Since Covid-19 started spreading around the world, governments have had to create new societal rules to try and stop transmission. These have ranged from strict lockdowns where most people have not been allowed to leave their homes, to less stringent rules for keeping physically distant from others when outside.
Let’s be honest, you are never going to have 100 percent compliance with any rules, and for those that aren’t complying, practical steps need to be taken to minimize the risk. Government needle exchange programs designed to minimize the spread of disease are a good example. This leads us to a Covid-19-related issue discussed widely online, but by governments, not so much: During the pandemic, what should people do when they’re horny?
Well, if you’re the UK government, you can accidentally make having sex illegal altogether, of course. In trying to put together new rules for easing lockdown, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson made it illegal for couples not living together to go into each other’s homes for any purpose, including sex. Among other consequences, it’s making “Hey baby, want to come back to my place and violate section 3(b) paragraph 4 bullet point 2 of the lockdown regulations act?” the chat-up line of the summer.
Other more competent governments might want to look at ways to reduce risk. Publishing in Annals of Internal Medicine, doctors from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medicine School provided such advice in a piece titled Sexual Health in the SARS-CoV-2 Era.
“Messaging around sex being dangerous may have insidious psychological effects at a time when people are especially susceptible to mental health difficulties,” the researchers write.
“For the population at large, a recommendation of long-term sexual abstinence is unlikely to be effective, given the well-documented failures of abstinence-based public health interventions and their likelihood to promote shame”.
They point out that the sexual health implications of the Covid-19 pandemic has received little focus from governments, and attempt to provide some practical guidance for health care providers to use to counsel patients.
Unsurprisingly given that all sexual contact carries the risk of transmission, the safest option was sexual abstinence, which they note was “low risk for infection” but “not feasible for many”.
Then there’s the possibility of “sexual activity via digital platforms”, aka phone or video sex – or what I’m now going to call a “Zoom Boom” (© me). The researchers advise that patients should be counseled on the risks of being screenshot on a digital device, as well as the dangers of online predation, which they say has increased since the pandemic began.
The part that stood out for most, however, is the recommendation to minimize risk for people who have sex with someone outside their own household, where the risk is greatest.
“Reduction techniques […] include minimizing the number of sexual partners, avoiding sex partners with symptoms consistent with SARS-CoV-2, avoiding kissing and sexual behaviors with a risk for fecal-oral transmission or that involve semen or urine, wearing a mask, showering before and after sexual intercourse, and cleaning of the physical space with soap or alcohol wipes,” the paper reads.
As well as all the other quite big changes to sexual practices, the one that has people recoiling in horror/enthusiastically on board is the suggestion that during the pandemic we might have to start wearing masks during sex if we want to reduce our risk of transmitting Covid-19.
While nobody is enthusiastic about any of the measures we’re having to take to stop the spread of this virus, excessive cleaning before and after sex might be something we have to get used to. Still, it could be worse.