How to Have Safe and Satisfying Sex During the COVID-19 Pandemic


In the best of times, sex can be complicated, but in a pandemic, even more so. With mandatory social distancing and mask wearing, accompanied by excessive hand washing, acts of intimacy come with their own set of new rules, too.

Experts have learned a lot about COVID-19 since stay-at-home orders first hit the United States last spring. During that time, health officials in New York City, Washington DC, and elsewhere released guidelines on how to have safe sex during the pandemic. 

Although widespread vaccination is under way, these new guidelines regarding safe sex are unlikely to go away anytime soon, since no one actually knows when the pandemic will officially come to an end. As experts continue to learn more about the novel coronavirus and its variants, the advice they give may change. Here’s what experts want you to know about safe sex and the pandemic right now.

Your Sex Life and Healthy Sexual Activity Remain Critically Important

A survey conducted during the early stages of the pandemic, published in June 2020 in the journal Leisure Sciences, found that nearly half of online survey participants reported a decline in how much sex they were having compared with their prepandemic sex lives.

Not only is sex a great workout, safe and consensual sex can help us feel relaxed, ease anxiety and tension in the body, act as a natural sleep aid, and cause the brain to release hormones, including endorphins (the body’s natural uppers) and oxytocin (the so-called love hormone), says Shannon Chavez, PsyD, a sex therapist based in Beverly Hills, California.

“That chemical is what makes us desire cuddling even after sex,” explains Dr. Chavez, adding that this flood of hormones can also create a bond that triggers feelings of safety.

“Any physical connection, especially a 20-second hug or a lingering kiss that lasts around 10 seconds can also release those same feel-good chemicals,” says Chavez. During these stressful and uncertain times, we could all benefit from mood-boosting experiences, she notes.

“We have to acknowledge that skin hunger is real,” says Sara C. Flowers, DrPH, vice president of education at Planned Parenthood. “Our needs haven’t changed during the pandemic, just the way we meet those needs.”


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