Sex in the era of COVID-19
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Well, life has sure changed in the past two weeks. COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, has affected all of us dramatically, certainly for the short term.
Our LGBTQ leather, kink and sexuality-based cultures must adjust to a new reality. How we adjust is anyone's guess right now, but I have some thoughts. Lots of people are struggling right now, or soon will be. This is an 'all hands on deck' moment.
The shelter-in-place directive we're currently living under has severely restricted our ability to commune. Gatherings are not a good idea right now. We need to embrace social distancing for as long as the public health professionals tell us to do so. Our daily habits need to respect the guidance of science and reason.
If there was ever a 'we're all in this together' moment, this is it.
I'm not going to articulate any general guidelines right now except the basics of keeping our distance from each other, washing our hands, and following whatever cautionary practices the experts tell us will best keep us from getting ourselves or others sick. Some of the guidelines may be moving targets for a while. Keep abreast of trusted news and information sources and heed the advice of the professionals.
One thing we do still need is connection. Most humans, even the most introverted, require at least some human connection to maintain well-being. With the current inability to gather in groups or connect in close contact with anyone outside of our immediate trusted circle, we need to get creative.
I've been hosting online chats and meeting-style meetups through various online connection and conferencing services. It doesn't really matter what tools or platforms you use, but I recommend you reach out to friends and acquaintances and see if you can foster some connection. Hang out and talk online. Text each other. If possible, use technology to see each other while you talk, because visual connection matters now more than ever.
Then, there's the tricky issue of sex. Can we have sex? If so, within what parameters? With information about COVID-19 developing each day, what I say here might turn on a dime tomorrow.
New York City, one of the hardest hit areas of the country, has issued guidelines about having sex. I'll use those to guide my suggestions.
Educate yourself on how the virus is spread. Keep up with the latest information. Thus far we know it's mostly spread by being in close proximity. That's why it's suggested we remain six feet from others.
COVID-19 has been found in feces. It hasn't been found in semen or vaginal fluid. Other coronaviruses don't efficiently transmit through sex, but this virus is just too new to know much for sure.
Hookup culture is on hold. I know that's a tough thing for some to hear, but it's the sensible approach. Having sex with people you don't know well isn't a good idea right now. Until the virus is more contained and public health experts declare the urgency has subsided, knowing your sex partners is the way to go.
Go ahead and jerk off. Do that a lot. It relieves sexual tension and helps you more easily get through these initial stages of the pandemic. If you have a sex partner you live with, that's the next safest option. Keep your sex partners to as few as possible. Consider embracing video sex, sexting and sex chat rooms. Now is the time to foster that type of fantasy life to the best of your ability.
When having sex, I'm sadly reminded of the times when we didn't know much about how HIV was transmitted. Avoid kissing anyone not in your immediate sexual inner circle.
Rimming is risky per the data thus far known. Maybe embrace condoms or dental dams again to reduce contact with saliva or feces. Make sure to thoroughly wash before and after sex. Scrub your body with soap and water for at least 20 seconds wherever contact has been made. Wash sex toys with soap and warm water. Disinfect all shared keyboards and screens.
If you or anyone in your inner sexual circle isn't feeling well, no sex. None. Assume they're infected and keep your distance. Again, in the early stages of HIV, many of us acted as if we were infected. COVID-19 spreads much more easily. The same mindset applies right now.
Some may believe any sex right now outside of standing relationships (with others who are similarly isolating with the agreement to play only with one another) is too liberal a stance. Others may believe that's overly restrictive. You must decide for yourself, but make sure you have solid information upon which to base your decision.
The good news? It's likely we'll get past this critical stage of the pandemic at some point and our sex lives can return to some normalcy. No one has a crystal ball to know that turning point, but they know how to keep such viruses at bay. They're aggressively working on ways to employ widespread testing and that will be a game changer. The healthcare system will reach an equilibrium with the influx of infections. We will flatten the curve. We will get past this.
Nightlife needs you
Finally, there are a lot of people struggling right now with layoffs, reduced employment, a lack of healthcare insurance, hunger and housing displacement. The list of urgencies is long.
Efforts are underway right now to help those in need. Here are two of many such projects.
The SF Bay Area Queer Nightlife Fund is a collective of nightlife organizers, producers, entertainers, venue owners, and nonprofit community leaders providing direct gifts of aid to workers from LGBTQ nightlife groups in the SF Bay Area.
The Bay Area Leather Lifeline is a fund to help kinksters and leather folk in the SF Bay Area who need immediate help during the COVID-19 crisis.
You'll find links to these two emergency funds and other fundraisers and resources below.
Stay safe. Be kind to each other. Help each other out. Check in on each other. Right now, more than ever, it takes a village.
The LGBTQ Leather, Kink and Sexuality Communities Resources Guide is a "living" document and will be updated ongoing as more information is made available. Link is below.
Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist. www.bannon.com