know from research that sex toy sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic. While likely initially these were purchased for self-pleasure, we know that women who use vibrators – including during partner sex – have easier and more frequent orgasms. So, hopefully, another positive change is women will bring their vibrators with them to sexual encounters. This could certainly help close the pleasure gap!

 

Cindy Luquin

Cindy Luquin 

Cindy Luquin is the founder and sex educator behind Howl at the Womb, a bi-lingual educative platform that integrates reproductive rights, reproductive justice and social justice. Howl at the Womb stems from Cindy's passion about creating social change by shifting the sex-negative culture that plagues the community of the Latin American diaspora to a sex-positive culture. With a background in language translation, healthcare interpreting, 12 years + of public education experience, Cindy has recently completed her Masters in Latin American Studies and transitioned into becoming a fertility awareness and sexuality educator.

 

How can we close the pleasure gap and why is it important?

Most people are still unaware of what the pleasure gap is. It's most often they've heard of the orgasm gap based on gender. However, pleasure goes beyond experiencing an orgasm and it's not gender based. Instead we should remember people with vulvas are often not educated on clitoris anatomy. Understanding the anatomy of the vulva and clitoris provides not only sexual empowerment but can also provide the tools to make healthier sexual health decisions. Understanding one's own clitoral anatomy can help improve consensual communication in partnered sex as well. This is absolutely crucial to destigmatizing sexual health and centering pleasure.

 

Do you believe that Covid has changed/impacted the dating culture and are there tips to navigate this new landscape?

Covid-19 has impacted dating culture in so many ways. Some people have used this time to reevaluate their dating practices, boundaries and redefine how they want to engage in sex while dating. With an increase in self-care as a means to improve their mental health, people are much more inclined to prioritize mental health in their dating experiences. Tiktok has become a go-to place for shared dating experiences, advice and tips. It's important to always make sure that you are seeking medically-accurate comprehensive sex education that helps empower your dating experience.

 

Jessica Toscano

Jessica Toscano | @msjtoscano

Jessica Toscano is the founder of IntrigueMag, the world’s first digital unisex lifestyle publication that promotes individuality, independence, and the overall desire to Live Better. Feel Better. Be Better. Jessica has made a career as a skilled content creator and editor, her work having been published in the likes of Men's Health, Cosmopolitan, SELF, SheKnows, InsideHook, GetMeGiddy, and other outlets. She was nominated in 2021 to become a member of the prestigious Women's Media Group, a New York-based nonprofit association of women who have achieved success in the many fields of media.

 

How can we close the pleasure gap and why is it important?

Considering only 18.4 percent of women are able to orgasm purely from vaginal penetration, according to a 2018 study of 1,055 women published in Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, with chances of orgasm only slightly doubling at 36.6 percent with added clitoral stimulation, it’s evident there’s room for improvement. Especially when you consider the 95 percent of 26,032 heterosexual men who usually/always orgasm when intimate, against the 65 percent of 24,102 heterosexual women, according to another 2018 study, published in Archives of Sexual Behavior. What could be to blame is the importance placed on male pleasure via porn, television, and in magazines, although studies indicate they aren’t sole contributors. We also have to consider the percentage of women who fake orgasms, the couples who lack open communication about sex, and even the men who seemingly stop pleasing their partner after they ejaculate (which, by the way, what is that about?!). To effectively close the pleasure gap, it’s important that men and women equally consider their partner’s level of satisfaction. That translates to communication. If you don’t voice how you’re feeling, you can’t expect your partner to know how to help. Talk about why you might not be orgasming, or why it’s taking longer than you’d like; talk about what you both can do to help each other get there; and talk about how you both might enjoy each other’s intimacy without focusing on orgasm as the goal. Whatever type of relationship you’re in, you’re both intimately engaging for a reason, and that reason comes down to pleasure, whether it be emotional, physical, mental, or a combination of the three.

 

Do you believe that Covid has changed/impacted the dating culture and are there tips to navigate this new landscape?

