Constable: New app sets sexual boundaries before first date
Navigating the world of online dating can be daunting, confusing and a little scary. Will you meet a potential partner's expectations? Will that person live up to your expectations? What are the possibilities?
For people who can't have sexual intercourse because of medical or emotional reasons, those anxieties can be even more troublesome.
That's why Anna Leonarda, a 45-year-old divorced mother of two in Bloomingdale, on Wednesday launched Entwine, a nationwide dating app for people who can't have, or don't want, sexual intercourse. Leonarda urges people to visit entwinedating.com to sign up for service and click on the "Get the Entwine Dating App" link.
"Right away, it says intercourse isn't going to happen," says Leonarda, who was inspired by her own situation.
"I always had painful intercourse all my life," says Leonarda, a breast-cancer survivor who has vaginismus, an involuntary contraction of muscles around the vagina, making penetration painful.
Using existing dating apps wasn't an option for her.
"I was intimidated by the traditional dating apps," Leonarda says. "I didn't feel comfortable getting involved in a relationship where the other person wouldn't understand my sexual limitations."
Married for 20 years to the boyfriend she met in eighth grade, Leonarda got divorced in March 2019. Using a traditional dating app and waiting for the subject to come up didn't seem the best way to announce to her date that they would not be having sexual intercourse together, Leonarda says.
"What am I going to do? What man is going to understand this issue?" she remembers thinking. "Then I started thinking, 'What do guys with erectile dysfunction do?' What can I do to solve this problem for people?"
Entwine doesn't tiptoe around the question of whether there might be sexual intercourse, and people who sign up with Entwine know that it is off the table. Leonarda says that population takes in a variety of daters.
"Even at the age of 18, there are men and women who have this issue," says Leonarda, whose website lists more than two dozen reasons contributing to a decision to not have intercourse, including health issues, medication side effects, post-traumatic stress disorder that may be the result of sexual trauma, and religious or ethical reasons.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2020 noted that one in three men between ages 18 and 24 reported going an entire year without having sex.
Leonarda emphasizes that removing one club from a couple's sexual golf bag doesn't mean they can't be intimate. "People want companionship and intimacy. We deserve that as well," she says, noting there are seemingly endless ways to share intimacy and sexual activities without intercourse. "Intimacy doesn't have to be sex."
Some couples might just want to hold hands and watch a movie together from the couch, or want nothing more than a dinner date with good conversation. "When they do meet, they can discuss what their limitations are," Leonarda says.
One of the hardest parts of creating her app was coming up with the name Entwine. "In relationships, people are entwining their lives together," she says.
Entwine is free to join but does have fees for additional services.
"I want it to help people," Leonarda says. "I'm not planning to get rich off it."
Has she jumped back into the dating pool?
"I have not," Leonarda says. "I think I'll wait for my app, when I know there will be a safe place."