Sex for Long-Distance Lovers

Many of us are alone right now, but that doesn’t mean we have to forgo physical intimacy.

Maybe you’re away from your partner due to the pandemic, or you’ve met someone new (congrats!), but you want to maintain social distance until everything feels safe again. Perhaps you’re exploring the world of online dating to experience physical intimacy with another person, even temporarily. 

Whatever your needs, sex doesn’t need to be brushed aside just because you can’t physically be with your partner. Enter: virtual sex, Zoom’s secret, saucy cousin.

Virtual sex—not to be confused with virtual reality (or VR experiences)—is when we find ways to be intimate with another person via technology. It offers connection when physical contact isn’t a possibility. This can include sexting, phone sex (aka talking “dirty” with your partner on the phone), video sex, and mutual self-pleasure; it’s whatever you both agree to and feel comfortable with. 

“Virtual sex can include sexting, phone sex, video sex, and mutual self-pleasure; it’s really whatever you both agree to and feel comfortable with.”

“Virtual intimacy allows us to be creative, curious and connect with our partner,” says Sherry Tran, a Wellness Coach at Lora DiCarlo. “As adults, we forget to play. Virtual intimacy can be a great playtime that relieves your stress.”

It can also lead to greater sexual satisfaction, according to Dr. Laurie Mintz, professor at the University of Florida and the author of Becoming Cliterate. “For long distance relationships, virtual intimacy helps keep the sexual and emotional connection going,” she says.

While it may feel intimidating to bring up with a partner, Dr. Mintz recommends introducing a conversation about virtual sex with “I” statements. You could try this script she suggests: “I was reading about virtual intimacy—in other words, getting it on across the computer screen, maybe even using toys that can be remotely controlled on one another via the internet. This sounds like a lot of fun to me. Are you interested in trying?”

Ask your partner what they’d be interested in exploring, and then share what you’re eager to try (e.g., phone sex while masturbating together, striptease via webcam, etc.). Just as we can advocate for our sexual wants and needs in the bedroom, we can also discuss how to meet these desires despite physical distance. 

Try and prioritize activities that keep you in the present moment, similar to when having mindful sex. “Mindfulness is putting one’s head and body in the same place in time, instead of having your body doing one thing like masturbating in front of your partner via a computer and your head in another space,” explains Dr. Mintz.

“Like with any sexual experience, it’s necessary to have and give consent for every step —and to ask for it twice.”

You can also create a list of virtual intimacy acts together and categorize them by yes, maybe, and no, says Tran. Like with any sexual experience, it’s necessary to have and give consent for every step—and ask for it twice. For example, “I know you said you’re comfortable sending nudes, but we’ve never done this before, so I want to confirm again that this feels okay for you.”

Boundaries and consent should be ongoing and evergreen, Tran explains. “Whether you are virtually intimate with a partner or a stranger…even ‘hook-ups’ require boundaries and consent.”

The conversation doesn’t end after you sign off, though, and it can be helpful to talk with your partner about the experience, especially if it was your first time trying virtual sex together. Consider it a debriefing after your—well, de-briefing. You can talk about what worked, what didn’t, and what you want to try out the next time.

What’s most important is that you have fun with it and don’t take yourself or your partner too seriously—embrace what brings you connection and pleasure. You may even find yourself laughing through technical issues together, but laughter is a part of intimacy, too.

“Embrace what brings you connection and pleasure.”

“When did becoming an adult mean we had to be perfect with everything we do?” Tran asks. “If you need to make it into a costume night, more power to you. Be the superhero of your pleasure…Watching and hearing your partner in pleasure is one of the best aphrodisiacs that is not duplicatable. Remind yourself that exploration is empowerment.”

Despite any stigmas, virtual intimacy is an entirely normal activity, as long as there is consent and it’s something that you and your partner(s) are down for. It’s a personal choice, Tran reminds us, and we live in a world where we have the privilege of having choices.