COVID-19 has definitely changed the dating game. At the start of the pandemic, popular dating apps Tinder, OkCupid, and Bumble (among others) recorded surges in total daily swipes, dates, and video calls thanks to worldwide stay-at-home orders. Not to mention, the way apps were being used had also changed. In March 2020, Tinder reported a 20 percent global increase in daily conversations as well as a 25 percent increase in average conversation length. Depending on where you live, dating can still look like it did early on in the pandemic. So, yeah, old-school dating is still possible.For anyone interested in navigating today’s dating scene, safety should be number one priority. I don’t think many people realize we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic and not everyone has been vaccinated. Whether you’re swiping right on a dating app or meeting someone at a bar, following safety guidelines and recommendations (like those from theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention in US or National Health Service in the UK ) is important. This could mean having an immediate conversation about the vaccine (as in, are you both protected against COVID-19?) or one about intimate exclusivity. It’s important for both parties to be open with each other and feel comfortable in doing so, whether that means they're getting to know one another more intimately or immediately getting it on.

 

Emma Kaywin

Emma Kaywin

Emma Kaywin (they/them) is a trauma-informed sexual health educator, consultant, writer, and activist based in Brooklyn, NY. They are the Consent Co-Director at House of Yes (NYC) and co-lead the Safer Spaces team at Meso Creso (DC). They consult for a number of nightlife communities and radical arts organizations across the East Coast, where they develop trauma-informed policies and procedures and train staff. They further deliver tailored workshops and training on topics of consent, trauma, and sexuality to party collectives and young scientist groups internationally. Emma received a Master’s of Arts in health education from Teachers College, Columbia University and holds a Certificate in Conflict Resolution from the Teachers College Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution. They are currently working towards a doctorate in health education (EdD) at Teachers College, where they are researching what supports queer and gender-diverse individuals in feeling sexually safer in nightlife spaces, so they can have more fun!

 

How can we close the pleasure gap and why is it important?

To me, a critical piece of the "pleasure gap" has to do with the goals of sex. All sorts of things can feel pleasurable, but oftentimes we think of orgasm as the goal. If we stop thinking of orgasm as the primary goal of sex and instead identify pleasure as the goal, a whole world opens up. Pleasure during sex can come from so many different things -- how your body feels when it's being touched by your partner, but also how you feel when you're pleasuring your partner, how you feel when you're touching your own body, or what it feels like to take a break from sexual activity to share a thought you've had, crack a joke, or eat a snack. We can learn a lot here from queer sexual practices, which tend to be less linear and goal-oriented than heterosexual sexual practices. The two critical steps to closing the pleasure gap are: 1) learning what you like and what feels good for you, and 2) figuring out how to communicate that to your partner(s). It's important to close the pleasure gap, or I would reframe this to say it's important to consider pleasure in a more expansive way because, to put it bluntly, it takes the pressure off. Working toward a goal is just that -- it's work. Even if the outcome is an orgasm, which can feel fanfuckingtastic. Sex is supposed to be fun, not work! We should feel good at it all the time, because when we feel good and help others feel good, it means we're good at sex. It's not about "we each orgasm the same number of times", so much as partners asking each other what they want and what each is in the mood for. It's totally okay for one person to cum three times on a date and the other person not to cum at all -- as long as that outcome occurs with both people experiencing pleasure and having a good time.

 

Do you believe that Covid has changed/impacted the dating culture and are there tips to navigate this new landscape?

COVID has taught us that we need to be having more conversations about risk and safety, and that these conversations can bring us closer (even if they are awkward at times). During the pandemic, we've had to ask ourselves questions like "what helps me feel safe?" and ask other people questions like "what risk behaviors are you engaged in?". These are great questions to ask about sex and dating too! We can specifically consider sexually transmitted infections (STIs) here. Most often, the person with the STI is the one who has to start the conversation, which can feel doubly burdensome -- not only do they have something to disclose, but they have to figure out how to bring up the topic. What would it look like for us to take the practices we've used during COVID to talk about how our bodies are feeling and what our risks have been recently, and get in the practice of talking about STIs with new partners? Even if we don't have any STIs? Practicing these sorts of conversations can make it easier if or when you do have something medical you need to share with a sexual partner.

 

Debbie Bere, better known as “Sex Debbie”

Debbie Bere, better known as “Sex Debbie” | @sex.debbie

Known as “Sex Debbie”, a sex and relationships educator from South West England. Debbie has her diploma with distinction in Psychosexual Therapy as well as a BA degree in which she specialised in Sex & Society. Debbie seeks to educate via her online platforms, help couples strengthen relationships with her communication sexercises and provide workshops in schools, colleges and universities.

 

How can we close the pleasure gap and why is it important?

