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Session 226: How Our Sex Lives Changed During the Pandemic

The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.

Lots of things have changed during the pandemic, our sex and dating lives included. Back with us this week to chat about some of these changes is Sexologist Shamyra Howard, LCSW. Shamyra and I chatted about how our sex lives have changed during the pandemic, ways to sustain or improve intimacy as our schedules change, tips for transitioning from online dating to in real life, and tips for increasing sexual confidence.

Shamyra will also be joining us, along with Dr. Lexx Brown- James this Friday, Sept. 24 at 7pm Eastern for our Sex Positive September celebration to chat all about getting the pleasure you desire, so if you’d like to join us for a little girls’ night in, grab your ticket at sexpositiveseptember.com

Resources

Visit our Amazon Store for all the books mentioned on the podcast!

Where to Find Shamyra

https://www.onthegreencouch.com/

Grab a deck of Use Your Mouth Cards

Check out Shamyra chatting about Sexual Freedom on Session 80 of the podcast.

Twitter: @SexologistShamy

Instagram: @SexologistShamyra

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Our Production Team

Executive Producers: Dennison Bradford & Maya Cole

Producer: Cindy Okereke

Assistant Producer: Ellice Ellis

Read Full Transcript

Session 226: How Our Sex Lives Changed During the Pandemic

Dr. Joy: Hey y’all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 226 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We’ll get right into the episode after a word from our sponsors.

[SPONSORS’ MESSAGES]

Dr. Joy: Lots of things have changed during the pandemic and our sex and dating lives are no different. To chat with us about some of the changes she's seeing is Sexologist Shamyra Howard. Shamyra is a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice serving Baton Rouge, Louisiana and surrounding areas. She specializes in sexuality and relationships and works with a variety of clients including those battling depression, anxiety, pregnancy, parenting, peer relationships, and those in the LGBTQ+ community. She's also the best-selling author and creator of the Use Your Mouth sex and relationship conversation starter cards and the book Use Your Mouth: Pocket-sized Conversations to Simply Increase 7 Types of Intimacy in and out of the Bedroom.

Shamyra and I chatted about how our sex lives have changed during the pandemic, ways to sustain or improve intimacy as our schedules change, tips for transitioning from online dating to in real life, and tips for increasing sexual confidence. Shamyra will also be joining us along with Dr. Lexx Brown-James this Friday night at 7pm Eastern for our Sex Positive September celebration to chat all about getting the pleasure you desire. So if you'd like to join us for a little girls’ night in, grab your ticket at SexPositiveSeptember.com. Here's our conversation.

Dr. Joy: Shamyra, I would love for you to just start by telling us how you have seen our sex lives and dating lives being impacted throughout the pandemic. I'm sure that's a huge question, but what are some of the high-level things that you've seen change during this time?

Shamyra: That is a huge question but there's also a not so huge response to that. And it might be huge because, for us professionals who are in the office seeing clients, we were like calling each other, emailing, and we went into this thinking, and a lot of articles were even saying people's relationships and sex lives were going to tank with this pandemic. And this was early locked down, we were seeing articles that divorce inquiries had risen up to 50% in the second month of the lockdown so we were like, okay, we're bracing ourselves for our clients.

But I'll tell you two things. One, people didn't know what to do. We're talking about early COVID during the first lockdowns. It's interesting that we refer to it as early COVID, right? People had what we call COVID anxiety so they didn't know basically how to feel about this. A lot of people were scared, a lot of people were experiencing death anxiety, and so as a result, we did see a fluctuation with their sexual relationships. Not that much. Some people wanted more sex, some people wanted less sex and some people's sex didn't change, so that was very interesting for us.

And then about a year later, the Kinsey Institute and Dr. Justin Lehmiller did this pandemic research study about people's sexual behaviors during the pandemic. And it was amazing because it found that people didn't decrease or increase their sexual behavior and activity with their partners, but what happened was they started experiencing more sexual diversity. Yes. And basically, they started incorporating toys into their sex, people started watching porn for more eroticism, not for education because we don't do that for education.

But people's sexual diversity increased. They started becoming way more sexually explorative and we didn't expect that at all, but we were so happy about it because all of the stuff that we teach in sessions, people started doing that stuff. Like they started talking about sex more, people became way more sexually diverse. They didn't just focus on the same genital to genital contact. It's probably because we were so locked down, it was like, okay, we’ve got to add a little spice to this.

