Now that restrictions are starting to ease in many places, people are considering opening their social bubble to include others that they don’t live with. This could look like a return to work (for those who were non-essential workers), negotiating new recreational activities, or simply getting the basics from the grocery store. Before making a move you and your current quarantine pod may be looking for guidance in how to expand your bubble safely and responsibly. Navigating this uncharted territory can feel much like opening one’s relationship to other partners or joining households. It’s intimate and extremely personal.
There are a lot of ways that Poly, BDSM and other non-normative communities have provided useful and new perspectives on intimate relationships during this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Advice on how to maintain newly-long distance relationships has come from polyamorous and non-monogamous communities. Expertise in how to participate in consensual sexting has been just one of many important contributions from the kink communities, in particular.
Living deliberately also impacts our approach to safely engaging socially while the COVID-19 pandemic is still part of our reality. With 30+ years experience in pleasurable living, there are a few ways the Welcomed Consensus community has been thinking about this issue.
We’ve found that many of the principals of having a safe, healthy, and pleasurable sex life are also useful tools in engaging in society in a way that is also safe, healthy, and pleasurable:
1. Communication, communication, communication
This is the most important attribute for all relationships. Being willing to communicate is the first and most important step, and this can be a tricky one. Stating that masks are important to you, for example, may feel awkward to a friend group that is acting laissez-faire with social distancing. But, in the eyes of someone leading a pleasurable life, this is no different than communicating any other wants, desires, or boundaries. In fact, asking for masks may be a lot easier than asking for a particular sex act or communicating about how you felt jealous!
If you are about to enter a social engagement, talk to those you’ll be interacting with beforehand. Find out what their safe practices are (or are not). This way you are prepared ahead of time to take care of yourself and your loved ones. Plus you’ll know what to expect.
It’s important to clearly communicate your boundaries for social distancing. Get clear on what the rules and boundaries are of those around you. Consent is ongoing and can be revoked at any point. It’s important to check in during a social or work setting. Make sure that you and those you are interacting with are still in agreement with how social distancing is being enacted. Be deliberate before, during and after. Use the safest practices to begin with to expand your bubble. Notice and talk about how everyone is doing with that level. Continue talking throughout the process. What you want one day may be different the next. Stay in communication.
Before engaging in any activity, it’s important to talk about it before, during and after.
3. Ask for what you want
This is a good practice for engaging with a world in the midst of a pandemic- both for yourself and those around you! Asking directly for what you want will yield benefits for all concerned as you expand your bubble. The person most difficult to please is one who is unwilling to communicate.
Part of getting what you want out of any pleasurable experience is being willing to ask for what you want.
4. Control is agreement
This is a pretty simple one but it’s a great one to have in mind. Those of us who are in the process of emerging from quarantine are probably looking around and seeing a lot of folks behaving with all different levels of care (or carelessness) for health and safety guidelines. And, just like in an intimate setting, the only person you have any control over is yourself.
You can not control the behavior of others, only your own behavior.
5. Use barriers!
If you have safer sex practices as part of your sex life, then much of what is being advertised for safety amidst the pandemic is applicable. Wear gloves? Check! Concepts like cross-contamination and communication about preferred barrier methods may already be familiar to you. (But if not, go here)
Approaching a grocery store or a workplace now is not unlike approaching a safer sex scenario: communication is key and use barrier methods when possible!
As you think about how to create, sustain, and expand your bubble during the COVID-19 pandemic, the principals of safer sex can be your guide. Communication, consent, and the use of barriers are all useful practices that will help you as the world enters into the next phase of opening up. Before you make any moves, check what official measures are in place where you are and adjust accordingly.
As people who deliberately live a pleasurable life, we have set up our daily practices to negotiate moving forward. If you decide to use these practices too, you can increase the safety of interactions with whomever you encounter. Furthermore, you can go into society looking forward to the potential for more fun and enjoyment with those around you.