Are you human or are you dancer, as that song once asked? Well, if you’re the former, then one question probably has crept into your mind or another part of your body at some point during all this social distancing and COVID-19 coronavirus talk. And that question is, “can I have sex?”
As you probably have figured out by now, social distancing does not mean have sex as much as possible. It is unclear how that could be the response to any type of infectious disease epidemic or pandemic.
In many ways, social distancing seems to be the polar opposite of sex: stay as physically apart from other humans, dancer or not, as you can so that the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) is less able to spread from person to person. There is currently no vaccine or full body condoms that will protect you or anyone else against this nasty virus. As I have described previously for Forbes, the goal of social distancing is to “flatten the curve,” keep the number of infections per day as low as possible so that the health care system doesn’t get overwhelmed.
Did you catch what was written in this last paragraph? Or have you been thinking about sex ever since it was mentioned in the first paragraph? If it is the latter, especially if it is the latter, then not thinking about sex for the next however-long-this pandemic-will-last may not be an option. So you probably want an answer to the original question: can you have sex?
Well, leave it to New Yorkers to not mince words when telling you what you can and can’t do. The New York City Department of Health (NYDOH) has issued a set of guidelines entitled “Sex and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)” that doesn’t beat around the, well, you know. In fact, its quite explicit in more ways than one.
The guidelines begin with a reminder of how the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads. A person infected with the virus can spread SARS-CoV2 to others who are within a six-foot radius when that person coughs, sneezes, or somehow spews out respiratory droplets. The virus can also be transmitted through direct contact with the infected person’s saliva or mucus. The guidelines add that the virus has been found in feces of people with COVID-19 but not in their semen or vaginal fluid. Additionally, there haven’t been reports of other types of coronaviruses being transmitted purely through semen or vaginal fluids.
Are we losing you? OK, back to the sex then.
So does that mean that you are in the clear for sex as long as poop is not involved? Not exactly. The six-foot radius thing presents a bit of a problem. You probably don’t need a picture drawn to realize that having sex while maintaining at least a six-foot distance apart could be quite challenging. And guys this is not the time for you to explain how well-endowed you may be. Even if you don’t kiss, which by the way involves saliva, you are physically very, very close to your partner during sex. Remember, sex with someone else is the exact opposite of social distancing.
Notice how the last sentence specified with someone else. Well, joy of joys, the NYCDOH mentioned one type of sex that can be totally safe: sex with yourself, otherwise known as, drum roll please, masturbation. The guidelines declare that “you are your safest sex partner.” That’s because you tend to know where you’ve been and what you’ve done, most of the time. Plus, you can easily maintain a six-foot distance from other people while masturbating. In fact, you should probably maintain much more than that distance, a lot more. Perhaps insert some walls and buildings in between as well.
The guidelines do offer one word of warning if you want to “visit the safety deposit box”, “make waffles”, “polish the banister”, or any other synonym of masturbate that you can think of: wash your dirty, dirty hands. And that’s not meant in a moralistic way. It’s meant in a microbiological way. Wash your hands and anything that you may touch yourself with thoroughly using soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after you do some “Lone Rangering”, “take the self-guided tour”, or “double-click.” If you think that 20 seconds is a long time or at least try to tell your partner that it is, sorry it’s not. Keep in mind that 20 seconds is only about one eighth of the Divinyls’ song “I Touch Myself.” That means that if you are singing the song while lathering up your hands with soap and water, you only have to get to the first, “Oh no, oh no, oh no” and you are ready to rinse off your hands.
Here’s a video of the song, just in case you want to hand wash to it:
Oh, and this hand washing and masturbation recommendation should apply all the time, not just during a pandemic. If you are not washing your hands before and after “playing five-on-one” then never ever shake anyone else’s hands ever again.
Ah but what happens if a “party of one” is just not enough for you? What happens if you want to “bump uglies” and you don’t want to be the only ugly? The NYCDOH guidelines do say that “the next safest partner is someone you live with,” assuming that the person is not currently wielding nunchucks.
This is because if you live with that person you can get a better sense of his or her risk of carrying SARS-CoV2 versus someone you see a lot less. Note that it’s difficult to be 100% sure that your roommate is not infected because not all of those infected have COVID-19 symptoms, as I described previously for Forbes. The only way to get a better sense would be to shove a cotton swab up your potential partner’s nose and another one to the back of his or her throat, collect sputum samples, send them off to get tested, and wait for the results to return. All of this can ruin the mood since “cotton swab up the nose” falls way below “play Unchained Melody” and “have a candlelit dinner” on the typical list of romantic ideas.
