No doubt you’ve been trying to stay healthy in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While it can be a confusing, unsettling time, scientists are learning more about the virus every day.
You might be wondering how COVID-19 may affect your sex life. Let’s take a look at some common questions.
Can COVID be spread through sex?
Yes. Scientists have found COVID in bodily fluids, including blood, feces, saliva, urine, gastrointestinal fluids, and semen.
You might not think of COVID-19 as a sexually-transmitted infection, but consider these points:
- COVID can be spread through respiratory droplets, so coughing, sneezing, talking – and heavy breathing during sex – can be risky.
- COVID is in saliva, so any kind of kissing puts you and your partner at risk.
- COVID can linger on surfaces, so touching clothes, bed sheets, sex toys, and your partner’s skin could spread the infection.
- COVID is in semen, so ejaculation raises risk for both you and your partner.
- COVID is found in fecal matter, which you can come in contact with during anal intercourse or oral sex.
- COVID is in blood and urine, too. So if there is any bleeding or urine leakage during sexual activity, the virus can be passed. “Period sex” while one partner is menstruating can be problematic.
Remember, too, that people can have the coronavirus and not even feel sick. We call this condition asymptomatic. People who are asymptomatic don’t have the usual COVID symptoms. In other words, you – or your partner - can have COVID and not even know it.
These are indeed unsettling times. There’s still a lot we don’t know. This virus is unpredictable, information about it is conflicting, and experts are racing to find the answers we need.
But there is still good news. There are ways to reduce your risk. And you can still have great sex in the age of COVID-19.
How can I reduce my risk?
It’s always important to practice safe sex, and it’s especially important now.
Keep these tips in mind:
- Use a condom or dental dam every time. That means every time. With every sex act. Not just every sexual encounter. So if you and your partner have vaginal sex and oral sex in the same night, you need fresh protection for each event.
What’s a dental dam? It’s a small layer of latex or polyurethane that serves as a barrier for oral sex. You place it over your partner’s genitals or anus to protect both of you from infections. You can find dental dams online or in drugstores. It’s also easy to make one: Snip the top and bottom off a condom with scissors and cut the condom lengthwise.
- Limit your number of sexual partners. Having multiple sex partners has always been riskier than monogamy. Now that’s truer than ever. It’s fine to kiss and share intimacy with a committed partner you live with (as long as neither of you are sick), but casual sex and hookups have rarely been riskier.
- Wash up! Wash your hands in soapy water before and after sex. You’ve probably heard the advice to hum “Happy Birthday” twice while you’re scrubbing. But you can pick a 20-second snippet from another song if it helps you remember.
Don’t forget sex toys! If these “friends” join you and your partner in the bedroom, they should be thoroughly washed, too.
- Know your partner’s status. We know this isn’t the sexiest conversation in the world, especially when you’re in the moment. But it’s critical to know whether your partner has a history of sexually transmitted infections. You should also know if they have been exposed to COVID-19 – or if they think they have. And you should be ready to disclose the same information to your partner.
If you or your partner have any COVID symptoms -- like coughing, shortness of breath, or fever -- hold off on sex until you’re feeling 100% better. You might also consider getting tested for COVID.
Having great sex
So with all these restrictions, how can you still have great sex? Time to get creative.
- Virtual sex. You and your partner can still share intimacy without physically being together. It might feel a little clumsy at first, but try to relax and give it a chance. Experiment by using a video-calling app such as FaceTime, exchanging videos or photos, or sharing audio-only calls. Set the scene with some soft music or candlelight. Tell each other what you’d like to do. Open up about your fantasies. And who knows? After the pandemic is over, you and your partner might have a new list of adventures to try in person!
- Masturbation. Solo sex can be exciting, liberating, and fun. If you don’t have a partner or can’t be with your partner, relax and let your imagination take over. What would you be doing if you were together? What scenario have you always wanted to try? Sex under the stars? On a plane? The sky’s the limit when you’re fantasizing. Making these connections in your brain can trigger deeply pleasurable physical and emotional satisfaction.
Perry, Melissa J., et al.
“It is currently unknown whether SARS‐CoV‐2 is viable in semen or whether COVID‐19 damages spermatozoa”
(First published: May 29, 2020)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“Dental Dam Use”
(Page last reviewed: August 12, 2016)
“What you should know about COVID-19 to protect yourself and others”
(Fact sheet. June 1, 2020)
International Society for Sexual Medicine
“Is it safe to have sex during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?”
JAMA Network Open
Li, Diangeng, PhD, et al.
“Clinical Characteristics and Results of Semen Tests Among Men With Coronavirus Disease 2019”
(Research Letter. May 7, 2020)
Medscape Medical News
“SARS-CoV-2 in Semen of COVID-19 Patients?”
(May 7, 2020)
“Sex and COVID-19”
“Safer Sex and COVID-19”
(June 8, 2020)