Just Because You Are Distancing Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Get It On
OPTIMIZING TECH-SEX IN AN ERA OF PHYSICAL DISTANCING
Some of you are holed up in a small space with way too many people for your comfort. Some of you aren’t gonna see any other people for a very long while. And some of you have a lover with you at home and one far away. This offering is a reminder and an invitation into exploring erotic pleasure with another when physical contact isn’t accessible.
I haven’t lived in the same city as any of my lovers in a really long time. This means epically hot extended yum when we’re together in person. And it means tech becomes a sex toy. Here’s what I’ve learned, in the form of a lil evolving primer. This offering is deeply rooted in my online class, Sex and the Sephirot: A Pleasure Journey which is a lush, deep dive into erotic relationship with yourself and the sensual world.
1. SOUND IS SEXY
When I was 22, I moved from Brazil back to the US. My love asked me to record a message in Portuguese on his outgoing voicemail. It was kinda sultry, mostly cuz that was how I did everything in those days. Before long, a wrong number landed in his voicemail and heard my message. The guy called back. And back. And back again. And told all of his friends. Within a few days, all of Philly was calling my partner’s number to hear my sonic caress.
“That’s the sexiest thing I’ve ever heard come out of a woman’s mouth.” Beep.
“I don’t know what she said, but damnnnn.” Beep.
“Call me back. Please. I’ll make it worth your while.” Beep.
My eyes got wide, and my love jokingly suggested we start a phone sex hotline. I was furious at the idea. And I loved the idea. I wrestled with the possibility for months. Eventually, we let it go, but what remains true is this.
Sound is my erogenous zone. Whispers sliding across skin. Rumbles of ancient roars rising. Cascading cries unfurling from core. The vibration that emerges from this particular spot when it’s stroked or awakened. The full sigh that drops in the face of unwavering presence. The moan at being deeply met. The purr beneath piercing gaze. Embodied vocalization as a portal of pleasure and possibility. Sound awakens arousal and pulses with primality.
Imagine letting yourself unfurl with greater freedom into sounding your pleasure. What do you need to feel safe enough to be more free with your sexual sounds? What sounds might emerge if you drop judgement, fear or filter? Many of us forget to breathe or to let sound emerge when we self-pleasure, or when we are erotically intimate with another, because we were taught to hide sexual sounds out of shame. If this is true for you, notice how that shame or hiding shows up in your body. What stories or emotions are wrapped up in stifling or softening sound?
Let your sounds be a gift to yourself and your lover(s). Send pleasure sounds back and forth by voice note. Recording a voice note for someone while self-pleasuring can add the dimension of witness. Recording can be a container that entices sounds — and generates additional heat — from even the shy self-pleasurer.
For me, voice notes feel lower stakes and higher fire to share than photos or videos, as someone who is careful about tech-sexcapades falling into the wrong hands. My moan probably sounds way different than your moan. But unless you’ve heard mine up close, you likely can’t prove it’s mine.
When recording, use a voice note app rather than trying to hold down the microphone in the text function ~ trust me, you want both hands free for this. Listen back to your audio as a soundtrack both of and for your own arousal, even as you send it along to a lover to spike theirs.
If you need inspiration, check out the extensive free online Orgasm Sound Library by Bijoux Indiscreets. Hours upon hours of sonic sexiness. You can even anonymously upload your own recordings.
If you want to start more subtly, record yourself reading an erotic poem or spin a tale of what you’d like to explore together. Or exchange sultry sounds with a song on YouTube, or a Spotify playlist. Encourage them to listen with eyes closed for the sonic caress of the rhythm, or invite a long distance shared dance.
2. SHOW ME
When many folks think of sexting, the first thing that comes to mind is messaging photos of genital close-ups or a finger being sucked by a pouty mouth. If that’s your thing, go for it. But our tech-sex needn’t be shaped by imagery the porn-industrial-complex has anchored as sexy. I adore a sexy selfie photo shoot, but am not into sharing explicit photos by text, too risky.