Sex should be pleasurable for all and yet stereotypically the male orgasm is prioritised over the female orgasm. This is not necessarily conscious but due to the social messages we have absorbed. It is important that we close this gap to create both a more intimate and enjoyable experience from sexual encounters. Understanding that pleasure comes not just from sexual touch but also the importance of comfort, and emotional presence is crucial to create a greater all-round sexual experience. By educating ourselves on the heteronormative messages that have created the pleasure gap we can unlearn and review our sexual relationships with a more sex positive future outlook.

 

Do you believe that Covid has changed/impacted the dating culture and are there tips to navigate this new landscape?

The effects of Covid have been so widespread, it is important not to forget the immediate impact on our romantic relationships. For those navigating dating post-covid there may be increased anxiety and uncertainty about entering into these situations again. It may take time to build your confidence. Open communication about how you're feeling with your date is important. Being able to have these honest conversations is also a crucial element of improved sex lives. If you are able to talk about subjects that may make you feel vulnerable you will connect on a far more intimate level and the sexual experience will be more compatible and therefore better. Whether you're looking for sex or a relationship on the dating scene. Being comfortable and confident enough to ask for what you want and how you want it or at least be able to direct your sexual enjoyment is important for positive sexual interaction.Meanwhile those trying to both maintain and strengthen their already established relationships that have survived working from home/furlough/homeschooling and the variety of other pressures the global pandemic has created. Re-introduce date nights, this could be as simple as switching the TV, internet and phones off and playing a board game - ease in a distraction to help enable conversation that isn't forced face to face. Going for walks together as a break from your shared home has a similar effect, standing side by side and talking feels less confrontational then facing one another and often open up conversations. Date nights also do not have to mean sex nights. Associating date night with sex can often make us feel that with this attention comes certain expectations so by ruling it out it changes the focus.

 

Jessica Megan

Jessica Megan | @jess_megan_

Jessica Megan is a curve model, activist, and content creator. Nominated by Cosmopolitan for Health & Well-being Influencer of the year 2019. She appeared in Channel 4’s controversial documentary “Bring Back the Bush” where she spoke openly about – and revealed – her pubic hair, in an effort to encourage national conversation about the double standards surrounding body hair. She is an official ambassador for the Breast Cancer Charity Coppafeel! as well as Anti-Bullying Charity Ditch the Label and Bloody Good Period, a charity that provides menstrual products for refugees, asylum seekers and those who are unable to afford them. Jessica is extremely passionate about sexual wellbeing and self-love, and as such has become a role model in her field.

 

How can we close the pleasure gap and why is it important?

The nature of our approach to female pleasure has been shoddy to say the least. We treat female pleasure as secondary to everything else. We have grown into a society that nurtures how good we look when we have sex instead of whether that position feels good. I know women who won’t masturbate while in the doggy style position because it means they can’t arch their backs in that way sex workers do in pornography. When we talk about sex we often see it as a bubble on the fringe of cultural norm. It operates in the shadows and thus makes it a conversation rife for sexual abuse. People of all genders will learn about what they like from extreme porn and will copy and paste this onto actual human beings. I believe a large part of the reason that women and non-binary people don’t orgasm is because most of our partners emulate what they see online onto us. Even before that, sex revolved around the penis.I believe that there needs to be better sex education and open discussions on the impact porn has on our impressions of sex. Women need to follow more sex educators and teen girls need more open, fun and communicative avenues to understanding that sex is not just penetrative sex that involves a penis. It emboldens women to explore themselves and their own needs over their image and pleasing the penis. As much as we like to think these things dont have an impact outside of sex, they do. If we incentivise the importance of female pleasure within sex it will have a domino effect on the way we view women’s bodies.

 

Do you believe that Covid has changed/impacted the dating culture and are there tips to navigate this new landscape?

People will continue to have sex and date as always, but I think there is a new energy in the air, where we may feel a little socially unsure of ourselves. Many of us have lost a little of our former selves and feel sad at the loss of so much - time, direction and loved ones. Going on dates feels strange to so many when so much has been taken. Some may feel unsure of how to introduce this newer version of themselves to others, and sex is obviously a tense subject because of the transference of diseases. I have been telling people there is no pressure to make up for lost time. We are all discombobulated. Do as you would usually do, be prepared to make mistakes and potentially go on dates you don’t enjoy. Maybe you’ll even have some sex you end up wishing you hadn’t had. These things do happen and we need to allow ourselves room to be humans. In fact, we ARE humans, who will continue to be awkward and aimless every now and then. It changes day to day. The main thing is always self love. I mean that; self love will always tell us when we deserve better, or when we are uncomfortable, or whether someone is treating us poorly. This is the best beacon in the lands of dating. Like a little lighthouse, self love will always guide you to the right people and will stop you from sleeping with those who shouldn't have the privilege of seeing you naked.