Dr. Joy: You know, that is interesting. I'm glad you shared your thoughts about why that might have happened. And you're right, I remember like very early on, we were getting reports on like how the divorce rates had increased in China and so people were speculating like, okay, we're gonna see the same thing here in the US as the pandemic progresses. But it sounds like it actually was not the case, that we have not seen. And especially, it has not impacted people's sex lives.

Shamyra: It hasn't impacted people's sexual lives. There were still reports of people wanting to separate and there were still relationship injuries. Pandemic or not, people were going to experience relationship injuries. It's the nature of relationships, it’s what we know about relationships. With the pandemic, it brought couples closer together than they had ever been before. A lot of people don't see each other until they come home from work–it’s time for dinner, it’s time for child work, they might have sex, they might not. What we saw was this extra time that couples were forced to be with each other, it brought out a lot. It brought out a lot, it brought out some insecurities, brought out some comforts and discomforts. It brought out space to explore because I saw that in my office.

Dr. Joy: You mentioned this other study that you also found had interesting results. Can you say more about the other study?

Shamyra: Oh, absolutely. It's another Kinsey Institute study and this one is in partnership with the sexual wellness company Lovehoney, and this was the Summer of Love survey. And so this summer, they conducted the Summer of Love survey and this one was a bit less shocking for me but it was still interesting in that it found that over 50% of people overall, it shows that the pandemic did wonders for their relationship and their sex life.

We went into this not thinking that people were going to fare very well. They started doing his research, over 50% of people said that they are more invested in their relationship, they feel more committed to each other, they're more satisfied with their partner. They say that their partner meets their sexual needs now more than before, and that just blew me away. It was so interesting and 51% of people feel more passionate. Out of all of these results, over 50% of people say that their relationships and their sexual relationships improved and are better than before. How interesting is that?

Dr. Joy: That is really interesting, Shamyra, and I wonder if you could help us make sense of like why that may have been the case. Because there has also been like so much anxiety, so much stress, so much exhaustion, related to both the pandemic but also politics and racial injustice. Like there have been so many other things going on but it sounds like... I mean, we know sex is a coping tool so it could be people throw themselves into things that make them feel good. But are there other things that you think have happened that allowed people's sex lives to kind of flourish in spite of all these other stressors?

Shamyra: Absolutely. And I'm glad you asked that question because that's what most people want to know. Like, well, what did they do? Because that's not the case for me over here. But what the study showed is that, again, the pandemic forced people to communicate more and so that's basically what the results were. Is that it provided more opportunities for couples to (as I say) use your mouth, it provided more opportunities for couples to talk and have this sexual communication, and like you mentioned about politics, they were able to have these discussions. Again, what we didn't see pre-pandemic is couples just having conversations about sex and about their relationship on a regular basis.

Usually, couples start talking about their relationship and sex when things are going bad for them, when there's an issue. During this time, couples started talking about their relationships and they started talking about sex just because it was Tuesday at 3:22pm. And what we know about sexual communication is the more you talk about sex, the better your sexual relationship improves and the better your overall relationship improves, in and out of the bedroom.

Because you're not just bringing grievances to your partner; you're actually talking about your desires, your wants, your likes. That research supports my Use Your Mouth card sales because people started buying the cards more. And they were like, oh my god, I didn't know this about myself. I asked my partner this question and they asked me this question and we found out so much more. And people are having way better and more satisfying relationships as a result of using their mouth.

Dr. Joy: You already mentioned some people might be listening and saying, well, that was not the case for my relationship, like I feel like we actually fell apart during the pandemic. What kinds of suggestions do you have for people who maybe feel like, okay, I've actually not had a good experience or my sex life has not looked great during the pandemic? What kinds of things would you say to them?

Shamyra: A lot of people's experiences are that. While we know that over 50% of people but not more than 59% of people say that their relationships improved, there's still a large percentage of people who might not feel like that. And so one thing that I've noticed that's happened for people who report, “My sexual relationship has tanked. Our overall relationship has tanked. I have no desire. I don't feel sexually aroused. I don't feel close to my partner.” I have noticed that these are the couples and the relationships who have not taken out the time to redefine what their relationship looks like in our current climate.