While the act of taking photos and imagining a lover’s gaze and subsequent arousal is hot to me, selfie-shoots can be perfectionism-inducing and overly fix a moment in time. One in-the-moment pic can quickly become twenty minutes of shifting to get the right angle, or obsessing over which to send.
If you love visuals, consider sending photos that are erotic but not explicit. Eros is everywhere, if we are open to it. I once began with a sext exchange with a close up of my Jewish star necklace falling over the freckles just below my clavicle, sent to a new lover for whom that was exactly the right level of escalation.
In a time of physical distancing, even a naked hand becomes erotic. Free of glove, vulnerable, eager for lips on palm. Eros invites us to broaden our definition of pleasure zones. Explore the crease of your elbow, the soft skin behind your lover’s ear, or whatever sweetness reveals itself. Be willing to take plenty of time to find it and to linger there.
Consider sharing visuals that are sensual but not of your body. A dripping mango or the pollen center of a spring blossom. A steamy candlelit bath, a rippling lake, or curvaceous rolling hills along a trail. Attention to the sensual toward engaging a lover can also bring us more deeply into realms of pleasure with ourselves and the world around us.
3. WORDS TO WRITHE TO
For me, while a suggestive photo occasionally jumpstarts an exchange, the heart of sexting is words and the energy beneath them. A sext thread can be fully flaming with no pics at all. Let your imagination guide the play, let the pacing of messages build the heat, let yourself tease or praise or ravish with abandon. Let your sounds and your desire come through the utterances you type.
Keep it simple and real. What would you would say if you were across the room from your lover and wanting to pull them closer? What would you say if your hands were caressing their body, or if they were undulating atop you? Write that.
Be gentle and generous with yourself and your lover. You don’t have to do this perfectly. Play with humor and levity. Show up with care. Listen to your desire. Attune to theirs. Discover what wants to become, together. And if you glitch, or they do, be gentle — with yourself, with each other.
I once unexpectedly slipped into an email sext encounter with an instrument maker from whom I’d commissioned a drum. We’d never met, nor spoken by voice, so it was fairly anonymous, excepting that I’d watched a ton of videos of his hands — no face visible — playing his instruments, and he’d listened to all of my albums. We’d been “talking” music by email for weeks while I decided which drum I wanted, and one night things took a turn to the intimate. What I remember now about our incredibly charged extended flurry of sext emails how powerfully it ended. As he approached climax, his messages to me came faster and shorter. The last three emails were simply a cascade of my name.
These six words resounded like mountains in me. I heard him calling to me as his desire peaked, I felt his shudder across thousands of miles as he cried out, and I rode that weave into my own unfurl.
You don’t need to be fancy or eloquent. You just need to be real. Listen to what is true for you. Sexting is not about trying hard. It is about showing up. If you’ve never sexted before, and feel stymied about what to write, you could give yourself the delicious assignment of googling some erotic reads (for example, search “queer erotica”) and notice what language stokes your fire.
A tip: Stick with whatever medium you want started in and follow it through for that session. If the temperature is rising in a sext flurry of sweet-nothings or reveal everything’s, don’t suddenly initiate a call by video chat as you are getting close to climax. A media pivot midstream can bust the mood or be disorienting. Your lover might be so deep in the zone that all they wanna do is keep their eyes closed and suddenly screen to screen shifts the boundary and the vulnerability. A thing I whispered over text may be bolder than I can be present for when we’re eye-to-eye. If you do prefer to pivot, ask first. Don’t take a ‘No’ personally, and don’t let it dampen the flame. Learn what it can be like to come together, or to come undone, without seeing or hearing a thing.
And yes, it can be super sweet to circle back on the downswing, or later, to tap in by voice or video. But let the hot sex thread that simply wants to be a hot sext thread work it’s particular magic. You can always start more magic in other realms for round two.
4. VIDEO VIXENING 101
FaceTime and WhatsApp are my preferred video connections. I prefer tablet over phone because screen size is perhaps the only place that size actually matters.
