The ongoing pandemic has had interesting effects on the intimate lives of Canadians. Not only have we seen sales of sex toys soar above and beyond their pre-pandemic levels, new research suggests that more Canadians are indulging in the use of SexTech for the first time ever.
SexTech refers to technology designed to enhance sexuality including everything from pornography to sex toys and vibrators to sexting — all of which have increased worldwide since February. In Canada alone, the sale of vibrators increased by 263% in March! We clearly have our pleasure priorities straight.
The benefits of SexTech are wide ranging and are not exclusively for single folks. Many advances in sex tech are enjoyed by couples to spice up their sexual lives in new and unique ways. Vibrators that can be controlled via an app from anywhere in the world, for example, enable partners to connect sexually despite being apart. And many people are discovering the benefits of sexting for the first time.
With physical isolation in effect in many parts of the world, getting sexual gratification can be more difficult than usual. Sexting can be used to fill this gap; Multiple studies have suggested that sexting is a way to cultivate sexual pleasure and arousal.
One study by Dr. Erin Watson at the University of Guelph, looked at women’s experiences of sexting and found that women used sexting as a tool to increase intimacy, connection, and trust with their partners; the act of sexting enabled them to explore their sexual needs and wants in ways they felt were not possible via in-person encounters. For example, women reported that they felt more power to say this is what I want, this is what I like, and to advocate for their sexual pleasure.
The fact that sexting gives some women a voice in their sexual journeys is also critical when it comes to issues of safety and consent. In the same study, women reported that technologically mediated sexual encounters felt safer as women could end a conversation without repercussions on their physical safety, walk away, or choose to reply on their own terms.
For those in relationships, research by Tasha Falconer at Trent University suggests that sexting is related to higher sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, relationship quality, and commitment overall. This is owing to the vulnerability buffer that results in increased intimacy, increased self-knowledge, and even confidence.
This has been shown to have positive effects for individuals outside of relationships as well. In Dr. Watson’s study, single women shared that sexting new partners helped them feel empowered. Women stated that the ability to turn a new partner on, and to curate the perfect sext boosted their confidence in their own desirability and was incredibly validating. Falconer’s study produced similar results.
Sexting has also been found to have a unique side effect for women in terms of identity development and sexual selection: Through sexting, some women discovered aspects of their sexual identity and sexual orientation about which they were previously unaware and others used sexting to better understand their sexual desires, which supported them in being more selective with regard to partners.
Despite the potential benefits of sexting for both long-distance and couples in cohabitation (hey, no one is going to know you’re sexting your spouse from one side of the living room even when there are kids running around! #KeepItSpicy), it is still important to consider the potential risks.
It is critical to ensure that sexting is consensual. You cannot rely on body language, so you need to ask first. To keep it sexy, try saying “I’d love to see a picture of you” or ask “I’m really horny, wanna see?”. Even flirty messages should be given the green light by asking, “I’m super into the direction this text is going. Wanna ramp it up a bit and get even saucier?” Whether it’s with a new partner or a long term lover, keep checking in to ensure that they’re really into the exchange.
Some people also take extra precautions when sending any photo or video, for example, by not including faces or distinguishing body features (tattoos etc.) especially if you are choosing to sext someone new. It is key that you trust your recipient and that you discuss in advance ownership of photos and the boundaries around not showing or sharing them. If someone sends you a photo or a video, it is your obligation to keep it private.
Just because we are stuck inside doesn’t mean we have to be without pleasure! This can be an ideal time for you to try something new with your partner or to connect from afar in ways that you haven’t before. If you are single, you have an incredible opportunity at your fingertips (#wink) to explore yourself and your pleasures to your hearts delight. May the result of this time of isolation be that we eventually re-emerge into the world as the most sexually savvy, in-tune with our desires and re-energized, fully satisfied population ever.
Erin Watson has a PhD in Sexuality and Relationships, specializing in examining intimacy at the frontiers of the emerging digital world. In addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate courses at the University of Guelph, Erin is a sought after relationship coach helping individuals navigate the world of sex, love, relationships, and personal empowerment. Erin is a dynamic and engaging speaker who has given over 45 invited talks, keynotes, and workshops. Her research has been published in top academic journals and highlighted throughout mainstream media including ELLE, Men's Health Magazine, Playboy, MIC.com and more.
Tasha Falconer is a researcher and sex educator who has studied both the benefits and risks of sexting. She has an MSc and is currently getting her PhD. Through her sex education column and presentations - Talk Nerdy to Me - she gives people all the information they need to make decisions about their sexuality. Tasha has given over 20 talks and workshops, and has published in top academic journals.
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