Since the lifting of lockdown, casual sex has been making a come back, sex parties are alive and kicking, and overall hot girl summer has transitioned into a horny autumn (let’s make it happen, Gretchen). And there are ways you can lessen the likelihood of catching Covid-19 and still maintain a healthy sex life during this period… so read on to find out how!
💊 This article has been fact-checked by Leslie, Nurse Practitioner, a working medical professional.
Can you catch Covid through sex?
Well, yes but it’s not strictly sexually transmitted. Covid-19 spreads through things like virus particles in saliva, mucus or the breath of those who are infected. And it’s also been discovered in both semen and faeces, but is not a super common way for it to spread. That does mean that those who are engaging with penises, through blow jobs, and exploring anal play such as rimming could potentially also be at risk of catching Covid-19 through sex.
Much more research still needs to be done into whether Covid can actually be transmitted sexually. So far, it has very rarely been discovered in vaginal fluids. Of course the obvious thing to consider is that sex is pretty heavy on the old physical contact front, which poses a risk of Covid for all kinds of bodies when engaging in sex acts, regardless of whether the virus can be transmitted specifically sexually or not. And if someone is meant to be self isolating, that means no physical contact – sleeping separately, no hugging, kissing and obviously ah, no sex.
Covid safe sex practices
We’ve gotta say, it’s generally not recommended you have sex if you have Covid (unless you share a household with someone and they’re aware of the risks), as naturally the likelihood of passing on the infection is quite high due to contact with respiratory droplets through kissing, touching, holding/sharing sex toys and other related acts. A sexual partner could also catch the virus by touching surfaces with Covid-19 droplets and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes. However, the risk of infection through contact with contaminated surfaces is pretty low. The other thing to keep in mind is that even if you don’t have symptoms you could also still be a carrier of the virus. If you or your sexual partner/s have had any symptoms over the last two weeks, perhaps carry out an rapid antigen test, just to be on the safe side.
Sex tips, if you’re going to do it anyway…!
If you’ve decided that yes, you’re going to have sex and may have Covid or could potentially be intimate with someone that might have it, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of catching Covid-19 or passing it on.
The main thing you can do is test and communicate about your health statuses, especially if any of you have any symptoms. This means that all parties can know their relative risks and consent to the sexual encounter. Also, consider those you may house share with, or those who may require extra precautions in your life as you organise your sexy times. For instance, your partner may have gone to a large gathering indoors, but you might live with someone who requires you to take extra precautions due to their health – perhaps wait until the negative test comes back before jumping in.
If you can, stick to a regular partner or limit the number of people you are having sex with – especially noting any new symptoms you may be experiencing and testing in between partners. This is the easiest way to mitigate the risk of becoming infected, and or infecting someone else. Regular testing, especially between partners, is also great ways to reduce the risk of STIs as well.
Other things you can try to reduce the risk of catching Covid would be to avoid kissing (which we know might sound kind of odd) or even potentially consider wearing a face mask and favour non face-to-face sex positions. Definitely make use of condoms and dental dams for any kind of oral sex too. Vaccination is also a good tactic for reducing transmission, as well as protecting yourself from more severe disease if you do happen to catch Covid-19.
And finally, before or after sex, wash your hands and any toys for more than 20 seconds, this could make a quite a difference to preventing the spread of Covid-19 in a sexual scenario.
How soon can you have sex after Covid?
The question on everyone’s lips! Well, once the following three things have happened after contracting Covid, it’s considered pretty safe for you to have sex:
- You have not had a fever for three full days or needed to take any kind of medication that reduces fevers
- Other symptoms (dry cough, shortness of breath, loss of smell/ taste) have improved
- 10 days have passed after symptoms first began
Interestingly, in recent studies, Covid has seems to have lowered sex drive in some patients. So, if you’ve recently contracted Covid-19 and are feeling like your sex drive has taken a bit of a hit, that may be why! There are also studies that are beginning to show that Covid-19 can be associated with erectile dysfunction and decreased fertility, although research on this is currently too scant to make any assertions about cause. Certainly, Long Covid (as with many similar chronic illnesses) can be related to complex mood issues including anxiety and depression, which in turn often affect sex drive and function.
Sexual health more generally
Now, it’s easy to hyper focus on all the Covid shenanigans. Don’t forget about the other aspects which you need to consider to carry out safe sex, including mitigating the risk of STIs and pregnancy! Check out our handy guide to which condoms or contraception you should be using here.
Also, make sure you’re still getting checked regularly for STIs. Generally, the recommendation if you’re sexually active is to get tested everytime you change partners. Failing that, it’s good practice to get checked probably around once a year or if you ever develop new symptoms. Remember, some STIs can sometimes show no symptoms at all, and can lead to infertility and other severe problems if not caught and treated.
So, to summarise, can you have sex with Covid-19? Or have sex with someone you suspect of having the virus? Officially, no is definitely the safest answer. Waiting for symptoms to disappear (after 10 days at least), is the closest, sure-fire way of ensuring you do not contract Covid-19. However, if you’re feeling particularly horny, or there is a time pressure on having sex with someone, there are things you can do to mitigate the risk of catching or spreading Covid-19.
Just to reiterate: Covid has not been proven to be sexually transmitted, but many acts of sex naturally involve physical contact and the exchanging of fluids, and so could lead to becoming unwell with Coronavirus. It’s a risk which every individual needs to weigh up for themselves, and particularly keep in mind if someone is vulnerable or more prone to contracting long Covid due to their health history. So, go out and get to it (but sensibly and considerately!)
Tiffany Black (she/her) is a writer and comedian based in London. She loves love, but please don’t make her say it out loud. Currently, writing a one woman show in development for the Edinburgh Fringe 2023. The creator of 40 days and 40 nights un/satisfied, she writes on love, food, sex and power and also works as a brand and strategy consultant in tech (you know, to make actual money). Reach out to flirt, commission her, or to help you give your brand an actual personality. At the moment, she’s open to everything. In a really feminist way though, ok.
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