It’s kind of amazing what can happen by video. Suddenly this being who is very far away, or quarantined down the street, is beaming at you in real time in your bed. I remember my first video sex — in the fall of 2012, when Skype was still cutting edge. I was amidst a regular goodnight video chat with a person I was dating who I hadn’t seen in weeks. He dropped his voice into a particularly low register and I was like “Oh!” I realized for the first time I could slip my blouse off my shoulder on camera and suddenly it felt like anything was possible. The stakes were low – we were in such ease and sweetness in our connection that I could play til I found my comfort zone of how to be in this arena that was totally new to me. Our erotic sharing by video wasn’t escalatory, it was exploratory. We played as a way of sweetening the connection we were already building, rather than relying on it to anchor or deepen us, or as our primary heat or release.
Fast forward to a relationship that was built mostly by video chat a couple of years ago. We met at an in-person retreat and I offered to be a sounding board for a project he was working on. The first few months of our FaceTimes were hours of sapiosexual (intellectual) foreplay, geeking out in creative realms. We met up in person when we were on the same coast but most of the heat built from afar. The deepening intimacy started one night in the wee hours when I was awake and desperately needing support. He showed up stellarly with me in my tears and fears and before long our regular video chats had shifted from project editing mode to hours under the covers together — each in our separate beds across the country.
With him, our first everything with each other happened by video. I didn’t know what his mouth tasted like the first time he leaned in to kiss the screen. I didn’t know the strength or softness of his hands when he showed me how he would touch me. I learned all of that by video first, which was a bit of a mindf*ck and then became “normal.” It meant a suspending of reality while simultaneously surrendering to our connection. I didn’t know what it would be like when we were together in person, or if it would work at all. But I knew that I really liked the way it felt pixelated, and I threw caution to the wind.
Weave sensory pleasures into your virtual pleasure. Play with scents, tastes, and other sensual delights. Invite your lover to grab a jar of honey or melted chocolate and tell them exactly what you’d do with it. Luxuriate in them virtually feeding you strawberries or whatever other deliciousness you have on hand. Slather yourself in coconut oil and invite them to do the same, and let this lubricant support you each in feeling what each other feels, and smelling what each other smells. Know your lover’s favorite scents and take a whiff when you are with them, to help you attune to their scent through the screen.
You might usually engage tech-sex on the fly. But if you have a planned tech-sex date, you might prepare in the same way you would if you were together in person, by doing what turns you on —- lotioning your body, dousing in essential oils, playing your favorite pre-game music to warm you up.
6. PACE YOUR PLEASURE
Just because someone isn’t physically beside you doesn’t mean it’s helpful to throw out all of what you know about how to pace well. If you love moving slow, move slow. Savor the sweet build. And if you love moving fast, move fast. You might build erotic energy for an hour on video and close with a screen kiss. Or you might be together for only minutes before layers start peeling off. Trust yourself, and listen to what feels good for you.
For me, right pace is a form of prayer. Let the energy build in a way that deepens arousal and allows you to stay in embodied presence. Get sexy with the parts of you that are usually seen on screen — your face, shoulders, and perhaps hands — before adding ones that aren’t. If you start to peel off layers, begin with partial views rather than just getting all up in the camera buck naked from jump.
As you give attention to well-pacing to open an encounter, know that how you land is equally important. How we do anything is how we do everything. Consider what after-care you need. If y’all play in the direction of crescendo, what are expectations afterward? Does one of you want to hang up and go to sleep, but the other wants to keep the line open? This is not so different than in person, but higher stakes because it can be easy to feel dropped after a call. If you get it on by video, play with the options for pacing out. Clarify if y’all want to hang up fully and connect another day, or text sweet nothings or cascading emojis after as a wind down.
7. SEX AT A SNAIL’S PACE
When folks think of tech-sex, immediate gratification often comes to mind. Tech-sex is often actually a bizarre combination of immediate and delayed gratification. Immediate because we are working with what we have right here and now. Delayed because we may be setting the scene for layers to come. This is not so different from extended foreplay in person.