There's a lot of information about pivoting and what that looks like, but for a lot of people, they don't understand what that means for their own relationship. Because they haven't taken the time out to assess where their relationship was pre-pandemic; they only know what's happening right now. So for those of you who are experiencing burnout in your relationships and you don't feel very connected and very close, it's time to redefine what that means for you individually, but also what that means for your partner as well. You're gonna have to use your mouth, you and your partner, and talk about what type of relationship we want.

One of the main things that couples need to do is to have goals for their relationship because we know that the goal of any relationship is growth. It doesn't matter what type of relationship you have–it's collective individual and collective growth for the relationship. And if something isn't growing, it's probably now dying. So you have to figure out, how can we grow this relationship? What are our shared goals and what are our individual goals? And you have to get really laser focused on making a commitment to redefining and growing your relationship. And sometimes (most times) you can't do that by yourself. People are way too close to their situations to be able to redefine them on their own, so you have to go sit on somebody's couch–come on over to the Green Couch–but you have to go sit on somebody's couch to help you figure out your relationship’s goal and to redefine it.

Dr. Joy: You know, something else that I was thinking as you were talking, for people who have enjoyed like this newfound intimacy or newfound closeness that you talked about, I would imagine that some people are feeling a little anxious as people are maybe starting to go back to their offices. And like the pandemic, even though it's not over, schedules are changing now, right? So how can people kind of maintain that closeness that maybe they developed during the pandemic, even while we are required to attend to more things?

Shamyra: That is a great point. And also, kids are going back to school, right? Kids are going back to school, a lot of people are transitioning back to working outside of the house, and things are gonna change. And so you're like, oh, man, we worked so hard and we did so well during this pandemic and we got so close and we feel so connected, now we're about to go back to what it looked like pre-pandemic.

But, technically, you aren't going to go back to that because it's still going to be different. But what you're going to have to do, like I said, for people who weren't having great experiences, in order to maintain that connection, you're going to have to center your expectations or recenter your expectations. What do we know about this situation? We know that things are about to change and when things change we have to change with them. So it's how am I going to change how I show up in the relationship to continue to meet the need of the relationship?

Sexually, emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually and however else you show up in your relationship, figure out how you can meet those needs but know that things are different and you don't have that same time. You and your partner are going to have to talk about, okay, we're going back to work. And you tell them, listen, I'm having some anxiety about us leaving or working outside of the house again and not seeing each other. I really appreciate how much we've grown our relationship throughout the pandemic and I'm worried that we're going to lose some of that. What are your suggestions? And also come to that conversation with your own suggestions on how you could do that. That might mean let's schedule a lunch date once a week, at least. Can we still incorporate at least once a week working from home, if that's an option? But finding more ways for you to stay connected throughout the day, through text messaging, email.

A lot of people stopped doing this but this really works–snail mail. Going back to sending snail mail. Your partner won't expect it. Send them a letter either to their job or send it to the house, telling them how much you missed them. Don't forget about dating because we still have to date. Even if you're married, even if you're committed and you've been together since a pickle was a nickel, you still need to date your partner. So basically, we’ve got to still redefine or restructure our relationships with better or different expectations of what that looks like currently.

Dr. Joy: We mentioned earlier that so much energy kind of turned online, especially in the beginning of the pandemic. We know that lots of people were using mediums like OnlyFans and other kinds of platforms to kind of really explore their sexuality. Can you talk a little bit about how we can do that? So maybe somebody is interested but doesn't know where to start, like how we can use different online mediums to kind of explore our sexuality.

Shamyra: That's a great question. I love that one because in the current climate, what we're noticing is that people's interest in casual sex is decreased because of the COVID anxiety, because of health risks. But I think we see it picking up a little bit more right now with the vaccination and everything. So early 2021, we saw a decrease in people's interest for casual sex. However, you can still peruse these sites and not have sex with people. This is a way to build up your sexual confidence, to build up your sexual self-esteem, because that is a thing as well.

If you're going on OnlyFans or if you want to make you a Finsta account (a fake Instagram account that people who are close to you don't know, but you use it to maybe post yourself in swimsuits or to feel more sexually confident, to post more information about sex or to gather more information about sex), you can do that without interacting with people. You can follow other people without saying, hey, let's meet up for sex. You can go on OnlyFans and you can post your pictures or you can have videos of yourself but you can also cut your head off. That's one way that we tell people to do it when they want to get into it but they don't want to be recognized right now, is to record without your face in the camera until you feel comfortable enough to build up putting your face in the camera.