So, by now, you’ve sent the text and maybe received an enthusiastic “yes!” from your long-distance lover. What next? Here are a few ideas to get started with virtual sex: 

  • Listen to a sensual story together from We Are Ferly or Dipsea.
  • Try a remotely controlled sex toy, like the ones from Lora DiCarlo—your partner can control this from where they’re at using an internet connection. Here are a few additional sex toys we love.
  • Building up to an intimate night? Flirt throughout the day by sending photos and videos to each other.
  • Write (or find) an erotic story and read it to your partner over the phone (or have them read it to you).
  • Create a sex playlist to share. You can listen together while you have phone sex or use it for solo masturbation.
  • Have an online shopping date and browse sex toys together—you can even have a secret gift sent your lover’s way. These feminist sex shops are perfect for your perusing.
  • For some spicy homework, these sex worksheets are great for learning more about yourself and your partner!
  • If porn is something you and your partner enjoy, consider these ethical sites where you can stream videos together.  

But Is Virtual Sex Safe?

Safe sex doesn’t just mean wearing a condom! “Though it’s impossible to be 100% secure on the internet, basic cyber hygiene mitigates a great deal of risk,” says Farah Sattar, a security researcher and the founder of DCRYPTD. Her organization combats tech-enabled abuse by providing inclusive and accessible resources and consulting for marginalized populations (👏).

Before logging on for your next virtual romp, consider the following:

1. Use encrypted messaging and video apps. This will help protect your privacy and security, and it keeps the content between you and your partner. “One option is Whatsapp,” says Aliza Vigderman, a journalist at “Your messages won’t be stored on their servers, and no one but the person you’re speaking to will be able to see their content.” 

Another option is Signal, according to Sattar. “It does have one key security vulnerability: it exposes your phone number. If you are sharing with a trusted partner, this shouldn’t be an issue, otherwise, sign up using a Google Voice number.”

Social media apps do not use end-to-end encryption, so steer clear of sexting or sending nudes through your DMs. “Instead of using a regular video service like Zoom or Skype, use an encrypted app like Wire,” says Vigderman. Here’s an updated list of recommended platforms and more details about why encrypted apps are essential.

“Social media apps do not use end-to-end encryption, so steer clear of sexting or sending nudes through your DMs.”

2. Edit your image data. Speaking of nudes, you’ll want to edit image data. “When you take a picture on a digital device, it creates something called an Exif file,” explains Sattar. “Exif files include not only the camera settings, but sensitive data like time, location, and copyright information.”

To edit your images, simply clear the data with an app like Exif Metadata or Photo Exif Editor. You can even add a copyright note to ensure ownership (in case the photo ever leaks).

3. Consider keeping your face private. While it’s always up to you to decide what you want to show online, you may want to avoid sharing your face or any identifying markers (tattoos, birthmarks) in photos or videos (again, in case of leaks). “Below the neck is ideal, below the eyes if you just can’t help yourself,” says Sattar. Consider keeping your and your partner’s names out of messages as an extra precaution.

4. Connect to a VPN. “If you are sexting or having video sex on a public Wi-Fi network, connect to a VPN, or Virtual Private Network,” Vigderman recommends. This will encrypt your web activity and device IP address and greatly reduce the likelihood of a hack, she adds.

5. Use a password manager. Vigderman suggests a unique and complicated password for each account you use for virtual sex purposes, and a password manager can keep these safe. “The best password managers let you add advanced authentication methods to further safeguard your accounts,” she explains. “While two-factor authentication involves a passcode, multi-faceted authentication involves biometrics like fingerprint or face ID, preventing unauthorized access to your encrypted accounts.”

6. Turn off the cloud. Finally, turn off your cloud—that’s likely the last place you want your sexy videos and photos stored. You can change this in your phone or computer settings, says Vigderman. Here’s a quick 101.

As a final note—there’s no shame in virtual intimacy. If it’s not for you, that’s okay. But if you want to give it a try, that’s great too! “Virtual sex is not only unstigmatized, but oftentimes the default…whether someone is in a long distance relationship, looking to spice things up, or just getting flirty,” says Sattar.

In other words: Do what works best for you! 😘

Kayti Christian (she/her) is an Editor at The Good Trade. She has a Master’s in Nonfiction Writing from the University of London and is the creator of Feelings Not Aside, a newsletter for sensitive people.