Sex in the time of coronavirus
“Safe sex is no sex right now for me,” says Bengaluru-based history professor Prerana Srimaal.
The 33-year-old, who is not in a steady relationship, is rightfully not taking any chances, as coronavirus cases continue to rise in India.
“I am wary of any kind of contact. The virus is spreading and I am afraid of who may be passive carriers. As I don't have a stable partner, I cannot track their whereabouts. And I don't want to get it, especially since I will then go on to spread it to my loved ones.
“I do miss physical intimacy of all kinds, but I would rather have self-control and wait this period out than give in to urges that I don't think are a safe or sensible choice at the moment,” she says.
Noida-based 28-year-old technology journalist Ravindra (name changed), who is also single, echoes Prerana’s sentiments. “Any kind of physical intimacy stays out of question for me for the time being,” he says.
Even for couples who live together and are either married or in a steady relationship, it is not quite business as usual.
While some say they are having more sex than before because they have more time together, others say the frequency of physical intimacy has actually decreased because they are too tired after doing their household chores.
Delhi-based photographer Tapan (name changed) says while physical intimacy between him and his wife is “intact”, “the sessions are less, as we are both tired with all the household work”.
Noida-based YouTuber, columnist and actor Thomas (name changed) says, “Ever since the coronavirus lockdown started, life has been upside down. From shooting and editing my YouTube videos, to taking care of our kid, there is hardly any time left for my wife and me to get intimate. We are definitely having less sex since the lockdown.”
For Gurugram-based couple Kritika and Sandeep (names changed), who have been together for six years now, the story is a little different. According to Kritika, this is the first time that they are getting to spend a lot of time together, which is also resulting in more intimacy than before.
Sandeep says, “We are definitely having more sex than before. It is probably because we are more relaxed and have more time with each other. And for the first time ever, the hustle-bustle of daily routine is not there.”
What do doctors say
YSWeekender spoke to Delhi-based pulmonologist Dr PP Bose and Mumbai-based physician and researcher Dr R Ghosh to understand the dos and don’ts of sex in the time of coronavirus.
Dr Bose says, “Nobody should have sex with anyone other than their household partner. As far as household partners are concerned, if hygiene rules are followed by both, I think regular sex is very much okay.
“In fact, at a time when you are home and there is a sense of gloom and doom all around, resulting in tremendous amount of anxiety and mental health issues, sex is a very good stress-releasing technique and should be practised regularly.”
According to Dr. Ghosh, social distancing should not be confused with intimacy. However, he points out that some things need to be kept in mind and certain precautions need to be taken before indulging in sex.
Dr Ghosh’s take
Dr Ghosh classifies people into two categories: those who are at high risk of COVID-19 and those who are low risk.
Who are the high-risk people?
These are people who are doctors, paramedical staff, security staff at hospitals, policemen, and those who have to go to crowded places.
“Since they are at high risk, they should even practise social distancing with their family members and therefore should also avoid intimacy with their partners. For them, it is better to stay at a place away from their family members, so as to avoid close proximity,” Dr Ghosh says.
What about the low-risk group?
“They may not avoid intimacy. However, please note among low-risk people, let’s say someone who needs to venture out to places like market, grocery store, medicine shop, etc. which may be a potential source of infection, then in such a situation, it is better to practise social distancing within the family and avoid intimacy with the partner as well.”
Those who don’t venture to high-risk places do not need to practise celibacy, he adds.
What if you develop symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat, etc. which may or may not be COVID-19?
“First, call up healthcare professionals for further advice. Just to be on the safer side, in case you develop fever, cough or other such flu-like symptoms, self-quarantine from family members at least for two weeks. Needless to say, there should not be intimacy with partners.”
Dr Bose’s advice
According to Dr Bose, having more sex in these times of stress and uncertainty can be a good coping mechanism and is generally good for mental health.
“I will strongly recommend regular sex with your household partner and that should not be a problem. But you must follow self-hygiene rules, handwashing before and after, and oral cleansing techniques.”
COVID-19 has not yet been found in semen or vaginal fluid. And according to the New York City Health Department, other coronaviruses do not efficiently transmit through sex either.
“The novel coronavirus is not seen in vaginal secretion or seminal secretion, so oral or regular vaginal sex or kissing should not be a problem. But fecal matter has been found to have coronavirus so one should really avoid anal sex. But, with your regular household partner it should not be a problem.”
Like Dr Ghosh, Dr Bose too has a word of caution for couples if they observe any kind of respiratory issues.
“In case your household partner has some kind of respiratory problem, especially with fever, you should be really careful and celibacy should be practised. You should not take any chances because many times it is very difficult to detect the virus; your partner may be an asymptomatic carrier.”
Dr Bose’s advice for those without in-house partners is to completely refrain from physical intimacy.
“Those who don’t have in-house partners should just stick to phone or video sex.”
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)