This holiday season, our theme is Simple Pleasures: small wins, solid foundations, appreciation of comfort. Let’s acknowledge our nostalgia for pre-pandemic times and calm our anxieties as we venture (again) into the great indoors. It’s time to focus on making our body home wherever we are.
As that cool-weather crackle finally enters the air, another seasonal cycle begins: the desire to partner up in winter.
The annual urge to crawl into bed with a special someone in the cooler months, for a relationship that lasts at least as long as there is frost on the ground, has become immortalized as “cuffing season.” I don’t love the metaphor—after all, a tool of oppression by police is hardly a good symbol of sexy winter fun, unless that’s your kink. But the itch to boo up in winter, what I’m going to call “snuggle season,” is real.
The end to summer outings, boozy backyard barbecues, and sidewalk bars, and the rise of cozy, nostalgic holidays with the attendant relationship-status prying from nosy relatives, can send even the most self-confident single into a tailspin, especially in a year when intimacy is hard to come by. So what’s a single person to do when the message to couple up is as ubiquitous as pumpkin spice?
Cozy Vibes Don’t Change What’s Best for You
With a frighteningly high number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States every day, and the lingering uncertainty of turbulent political times, the itch for touch may be even more real this snuggle season. Many of us have endured months of increased social isolation, and if we’re not already partnered, the prospect of more cold months without a snuggle buddy can feel overwhelming.
At the same time, it may not be possible or wise for you to rush into a relationship just because it’s snuggle season. You may be single because you’re waiting to meet the right person for a long term relationship, because sexual intimacy isn’t a healthy choice for you right now, because you need to practice increased coronavirus precautions, or because you simply haven’t met anyone you’re attracted to.
Rushing into a physical relationship when you know it’s not right for you, or with someone you don’t feel safe or comfortable with, may not ultimately give you the comfort you need. And if you’re happily single, you deserve to celebrate that as an affirmative, sexy choice. Here are six ideas for some sexy self-love if you’re single this snuggle season.
Go to Orgasm School
Orgasm is not a competition (unless you’re into that), and sex —both solo and partnered—can still be pleasurable without it. But it’s always fun to up your capacity to experience pleasure, and discover new ways to get off.
The pull of snuggle season is looking for someone to keep you warm in bed on a lazy afternoon—but you can indulge in an epic snugglefest yourself.
Enter digital sex school. The move to video chat-everything has inspired a wave of innovative online courses, workshops, and classes designed to bring out your sensual side. If you’ve got 50 bucks and a couple of hours to spare, you can sign up for a virtual session to practice breath and energetic orgasm, learn the secret to squirting, or simply break down the barriers to accepting and loving your body.
Plan The Ultimate Snuggle Sesh
This should be a full-on cozy staycation. Part of the pull of snuggle season is looking for someone to keep you warm in bed on a lazy afternoon when it’s snowing outside—but you can indulge in that kind of epic snugglefest yourself.
Clear your calendar for the day, because snuggling is serious business. Then build a pillow fort on your bedroom floor, or make your bed with fresh, crisp sheets and your softest comforter, spritzed with a favorite scent. Splurge on a new pillow—a really soft one. Take a luxurious bath or shower, put on your glammest lingerie or your coziest sweatpants or go au naturel—and have at it.
A scented candle, something sweet to eat, and some help from your favorite liquid or herbal intoxicant (if that’s a good choice for you) can only help. Takeout or your favorite Bake Off-inspired homemade comfort food? Don’t mind if I do! As for what activities you get up to in your Yoko Ono-level day in bed, that’s totally up to you. Just remember: Netflix and chill is also stimulating while solo.
Have a Naughty Dinner Party
Yes, that is a euphemism for masturbating with vegetables. You heard me right: While we often think of incorporating food play in partnered sex, it can also be a safe, sexy, and dare I say tasty way to add some spice (not literally—that stuff burns) to your self-love routine.
When combing your kitchen for your next masturbation tool, follow some basic body safety. Pretty much anything you’re willing to clean up can lead to sexy play on your upper body and legs: whipped cream, champagne, strawberries, juicy melon, warm oil, can all be great for solo sensation play.
