Worries about the pandemic have put a damper on dating. Should those concerns also discourage sexual activity?
Intimacy and intercourse may not transmit COVID-19, but nearly everything else about sex with a partner increases your chances of getting sick, according to immunologists and health experts.
Bodily fluids exchanged during intercourse and genital contact isn't what infects people whose partners are COVID-19 carriers, says William Schaffner, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and professor at Vanderbilt University. Instead, it's intimate contact like heavy breathing, kissing and close proximity that causes risk.
Though coronavirus has been detected in semen, so far there's no evidence it can be passed on that way.
"There's nothing sexual about the transmission,” Schaffner says. “[It's] the intimacy part of sexuality rather than the sexual organ functionality."
Not giving up on intimacy
So if you're dating and don't want to give up sex, what's the best way to curtail risk when it comes to transmission of COVID-19?
Pandemic safe sex guidelines released by the New York City Health Department last year recommend limiting sexual partners to those in your own household or pandemic bubble. The sexually explicit guidelines, which were parodied in a Saturday Night Live segment, suggest the safest sex is masturbation (wash your hands first) and offered “sexy Zoom parties” as an alternative with partners not in your household. The guidelines also said people should refrain from kissing and should wear coronavirus-preventing masks during sex.
Despite a certain amount of risk, older adults aren't ready to give up on dating or sex. Instead, many are checking in with partners and adapting their sex lives to stay safe.