If you were locked down over the last months with your partner or partners, intimacy has likely been a key part of quarantine survival. But for those of us that are single, our ability to attend to our emotional and sexual health needs was severely diminished. Abstinence or pleasuring ourselves with video, chats, sex toys, porn and our own imaginations kept us safe and alive. Now many of us are wondering how to reconnect in real time.
Desire and intimacy have always carried risks. During the previous pandemic, most of us had “the conversation” before sex, disclosing our HIV status. With Prep and U=U, these conversations have become less important. Recently, the New York City Health Department guidelines on sex and the Corona virus suggested that “If you do have sex with others outside of your household, have as few partners as possible and pick partners you trust.”
In these lockdown months, maybe you met someone on Daddyhunt or Mister or reconnected with a previous sex partner. After months of texting or video-chats, you are itching to meet in-person. You have already figured out all of the things you want to do with this Daddy or boi, but before you can safely hook-up, you need have one more conversation. The following six questions will guide you and your potential partner(s) in a conversation about consent and risk-taking. There are no right or wrong answers. And hopefully the honesty and openness of the conversation will deepen the real intimacy you are seeking.
- With whom, if anyone, have you been sheltering-in place? You may think you are engaging with just one person in the household, but your interactions will mean being exposed to others or exposing them to you. Share information about your daily contacts with the people in your household, highlighting any of them more vulnerable due to age, health or other factors.
- Have you had any symptoms in the last 14 days? Those symptoms include: fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and loss or smell or taste. Obviously, seasonal allergies and common colds have some of the same symptoms, so be honest about your health status.
- Have you been in direct contact and/or sex with someone diagnosed with COVID or someone who is undiagnosed but is symptomatic? While most people with COVID -19 have symptoms, asymptomatic spread is possible. Generally, if you are healthy after 14 days of any type of exposure or possible exposure (e.g., if you have been in any large protests recently), your chances are low that you carry the virus.
- What are your masking, social distancing and health protocols? People have wide variations in how they handle these basic protocols and you want share how you attend to them. Notably, essential workers working directly with COVID-infected people or store employees who meet a range of people likely have very different habits and needs than the rest of us.
- Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19 using a nasal swab or saliva test or tested for COVID antibodies? According to NY Public Health Department, “people who have recovered from COVID-19 at least 10 days from the day their symptoms started and who have not had fever for at least three days are likely no longer infectious.” Currently, the length and type of immunity antibodies might confer is unknown. With low reliability rates, antibody tests may be worthless. However, in the future we should know more.
- Given that a person could be asymptomatic and still infect others, how do you feel about that risk? This might be the toughest question, in that it addresses your risk-taking level. While attending to all of the health protocols above will significantly lower the possibility of infection, there is still some risk through asymptomatic exposure. Talk about any concerns you have and your willingness to address this unknown exposure. If you have been going shopping or otherwise participating in the outside world, you probably have an understanding of what you are willing or not willing to do.
If you made it this far, you have established a base for honesty and compassion. However, we can get all of the “right” answers we want and still not be ready. When it comes to sex and intimacy, the data we have can easily be ignored when desire takes over.
You are now set up to discuss what if anything happens next and how soon. If you come to clear mutual consent, here is the bonus question to discuss:
- What types of sexual practices do you enjoy and what would be off-limits at least as we start?
Remember, the virus can only be passed if any of the participants are currently infected. You may want to consider routine testing as you are seeing this new person. Honesty is hot. Sex, safety and intimacy are still possible in our COVID world.