When it comes to your genitals, be a little more selective. Keep anything oily or sugary away; both can encourage the growth of bacteria, and a foodplay related yeast infection is not the vibe. (According to some gynecologists, coconut oil is a slippery exception to this rule; test some on your skin first to make sure it agrees with you.) Spicy, hot, or acidic foods are also not the move, as they are potentially irritating, which you’ll know if you’ve ever experienced the classic “forgot I cut hot peppers earlier today and masturbated” sting. Neither are yeasty or crumbly ones (sorry, baguette lovers).
It’s called “skin hunger”: If you have found yourself feeling isolated while socially distancing, it may be that you crave touch.
Instead, for genital play, opt for longer, harder foods that you can wash and that are likely to remain intact if inserted. Cucumbers are classic for a reason; so are carrots and zucchini. Rinse them off and use a condom if you’re going to insert the food to avoid infection—and have fun.
Practice Massage for One
For a long time, I didn’t realize that the tingly, warm-oil-down-my-spine feeling I sometimes got when listening to soothing sounds was ASMR. If you, too, get the signature tingle, it opens up a whole world of self-care possibilities.
My personal favorite is how-to videos on massage, which come with an added bonus: watching is instantly relaxing, and you can follow along on yourself or whip out the skills later on a friend or partner. Even if you don’t have an ASMR response, the empathetic nature of the human brain (ever flinched when you saw someone else get punched?) means that watching someone experience relaxation can trigger your relaxation response, too.
It may also be worth investing in some massage tools—and I mean literal massage, not a vibrator, though those are worth shelling out for, too. A pressure massager, whether electronic or manual, can work wonders. A scented candle and some lotion or coconut oil may be just what the self-care fairy ordered.
Get Cute for the Camera
Nude photos can be a deeply healing practice, especially during quarantine. Most of us are still on a journey of learning to totally celebrate our own bodies. That’s partly because of the oppressive ableist, racist, sexist, and transphobic body standards we all live under and also internalize. But that’s also because, as Swell contributor Laura Delarato writes, our bodies are “intimate vessels” that house “our experiences in this world,” complete with all the baggage that entails.
Celebrating how our bodies look, without forcing them to fit a standard that doesn’t come naturally to them, can be a deeply healing—not to mention arousing—experience. That’s where the camera comes in. Experiment with nude selfies. Play with setting, accessories, styling, lighting, poses…you name it. Take photos for no one but yourself, or share with a digital pen pal. Hell, you can even get the photos printed and frame your favorite.
Attend a Virtual Sex Party
A natural, though more public, extension of all those sexy quarantine selfies: video sex parties. Zoom may have formally banned them, but if you’re a consenting adult playing with other consenting adults, there is nothing wrong with some video-chat exhibitionism.
There’s a whole world of online sex parties, from the exclusive and application-only to the online version of your fave local sex party, to a casual digital orgy organized by friends. If you’re an old sex party pro, digital play can offer a new kind of experience. If you’ve never been to a sex party before, they can be a great way to put your toe in the water (or your junk on camera) to experiment with sexy, socially distanced fun.
All parties have their own rules and agreements to ensure a safe, sexy online experience, but many parties will allow you to engage in a variety of ways: as a spectator, as a more active participant, and even in specific breakout rooms based on interest or fetish.
Snuggle Up Single
I want to be real about one thing: Going without touch can hurt. Most human beings have a natural need for body contact. It’s called “skin hunger,” and if you have found yourself feeling isolated while socially distancing, it may be that you crave touch.
In this context, finding a special someone for snuggle season can be more than a manifestation of FOMO—it can be a deep physiological need. You can help fight skin hunger, even if you’re not open to or haven’t found someone to share sexual intimacy with, by emphasizing emotional connection and warm, friendly physical touch, like hugging or shoulder rubs, with others in your immediate household or bubble.
Making sure you get your social and platonic touch needs filled, at least by one other friend or household member, can lighten some of that pressure to find a sexy boo for the winter. Filling those social needs can, in turn, help you reframe self-love from a chore or a “consolation prize” for not being coupled up into the sacred, celebratory, and sensual practice it is.