The pandemic has introduced 'new normals' in most of our daily activities and almost all of them include wearing a mask. With India's steep rise in COVID 19 cases and overwhelmed health facilities, people are really scared about contracting the virus. But sporting the 'we can't live in a lockdown forever' attitude, some have ventured out to catch up with friends while taking precautions. As we're slowly exposing ourselves to our friends, people are thinking of the next steps and wondering what the new normal for sex is.
Sex, an act where your bodies are the most intimate, has been on the backburner since the COVID 19 pandemic started. People have been repeatedly talking about how risky it is so most of us have turned down our potential tinder hookups. So, we've remained sexless and go solo every night. Much like the steepness of the COVID cases graph, our sexual activity graph has also experienced a steep downward fall over the past six months. But if there's a safe way to meet friends, is there a safe way to have sex, too?
Canada's lead medical doctor thinks there is but it may change the way you have sex.
Avoid kissing while having sex
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, had issued a public statement last week, on staying safe from the coronavirus when engaging in sexual activities. She insists that it's best to skip kissing and wear a mask to prevent spreading COVID 19. It's a real bummer because kissing forms an integral part of foreplay but no kissing seems to be the safest way to get laid right now.
"Sexual health is an important part of our overall health. However, sex can be complicated in the time of Covid-19. The lowest risk sexual activity during Covid-19 involves yourself alone," Tam advises.
For people choosing to "engage in an in-person sexual encounter" with a new sexual partner, outside their circle, she suggests a number of steps to reduce risk including "avoiding face-to-face contact or closeness."
She advises partners to be on the same page about the precautions. If one partner is negligent about hygiene, it's best to move on. Tam says that partners should also consider using a mask that covers the nose and mouth.
"Current evidence indicates there is a very low likelihood of contracting the novel coronavirus through semen or vaginal fluid. However, even if the people involved do not have symptoms, sexual activity with new partners does increase your risk of getting or passing Covid-19 through close contact like kissing," read her statement.
She also said that avoid having drunk sex as you're more likely to make irresponsible decisions when you're intoxicated. So, sobriety is your best bet to make safe decisions during these perilous times.
Apart from the 'new normal', she also reiterated the basic rules of safe sex - the use of condoms and knowing the Sexually Transmitted Infections status of oneself and your partner.
"By taking these precautions and staying conscious of the risks we assume, Canadians can find ways to enjoy physical intimacy while safeguarding the progress we have all made containing Covid-19," Dr. Tam's messaged concludes.
Why is sex risky during coronavirus?
There haven't been rigorous studies on the sexual transmission of the Coronavirus but we do know that it's a highly contagious respiratory virus that spreads through respiratory secretions like coughs, sneezes, and spit.
"The sexual health implications of these recommendations have received little attention, even though it appears that all forms of in-person sexual contact carry a risk for transmission of the virus," said Dr. Jack Turban, study lead author and resident at Harvard Medical School, where he studies the mental health of transgender youth.
It is quite obvious that physical closeness between partners can expose them to each other's respiratory droplets. The research analyzed by the Healthline says that anywhere from 25 percent to 80 percent of people with COVID-19 are unaware they have the virus, so having sex with a stranger on a dating app or a person who's been outdoors could unknowingly lead to an infection.
But what if you're having sex with a previously known sexual partner? Risks might still be there as they could have been meeting people outside their homes.
How to make sex less risky, as per a Harvard study
Three Harvard physicians examined the likelihood of coronavirus infection in different sexual activities. They echoed Canada's chief medical officer's advice stating that for sex between partners who haven't been isolating together, people should wear masks and avoid kissing.
The study points out that abstinence offers the lowest risk of infection, however, it may be too idealistic as people may feel a need to look after their sexual needs. Researchers warned people from labeling sex as "dangerous" and saying that sex could have insidious psychological effects at a time when people are especially susceptible to mental health difficulties.
Despite fears of the virus, the study wants to remain sex-positive and provide the lowest risk sexual option to people. The authors write people should reduce their number of sexual partners and avoid sex with people who show symptoms of Covid-19, including fever, cough, fatigue, and loss of taste or smell.
In addition to wearing masks, people who have sex with partners living in a different house must take a shower before and after sex. This is to make sure you clean up areas that involved oral transmission of bodily fluids and also change the sheets to get rid of any remaining bodily fluids.
They highly recommended masturbation, which the safest form of sexual activity during the pandemic. Also, this may be the time to consider sex toys, you could experiment with a cool new vibrator instead of a new partner. Digital sex can also be an exciting option for partners but there are several privacy risks involved in sharing sexual videos and photos of oneself online. Make sure you wholeheartedly trust the person before sending them any explicit pictures.
Even though sex between partners quarantining together is a little risky as one partner may have been exposed to the virus on their weekly trip to the grocery store, the researchers haven't recommended a mask for partners in this situation.
Overall, there's a higher risk if you're looking for sexual intercourse outside your home. But if you do think you can handle all the precautions and won't be turned off by a mask, you can go ahead and break out of your abstinence.