It’s something of a cliché fantasy to have sex on your own private island, right? No one else around for miles, the white sand stretching into the moonlight, the inky waves crashing against a shoreline that’s all yours—paradise.
This may seem like a far-fetched dream during a pandemic, but Jake (not his actual name), a 35-year-old consultant who lives in Fairfax County, is doing just that. Having sex on an island, that is. Well, a virtual island. And, okay, fine, the sex is virtual, too. He’s having sex with his girlfriend via the game Animal Crossing (the one everyone talks about on Twitter with the raccoons and the bells and the turnips).
Jake and his girlfriend have found themselves in a situation that may be familiar to lots of couples right now: Even though she only lives 25 minutes away, the two have hardly seen each other since stay-at-home orders began in March. They both live with their parents, whose ages put them in a high-risk category, so the couple decided it would be safer to spend this time apart.
Jake and his girlfriend never had virtual sex before this—they hardly even FaceTimed because they saw each other in-person so much. But once they were apart, they realized they missed the intimacy of a physical relationship, says Jake. So they started sexting and dirty talking on FaceTime. Until one day when they were playing Animal Crossing together, and they found themselves on a virtual private island, that is.
“We were just playing on each other’s island one time and I was like ‘Oh, it’s a bed, I’m going to jump on your bed. Oh, I’m going to take my clothes off,’ ” says Jake. “It started as something that was a joke and then it transitioned into ‘Oh, this is for real,’ you know?”
Now, the couple goes on frequent Animal Crossing dates-slash-hookups: Jake will visit his girlfriend’s island, the couple’s virtual selves will hop into her large bed, remove their clothes, and then get weird. “We’ll start dirty texting and getting on with it,” says Jake of their set up—the duo is often playing Animal Crossing, while simultaneously chatting on FaceTime and texting during their island hook-ups. “We’ll simulate a lot of things that we do in real life.”
Sometimes Jake’s character will sit on a chair and his girlfriend’s character will come over and do a head-nodding movement to simulate—well, you can probably guess. And once his girlfriend even set up a virtual strip club in her Animal Crossing home and had her character dance for Jake’s while removing her clothes. “We just try a lot of different things.”
You might wonder—is it awkward to narrate the banging of two pixelated creatures to your partner? At first, yeah, says Jake, but that goes away. “After a few sessions, you start getting used to it and you start understanding your partner and how she reciprocates communication,” he says. “You start forgetting about ‘Oh, is she judging me? Am I judging her?’—those sort of feelings—and it just becomes more natural.”
Obviously, having your avatar make sweet love to your partner’s avatar isn’t as good as the real thing, but it does fulfill the need for intimacy somewhat. “My friends would be like, ‘What the hell, you guys are weird,’ but for us, it’s like this is our own private thing,” says Jake. “It’s something that makes us feel closer to each other.”
Simon (also not his real name), a 26-year-old Park View resident who works in management consulting, feels the same way about his virtual sex experiences. His girlfriend lives in Canada, and since the border between the two countries is currently closed, the couple hasn’t seen each other since the beginning of March.
“I haven’t been touched by another human, even in a non-romantic way, since this started, besides an elbow-bump,” says Simon. “So I think there’s a longing for that human connection that no one can have right now.”
Because the duo lives far apart to begin with, they had occasionally sent pictures of themselves or sexual messages to each other pre-Covid. But now, with no set date for when they’ll see each other again, they’ve upped the frequency of their virtual sex sessions and moved to FaceTime.
Obviously it’s not ideal, says Simon. “The production of it is kind of weird,” he says—the calls have dropped or frozen mid-session, he says, and you have to consider which angle is most flattering and balance between watching and showing.
And occasionally Simon finds himself worrying about the privacy of hooking up over wifi. “Who else could be watching? Where will the information end up?” he says. “If this, for whatever reason, became public in any way, this would be a weird one for my parents to see.” (There’s also the fact that his basement room doesn’t have a door, and his roommates have told him they can hear everything he does. ”So that’s a thing,” he says.)
But what else are star-crossed lovers separated by a global crisis to do? “It’s like, that or nothing,” says Simon.
So, will these couples continue to explore their newfound virtual chemistry once things are eventually back to normal?
Maybe. Jake thinks it’s a fun outlet that they may revert to from time to time even when he and his girlfriend are reunited (they plan to meet in a week or two now that the Northern Virginia lockdown has lifted). Simon, however, is less enthused, and is very much looking forward to seeing his physical girlfriend when the nonessential travel ban is lifted between Canada and the US in late June.
“There’s a part of me that will associate [virtual sex] with this [time],” he says. “There are a lot of things I want to be like, ‘That was a thing I did in Covid, and I’m done with that.’ This might end up being put in that box.”