Get your cell phone out, record yourself masturbating, watch that, pay attention to what you do. Think about things that you would like to share with other people about that. Upload that to your account if you're brave enough to do so or keep that in your spank bank for later, when you want to go back to it. Take nudes, take pictures of yourself feeling sexy. All of those things help you to build your sexual self-esteem and your sexual confidence, and you could use these sites to help you do that as well. You can connect with people who help you to feel more sexually confident without meeting up with them. Don't forget, we're still in a semi virtual world and we can still have these types of interactions with people virtually.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. More from my conversation with Shamyra after the break.

[BREAK]

Dr. Joy: You know, I wonder if there are other platforms. We know OnlyFans exists, you can do some of that, but I see you and like other sex educators talking about like Instagram and how you all often get shadow banned because you’ve got to be really careful with like spelling out stuff. Are there other platforms that you can use to maybe be able to connect with people in a way that’s safe?

Shamyra: When we say safe, we have to really define what that means individually because online safety means so many different things to different people. But safe in this manner where you won't get banned or blocked and deleted, like many of us get shadow banned. I'm sure you see whenever I spell “sex” I space out the letters because Instagram definitely takes our accounts down when we post about sexuality. But what I found very interesting, and I hope this doesn't cause any issues, but what I found is Twitter is like...

I don't know of anybody has seen the porn on Twitter. But usually when people ask me about like, hey, are there any social media sites that I can go to? It used to be Tumblr but now it's Twitter. Like Twitter has the best porn to view stuff and you can find a variety of sexually explicit things on Twitter, and it will literally blow your mind. Like I have people who are kinky and queer and they want to see specific things, and they'll put a specific hashtag on Twitter or they'll search for something and then they go down this rabbit hole of finding things that really resonate with them sexually. So Twitter is actually really good for that if you're looking for a social media type of platform.

Dr. Joy: You mentioned that we have to be mindful of what we mean when we say safe. I think when I'm thinking about safety, I'm thinking about like, okay, can somebody find your apartment based on like a picture that you share? Or, you know, like being careful of those kinds of things. Are there other things that you think people should keep in mind when they are wanting to maybe do some of this stuff online?

Shamyra: Yeah, that's a great point. I’m very particular about this. I usually don’t post pictures of my kids because of this and whenever we do, we block their school’s name out and stuff like that. Even though people can find you. You know, if they really wanted to find you, people can do that. But for a lot of people, emotional security and safety is very important to them, so making sure that you are connected to those sites and those pages that make you feel good about yourself and don't make you feel really like crappy about yourself.

Some people view safety as something that's very affirming to their sexual identity and behavior and orientation, so make sure that those accounts that you follow are in alignment to who you are as a person because for a lot of people that feels safe to them. And if you are a person who knows that this isn't your cup of tea, also knowing that it's safe for you as well. It's making sure that you know what's safe for you and what's not. And some people don't recognize that until they're actually in the throes of it and then they get a reaction to it and they're like, okay, I was activated by this and I realize that it might not be a good idea for me to go here. So it's just protecting yourself at various costs on the internet.

Like for me, I don't click on trauma porn on the internet. I don't like the videos of people being killed and murdered and beat. I don't click on that stuff. I make sure I keep my space as safe as I can. And I appreciate people who use trigger warnings, so be mindful of trigger warnings. There are specifically content warnings, some people use content warnings to let you know that the information might be sensitive. Don't be that person who sees the content warning and click on it and then become activated by it.

Dr. Joy: It's important to pay attention.

Shamyra: Yes.

Dr. Joy: Something else that has happened, I think a lot of people maybe have tried like online dating sites maybe for the first time during the pandemic. And now, like you’ve mentioned, when people are vaccinated, maybe they are preparing to meet people in person for the first time. Do you have any tips for people who might be preparing to meet somebody they've talked to only online but are now wanting to translate that into in real life?

Shamyra: Yes, absolutely. A lot of people are burned out from online dating because they did a lot of virtual dates and so they're like, you know what, I'm vaccinated or I'm ready to get out. And a lot of people are using that to their advantage because they're like I'm ready to get out and I'm ready to explore. One concern is that you actually see the person before you see the person, so make sure you're setting up a video date before you actually see them in person to know that this is the person you've been speaking with all of this time throughout this pandemic. Because some people are still going on dates with people that they've not seen on camera, and this is in the year of ‘20 and ‘21.

