illustrated view of three houses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, each revealing a different window scene. in the far left window, a hand is reaching for a pink vibrator, in the middle window a person is wearing a coral bra and underwear while on a video call with their separately self-isolated partner, and in the far right window a quarantined couple embraceShare on Pinterest
Illustration by Brittany England

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Casual meetups are canceled. The bars, restaurants, and fitness studios where you might meet someone new or take your partner are closed.

The dating app Tinder even put out a precaution about dating and mating in the time of the new coronavirus.

And yet, the internet’s spewing predictions about all the babies that are going to get made during this pandemic. These to-be-made babies even have a nickname: “Coronials.”

So, it makes sense if you’re wondering: Is it safe to go ahead and have sex during a pandemic or not? We tapped top health experts to find out.

HEALTHLINE’S CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE

Stay informed with our live updates about the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Also, visit our coronavirus hub for more information on how to prepare, advice on prevention and treatment, and expert recommendations.

There’s a reason the virus that causes COVID-19 is known as a “novel” one: It’s brand spankin’ new. Before November 2019, it had never been seen before.

“Because it’s still new, and because there has not yet been sufficient research, there’s a scarcity of information at this time,” says Dr. Kecia Gaither, a double board certified physician in OB-GYN and maternal fetal medicine and director of perinatal services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln.

So, what do we know?

A note on PDA

The CDC recommends that all people wear cloth face masks in public places in addition to maintaining a 6-foot distance from others.

This will help slow the spread of the virus from people without symptoms or people who don’t know they’ve contracted the virus.

The bottom line? Avoid kissing and engaging in other close-contact affection outside of the home.

It’s spread through respiratory droplets (and fecal matter)

“Coronavirus is a respiratory virus, which means it’s spread through respiratory droplets,” explains Dr. Eric Mizuno, a board certified internist at Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

What is a respiratory droplet, exactly? Sneeze snot, cough residue, and saliva. Basically, anything that could spray out of your mouth or nose qualifies.

Dr. Felice Gersh, author of “PCOS SOS: A Gynecologist’s Lifeline to Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones, and Happiness,” adds that recent research suggests the novel coronavirus can also be shed in the feces of folks who have an infection.

Coronavirus ≠ sexually transmitted infection

“Coronavirus doesn’t appear to be sexually transmitted,” Mizuno says.

However, he emphasizes that there’s been zero research about what sexual acts can and cannot transmit the virus.

One study in China did find traces of the virus in the semen of some patients who had recovered from COVID-19.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the virus is sexually transmitted. More research is needed to be sure one way or the other.

That said, you *can* contract it by having sex

“The intercourse itself isn’t what’s spreading the virus,” Gersh says. “It’s the fact that your bodies are so close together.”

The current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation is that folks — even those who aren’t currently experiencing symptoms — avoid being within 6 feet (1.83 meters) of one another.

And as Mizuno says, “The reality is that you can’t have intercourse that far away from each other.” Fair!

“There is reason to believe that someone can have the virus but be completely asymptomatic and spread it to other folks,” he adds.

Meaning, even if your partner isn’t experiencing symptoms, they could have the virus and transmit it to you if you have IRL sex.

If this scares you, consider this: This is true for most viral infections.

“If you had the flu — which is widely known not to be a sexually transmitted infection — and had sex with someone, they’d probably get the flu, too,” Mizuno says.

It’s complicated.

According to Gersh, “It’s different to have sex with a live-in partner or someone you’re self-quarantining with than it is to have sex with someone who you don’t know very well and who has to travel to get to you.”

Having sex with your live-in boo is probably OK

“For couples who already share a bed, the possibility is incredibly high that if one person gets coronavirus, the other person will, too,” Gersh says.

“These couples need to determine whether the additional transfer risk that comes with having sex is worth it for them,” she adds.

And for some couples, the risk may be worth it.

But for couples where one or both people are immunocompromised — and the dangers associated with getting the virus are high — it probably isn’t.

Having sex with someone new probably isn’t OK

Doing so is basically the exact opposite of physical distancing, also known as social distancing.

