Can the Coronavirus be Transmitted Through Sex?
March 16, 2020 by Justin Lehmiller
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has prompted a lot of questions, including many questions about exactly how this virus spreads. One that I’ve been hearing a lot about lately is whether it can be transmitted through sexual activity. Here’s what we do and don’t know.
There haven’t been any scientific studies as of yet to confirm whether the coronavirus is present in genital fluids, so the jury is still out on whether this virus can be transmitted through unprotected intercourse.
However, we do know that this virus appears in respiratory secretions, which suggests that other common intimate activities like kissing could potentially be an important route to transmission.
Of course, you don’t necessarily have to kiss someone in order to contract the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control, simply being in close contact with another person (defined as six feet or less) poses a potential transmission risk. And if you’re having sex with someone, odds are you’re probably less than six feet apart, so you do the math.
As a result, it’s worth considering a few precautions to minimize risk of coronavirus transmission in your intimate life until the pandemic calms down. These include the following:
- Follow guidance for social distancing for the time being. This means you should consider putting dating and casual sex on hold temporarily. Social distancing is the key to avoiding massive spreading of the virus and “flattening the curve.” The goal to to ensure we don’t get a huge spike in cases that completely overwhelms healthcare systems. I’m calling this “social dickstance” for now (of course, in the spirit of inclusivity, this means keeping distance from vulvas, too—I just haven’t thought of a clever name for that yet. Suggestions welcome!).
- Avoid sexual activity if you or your partner(s) are currently experiencing any signs or symptoms consistent with this infection (find a list of symptoms from the CDC here). However, keep in mind that this virus can potentially be spread even when people aren’t experiencing symptoms.
- Consider alternative forms of sexual expression during the pandemic that don’t necessarily involve close physical contact, especially if you’re part of a high-risk group (e.g., immunocompromised, over age 60). For example, sexting, cybersex, and phone sex are all ways of sexually engaging with a partner without posing any risk of infection from coronavirus (and STDs, too, obviously).
- Everyone would do well to remember that masturbation is always a healthy way to experience sexual fulfillment before, during, and after a pandemic.
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Dr. Justin LehmillerFounder & Owner of Sex and Psychology
Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.Read full bio >