We should not be... [inaudible 0:26:56] but it's not in good taste to meet a person whom you've never even seen through a video call before. Like that is a potential red flag. At least have a video call or two or three or 36 with them before you meet them in person. That also gives you a chance to see if you feel like you vibe with them. Like you see them, do you feel like you vibe with them? Are they holding your attention? Are you holding their attention? It gives you the opportunity to know if you actually want to meet them in person or not.

And ask what their goals are. Make sure you have your boundaries for meeting people in person. Know what your boundaries are. Boundaries are basically how you are going to interact with this person. It's not about the rules but it's basically the limits you set on yourself for your interaction with the person. So how far are you willing to go or not willing to go? Are you okay with hugging? Are you okay with holding hands? Do you want to wear a mask? Do you need them to wear a mask? What are your boundaries for in-person meeting? If you are going to have sex, what are your sexual boundaries? Some people are wearing masks during sex.

I did a poll on Instagram recently asking people if they've worn a mask during sex and most people have said that they have, and that was very interesting to me that a lot of people are having sex with masks on. So do they need to wear a mask? Do you need them to be tested, and how soon? Do you want to have a COVID test and show it to this potential partner? You need to make sure you have boundaries, to ensure you feel secure and you feel safe and motivated to actually go back out there into the world and date people.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, those are great tips. I'm very interested to hear, though, about your informal poll, kind of, that you did on Instagram because I think that that's something like we have all just had to figure out what life looks like now. And so, you know, for people who did not have a partner in the home or wanted to explore outside, you have to think about like, okay, this might not be my first choice but if I feel like I need to have this need met, what kinds of things can I do to keep myself and this other person safe?

Shamyra: Absolutely. And emotionally safe. My husband and I, like I said, we had COVID. So everybody was in the house wearing masks and he was like, we can have sex with our mask on. He was like, yeah, we could still do it, we don't have to face each other and we can still wear our masks. Because you know they don’t always figure out a way to do it. So I was like, err, I had thought about that. And I kind of think that, you know, early COVID, we were toying with the idea of wearing a mask during sex. But clients also had come up into sessions and somebody told me that they were thinking about wearing a mask during sex and we talked about what that meant for them and what their potential partner thought about that. Is it helpful or is it not? And for the most part, I think what it helps people with is feeling mentally safe. It reduces a lot of the COVID anxiety that people have.

That brings me to another point. When people get COVID, what that's like for their sexual experiences after getting COVID. And so, personally, I'll just tell you a little personal thing about me. But personally, like I said, thankfully, we've recovered from COVID. And I can tell you that I had to use my mouth. I had to use my own product on myself because I had to tell Jason (who’s my husband) I was like, listen, I'm having some anxiety about this. You know, I told him what was happening with me and what I needed from him in the moment and he was like, okay, fine. You’re having some anxiety about sex right now, you might change your mind tonight, so cool. No, he didn't say tonight! But he was just basically saying we'll go at it when you feel more comfortable.

And so one of the reasons why it was really hard for me is because I had watched him in a very, very sick state. He had gotten pneumonia and was having issues with breathing. And I too, I also had issues with breathing. So if I lied on my back, it felt like somebody was sitting on my chest. And I'm like, I don't think I'm going to be able to lay on my back and I don’t think I’m gonna be able to do this. Because I don't want to get out of breath. And so I know that that's been a lot of people's experience with COVID and I'm so interested to see like more research that comes out about sexual behaviors after having COVID and what that looks like.

But based on my own personal experience and what I'm seeing in the office with people who have recovered and are recovering is, for the most part, a lot of people are a bit apprehensive for several weeks after recovering from COVID. They're a bit apprehensive and if this is you, if you are apprehensive about it, it's okay. For a lot of people, having COVID is very scary and some people feel traumatized by that experience because, for a lot of people, it was a near death experience. Some people have lost people as a result so it's quite natural for you to have that apprehension about going back into it.

And for a lot of people, even a month later, you still don't feel 100%, you still have issues with breathing, you still have issues with sleep. You know, our bodies need sleep in order to feel sexually sound, our bodies need to be fed well, our bodies need to feel well. So I just want to normalize, if there's anyone else who had that experience, I want to normalize that for you that it's okay and it probably will last for a while until you feel comfortable. There are other ways to enjoy sexual intimacy without having genital to genital sex. I talk about that in the Use Your Mouth book. There are other ways to enjoy sex and you can definitely still feel pleasure, sexual pleasure and physical intimacy, without having sex.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. More from my conversation with Shamyra after the break.

