There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the way that millions of people around the world live their lives. Because the virus spreads so quickly (and sometimes silently via asymptomatic individuals), the greater risk to the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, the relatively little we know about the novel coronavirus, and the lack of a vaccine led governments all around the world to issue strict stay-at-home orders to prevent healthcare systems from getting overwhelmed. The economy ground to a halt and millions lost their jobs as people everywhere were asked to stay home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

But it’s not just the economy that has felt the pinch. Given the strict social distancing measures that have by now become commonplace where people are discouraged from any sort of physical contact, the sex lives of people (and the livelihoods of sex workers) around the world have been negatively impacted by these restrictions. But now that lockdowns around the world are slowly being eased, what is the safest way to satisfy your sexual needs in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic?

COVID-19 IS NOT TRANSMITTED SEXUALLY

Based on the evidence that scientists currently have, the coronavirus is not spread sexually. The virus is spread from person to person via saliva droplets that are expelled through the mouth or nose when you breathe or speak.

However, as sex normally involves close physical contact, there is a significant risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19 through kissing and other related activities. This means that though it seems you cannot get the virus from bodily fluids such as semen or vaginal discharges, you can definitely get it if you’re in close proximity and touching someone who is infected.

It’s also important to keep in mind that even though someone may not look sick (i.e., they may be asymptomatic) they may still be carrying the virus and can infect you without knowing it.

SO…CAN I HAVE SEX DURING THE PANDEMIC?

Before you get back out there, it’s important to keep several things in mind when considering sexual activity during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to stay safe. If you have a pre-existing medical condition (e.g., heart disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, etc.) that puts you at greater risk for experiencing complications from the coronavirus, you should exercise extreme caution before reengaging in sexual activities. Sex can be classified on a scale of activities considered safest to riskiest.

SAFEST: SEX WITHOUT PHYSICAL CONTACT

Many people around the world have opted to satisfy their sexual needs through masturbation and have incorporated erotic toys in their repertoire. Others have also experimented with webcams or mobile phones. This is the safest way to meet your needs without necessarily interacting with someone physically.

SAFE: SEX WITH SOMEONE YOU LIVE WITH

If you live with your regular sexual partner and neither of you have symptoms, normal consensual sex is fine. Of course, if your regular sexual partner starts having some of the tell-tale symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, loss of smell/taste, etc.), make sure they get tested and quarantined before engaging in sexual activity.

VERY RISKY: SEX WITH SOMEONE YOU DON’T LIVE WITH

Given what we know about the coronavirus and how it’s spread, the riskiest sexual activity is having sex with someone who does not live with you and who you do not know well enough to ensure that they are taking the necessary precautions to stop the spread. This also applies to so-called open relationships as well, which makes communication essential.

WHAT ABOUT SEX WORKERS?

Sex workers—broadly defined as including prostitutes, pornographic actors and other related activities where close physical contact is inseparable from their activities—were clearly one of the collectives severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Depending on the country where you live and how sex workers are treated under the applicable legislation, sex work has largely been halted. Collectives of these workers have also been lobbying governments for protection during the COVID-19 pandemic given that many of these individuals have completely lost their incomes and some resort to violating lockdown policies in order to make ends meet. Other online escort directories have also taken to offering virtual shows and services in lieu of a physical meetup.

If you do decide to meet a professional sex worker, there are certain precautions to take in order to keep you both safe:

  • Wash your hands and shower immediately before and after sex
  • Minimise touch and consider mutual masturbation to limit contact
  • Use condoms/dental dams to avoid coming into contact with bodily fluids
  • Do not kiss or exchange saliva
  • Limit the number of sexual partners you will have and avoid group sex

So, while satisfying your biological urges can be complicated during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are certainly ways that limit your risk of exposure.