Sex Therapist Answers COVID-19 Intimacy Questions

Several weeks ago, The Student had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Wiessner, a local sex therapist. Wiessner is a clinical social worker, certified sex therapist, sex educator, workshop creator, and sexual health innovator in Maine; also important to note is that she is one of only five sex therapists in the state of Maine, and held the distinction of being the sole female certified sex therapist at the time of her certification. Since the rise of COVID-19 has led to many people questioning its impact on sexual intimacy and relationships, The Student decided to follow up with Wiessner with some prevalent coronavirus questions. Below are responses to these questions, tackling topics such as sexting and FaceTime dates.  

Do you have any advice for students separated from their romantic and sexual partners during self-isolation? In particular, how can couples maintain intimacy while being forced to be physically apart?

The COVID-19 Pandemic has abruptly separated college students in a way that has never been experienced, creating great challenge for those in romantic and sexual relationships. So, we can get stuck in what we don’t have but this pandemic calls for creativity and perseverance. Let’s get creative. Consider having a Netflix movie date. There are even platforms to watch movies together like Consider dressing up and making the date unique or special. Use FaceTime and have some physically distant sexual experiences. Technology could be an interesting and safe way to explore fantasies at a distance. Set a scene together ahead of time and work on creating some excitement. Go old school and romantic and consider writing letters or erotica to each other. And remember, sex with yourself is the best kind! Don’t neglect self-pleasure just for you…it’s healthy! 

Is it true that people should avoid sexual contact during self-isolation, even if they are isolated with their sexual partner? 

There is so much unknown about the coronavirus; it is hard to know what the facts are. We do know that it is transmitted by respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing and heavy breathing and touching surfaces. You’d be hard pressed to have sexual contact avoiding all of those. However, from what I have read, if neither of you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you are physical distancing from those not in your isolation space, and you are with your regular sex partner and you are both not in contact with others, sexual intimacy can be stress relieving, fun and good for our mental and emotional health. Know the symptoms and be watchful for any changes and if one partner becomes symptomatic, then it is important to self-isolate and quarantine to a room and avoid all contact until the person is well. Best to consult with your doctor to check in with questions about this. 

Is it a good idea to pursue “Facetime dates”? How do you date people from home?

Dating from home certainly can come with certain challenges…maybe a little brother running past the screen, mom or dad yelling for you to walk the dog or come down for family game night. It’s best to schedule private time to have your date. Virtual dating can cause us to use different skills and work harder on our conversation, all without the element of touch. Consider some things ahead so there are fewer awkward moments: 1. Make sure you consider your space ahead of time. You don’t want your backdrop to be that awkward photo on the wall from 7th grade that your folks love or the collectible Trolls doll collection on the shelf of the room you share with your younger sister. 2. Plan some questions you are wondering about your date and something you would like to share about yourself. 3. Check your look in the mirror before your date. You don’t want the dinner your mom just made you in your teeth. If the first one goes well, set up a drink date or coffee date for the second date. Consider a themed date, like bringing your favorite item from childhood or most important object you cherish. Things can get steamier as you get to know each other. 4. Use this time to hone your dating skills and where your growth areas are. Not a great conversationalist? This is a good time to practice!

Share anything and everything about sexting. Apart from the common advice surrounding sexting privacy, do you have any tips for students interested in sexting? How do you overcome feeling awkward taking pictures or writing texts?

This one is a tricky one for me because as a parent to a young tween and teen, sexting with pictures is risky business and not recommended. For those who are interested, are 18 or over, and are in a committed relationship where you are willing to risk that this person has naked images of you on their phone, then enjoy! I might recommend not including your face in the image so it is less likely to be linked back to you if the relationship becomes roadkill in the future. Best to have agreements about the images and don’t send them without context or warning in a newer relationship. That can be a turn off. If sexting, choose words, clothing, backdrops, props, makeup or positions that make YOU feel good, not what you think will turn the other person on. Self-confidence is the sexiest thing we can convey and keeps us embodied…that’s good sex!