 

Laci Green

Laci Green | @lacigreen

Laci Green, the creator of Sex Plus!, Youtube's most popular sex education series, as well as the creator and host of the Indirect Message podcast, a podcast exploring noteworthy perspectives on philosophy and politics in the information age with a panel of expert guests. In 2016 Time named Laci as one of the 30 most influential people on the Internet and that same year won a Streamy Award for Science or Education. In 2018, Green published her first book, Sex Plus: Learning, Loving and Enjoying Your Body, a #1 Bestseller in Young Adult Sexuality.

 

How to we close the pleasure gap and why is it important:

Historically, women’s sexual pleasure has been considered at best, a bonus (rather than equally important to the man's), and at worst, a “myth” or “fantasy”. What?! It’s the 21st century. To close the pleasure gap, I believe that education is everything. We all deserve accurate information about our bodies, how they work, and safe ways to enjoy them.

 

Dr. Varuna Srinivasan

Dr. Varuna Srinivasan | @drvarunasrinivasan

Varuna is an immigrant, bisexual South Asian woman. She is a health media specialist, gender justice activist, and freelance writer who writes on the intersection between gender, sexual health, mental health, and racial justice. Her by-lines have appeared in numerous popular US-based publications such as Well+Good, The Good Trade, and Parents. Her photojournalism work on 'Women in Coffee: Rwanda' was among 20 pieces of work selected from around the world by the Global Health 50/50 "This is Gender" currently on exhibit at University College London. In 2020, Varuna was named 'Woman of Courage' by Serena Williams with a Vogue Magazine feature highlighting her work in advancing sexual health education in South Asian communities. She has also featured in Business Insider, Canadian Broadcast Channel, and Bumble as an expert in her field.

 

How can we close the pleasure gap and why is it important?

It is so important to emphasize that in order to 'close' the pleasure gap, it's important to note that our goals around pleasure are subjective. Pleasure isn't just sexual, it can be a source of emotional, mental, and physical joy. Once we re-imagine the different ways in which we experience pleasure, I think we've really closed the perceived gap. It's also about reimagining systems that don't revolve around the pleasure of one person (in our case for a long time and possibly still, cishet men) and prioritizing the pleasure of everyone.

 

Do you believe that Covid has changed/impacted the dating culture and are there tips to navigate this new landscape?

COVID has allowed people to re-envision dating through the lens of a pandemic. Suddenly, long-distance dating is the norm! As is finding new ways to keep the romance alive. Things like sexting, phone sex, video sex, mutual masturbation are prioritized. Anecdotally, on the other end of the spectrum, casual hookups are less common and people are opting for more meaningful relationships.

 

Erica Smith

Erica Smith

Erica Smith, M.Ed., is an award winning, nationally recognized sex educator with 21 years of experience. She is the creator of Purity Culture Dropout, an intensive sexuality education and coaching program for folks who were raised in purity culture and who are seeking the queer inclusive, shame free, trauma informed, medically accurate, and comprehensive sex education they need.

 

How can we close the pleasure gap and why is it important?

The pleasure gap needs to close because everyone deserves to experience sexual pleasure and have their pleasure prioritized, regardless of their gender or anatomy. We can work to close the pleasure gap with more, better sex education: sex education that is comprehesive, queer inclusive, and focused on pleasure (not just the unwanted sexual health outcomes like accidental pregnancy and STIs). We can also close it by encouraging people to communicate with their partners about their preferences and pleasure, and teaching them how. Destigmatizing the use of sex toys and lube is also helpful!

 

Do you believe that Covid has changed/impacted the dating culture and are there tips to navigate this new landscape?

Covid has absolutely changed the sex and dating landscape. You can actually take the same skill you use to navigate sexual health risk and apply them to navigating COVID risk. Do you ask your partners about their STI status, risk, and when their last test was? You can also ask them about this info as it applies to COVID: are they vaccinated, what is their risk of exposure, will they get a negative test before you meet inside somewhere? We don't have to STOP dating, but we can apply harm reduction principles to how we date by thinking about risk and exposure and how we can still seek out social connection while navigating it.

What are your thoughts on pleasure gap and do you have suggestions on how to address it? Have you felt that covid changed the way you date now? Leave a comment down below

Back to blog

Leave a comment

1 of 3