If you’ve put dating on hold to wait out the pandemic, you could be waiting a long time. COVID-19 may be around for a while, changing the way we do a lot of things, including dating and sex.
But take heart. This may not be a bad thing at all.
Is staying away from dating and sex not an option for you?
If you’re single and living alone, like many people over 60, a lack of regular physical contact can be detrimental to both your physical and emotional well-being.
So staying away from dating may not be an option for you. But, in order to stay safe, you’ll need to do it all differently. As I noted in another post about dating and sex during the pandemic, you’ll need to take things much slower.
Please note that the coronavirus is still being closely researched by scientists and medical professionals. Not all is known about it yet. New information continues to emerge and we need to adapt our practices to incorporate evolving guidelines.
What Do the Experts Have to Say About Dating and Sex?
I’ve researched and pulled together advice from some experts.
Jennifer Berman, MD, MS, a specialist in female sexual medicine, said:
“We are hard wired to connect with other people. It is in our DNA to connect. Research has shown that the single most important factor for people who live the longest was connections to other people, families, friends, and community.”
Computational and digital health expert Bruce Y. Lee offered some pandemic dating tips (in the same Forbes article as above) including:
- Be more selective and choose based on qualities that really matter.
- Make it clear what you want.
- Have enough remote meetings first.
- Ask key questions (money, sexual/relationship history, religion, etc.) early.
- If you decide to meet in person, establish ground rules on physical contact beforehand.
- Choose a date and location where you can socially distance.
- Use safe transportation to and from the date location.
- Maintain social distancing and other precautions during the date.
- Determine when and how you want to go into a social bubble (to quarantine before having physical interaction).
- Plan and prepare for sex, and don’t do it too early in the game.
Of course, if you’ve already quarantined with your partner, and both of you navigate the outside world safely (masks and social distancing), you’re probably more safe to be physically intimate.
But even this requires trusting that your partner has always followed best practices guidelines. Have they stayed inside with you, only going out for necessities and always taking every precaution?
Can you safely have sex now with someone you haven’t quarantined with?
Public health expert Dr. Charlene Brown and certified sex therapist Rae McDaniel were asked a few pertinent questions:
Can I have sex with people I don’t live with?
“I don’t recommend leaving home for nonessential activities,” said Brown, who currently works as a medical adviser for Everlywell. “Being in close proximity with someone you don’t live with puts you at especially high risk. The truth is that you can even contract COVID-19 from someone who you do live with since they may have contracted the virus outside the home. So no, I wouldn’t recommend it.”
If I do have sex with someone outside of my home, should I screen them for symptoms?
Symptom screening and temperature checks may provide necessary information, but Brown says those results alone are not enough, even if your sexual partner truthfully answers your questions. “If just being within 6 feet of one another and breathing is enough to transmit the virus, imagine how much the risks are multiplied during proximity of any form of physical sex. Thinking about catching a virus the entire time you’re being intimate with someone doesn’t sound too sexy to me.”
Someone I’m planning to sleep with tested positive for COVID-19, but has fully recovered. Is it safe to engage in sexual activities with this person?
“There is no way to know that you will be safe from COVID-19 if you have sex with that person,” said Brown, especially since the virus that causes COVID-19 can be present in the semen of patients who have recovered from it. “We don’t yet know enough about COVID-19 immunity to understand whether having the virus once means you’re protected from having it again.”
If kissing is potentially the most dangerous right now, are there other forms of foreplay that can help set the mood?
“There’s a lot you can do that doesn’t involve kissing,” said McDaniel, “like body contact that doesn’t involve the face, such as: massages, holding hands, cuddling with your faces far apart, verbal foreplay (talking about what you want to do to each other), sexting and sending sexy photos. All of these are ways to build tension when you’re starting to date somebody but don’t feel safe doing something like kissing.”
I’m usually really good about cleaning myself and the area post-sex. But now, are there certain sanitary precautions to keep in mind?
“If you have sex despite the COVID-19 risks, disinfect everything: sex toys, countertops, bed frames, bathroom, or anything else that you and your partner might have come into contact with before, during and after sex,” said Brown. After sex, she says to wash your bedding and clothes too. She recommends quarantining and considering COVID-19 testing.
Health.com writer Jessica Migala noted that, since the CDC says the virus is transmitted through repiratory droplets, sex can contribute to the spread of the virus.
However, the virus is not contracted directly from sex. Mark Surrey, MD, a clinical professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, told Health.com:
“The coronavirus is a respiratory virus. It can be transmitted through your saliva and intimate contact, but it is not directly transmitted genitally.”
This means that kissing may present more of a risk for catching the coronavirus than sex itself.
But What About Safely Having That First Kiss?
New York State adopted strict guidelines early in the pandemic. In their “Safer Sex and COVID-19” guidelines, they state:
“Avoid kissing anyone who is not part of your small circle of close contacts. Wear a face covering or mask. Maybe it’s your thing, maybe it’s not, but during COVID-19 wearing a face covering that covers your nose and mouth is a good way to add a layer of protection during sex.”
All of this will probably make for a much higher level of awkwardness in first dates than usual. But conversations about how to proceed can ultimately help you make better choices.
A single man in England who has put dating and sex on hold for now said in a HuffPost article that he’s being realistic, but also optimistic:
“As for now, I’ve no choice but accept that the idea of going to a movie, hitting a bar, having dinner, holding hands and hoping for a kiss at the end of the night won’t be returning for a long while yet.
I think the dating milestones are going to be a lot more staggered and there’s going to be a lot more gauging of the other person’s comfort limits when it comes to physical contact. I definitely think the days when you would lean in for a kiss and hope for the best are gone for the time being, because if you’re going to make that kind of contact with someone, it’s going to be with someone who have a high level of trust in.”
What About Dating and Sex If You’re Not Living Together?
Migala suggested in the Health.com article above:
“If you and your partner are not quarantining together, then you two must social distance from each other. And social distancing sex means having phone sex or sexting (words or images). There’s obviously absolutely no physical contact with either option.
Video sex is certainly COVID-19-safe, but not always socially safe. If you do sext videos, do it with a trusted partner, aka one you know won’t save or take video or images of what you’re doing virtually and send them to others.”
Although I didn’t find specific information about this, I presume that since those of us over 60 seem to be at higher risk for the coronavirus, we need to be extra careful about any activity that brings us physically close to other human beings. Kissing and sex certainly fall into that category.
My Advice about Dating and Sex During the Pandemic
Advice from experts can be conflicting and confusing. The final word on all of this is yet to be determined.
If I was still looking for my soulmate in these difficult times, I doubt that I’d be going on many in person dates.
I would certainly use online dating sites, just as I did when I found Cosmo. But I’m sure I’d be sticking to Zoom, FaceTime or Skype calls, along with plenty of emailing, before even considering meeting in person.
My M.O. with dating was always to take things slow. Now, I’d be taking things much slower. I’d have no choice. If I found someone, quarantining together would be necessary. That takes some time, and I doubt that I’d start that until several months into the virtual relationship.
And I wouldn’t consider kissing someone or having sex until we’d finished quarantining, along with the other given of testing for STDs.
Being ever-mindful of safety with dating and sex is, of course, the answer in our new world. Along with following best practices guidelines when you DO meet in person and begin seeing each other in real life, take things very slow.
And be grateful that you HAVE to take it slow. In the long run, this makes it much more likely that you’ll end up with the right kind of person.