Dating

Sext-Only Arrangements Are Getting Horny Folks Through Lockdown

Mutually-agreed upon digital-only relationships can be a lifesaver in these trying times.
May 8, 2020, 9:30am
Sexting, dating, relationships
Photo by Graham Isador

A week into quarantine Brooklyn-based comedian and writer Lili Michelle began sexting with a coworker. The two are good friends—their relationship had always been flirty—but it took a global pandemic for their exchanges to turn explicit. For over a month they've been sharing nudes and provocative conversation. But despite the steamy messages, Michelle has no intention of sleeping with her friend when the world goes back to normal. The sexting is strictly a corona activity.

"I think for quarantine times sexting is a fun way to feel good. Nothing needs to come from it if you don't want it to," said Michelle. "It's just like a casual flirt at work or at a coffee shop."

On the phone Michelle's friend has been trying to get her to come over. While she acknowledges the attraction, she isn't interested in something physical. She's also not interested in breaking quarantine.

"Every time the situation gets to the point where he asks me to come over, I just tell him I can't because his dick is too big for me. It's the funniest way to compliment him while also saying no," she said.

Cut off from the world during COVID-19, people have been taking their casual relationships digital. For some that means sexting with friends. For others it means sharing nudes and dirty messages with folks they've met on dating apps. While those conversations can be a fun escape from the everyday horrors of this time period—and a necessary outlet for pent up sexual frustrations—it doesn't mean the online hookups will translate into future corporeal escapades. For some people the fact that sex remains purely digital is the whole appeal.

Dating apps have changed our relationship to intimacy in general, but the conditions of the pandemic have exacerbated the gap between only courtship and physical interactions. Tinder currently lets users set their location to anywhere in the world. That feature has meant people are flirting with folks thousands of miles away. With many borders closed for the foreseeable future, it has inevitably led to sexting between people who have never met and probably never will. For Australian software engineer Jane Vincent the feature allows for some fun to rally against the pandemic's monotony.

"Of course it’s not practical to entertain thoughts of actually hooking up with Ashton from Brooklyn or Geert in Rotterdam… I think now, especially, people understand it’s all just fantasy and that’s fine. Sexting just feels like a way to pass another quiet evening in, or provides a funny story to tell my friends later. Being able to talk to men all over the world has been interesting, but also kind of proved men on Tinder are the same everywhere."

While some men Vincent has been chatting with have started to get attached, she isn't too concerned with hurting anyone's feelings. It is a kind of what happens during the pandemic stays in the pandemic situation.

"I used to be more sensitive about men’s feelings, but I got over that pretty quick. I feel like 90 percent of the men I match with on Tinder are just looking for a hookup, or to sext, rather than dates, which is fine. The telltale is the question: so what are you on Tinder for? Dude, come on," she said.

For some people sexting has become part of the job. While a lot of people have joked about cam modeling during the pandemic, Rebecca Madison actually followed through. Her decision to start an OnlyFans account was due to the fact that the model no longer felt safe conducting sex work in person. On OnlyFans making money and keeping subscribers relies on making connections, even if those connections are based on a fantasy. For Madison creating that bond means sharing a blend of explicit chats and videos with personal stories and details from her life. It gives users a sense of intimacy that’s contained to their online interactions. It’s also that it pays very well.

"I've only been doing this for a month, but some of the relationships have already become quite deep. I have fans that I talk to every single day," said Madison. "Unfortunately I don't actually have the time to talk to everyone who wants to talk to me, so I have to charge quite a bit for my chatting time so that I can cut down on the demand."

During the pandemic cultivating sexual relationships through text has been a major source of income for Madison, but even when money is involved it’s important to set clear guidelines and expectations. That’s been a successful practice for Chris Gracey, a personal trainer based in New York. Gracey has been using dating apps to find sexting companions during COVID-19. When not at the gym, Gracey moonlights as a model. Before the pandemic he had an active dating life and was always upfront with potential partners that he wasn't looking for anything serious at the moment. He's taken a similar approach on dating apps during quarantine.

"I know I need a certain amount of attention in this realm," said Gracey. “Being able to talk about what specific things you’re looking for is very useful to creating a good experience for everyone involved. Even when it’s just things popping off in the DMs."

Being honest and upfront that sexting won't necessarily lead to physical sex in the future has been a turn off for some people, but practicing good communication and setting clear boundaries has always been a best practice for Gracey. It’s about respecting everyone involved enough to be honest about his own needs. Just because the world has changed doesn't mean he should abandon his values.

"Vocalizing expectations is never going to hurt. Knowing what you’re after and talking about it openly is a good way to get what you want."

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