I ran into a fellow sexual health educator in the grocery store this weekend. It was reassuring to see a familiar face in these uncertain times. We had the opportunity to chat for a few minutes, sharing stories about fear, chosen family, toilet paper, and most importantly, the power of orgasms. Yes, orgasms. And since we had to keep a significant distance from one another, we were not the only ones privy to this conversation.

This conversation sparked my interest in how cumming can help us access the joy, stress reduction, and pleasure through these challenging times.

As we know, the recommendations for social distancing are focused on reducing contact with people who are not in our inner circle; or people that we see everyday. This is a concerted effort to #flattenthecurve and reduce the strain that will be put on our healthcare systems if a large quantity of people become infected with COVID-19 or otherwise need emergent care. But, how does this apply to hooking up?

This means that YOU are your safest, and possibly best, sexual partner for the time being. Now is a beautiful time for you to explore how you can provide yourself the pleasure you deserve. (Of course, we strongly recommend that you wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after your pleasure session, as well as any toys or tools that you use in the process.) 

Before the quarantine period, and especially now, I have enjoyed reading adrienne maree brown’s “Pleasure Activism. She talks about the various ways that we derive pleasure from within ourselves and with others, and how we can carry and find this pleasure in our work and activism. In one piece of her work “Sex Ed, A Poem” reads: “your orgasms are medicine and magic, use them well / be a lifelong lover to yourself, let others join you / always, always: celebrate your miraculous body.” So, take this opportunity to explore what pleasure looks like to you, especially if circumstances, events, or identities have prevented you from doing this prior to now.

If you are looking to share this pleasure with others, don’t worry, I have more information for you! The next safest, in-person partner, is someone that you live with and mutually consent to engage with. But, we would advise added care and precautions. Kissing is an easy way to spread COVID-19, so again keep this to your inner circle; or people that you see everyday. Also, rimming (anus to mouth) may also spread COVID-19. There has been some research already that shows the virus in fecal samples, and that some people have reported digestive symptoms (i.e. loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting) before pulmonary symptoms (i.e. coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath). Dental dams can help decrease this risk but, we strongly advise that you refrain from having sex with your partner if they are not feeling well, or exhibiting symptoms.

If your partner is not feeling well or exhibiting symptoms, the recommendation is to skip sex for the time being; this also stands if your partner is at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19.

But, you may be asking, what about hookups with someone new? The recommendations for social distancing are still in place, and this includes hooking up. You should avoid close contact with anyone outside your household, inner circle, or people that you see everyday. You can get creative, though! If you usually meet your potential sexual partners online, through dating apps, or you make a living by having sex, then set-up a video date! You can also sext, enter into chat rooms, or use other apps to get it on. But, now is the time to take a break from the in-person dates.

If you do choose to have sex with others outside of your inner circle, we recommend to have as few partners as possible. Also, if you are on PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), make sure to continue to take your medication if you are continuing to engage in hookups. Reminder: some folks do not know that they are contagious with COVID-19 because they are not having symptoms and may not show them for up to 14 days. This is why we are strongly recommending social distancing.

As always, condoms and dental dams can reduce contact with saliva or feces, especially during oral or anal sex. Now more than ever it is important to wash up before and after sex, and of course, wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

During this time, we know that access to STI & HIV testing has increased barriers due to the protections put in place for healthcare workers to avoid coming in contact with COVID-19. If you are in need of an STI or HIV test, you can contact our GLAM team for assistance at glam@pridecentervt.org and they will help get you connected to a provider.