Snail mail can be a luscious and leisurely way to love someone up from far. There is nothing quite like the feeling of handwriting a note to a lover, imbuing each stroke with your energy. There is nothing quite like receiving a handwritten creation prepared just for you with care. The lag in time from sending to receiving, and from receiving to response delivered, can be vulnerable and also glacially hot.
I occasionally receive amazing love notes via snail mail from two different longtime dear friends. The letters are exquisite poetry written for and about me. They each accept and appreciate me as I am, in my zillion vulnerabilities. And they each see me in my exaltation and my mystery, reflect the mythic me, a clear and potent aspect of the Goddess. Every time I receive a letter from either of them, I fall in love a bit more — with them, with life and with myself — because of how delicious it feels to be seen and honored in this particular way. These letters are not sexts — they are old-school, eros-laden reminders of what it is to be alive and inspired in devotion.
8. FANTASY OR REALITY?
For some folks, greater anonymity in video or text communication means a more easily dropped boundary, a wilder expression of fantasy, or that encounters can escalate with less consequence. Perhaps that is true for you. For me, erotic energy is real and I don’t prefer to spin stories that I’m not at least close to ready to back up. I experience words and images as meaningful and impactful. The ripples are real and the pleasure can be a potent blessing. In tech-sex, treat your lover with the same care you would if you were together in the flesh.
Is your tech-sex anything goes? Or do you desire the connection to align with what you’d be up for if you were right in front of each other? I once had a glitch with a lover who in a heated text exchange said he wanted to be inside me without a condom. From his vantage point, because fluids weren’t being exchanged in our text thread, the stakes were low, and it made sense to cross a boundary that we had very clearly in place in person. I found the sudden switch deeply disorienting, and experienced his statement of desire as a request that was a transgression of my boundary and our agreements. Our connection broke in that moment, and we never quite recovered. He thought we were having fantasy sex. I thought we were rooting our existing foundation. Had we been on the same page about what we were up to and inside of a clearer communication about it, we could have avoided the hurt and confusion that each of us experienced in that encounter.
9. THE SEXIEST QUESTION
Consent is no different over tech. Find juicy ways to communicate what you want and to learn what your partner wants. Let your consent conversation be hot rather than solely technical. And please, don’t bum-rush someone with a sexual message if you don’t know that they want to be intimate with you in that way. If you aren’t sure if they want to, or if you aren’t sure if they want you, ASK! You might even share this article with them as a way to open the conversation. And, just because someone was into sexy tech with you a year ago or last week don’t assume it’s true again now. Be relational. Show up well. Listen and attune.
10. GROUND IT OUT
Give attention to grounding. Tech can easily pull us out of embodied presence. Don’t let the arousal of sexual exchange bump up against the hyperarousal of technology in a way that has you forever checking your phone or never able to unwind. Let tech be a tool for connection, don’t let it take over.
I learned this the hard way. During that hot distance romance that started sapiosexual, I went to bed each night with my phone in hand, still pulsing from our chats. If I woke in the wee hours, the first thing I did was check to see if he was awake or had been in touch. There was so much fire in our connection, and how I related to it was unsustainable and kept me from tending my well-being. My lover was happy to follow my lead on communication boundaries, but I reacted so strongly to the intensity of his energy — and our energy together — that I couldn’t find my center without dousing the flame altogether. These days, I’m clearer that in any connection, no matter how hot, my well-being must come first. If the connection distracts me for more than a short while, something needs to shift.
Optimally, tech-sex supports you feeling more joy and pleasure and presence in your body and where you are right now. If your sex with someone far away continually stokes an unquenchable longing rather than bringing greater juice to your right now, take a deep breath and put down your phone and your fantasies.
11. EBB & FLOW
These are immense times we are in. It may be that tech-sex with another is just the thing to ignite your inspiration, sweeten your nights, or help take the edge of anxiety or loneliness. Or it may be that really what you need is a bit of space from intimacy with another, more attention on yourself or what is right in front of you. Or perhaps you simply need a break from your phone.
