Sex, Relationships and Covid-19

Are Masks Optional?

By Jamie Bussin and Carlye Jansen

On Episode #150 of THE TONIC Talk Show/Podcast we spoke about how people are navigating sex and relationships during the Covid-19 pandemic. There are implications for people who are either in or out of a relationship. This is an excerpt of the interview.

Is Covid-19 impacting sexual relationships? It’s impacting peoples’ sense of loneliness: They’re feeling isolated. It’s hard to date new people only online or with outside dates, especially as winter is around the corner and meeting outside is less comfortable and there are fewer options as outdoor patios will close. We have to balance safety with the need to connect. People have to make decisions around their bubbles. There is a risk of catching Covid as well as STIs, even in committed relationships. Also “Cuffing” season is now. That’s when singles want to meet someone to ensure that they’ll weather the Winter cold and darkness and be able to go to family gatherings with a partner. It’s hard to determine if someone is a suitable partner during the time of social distancing and online relationships. Those who are living with non-family members have to take into account others in the household and/or bubble if dating someone new. You have to ask a lot of questions about their work and social patterns and risk of exposure and whether they’re taking precautions. In general people are limiting their dating radius especially if they don’t have a car because of the risk of taking transit.

What about those in a monogamous relationship? With someone In your bubble there don’t have to be restrictions as you’re already meeting with them face to face. Sex is not a whole lot more riskier. The issue is rather if someone has been potentially exposed or has symptoms. Then the protocol is to isolate. There are people who work in health care who’ve decided that they’re going to isolate preemptively because they’re constantly exposed. The isolation caused by protocols is just adding to couples’ stress, not to mention the financial stress, which negatively impacts their sex lives. Sometimes stress boosts libido, but generally it’s not great. Then there’s depression, “Covid bodies” and other related factors that aren’t helping. Also, during Covid there might not be as much private time for intimacy with kids and other family members stuck at home. And, of course, when couples are spending more time together there is greater potential for friction in the relationship. You may be fighting a bit more, and that’s not conducive to libidio boosting.

Doesn’t that suggest that sex is even more important now? Sex and intimacy satisfies a whole different need than “Netflix”. We are creatures that crave connection. We crave even just physical touch. Sex is a form of stress release. For some it is exercise. It’s good for us, especially if you have a career or kids – it’s nice to feel like you’re a human outside of those roles.  It’s good for relationships because we get along better.

Dr. Tam recommended that we should be wearing masks during sex. What are your thoughts on this? Is it realistic? Is it necessary? This certainly makes sense for people who aren’t in your bubble. Is it realistic? I wouldn’t say so. I don’t think that most people are going to do that. It’s a recommendation as part of the harm reduction protocol. You shouldn’t have sex with someone outside your bubble, preferably. But if you are going to, please wear a mask. If it’s a new partner, please wear a mask.  I suppose that’s great if you can kink that up a little bit and make that part of the fun.

Covid-19 doesn’t qualify as a sexually transmitted disease, but what are the risks? Well, it has been found in semen and in feces. It isn’t clear how safe it is for vaginal or anal sex. Most corona viruses aren’t easily transmitted this way. But using condoms and using latex barriers (for oral stimulation) is useful. What is being recommended is no kissing, if you can, not to be face to face, not touching each other’s faces, not in enclosed areas, and washing your body both before and after sex. This is a very hard protocol to follow. Have some hand sanitizer so you can wash your hands. Certainly limiting the number of your sex partners. Try and not have multiple sex partners or if you have more than one, make it the same ones over and over, so that you’re not continually spreading amongst other bubbles.

What other protection would you recommend? For everyone: Monitor your symptoms; get tested if unsure and quarantine while waiting; limit contact with those who are at risk (older folks, immunocompromised etc); and wash/sanitize before touching things and wear a mask. With someone not in your bubble consider the following: How big is their bubble?; how much contact do they have with others (eg work daily or just when grocery shopping)?; which kinds of people are they in contact with (eg do they work at a hospital?); what are their precautionary habits like?; and do you want to join in their bubble?

Is there any other advice you would give someone who wants to engage in sex with someone currently outside their bubble? I would ask a new/casual partner about their symptoms during the last 14 days; do they have a fever, cough, sore throat, and shortness of breath. They’ve recovered from COVID-19 at least 10 days from the day their symptoms started and those who have not had fever for at least three days are likely no longer infectious. Lastly, you might consider options for “distance sex”; this is applicable for regular partners temporarily apart (eg quarantining or for new partners or partners not in the bubble). You could try video/phone sex which has been around for a long time. There are great sex toy apps – where one partner can have the control (ie. through wifi you can control your partner’s sex toy so that you can watch). Just be careful if you don’t know the person, as you don’t want them recording what you’re doing.  You could even try mutual masturbation 8 feet apart- distance makes the heart grow fonder and sometimes the game of “you’re not allowed to have me” can make sex hotter.