What do we know about COVID-19 and sex? To be honest, we’re still learning a lot. That’s why keeping yourself and those around you healthy during this time may require a few changes to how you approach sex and relationships.
By now, we all know about COVID-19. It’s the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, a coronavirus that spreads through droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets typically travel a few feet then fall to the ground or onto surfaces, which is why the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone maintain a six-foot distance from others and wear a cloth face covering in public places.
But what does this mean for sex and your sexual safety?
COVID-19 isn’t a sexually transmitted disease, but it is transmitted through close contact.
While traces of the virus have been found in semen and feces, we don’t know if the coronavirus can be transmitted through sexual activity such as anal, oral, or vaginal sex. What we do know is that COVID-19 is easily passed from person to person through close contact. That means participating in any type of sexual activity may put you at risk since it’s impossible to remain six feet apart during any kind of physical intimacy. Some experts recommend that you and your partner wear a facemask or cloth face covering during sexual activity.
Kissing is a prime way to pass the virus.
Since COVID-19 spreads through contact with saliva or mucus, avoid locking lips with people you don’t live with.
Anal play might be risky.
The act of rimming, or any sexual activity that involves touching the anus and the mouth, might pass COVID-19 but nobody is sure of this yet. If there is an anal sex risk, it would probably include fingering, fisting, anal sex, and anal toy play.
Good hygiene is more important than ever.
Be sure to give your hands a good scrub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after having sex.
Wash your toys, too.
It’s possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 may spread through the sharing of sex toys. Research shows that the virus can live on a variety of surfaces for various lengths of time—ranging from a few hours to a few days. Cleaning toys with soap and water before and after every use is always a good idea—and even more so with the new coronavirus.
Masturbation is the safest kind of sex.
If you’re feeling lonely or stressed out, now’s a great time to find new and exciting ways to please yourself. Solo sex is the safest kind of sex—and may even help you relax and sleep better. Remember to wash your hands and sex toys with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after use.
Sexting and cybering are safe options, too.
If you and your partner are socially distancing and you’re consenting adults—that is, you trust each other to not post or share pics and videos without consent—then consider a virtual rendezvous. Experiment with phone sex or set up a Zoom or FaceTime chat. Just be sure to disinfect keyboards and touchscreens that you share with others before and after having fun.
It’s a tricky time to start a new relationship.
Like many people, social distancing may have you feeling lonely or isolated. If you’re in the mood to meet someone new, many dating apps are making it easier to meet and mingle virtually. But if you decide to meet face-to-face, consider getting together in a public place, such as a park, where you can maintain social distance. Just remember to always wear a face covering.
Take a break from hooking up.
The sneaky thing about COVID-19 is that some people who are infected don’t show symptoms. That’s why you should avoid sex with anyone outside of your household. If you usually meet sex partners online or make a living by having sex, consider alternatives to meeting in person, such as video dates, sexting, or chat rooms. If you do hook up, try limiting the number of people you come in contact with.
Consider only engaging in sexual activity with those who you live or self-quarantine with.
Preventing HIV, STDs, and hepatitis should still be top of mind.
COVID-19 isn’t the only bug going around. If you’re having sex, be sure to use condoms, PrEP, or a combination of methods to prevent HIV, STDs, and hepatitis. If you’re experiencing symptoms for syphilis, gonorrhea, or other STDs, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about getting tested. Getting tested and treated is just as important as ever.
On PrEP? Keep up with your daily regimen.
If you’re currently on PrEP, be sure to keep at least a 30-day supply on hand. Ask your doctor about the possibility of getting a 90-day supply to cut down on trips to the pharmacy. If you’re considering going off PrEP, remember that most people must have seven sex-free days prior to stopping to ensure that their last sex act is fully protected. Learn more about taking PrEP.
Living with HIV? Keep up with your daily regimen, too.
If you’re living with HIV, keep taking your meds and talk to your doctor if you have any COVID or HIV-related concerns. Learn more about HIV and COVID 19.
Maintain physical distance if you or your partner shows coronavirus symptoms.
Just like you wouldn’t want to spread a cold or flu to a partner or loved one, you should treat COVID-19 the same way. If you think you’re developing symptoms , keep your distance and call your doctor—or visit a COVID-19 testing site—to get tested.
Tested positive for COVID-19?
If you test positive for COVID-19, your local Board of Health will advise you to isolate—that is, stay indoors and avoid contact with other people. Isolation includes not sharing a bedroom, bathroom, or common spaces with a partner, loved ones, or roommates for at least 10 days or until the Board of Health advises that it’s safe to go back to your normal activities. Learn more about guidelines and recommendations for isolation.
Been around someone who tested positive for COVID-19?
If you’ve come in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, your local Board of Health will advise you to quarantine and monitor for symptoms. You should get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible—and even if your test comes back negative, you must complete the 14-day quarantine period. Learn more about guidelines and recommendations for quarantine.
Still got questions?
If you have questions about COVID-19, call 2-1-1 a free and confidential 24-hour health helpline.