Sex Can Still be Sexy in the Time of COVID-19

MPact is closely following developments regarding the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease, and particularly its impact on gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. Over the coming weeks, MPact will provide short info notes with resources on a variety of topics, including: tips for LGBTI advocates, sex and sexual health; staying healthy under physical distancing and self-isolation; working within and with health systems during COVID-19; protecting and promoting human rights during the pandemic; and addressing the economic impacts of COVID-19 for our communities. 

Gay and bisexual men around the world are navigating the new realities of living in a world with COVID-19, a virus that causes respiratory illness with symptoms such as cough, fever, and in more severe cases, difficulty breathing. While it is too soon to know if COVIID-19 can be sexually transmitted, a person without symptoms can easily transmit COVID-19 through coughing or sneezing, kissing/saliva and direct physical contact (within 6 feet). While desire, sex and pleasure are natural human emotions and needs, for now, as we learn more about the new virus, physical distancing is one of the main activities that slows and even stops the transmission of COVID19. This has considerable impact on the ways we think about sex, sexual health, and safety. 

While physical distancing and quarantining may seem incompatible with sex, we are here to remind you that there is always room to think creatively about intimacy and pleasure!   

This is not the sexual health guidance we’re used to because we have less evidence and data about the risks of COVID-19 at this point. With this pandemica huge part of the risk is that asymptomatic people can still easily transmit the virus through minimal contact, or even from sharing spaceThis means we all need to consider those who may be at risk in our community to acquire COVID-19, such as an elderly person who lives near us. 

As always, communication is key. You and your partners should always be on the same page when making the decision to jump in the sack and make informed decisions before going wild. The more we are able to talk about this virus, the better decisions and solutions we’ll be able to find for ourselves and others. 

A few things to consider:  

  1. Fuck yourself! Masturbation and pleasuring yourself is decidedly the best way to eliminate the risk of getting infected with or transmitting COVID-19. Masturbation can be as sweaty and kinky as you like.  Now how can I make masturbation more fun, you ask? Well it starts by paying attention to other body parts, such as your taint (the area between genitals and anus) which is full of nerve endings, so give yourself a rub and a grab as hard or as gently as you please, and while you’re at it, it doesn’t hurt to work a nipple or two. We leave the rest in your hands, literallyIf you’re finding yourself with a little extra time on your hands these days, try edging (stopping yourself from reaching orgasm right when you’re on the cusp, take a break for few minutes, then go back at it). Go wild! 
  2. Explore your limits and fantasies. All of this self-pleasure can be coupled with your collection of sex toys, just make sure you wash them thoroughly before and after use! Now is also a great time to learn new tricks, find that self-bondage video and practice, or set new stretching goals by reaching for all the erotic spots you can discover on your body. You’d be surprised at what your body can do and what you might like through this process of discovery. If you feel comfortable, share your discoveries and fantasies with sexual partners, and talk about what is getting you hot. 
  3. Technology is your best friendYou can always add another layer of spice to your self-pleasure, generously offered to us by the wonderful world of online pornography. This is a great time to catch up on all the missed scenes from your favorite tops, bottoms and everyone in between. Similarly, dating apps can be a great way to stay connected with others and enjoy virtual sex. Pull out your favorite body part, strike your sexiest pose, “smize” and snap that photo. Maybe even add a funny filter! You can share it with those you trust and wait for the sexy reply. Whether it’s phone or video sex, let your imagination run free and take that sexual fantasy to where you and your partner(s) want. 
      • IMPORTANT NOTE: Always keep in mind digital security:  consider the risk of blackmail and extortion in relation to the people you are sharing information with onlineespecially where same-sex behavior is criminalized or there are stringent anti-pornography lawsConsider clearing your browsing history. Some steps to safeguard your privacy while sending photos are available here. For more information on digital security, watch this short animated video 
  4. Play the hermit! For the time being until we know more about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, you might consider holding off from visiting your favorite bathhouses, sex parties or spontaneous orgies, just as you would avoid any other space with large groups of people. 
  5. Communication is key. If you’re still having sex right now, be sure to take precautions to prevent acquiring the virus and transmitting it to your partners. There are few key questions you may want to consider before jumping into bed with a new partner:  Do you both know about the risks of transmitting COVID-19? What protective measures are you taking throughout your day? Will you be able to follow-up in a few days to check-in on each other and make sure you are both well? These conversations are more important now than ever before. 
  6. Do you live with a partner? Consider yourself one of the lucky ones! Now is the time to spice it up and get creative. And while it’s early for Halloween, don’t hesitate to dust off your costumes and do some role play. How about fucking in a new spot where you live with a different view? Also think about the safety of your entire living space:  if you or one of your flat mates still goes to work daily or went out on an errand, it’s best if they take off their clothes at the door (oh yay!) and step into the shower or wash/clean up before touching each other or other house appliances.  If you do live with sex partners, always keep in mind that each person’s libido is different. Just because you live with someone that you’re intimate with, doesn’t mean you get sex whenever you want it. Ask nicely and remember, consent is key!
  7. 6 feet is a lot of inches! Non-physical connections while distancing can be just as hot: watching each other masturbate or playing with toys while your partner watches can be a great way to pass the time. We don’t need to spit in each others mouths to feel sexy all the time.  
  8. Continue to prioritize healthy sexual practices to minimize transmission of COVID-19 as well as other sexually transmitted infectionsUse lots of lube, and also use barriers such as condoms or a dental dam during rimming – or perhaps bringing in that sexy mask that you’ve been wanting to play with? Remain proactive about your hygiene and wash your hands with soap and water before and after having fun, please! 
  9. Keep up with your HIV care. If you’re on PrEP or ART, be sure that you continue to take your pills as directed and try to have a few months’ supply of your medications in stock by speaking to your provider. If you choose to discontinue use of PrEP during this time, devise a plan for when you want to restartRemember that post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is an option if you believe you were exposed to HIV. As always, get tested regularly, including if you or your partners experience symptoms of an STI 
  10. Stay Informed and Stay Healthy:  As we are all navigating this new challenge, be sure to remain on top of up-to-date information and your general health. As circumstances are changing daily, continue to remain informed, and follow updates from local community-based organizations, government and public health agencies and trusted guidelines and recommendations to stop the spread of COVID-19. If available in your country, consider getting pneumococcal vaccine and annual influenza vaccine. Are you eating well, staying hydrated, and exercisingOur future blogs will discuss mental health and well-being. But keep in mind, if you or your partner are not feeling well, avoid sex for the time being and consult a healthcare provider 

 Whether you decide to pleasure yourself or have sex with a partner during these timesremember that communication and consent are key. Knowing your risks and informing your partners is more important now than ever. As a community of gay and bisexual men around the world that have been particularly impacted by HIV, we have a long history of creative and effective strategies to communicate about and take care of each other’s health and well-being. We need to continue to look out for ourselves and each other during these times  

As always, we must make specific considerations regarding the unique risks associated with other key populations who have their own specificities on how to deal with these and other health issues. Check out these great resources on sex work and drug use in the age of COVID-19. 

 As circumstances are changing daily, continue to remain informed and follow updates from local community-based organizations, government and public health agencies, and trusted guidelines and recommendations to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Additional Resources 

Images courtesy of Flaticon.com