So if you get it on with your roomie there will always be some risk. You essentially have to balance your risk tolerance with your loin tolerance. The NYCDOH further elaborates that “having close contact, including sex, with only a small circle of people helps prevent spreading COVID-19.” In this case, “small circle” doesn’t mean some kind of sex seance. It means limit the number of people whom you have close contact with and make sure that you know each of their lifestyles, precautions, health, and symptoms well. The NYDOH guidelnes further emphasize this point by stating, “If you do have sex with others, have as few partners as possible.”
By the way, if you think that masks will help and you are not referring to the Eyes Wide Shut type of masks, think again. Standard surgical masks won’t prevent transmission. The N95 respirators can prevent transmission but only if they maintain a tight seal with your face. The N95 masks are not designed for vigorous physical activity and facial movement, so you may find yourself saying, “oh yes, oh yes, oh no, have to adjust my mask.” The only option would be very quiet and controlled sex with masks on, which would be very creepy. Plus, there is currently a N95 mask shortage so they really should be saved for health care workers for patient care, that is.
What if you don’t have a steady partner and want to keep dating during the pandemic? Is it enough to indicate that you are, “looking for someone who is laid-back, caring, kind, funny, not feverish, not short of breath, and has the following hobbies: cycling, going to the theater, and hand-washing”? Not really. The NYCDOH advises against in-person dates, even when cotton swabs are involved. This doesn’t mean that you should shake your fist to the sky and say, “see, even the viruses want me to be single.” The guidelines do offer alternatives such as “video dates, sexting or chat rooms.” Sending erotic messages via smoke signals could work but has the added risk of setting your place on fire.
If you do have sex, the NYCDOH guidelines have even more detailed information for you. This way when you have sex, you can think of the NYCDOH. The guidelines say, “take care during sex,” which is a very nice thing to say, and that “kissing can easily pass COVID-19,” which is not so nice. Therefore, you may want to avoid kissing unless you feel very confident that the person is not infected. Otherwise, there are alternatives to kissing such as elbow bumps, bows or curtsies as long as you don’t accidentally knock heads, or wink-and guns. Maybe afterwards you can discuss with your friends how good a “wink-and-gunner” he or she was.
One thing that should not be an alternative to kissing is rimming. That’s probably not the first time those words have been said. The NYCDOH explicitly states, “rimming [mouth on anus] might spread COVID-19. Virus in feces may enter your mouth.” Can’t get too much more explicit than that. You may count that as a no, perhaps on several counts.
The guidelines also recommend wearing condoms and dental dams. Not all the time since a dental dam is not considered fashionable outdoorswear just yet. But who knows, perhaps some day some fashion designer may bring in the combined dental dam-blazer look. For now, the advice is to wear condoms or dental dams, depending on the situation, when you may come into contact with saliva or feces such as during oral or anal sex. If you find yourself coming into contact with someone else’s feces when you are not having sex, something has gone horribly wrong.
Additionally, the guidelines re-emphasize the need to wash up before and after sex. You may like your sex dirty but it shouldn’t be in a microbe virus-ie type of way. Everything else that you use as part of sex should be cleaned thoroughly as well including any sex toys that you employed, that keyboard or touch screen that you used to search for instructions, that smartphone that you used to play the “Macarena”, those statues of Spongebob Squarepants, or anything else that you or your partner may have touched.
Oh, and if your partner is not feeling well or has any symptoms that may possibly suggest COVID-19, forego sex with and kissing your partner altogether and go back to the party of one. You may want to check on your partner first though. This is one situation where you should take the “not now, I have a headache,” response seriously. So if your partner is having shortness of breath, don’t automatically think that it’s because of you. You are not that good. It could be a symptoms of COVID-19, especially when it comes with a fever, cough, or sore throat.
Additionally, the NYCDOH warns that “if you or your partner has a medical condition that can lead to more severe COVID-19, you may also want to skip sex.” These conditions include lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer or a weakened immune system.
A final thing to keep in mind is that the pandemic does not mean “don’t practice other types of safe sex.” Certainly, there is no good time to have a sexually transmitted infection (STI). You don’t say, “the sun is in the sky, there is no pandemic, time to catch an STI.” Nonetheless, a pandemic is a particularly bad time to get one with the health care system so overtaxed and the risk of having another infection concurrently. Moreover, the guidelines stress, “make sure you have an effective form of birth control for the coming weeks,” so to speak. If you get pregnant now, there may be several problems. First, your baby could have a birthday around the December Holidays, which could mean combined celebrations and fewer total presents for him or her. Secondly, the state of the health care system right now is rather unstable. It’s better to wait until you know that you can have regular doctor visits.
So there you have it. New Yorkers providing you the answers to the question that was probably floating around in your head and lower down, a lot lower down. Note that all of these answers apply if you are dancer too, because contrary to The Killers song, you can be both.
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Photo: Can you have sex during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic? Well, let’s hazmat a guess. (Photo: … [+] GETTY
By: Bruce Y. LeeSenior Contributor