Is the Coronavirus changing casual sex?
Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed casual sex encounters? A group of over 2,500 Israeli men who have sex with men answered this question in a recent study. About 40% of the men were still having casual sex. However, some had modified their activities.
We’re all social distancing right now. And that begs the question: how do you have sex in the era of COVID-19 self-isolation? Is it even safe to have sex during the pandemic?
First, the facts. COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is spread by direct person-to-person contact or by people who are close to (within six feet) of each other—as it’s believed that the virus is expelled in respiratory droplets from a cough or sneeze, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which you can then inhale. You can also pick it up from contaminated surfaces if you then touch your face without washing your hands properly first and therefore introduce the pathogen into your body.
So, yes, sex can contribute to spreading the coronavirus. You’re clearly close enough to someone when you’re naked on top of each other, and you are also probably kissing, or at least breathing heavily. (And, by the way, a team of Harvard doctors recommends that you avoid kissing and even wear a mask if you’re going to be having sex with someone with whom you are not self-quarantined.)
But let’s be clear: COVID-19 is not contracted directly from sex. “The coronavirus is a respiratory virus. It can be transmitted through your saliva and intimate contact, but it is not directly transmitted genitally,” Mark Surrey, MD, a clinical professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, tells Health. That distinction matters, because safe sex during the pandemic depends on your current relationship situation and, well, why you’re having sex in the first place.
For many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we interact with others, professionally, socially, and even sexually.
A new study from Israel describes how COVID-19 has impacted men who have sex with men (MSM) in that country.
Researchers surveyed over 2,500 MSM in March and April 2020, when the Israeli government had declared a state of emergency and put social distancing rules into place. For example, people were not supposed to go more than 100 meters (about 328 feet) from their homes. They were also advised to keep 2 meters (roughly 6 feet) from people outside their household.
During this time, almost 40% of the men surveyed said they did were still having casual sex encounters. In this group, about 72% said they had fewer partners than they did before the pandemic. Many said they were less likely to kiss their partners or engage in anal or oral sex. They were more likely to use condoms or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – medication that may prevent HIV transmission.
More participants perceived COVID-19 to be a bigger threat than HIV, the researchers reported.
They added that loneliness and the lack of emotional support and intimacy could be driving MSM to have casual sex during the pandemic.
“Social isolation defeated the fear of COVID-19,” one participant said.
Learn more about COVID-19 and sex with these links:
Semen Might Contain Coronavirus
Men and COVID-19: Are Androgens a Clue?
Impact of COVID-19 on Relationships: What Isn’t Being Talked About
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(Page last reviewed: September 18, 2020)
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Shilo, Guy, PhD and Zohar Mor, MD, MHA, MPH
“COVID-19 and the Changes in the Sexual Behavior of Men Who Have Sex With Men: Results of an Online Survey”
(Full-text. Published: August 10, 2020)