[BREAK]

Dr. Joy: Shamyra, listening to you talk about all of this really makes me think about just how much we have been through in the past 18 months. And we know that one of the hallmark symptoms of a depressive disorder is sometimes like the loss of libido or decreased interest in sex. I wonder if you can talk a little bit, for people, about how they might know whether this is just a temporary like “okay, this might bounce back” or whether they may need to talk with someone about like their loss of interest in sex.

Shamyra: You know, this is something that we are still figuring out but what we do know, sexual desire is something that wanes. Sometimes we have sexual desire and sometimes we don't, but we do know that it's something that has to be nurtured over time. It's something that this week, I might have sexual desire and I might feel like I want to have sex every day this week. And then next week, don't touch me, you know, it's like I'm just not there. And it's because of issues, it’s life, it’s because of all types of things that are going on, body things that's happening with us that we don't recognize that's happening.

What we do know is that whenever we are experiencing those differences in sexual desire, if we're able to (with attention and with sexual communication with our partner) if we're still able to feel sexually connected with them, in time, we know that this is a natural sexual desire waning. However, if you are a person and you're recognizing that it's been at least six months and I still don't feel any sexual desire, if you’re noticing that this isn't the norm for you as it relates to how your sexual desire fluctuates, then you know that it's time to speak to someone. It's time to contact your therapist or sex therapist and it's time to see how to get back on a track that you feel comfortable with. Because what we know is, like you said, with the depression and also death anxiety that COVID has caused for a lot of people, if you think you're about to die, if you think that getting close to people is going to kill you, that's gonna tank your sexual desire. Because what makes your partner different from the other people?

And a lot of people are experiencing that and they did experience that. It's like I'm kind of afraid to even have sex with my partner because he works outside the house. Or they work outside of the house and I don't know who they're coming in contact with. And so we have to talk about what will make you feel comfortable about them working outside of the house and you still being able to feel close and connected with them. So it's basically paying attention and knowing your body and having that sexual communication, talking to your partner. But if you’re recognizing that it's been several months since you’ve felt like your usual self, then it's definitely time to speak to someone.

Dr. Joy: Shamyra, something else that has come up a few times at community conversations is this idea of people feeling less confident or secure in their bodies because of weight maybe they've gained during the pandemic. I'm wondering if you can share some thoughts about how to increase your sexual confidence after body changes.

Shamyra: Listen, I don't know one person who didn't gain weight. I gained weight. I lost it back, well, I lost 11 lbs. with COVID but I gained weight. Like people who even generally have issues with gaining weight, they were like, yes, I gained some weight, thank you COVID. But there are some people who... Thank you COVID lockdown, not COVID. But there are some people who did gain weight and now they feel even less sexually confident than they did before they gained this weight. And this is increasing, like you mentioned earlier, Dr. Joy, all that we've gone through in these 18 months. And we're still moving, right?

Our bodies have carried us through that, some of us, our bodies have carried us through even being infected with COVID or nurturing other people who've been infected. Some of us are professional people who work outside of the house and who have been essential workers and who worked in hospitals and outside of the house this entire time, and your body has carried you through all of that. So your body is doing the thing that bodies do. It’s how do you redefine how you see yourself? And where does your idea of sexual confidence come from?

If you did not have an idea of what it meant to be sexually confident, how would you know that you were or you weren't sexually confident? When you think of sexual confidence, what pops up? What people do you see? I asked a client this before who is not a therapy client, who they saw as sexually confident. This was from a speaking engagement I had, and I asked this client this and they said Rihanna is someone who they see as sexually confident. And then my person was Tess Holliday, I saw that person as sexually confident. The problem with that is we see these people as sexually confident but we don't know if they see themselves that way. We only see a glimpse of what they decide to share with us. So in the ways, what about them can we nurture within ourselves? When you look at these people who you deem to be sexually confident, what is it about them? And where are you getting the messages from that you have to be a certain size in order to be sexually attractive? And if that's from inside of your house, then we have a problem.

