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Intimacy Tips During COVID-19

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Social distancing does not have to mean no intimacy allowed.

Reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus with these intimacy tips recommended by sex and health experts at Indiana University.


A Health and Wellness news release from Indiana University, Bloomington tells us that in spite of fears that maintaining an intimate relationship may seem impossible, IU sex and health experts—Justin Garcia, executive director of the Kinsey Institute and Debby Herbenick, professor of sexual and reproductive health—say that you can be both intimate and relatively safe from the coronavirus if you practice the following tips summarized below to reduce the risks involved.

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Tip #1: Consent—Talk it out before acting it out

The experts advise that even with just kissing, it is important to make sure that you are both on the same page before engaging in intimate acts.

"Issues of communication and consent are always important to intimate relationships, and remain especially high when many people's comfort levels and concerns around touch and close contact have changed," Garcia said. "People are stressed and probably less sure about what their partners are comfortable with and want."

Tip #2: Truthiness—Be honest about your COVID and “other” risks

• If you are symptomatic—get tested.
• If you've been exposed—get tested.
• Be open about your recent exposures and test results.

"It's also important to remember that COVID-19 is not the only relevant infection when it comes to partnered sex," Herbenick said. "Sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea have been increasing each year, so make sure to use condoms, talk with partners about STI testing and get tested yourself."

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Tip #3: Quaran-teaming—stick to your partner, not others.

Research has shown that the more you spread yourself around others (who are likewise spreading themselves among others) is the cause of recent spikes of COVID-19 outbreaks. The only safety in numbers is the number “two” and not just for avoiding the coronavirus, but STDs as well.

"If the partners involved have tested negative for COVID-19 and are 'quaran-teaming' together, then that's the safest situation to be in," Herbenick said. "But any time one or more of them elevate their risk—such as not wearing a mask around others or being in crowded indoor spaces—then risk is elevated for all partners involved the next time they are within 6 feet of one another unmasked, or if they kiss or cuddle or get in one another's 'breathing space.'"

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"There is some evidence that the coronavirus may be present in semen and feces; thus, condom use is still recommended for penile-vaginal intercourse and anal intercourse," Herbenick said. "But considering these are close contact activities anyway, if people are that close together, they are likely already at elevated risk."

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Tip #4: Sexting—screen-based intimacy is an option.

The experts say that sexting, video-dating, and the likes can offer both intimacy and safe distancing. However, be aware that what you share digitally could easily become another type of viral problem.

"The other person may share your nude or sexy images with others without your consent," Herbenick said. "Indiana has laws that provide criminal and civil recourse for people whose images are shared without their consent."

Tip #5: Patience—not only a virtue, but has a silver lining when taking relationships slow.

Getting to know someone from a distance has value because it can slow down the dating and mating game as you discover more about one another with online "dates" such as touring virtual museum exhibits or sharing a meal while streaming movies online.

However, Dr. Herbenick also reminds us that it doesn’t have to be all through a screen as couples can also meet outdoors, stay masked and maintain safe physical distancing while taking a walk or hiking.

"Many students are finding the silver lining in the ways that the pandemic is slowing down the pace of connecting with others," she said.

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Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Today, with an eye on the latest news, Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on what you need to know for healthier living. For continual updates about health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.

Image Source: Courtesy of Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Reference: “5 tips on intimacy during COVID-19 pandemic, from IU sex and health experts” Indiana University, News at IU Bloomington by Mary Keck, 14 Oct. 2020.