This person could be carrying the virus and transmit it to you. Or vice versa.

Yep, even for live-in duos, there are more and less careful ways to be boning right now. Here are some doctor-recommended sex tips to keep in mind.

Cut back on kissing

“The virus can be spread through saliva, so that means it can be spread during kissing,” Gersh says.

Proceed cautiously.

Avoid anal play

“We know that coronavirus can be spread through fecal matter,” Gersh says.

“And because anal play is more likely to put you in contact with fecal matter than any other kind of play, my advice is to leave it out for now,” she says.

So, press pause on the rimming, anal fingering, penetrative anal sex, and anal toy play.

But if you’re still going to have anal sex, be sure to do it as safely as possible: Wear condoms, use lube, etc. You know the drill.

Opt for positions where you’re facing away from each other

“The less face-to-face contact, the better,” Gersh says.

Rather than getting it on missionary style, try:

Miss the intimacy of eye contact? Have sex in front of a mirror so you can still gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes. Romantic!

“Just because you can’t be in the same room or house doesn’t mean you can’t get each other off,” says Searah Deysach, sex educator and owner of Early to Bed.

“The distance that a text or phone puts between you and a lover can also give you the chance to try some stuff out that you might be too shy to explore IRL,” she says.

Have phone sex

Cue Soulja Boy, ’cause it’s time to kiss your boo through the phone.

“Just because you can’t see each other, doesn’t mean you can’t get off together,” says Jill McDevitt, PhD, resident sexologist at CalExotics.

Her top tip? Use sound to your advantage.

“Really make use of dirty talk, moans, vibrators, smacking, bed squeaking, heavy breathing, and more,” she says.

Enjoy a FaceTime romp

If you’re a visual “learner,” invite your partner to have video sex.

“If you both let your guard down a little, it can be really fun,” Deysach says.

Her tips for making it even hotter:

  • Be bossy! Tell your partner what to do to themselves.
  • Read the steamiest part of your favorite sex story out loud.
  • Answer the call as your sexy alter ego and indulge in a fantasy that your everyday self might not.
  • Show them how you touch yourself and what feels good on your body. Ask them to do the same for you.

Sexy texts

Dirty texting can go way beyond a well-placed eggplant emoji.

“If your partner is down to dirty text, tell them what you want to do when you are together again,” Deysach says. “Be as specific as possible.”

Other options:

  • Remind them of some super hot sex you two had in the past. Type it up in vivid detail.
  • Ask them to tell you a sexual secret or fantasy — and be open-minded about it.
  • On the flip side, tell them something you’ve never told anyone else about your sex life or fantasies.

If your partner consents, you might even send a full or partial nude.

“Make a game of it,” McDevitt suggests. “Take a photo of a sexy body part you like, then crop the image close and see if they can guess. Keep taking further-away crops until the full image is revealed.”

Bring an app-controlled sex toy into the mix

Want to really feel like your partner’s right there with you?

Try one of these sex toys that your partner can control right from their phone — no matter where they are in the world:

FYI: You don’t need to do anything special to clean your sex toy during a pandemic. Warm water and fragrance-free soap or sex toy cleaner are just fine.

“There’s no risk to masturbating,” Gersh says. “In fact, orgasming is an incredibly healthy thing to do while self-quarantined or isolated.”

Experts agree that masturbation can:

  • reduce stress
  • help you sleep better
  • strengthen your immune system
  • boost your confidence

“Use the time to explore new ways to self-pleasure,” McDevitt says.

“Try standing, touching yourself on all fours, on your back, side, and stomach,” she says.

The new coronavirus isn’t sexually transmitted, but with all the spit-swapping, face-to-face contact, and general body closeness of IRL partnered sex, the risk of transmitting the virus is high.

That’s why Mizuno says, “It’s a big sacrifice, sure, but the best bet for your long-term health is to abstain from partnered sex for the time being.”

Solo sex, however, is completely on the table… and the bed… and in the shower. On your marks, get set, get off!


Gabrielle Kassel is a New York–based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and eaten, drunk, and brushed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.