Masks and glory holes: The future of sex?

Experts suggest getting "creative" with face coverings and barriers to stem the spread of COVID-19


Coronavirus sex safety has been a growing concern as our collective pandemic thirst ratchets up to near-unsustainable levels. Now that lockdown measures are beginning to lift, the public health field is beginning to reckon with what a compromise between physical distancing and physical gratification might look like.

With the bulk of physical distancing measures relying on stemming the spread of COVID-19 through respiratory droplets, doctors and public health boards are suggesting some fairly novel ways to avoid spreading the virus.

A new study by three Harvard doctors, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, suggests that people should wear masks and avoid kissing during sex.

While the authors maintain abstinence is still the safest way to avoid getting the virus, they also admit that’s not realistic – and add that adopting a mindset that equates sex to danger could have “insidious psychological effects at a time when people are especially susceptible to mental health difficulties.”

To mitigate risk, they suggest keeping the number of partners to a minimum and avoiding people who show symptoms of COVID. They also suggest that people who have sex with partners outside of their home should shower before and after, avoid sex acts that involve the oral transmission of bodily fluids, and clean afterward with soap or alcohol wipes.

Meanwhile, the New York City Health Department – who famously issued guidelines that read “you are your safest sex partner” at the start of the pandemic – are now imagining what safe sex guidelines that allow for COVID prevention would look like.

Their most recently issued guidelines echoes other findings that state the likelihood of COVID-19 being sexually transmitted is low, and state that “people will and should have sex” during this extended public health crisis. “Consider using harm reduction strategies to reduce the risk to yourself, your partners, and our community.”

The NYC health department took the step of suggesting guidelines for group sex and orgies, including limiting the size of gatherings, going with a consistent sex partner, choosing well-ventilated areas, and – yes – wearing a mask.

“Maybe it’s your thing, maybe it’s not, but during COVID-19, wearing a face covering that covers your nose and mouth is a good way to add a layer of protection during sex. Heavy breathing and panting can spread the virus further, and if you or your partner have COVID-19 and don’t know it, a mask can help stop that spread.”

Also present was this tip for alternate barriers during sex: “Make it a little kinky. Be creative with sexual positions and physical barriers, like walls, that allow sexual contact while preventing close face to face contact.”

“Glory holes as public health apparatus,” Atlantic writer Amanda Mull tweeted today in semi-disbelief after reading the document. (And so sayeth we all.)

@nataliamanzocco

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