Health

Practice Safe Sex During Pandemic, Experts Say

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, issues have arisen about whether people should engage in sex given the deadly nature of the disease but sexual therapists and a relationship expert say with precautions, a healthy sexual lifestyle can be practiced.

Deborah J. Fox, a certified sex therapist in the District, said that while she understands the impact the pandemic has had on sexual activity, certain measures should take place between partners for a healthy sexual experience as the coronavirus circulates without a vaccine or cure.

“Social distancing is the way to go to adhere to public health guidelines,” Fox said. “If you can figure out how to have sex with someone you’re not quarantined with, outside of six feet apart … OK. All of the science that is now available suggests that having sex with new people is going to spread the virus and puts you and your partner at risk. However, this is not all bad news, in my opinion. If you’re looking for a significant relationship with one person, get to know that person first through video chat and outside picnics.”

Fox said sexual activity can often be spontaneous and caution should be exercised in those situations.

“Having sex at first sight has become common [and] blurs the experience of getting to know someone,” she said. “If you hit it off, then you can choose to quarantine for 14 days, get tested for [the coronavirus] and then pursue a more intimate relationship. If you are interested in casual sex, then this is a harder time.”

Fox suggested a surefire method for being sexually active without the fear of disease: “There’s always phone sex.”

Patti Renko, a psychotherapist and sex therapist with Keith Miller Counseling LLC in the District, said with the coronavirus active, the safest method of having sex would be with oneself.

“You have to assess your risk,” Renko said. “You are your best sex partner. Masturbation, stimulation of the genitals with the hand for sexual pleasure, is safe, and so are using sex toys. Be sure to wash your hands with soap when you are done.”

Renko said if partners are interested in sex, there should be a discussion about COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and its symptoms. She said couples who are intimate but live in different cities or have one or both partners that travel a lot should be careful when engaging in sex because some cities and states are more amenable to the coronavirus than others.

“In those situations, sexual intercourse should be undertaken with caution,” Renko said. “Try to avoid activities such as kissing or rimming, the act of orally pleasuring the anus, that could possibly spread the virus. Also, there is no scientific or medical evidence [the coronavirus] can be obtained by taking in semen or feces. But to be safe, use dental dams or condoms when having sex. While there is no direct correlation between sexually transmitted diseases and the coronavirus, safe sex should be practiced nevertheless.”

For those who choose not to have sex or practice abstinence, Renko said “they should do it if they are comfortable with that.”

Dr. Audrey Chapman, a D.C.-based relationship counselor, said the most comfortable sexual partners during the pandemic are married couples.

“Married couples are the best persons to have sex — it is an exclusive relationship,” she said. “The partners know each other and are likely to be more careful when it comes to intimacy and not transmitting any infections. When you are single, however, things may be more difficult. A man may be more aggressive in trying to have sex with a female and the female should be on her guard. In that situation, I would suggest the male and female get together by riding bikes, taking walks and perhaps chatting while in their separate cars before getting together intimately.”

Chapman said people should want to know the sexual histories of their partners.

“COVID-19 and AIDS will take you out of here,” she said. “There is no cure for those diseases. While there are treatments for AIDS, who wants to battle that all of your life? Before having sex with a person, be sure you know who you are getting intimate with.”

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