If you have a pre-existing tech-sex partner or playmate, know that they might have a different level of avaiability or desire to connect than before. If you are building a new erotic-at-a-distance connection with someone, clarify if what you each are wanting is arousal, release from stress, or a deepening into shared presence, pleasure and connection. We each respond to intensity and uncertainty differently, and many of us are finding ourselves amidst varying levels of personal, ancestral, structural or relational trauma responses as we navigate our days. Be gentle with your lovers, and yourself. There is no right way to do pleasure in a crisis.
Right now, I am happily choosing dormance in the realm of tech-sex. Except for the warm pleasure of a loving voice and gestures of care washing over me, my nervous system has needed _no more stimulation_ for the past few weeks. I imagine that ebb may flow at some point in the months to come, and am grateful for tech at my fingertips as a tool and sex toy when it does.
12. SACRED SEXT
My erotic orientation is devotion. While the shape may change, the essence is no different over tech. Let your tech-sex be a sacred ritual. Perceive the pleasure-play between you and your partner as a dance of divinity.
Set an altar for eros as you shelter-in-place, a physical space to tend to your desire – which can also mitigate your phone becoming the altar. Speak a cascade of gratitudes for each strand of connection. Intend your sex to be oracular, inviting guidance or prophecy amidst your pleasure. Offer a prayer with your orgasm that this energy reverberates for specific healing and transformation. The sacred is available here. Turn your tech into a vessel for erotic intimacy. Tech can be a temple, too.
May this weaving of words be a blessing.
May physical distance open new portals of possibility.
May pleasure with yourself, and with others, be a potent prayer.
We’re fast approaching the start of Sex and the Sephirot: A Seven Week Pleasure Journey Though the Omer. It’s offered annually beginning at Passover and starts this weekend on Sunday, April 12. It is my favorite online class to teach, and perhaps my most popular.
Sex and the Sephirot is a virtual immersion in subtle and powerful ways to enhance pleasure and eros with ourselves and with each other. While it’s title has Hebrew words and it loosely maps around the kabbalistic tree of life, the course itself is accessible and open to all. It’s focus is not tech-sex, nor Jewish mysticism, but on nuancing and enhancing our relationship with pleasure — with ourselves, in the world, and with lovers if we have them or want them. If this speaks to you, feel welcome and know that we are happy to get creative with payment plans & sliding scale, because Unravel.
I may love you deeply, or I may not know you at all. This manual is not an invite to slide into my DMs or to sext me. If you love this piece, I won’t assume it means you want to have tech-sex with me, or anyone else. And, just because I offered this here and you read it, please don’t assume it means I want to get tech-sexy with you.
Ok y’all, that’s it. Sign up for Sex & the Sephirot. Don’t sext me without an invite. DO feel into ways to get tech-sexy with the ones you want to be near. Feel welcome to submit your questions to Ask Eros, my new advice column. And if you need extended or individual support, schedule a Zoom session here. Find all these resources and more at Pleasure As Prayer.
And mostly, follow good protocols of attunement and consent, gather your courage and reach out to someone who lights your fire, or who might be lonely & wanting to play with you. #pleasureforthewin
With gratitude for editorial support from Rae Abileah and Zoh Lev Cunningham.
This article originally appeared on Taya Mâ’s website.
TAYA SHERE (TAYA MÂ)
is co-founder of Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Organic Multireligious Ritual at Starr King School for the Ministry where she trains emergent clergy in multi-religious ritual and ancestral practice. She teaches Ancestral Lineage Healing workshops across the U.S.and offers session work online. Taya Mâ is co-author of The Hebrew Priestess: Ancient and New Paths of Jewish Women’s Spiritual Leadership and Siddur HaKohanot: A Hebrew Priestess Prayerbook. Her chant albums have been heralded as “cutting-edge mystic medicine music.”