Countless articles and thinkpieces have attempted to make sense of pandemic-era sex and dating. Angles include “If You Can’t Get It Up It’s Probably Because Of Our Impending Doom,” “How Quarantine Can Make Your Relationship Stronger,” “How Quarantine Will Tear Your Relationship To Shreds,” “In The Future All Of Your Romantic Entanglements Will Exist On A Screen,” and “Actually, Online Dating Is Good.” It’s a complicated issue with several sub-issues and no straight answer. And to cope with these woes in love and lust, people are experimenting with sex toys, lingerie, and video chat dates. 

Single life is lived online

Singles in quarantine are forced to choose between possibly exposing themselves to the virus or a lack of physical intimacy. The NYC health department even released “guidelines” about sex and Coronavirus, such as “You are your safest sex partner” and “The next safest sex partner is someone you live with,” among other cringe-worthy bulletpoints. Online dating is the safest option for singles to meet each other, but how well can you really know someone without in-person contact? 

Viral dating coach Adam Lyons says his client count has quadrupled since the lockdowns went into effect. “And our regular clients have a lot of questions because they are swamped with more online dating matches, and those matches are more forward in their behavior and requests,” Lyons tells Thinknum. “I'm getting clients to slowly increase their physical exposure to their online matches. It starts with online matching, then communicating in-app, moving to text messaging, then to virtual dates, then to distance dating (taking hikes while 6 feet from each other) and then a full-on in-person date.”

Interestingly enough, the Apple App Store ratings counts for OkCupid, Match, and Tinder ($MTCH) all dropped toward the end of March, as quarantine measures became dire. Tinder’s ratings fell 15%, OkCupid’s dropped 38%, and Match’s count plummeted 83%. 

Meanwhile, the ratings count for Our Time, a dating app for singles age 50 and above, have shot up 313% since March. 

People may not be fully engaged in the apps or excited enough to give them a few stars in the App Store, but they’re browsing the online dating pool more than ever before. One Sunday in late March, Tinder received over 3 billion swipes worldwide, the most it’s ever recorded. That said, users are less likely to turn a match into a rendezvous. 

Couples are experimenting, as quarantine kills the mood 

Surging sales of sex toys suggest an emphasis on self-love over partnered sex, but the trend also accounts for couples looking for new ways to spice up their sex lives. Online sales of WOW Tech Groups’s Womanizer Premium Pleasure Air vibrator are up 152% from March 2019. In Canada, sales were up 263% in March versus the same time last year. Sex toy e-retailer Tracy's Dog conducted a survey of 877 people from around the world and found that 62% of respondents already own sex toys and 57% planned to purchase them during the quarantine.  

Couples who live together might find that the day-to-day monotony of quarantine transfer to the bedroom. Increased anxiety and depression could also spark relationship problems and low libidos. In March, Facebook mentions of the marriage counseling app Lasting ($PRIVATE:THEKNOTWW) peaked at 1,070, the highest it’s been since we started tracking the company’s data in 2019.

Stress moves us into a fight or flight response which is survival based and that naturally shuts down the procreation instinct. The crisis has created a lot of stress,” certified sex therapist and relationship coach Sarrah Rose writes in an email. “Everyone's sexual desire is impacted with a seemingly opposite mix of shut down and unmet needs. We need sex and yet feel too stressed to have it.”

Over the past few months, lingerie has climbed the ranks among Amazon’s ($AMZN) best-selling products all over the world. In February, lingerie products were ranked at 92 on Amazon’s US website. By the beginning of May, they made their way into the top ten. Since the beginning of the month, lingerie on Amazon Brazil has risen from a ranking of 66 to 4. In France, lingerie moved up from 52 in April to 11 this week. (A lower data point on the chart signifies a higher ranking.)

“We're bored and we're stuck inside. There isn't much else to do and people are sick of having the same basic, vanilla sex over and over,” Rose says. “If toys and lingerie can spice it up then people will try it.”

“I've been encouraging [my clients] to keep focusing on their sex lives and relationships...By keeping those aspects of their lives healthy, it helps them stay motivated and focused on the end of the situation that we're in.”

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: 

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