covid-19 sex

Your COVID-19 sex questions answered

Dr. JessJess O’Reilly is a sought-after speaker, author and sexologist (

You’ve got questions about sex and relationships and we’ve got answers. This is our first COVID-19 sex Q&A, so please keep the questions coming.

Can we have sex while socially isolating?

Public health guidelines suggest the following: You can still have digital sex with partners online as well as solo sex. Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands and toys with soap and water before and after sex play. If you’re sharing a keyboard or other devices, wipe them down as well.

If you plan on having sex with a live-in partner, be mindful that if either of you is still venturing out (e.g. to work or to get groceries), you may contract the virus and you can transmit it through saliva and mucus even when you’re asymptomatic. Research suggests that a significant percentage of those infected show no symptoms and the CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield, estimated that this may be the norm in a quarter of cases. Other studies have suggested that this percentage may be higher, which is a reminder that we still have lots to learn about this virus.

If your partner is feeling unwell or if they have a medical condition that affects their ability to fight infection, you may want to avoid kissing and sex. And of course, practice safer sex, which might include barrier methods, birth control, lube and regular testing. Vaginal fluids and semen may not be effective transmitters of COVID-19, but you still want to take precautions to reduce the risk of STIs, HIV and unplanned pregnancy.

If you haven’t been tested recently, now is the perfect time and you can order an at-home test that allows you to send your sample to the lab and view results online from

Safer sex also entails open communication about your desires, boundaries and concerns, which understandably may be evolving during this difficult time.

Why would sex be on anyone’s mind right now when we’re dealing with life and death situations?

This is a time of stress, uncertainty and transition and our responses to distress will vary greatly from person to person and from day to day.

If you find that sex helps you to self-soothe, you might find that your sex drive is working overtime and you can’t get enough. You may also find that your interest in sex increases because you’re spending more time in close proximity to your partner and have more time to reflect and relax.

If, on the other hand, sex is a source of stress or you’re experiencing tension in life or in the relationship, you may have no interest in sex whatsoever.

All responses are perfectly valid.

This need not be a time to perform or achieve. Many of us are so emotionally drained that we’re just struggling to get by, so don’t feel pressure to have the hottest sex of your life. Instead, focus on your own well-being and look for ways to maintain connections aside from sex. Physical affection may become more important to those who feel most loved when they’re physically close to loved ones. For others, acts of kindness (e.g. making toast or tea in the morning) will help you to cultivate intimate connection and others will be looking for words of affirmation (e.g. something as simple as saying “I’ve got you.”).

Most of us have more time on our hands than usual, but we still need to carve out quality time free of distractions to ensure that we maintain close connections with our partners, loved ones and friends.

If we decide to have sex online, where do we even start?

If you don’t live with your sexual partner(s), online sex is your safest option right now and it need not be intimidating.

You can begin with words alone via text. Talk about what turns you on, what you’ve done in the past, what you’re doing right now and what you want to do in the future. Craft your messages with creative language and vivid vocabulary which will appeal to auditory and visual learners.

If you’re in a newer relationship and you’ve mutually consented to exchanging sexy photos, consider limiting your personal exposure by leaving your face out of all photos. Use a selfie stick to get the best angles and consider using a separate app from your main texting channel, so that your photos do not get mixed in with your daily banter.

Part of what makes sexting so intoxicating is the element of anticipation, so don’t send too much too soon. Not everyone wants to see a closeup of your genitals, so include other body parts to keep them interested and guessing.

You might also want to experiment with voice notes and phone calls, as the sound of a lover’s voice can be both comforting and arousing. Use a low, soft voice to tell them about your dreams, fantasies, desires and plans for when you finally hookup in person. Of course, you don’t have to follow through, so you can explore fantasies that are beyond the realm of reality.

If you decide to play via video, you can prerecord short clips or engage in live interactions. If it feels intimidating (I think this is the norm), begin by playing in the dark, drowning out your sounds with loud music and/or staying (partially) off camera so that they can hear the rustling and see only indiscernible movements. Play for a few minutes to begin and don’t feel pressure to go all the way to orgasm.

You may also opt to film yourself talking instead of playing: share compliments, tease with words, remove clothing (even if you only show yourself from the shoulders-up), express desire, convey love. You don’t have to be sexually explicit to be sexually enticing.

Of course, if you’re perfectly comfortable with video sex, you may opt to take it to the next level with app-enabled toys. We-Vibe toys, for example, range from penis rings to G-spot vibes and they can be controlled from your partner’s phone anywhere in the world if you give them access. Unsurprisingly, they’ve seen a spike in online sales in Canada at 180 per cent over projections in recent months with even higher increases in harder hit regions like Italy (300 per cent over projections).

However you opt to play online, consider building anticipation over time. Send one word or sentence every few hours or days. Send sexts as you would a drip-campaign. Use video to tease for the future. Take baby steps and take your time. For once, we have plenty of it, so why not focus on pleasure?

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