COVID-19 has really set the world ablaze with many staying in their homes, avoiding crowded streets and any other places deemed off-limits by their governments and authorities.
Many people have been advised to keep safe distances from each other, to wash their hands regularly and avoid unnecessary human contact as much as possible. But, in light of all this, how are couples and others managing their sex life in the middle of all the chaos.
An increase in anxiety and negative feelings has been the norm for a while now, and we don’t blame anyone since they feel threatened by the pandemic. Anyone’s sex life could be under threat due to the ongoing crisis.
How to have safe sex during the COVID-19 pandemic
COVID-19 spreads primarily from person-to-person contact, especially through droplets that land on or are inhaled into the noses, mouths, and eyes of non-infected people.
As such, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that people maintain 6 feet of distance between themselves and others, and especially avoid close contact with anyone sick.
That said, Jill Grimes, M.D., a board-certified family physician and author of Seductive Delusions: How Everyday People Catch STIs, says that sex with a partner you live with is likely fine if you’re quarantining together and following necessary hygiene protocols carefully.
She points out that if you’re quarantining with someone (living in the same space, sharing the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom, etc.), chances are you’ve already been exposed to each other’s infectious fluids. Especially if you’re already kissing or exchanging touch with each other regularly while quarantined, there’s little to no additional risk from having sex.
If you and your partner are living apart from each other, you have the option of connecting virtually rather than in-person to avoid exposure. This choice would keep you both safer than traveling back and forth to spend time together.
“You should avoid close contact—including sex—with anyone outside your household,” the New York City Health Department’s guidelines on sex and COVID-19 state.
Creative ways to explore sex during the COVID-19 pandemic
1. Talk about sexual fantasies.
Consider disclosing one of your milder sexual fantasies to your partner. In his book Tell Me What You Want, Justin Lehmiller has compiled a list of the most common (and uncommon) sexual fantasies, based on a comprehensive scientific survey.
You could start by considering the top three most common sexual fantasies: multi-partner sex, BDSM, and sexual novelty. Talk about whether either of you has ever fantasized about these things in some form.
The object here isn’t necessarily to act on these fantasies; it’s more to enjoy the shared frisson they provide, along with a potential deepening of your intimacy.
2. Try touch-free sex.
What would you be willing to try with your partner that might be arousing but also maintain distance between you? What about some form of a role play where no skin-to-skin touch was permitted—just hands hovering a few centimeters above the body?
Or touching each other while wearing latex gloves, or with an object like a feather or wooden paddle? Or dirty talk? Or self-pleasuring on opposite sides of the room?
3. Make use of technology.
Another thing you might want to try out with your partner, particularly if you live apart, is virtual sex. If you have a low comfort level with this kind of sex-play (as many of us do), start small.
Make a few risqué comments while holding each other’s gaze on-screen. See how that feels. Then maybe go a little further (whatever that means to you).
You can dance to a song of your partner’s choice, initiate a brief game of erotic truth-or-dare, or play on-screen strip poker. (Just always remember there’s a risk of non-consensual screenshots with this type of play. Make sure there’s a strong foundation of trust.)
4. Acknowledge how you feel about talking about sex.
Research tells us time and again that open communication about sex is linked with more sexual satisfaction—but that doesn’t mean all of us are comfortable with it.
This is a great time to explore your feelings about not just sex but talking about sex. What feelings do explicit sexual conversations kick up for you and your partner? Embarrassment? Fear? Sadness? Hope? Share how (or if) sex was discussed in your household growing up and the impact this may have had on you.
Having these “meta” conversations about sexual expression can help ease some of the tension you might have about sex and start making sexual conversations easier. And there’s no better time to do it than when you and your partner are cooped up waiting out a pandemic, right?
If your partner has a different view on COVID-19 that you feel affects their and/or your safety, it’s important to create the right conditions for honest, vulnerable talk.
Even if you and your partner are following all of the CDC’s guidelines as best you can, you still may not feel comfortable being sexual in the same ways you did pre-COVID. Talk to your partner about this, and about your underlying needs for safety, connection, reassurance, or emotional warmth.
Also read: 8 Things About Sex in Your 40s