11th September, 20205 min read

How to date and have safe sex in the coronavirus era

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Nine months is a long time to go without something that’s important to you.

If you enjoy being sexually active but don’t live with a partner, the majority of the year spent social distancing won't have been the easiest.

So where do you go from here?

While there’s no way to be 100% safe, there are steps you can take to be safer. Those steps can make a big difference.

If you’re thinking about getting back out there, you should follow local guidelines around social distancing and wearing a face mask.

But Dr Michael Brady, Medical Director for sexual health charity the Terrence Higgins Trust also shares his tips for a safe-as-possible love life.

Dating during the pandemic

Dating means meeting people you don’t live with, so it’s important to follow the latest guidelines.

Dr Brady points out that health agencies like the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend

keeping 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people

So talking is fine but kissing, hugging and holding hands will have to wait.

Speaking of hands, you should wash them often — before, after and during your date — and wear a face covering if you’re indoors. If you do touch someone else, definitely wash your hands and always avoid touching your face.

Rules around face masks vary depending on where you live, so make sure you check before you go.

Chatting online or having your first date by video is always an option as well. Then you’ll know if you really want to meet in person.

And if you, your date or anyone you live with has

coronavirus symptoms
, you should postpone the date. The most common symptoms are a fever, a continuous cough or a change to your sense of taste or smell.

Sex during the pandemic

Can you catch coronavirus by having sex?

We know that SARS-cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads through tiny droplets people send into the air when they cough, sneeze or breathe.

When it comes to sex, scientists have found coronavirus in semen and faeces, but we don’t know if you can catch it that way.

You’re more likely to catch coronavirus during sex because it involves being physically close.

“It is clearly transmitted by close physical contact, exertion and heavy breathing,” says Dr Brady.

The joys of solo sex and safe sexting

Some people don’t mind putting their sex-life on hold until rules are relaxed. And masturbation can help keep up the feel-good factor while partners are off limits.

As far as safety from coronavirus is concerned, “your best sexual partner is yourself,” says Dr Brady.

Groups like the British Academy of Sexual Health and HIV say phone sex, sexting or chat rooms are a popular go-to for anyone who normally finds sexual partners online. Just remember to be safe if you’re sharing images and messages.

Getting physical and being responsible

After nine months (or more), it’s understandable to want to get physical again.

Dr Brady doesn’t advise having sex outside your household or social bubble, but says if you do there are ways to reduce the risk.

It’s important to note these measures won't take the risk away completely.

Limit the number of people you have sex with

You should limit the number of partners you have sex with. According to Dr Brady, one partner is best.

Talk to them about their health before you have sex and dont have sex if you, they or anyone you live with has coronavirus symptoms.

Wash or sanitise your hands

Wash or sanitise your hands before and after sex. “A lot of transmission happens by people touching another person or by touching a hard surface that's got the virus on and then touching their face,” Dr Brady says.

Showering before and after sex might help you feel more comfortable, but the most important thing is to wash your hands.

If you use sex toys, wash them after use and don’t share them.

Avoid kissing and being face to face

Avoid kissing and think about wearing a face covering during sex.

Dr Brady also recommends “getting creative” to find positions where you’re not facing each other.

Get tested for STIs

If you haven’t had sex during social distancing, it’s a good time to get checked for any sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Dr Brady says lockdown is the ideal opportunity to get accurate results. It can take up to 4 weeks for tests to pick up HIV, for example.

All the usual STIs are still around, including chlamydia and gonorrhoea, which are on the rise, so you should practice safe sex as usual.

Condoms and dental dams will also reduce contact with bodily fluids that may carry coronavirus. Dental dams are thin sheets of latex or nitrile sometimes used during oral sex.

If you think you might have an STI or if you need birth control, speak to a doctor.

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.