It’s been about a year now since COVID-19 started a global pandemic, and if dating and sex weren’t already difficult enough, now there’s a highly contagious deadly virus to worry about on top of the regular ol’ pregnancy and STIs. While COVID-19 isn’t technically a sexually transmitted disease in the sense that it’s not primarily spread through blood and sexual fluids, chances are if you’re having sex there’s a high likelihood you’re going to be within 6 feet of one another while exchanging some air and saliva (the main route of transmission). The good news is that having a healthy and enjoyable sex life during these times is definitely possible, it just takes a bit more caution and work than it otherwise would in a non-pandemic setting.
Although states and businesses are reopening and more and more people are getting vaccinated, COVID-19 is still very much active and dangerous. While it’s true that many people with COVID-19 will have a mild case, others will have a more difficult time recovering and may need to be hospitalized. Others have recurring symptoms and damage to their organs long after their body has fought off the initial infection. Some continue to have breathing difficulties, and for others, their senses of taste and smell never return. It’s hard to hear, but every precaution matters and everyone has a personal responsibility to reduce the transmission of this disease to keep our communities safe. This unfortunately includes changing some sexual practices.
Safer sex starts with safer practices in general. Whenever possible, stay home, remain at least six feet apart, wear masks, and wash your hands. If someone has symptoms, avoid contact with them. Choose safer activities for dates. Outdoor activities are ideal, and could be anything from a walk in the park, a hike, or an activity like ice skating. You could also consider getting vaccinated. The vaccines currently available prevent serious disease in 95% of cases and although not known for sure yet, likely prevent asymptomatic transmission as well. Mask use is still recommended, but the CDC has even removed some quarantine recommendations for folks who have received both shots. Lots of misinformation about these vaccines is floating around the internet, so do your own research on scientifically accurate websites to make the choice that is best for you.
General precautions aside, the best option to protect yourself and others is to just stay home and get to self-lovin’. Masturbation can be a valuable way to reconnect with yourself and discover your own preferences and turn-ons. Get creative with sex toys, explore different pornography or erotica, or incorporate a partner via video, phone, or text. With no one around you, the likelihood of viral transmission is delightfully low, plus, no need to wear a mask to block all that heavy breathing you’ll be doing!
If putting your partnered sex life on pause is simply not an option for you, limit sexual partners. This could mean choosing one partner to “pod” with for now, even if monogamy isn’t usually your jam. This could also entail a brief two week “quarantine” of sorts between partners. For example, you could wait at least fourteen days after having one encounter to spend time with another partner. Whatever your choice, make sure everyone is aware of the situation and has agreed to your practices (this is advice for multiple partners in general, not just during a pandemic!).
Speaking of general advice, the most important tool in your pandemic sex toolbox is something you hopefully already practice: good ol’ communication. Just as you would talk about STI status and risk before having sex with someone, ask about COVID-19 risks as well. Has this person been vaccinated? Do they have any symptoms? How many people do they have contact with? What’s their PPE (personal protective equipment, like masks and face shields) use like? Do they have any underlying conditions that may make them more susceptible to complications should they catch COVID-19? Consider both your risk factors and your partners to make a decision about how safe it is to engage in sexy activities with them.
Finally, create a plan with your household, pod, and partner in the event that someone is exposed, has symptoms, or comes up with a positive test. Check out recommendations from the CDC and see if your workplace has return-to-work guidelines. Be sure to keep your household or pod in the loop about your partner or partners and their own precautions.
It’s hard to continue practicing physical distancing and following all these new rules. Especially when it’s been so long. Especially when most cases are mild. Especially when you’re lonely. But it is so important to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. People are still losing loved ones, hospitals are still overrun, and new strains are still emerging. Practicing social distancing and wearing a mask doesn’t mean putting your entire life on pause and hiding under a rock until some politician tells you it’s safe to come out, but it does mean caring for yourself, your loved ones, and your community by taking a few extra precautions.
So with all that being said: stay safe, stay healthy, and stay home and masturbate.