We need to reevaluate and ask ourselves those questions. And figure out, what does it mean for us to be sexually confident? Does that mean wearing a shirt when you have sex? And I know people are like “take the shirt off” but my thing is, if you feel comfortable and you are connected to more pleasure when you wear your shirt and your partner is okay with that, wear your shirt until you feel better about taking it off. Because we can get there. We can get to there. If you feel like you are ready, if you want to take off your shirt and you want to still have on a bra, wear your bra. Do it and continue to make smaller steps until you feel better about yourself sexually. But you have to change the messaging that you're telling yourself about what it means to be sexually confident.

Dr. Joy: I'm wondering, are there things that you will be thinking about (in terms of like our sex lives and like relationship lives) on the other side of the pandemic, whenever we get there? What kinds of things are you interested in learning about like how sex and relationships have kind of thrived or not, on the other side?

Shamyra: When I think of on the other side, I call it in an evolving COVID society. I'm interested in knowing how our sexual behaviors change in an evolving COVID society. Even with flirting. I did an interesting article with a media company about flirting during the pandemic and I want to know how people's flirting habits have changed while they had on a mask and then when people were able to remove their masks. What changed in people as it related to flirting, right? Did their behaviors change?

For one thing, what I recognize in asking some people these questions is, with a mask on, people were very interested in looking in each other's faces and specifically in each other's eyes. Because basically, if you wore your mask correctly over your nose, then we basically only saw each other's eyes so people became more interested in looking in each other's eyes. And then, these self-reports from people I interviewed personally, is that they checked out each other's bodies more while being masked, even if they were up close and personal. And that didn't change with taking the mask off. What did not change was there was still this interest to look in people's faces. Now, wow, we're taking our masks off. Now I can see what you look like without your mask on. So there was a strong desire and interest to see what people looked like without a mask on.

Those are some of the things that I'm interested in. I'm interested in what dating continues to look like and how that continues to evolve with this. I'm interested in knowing how the vaccine improves people's sexual quality of life. I know a lot of people, when they were able to get vaccinated, they went out. And they did that because they thought that they were going to be able to go out and wild out again, so that's what they thought. But those are like those things that come up to the forefront of my interest.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, and we will definitely be staying in touch to kind of see like what kinds of things, because I'm also just fascinated just on so many levels about how we will change and how we will collectively grieve and all of those things. Like it just feels like so many things have been uprooted during the pandemic and so there's just gonna be so much different on the other side. I like your idea of an evolution because it doesn't sound like COVID is going anywhere but hopefully we won't always be in a pandemic state. It becomes a thing that we figure out how to live with, kind of like the flu.

Shamyra: Yep. I can't wait till we get there. Till we get to that space where we feel a little bit better than where we are now. A lot better than where we are now.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, yeah. Shamyra, you've already made reference several times to the Use Your Mouth cards and book. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit more about those, maybe where we can find you, as well as any social media handles you'd like to share.

Shamyra: Absolutely. If you've ever been a person who thought that you needed to know more about yourself or your partner sexually and you want to improve your sex, then you’ve got to get the Use Your Mouth sex and relationship conversation starter cards. And this is for anybody, you don't have to be in a relationship or not. Basically, it's a fun nonjudging way to improve your sexual relationship.

And then there is the book that came out after the cards because a lot of people want to know what intimacy is in and out of the bedroom, because a lot of us think that intimacy is just sex. I discuss seven different types of intimacy in the Use Your Mouth book. It's pocket-sized conversations to simply improve seven types of intimacy in and out of the bedroom, and so I talk about seven ways or seven types of intimacy that you might have or you might be missing in your relationship with your partner, that you want to build on.

And everything begins with a conversation. Sex begins with a conversation. You could get both of those on my site, OnTheGreenCouch.com, or you could go to Amazon to get the book as well. You can reach me, OnTheGreenCouch.com, and all of my socials are SexologistShamyra. So I'm SexologistShamyra on Instagram and I talk back to people in YouTube and Facebook.

Dr. Joy: Thank you so much for sharing with us again. It’s always a pleasure to have you chatting with us.

Shamyra: Yes, I love chatting with y’all.

Dr. Joy: I’m so glad Shamyra was able to share her expertise with us today. To learn more about her or to grab your pack of the Use Your Mouth cards, visit the show notes at TherapyForBlack Girls.com/session226. And don’t forget to text two of your girls and tell them to check out the episode as well. If you’re looking for a therapist in your area, be sure to check out our therapist directory at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/directory.

If you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It’s our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at Community.TherapyForBlackGirls.com. Thank y’all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all real soon. Take good care.