After months of chilling and watching Netflix, you’re ready to Netflix and Chill, eggplant emoji-style. But knowing how to have a one-night stand safely amid a global pandemic wasn’t exactly covered in your high school sex-ed class. Whether you’re feeling the heat with a Tinder flame or decide to get it on with an old crush, quarantine hookups just hit different. (As in, there are a few extra factors to consider before hitting and quitting.)
From talking about risk levels to checking in with your roommates, here are five ways to make your quarantine coitus a little safer.
1. Be Picky With Your Partners
Amid coronavirus concerns, health experts say that it’s safer for you (and your dates) to be selective about who you’re getting frisky with, which means limiting the number of sexual partners you have and only hooking up with people that you can openly communicate with.
“The real question is who you’re sleeping with,” Dr. Jessica A. Shepherd, M.D., OB/GYN, tells Bustle. “We have responsibly to know who that person might be and what their exposure is. From there, you take on the caution as a responsible human.”
If you know your date and trust that they’ve been cautious, you can likely assume they’re in a lower risk bracket. However, Dr. Shepherd says that linking up with someone new can put you both at a higher risk for contracting the virus.
“You start to take more risk when you don’t know the person and don’t know what they’ve been exposed to,” Dr. Shepherd says. “That’s where it goes into taking precaution and assuming that risk, without saying you can’t sleep with that person.”
If you’re sticking to virtual one-night stands, you and your date(s) can entirely cut off contact after getting it on. But if you’re deadset on meeting people in-person, ensure that your date is a good communicator.
“As transparent people and reasonable adults, we need to be OK with sharing the risk of exposure to protect other people,” Dr. Shepherd says. “Right now is a time to learn some great lessons about how to communicate with other people.”
2. Ask Questions
As with any sexual encounter, it’s imperative to discuss consent and boundaries throughout your hookup. And during a pandemic, discussing consent can also look like being honest about exposure to the virus.
“Just like with STIs, the most important thing is open communication,” Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, One Medical provider and family physician, tells Bustle. “If one person knowingly has COVID-19, but does not disclose to their partner, this violates the partner’s ability to consent.”
Before having sex, it’s imperative to ask your date about their status and risk factors. Have they been wearing a mask? Have they been around anyone who tested positive for the virus? According to Dr. Bhuyan, someone who has been going out to bars and parties has a different risk profile than someone who lives alone and works at home.
“It’s OK to ask who they’ve seen in person the last couple of weeks and their safety measures,” Jaclyn Lopez Witmer, a licensed clinical psychologist at Therapy Group of NYC, tells Bustle. “Your date may not be as cautious as you’ve been, or they may be more cautious and have their own concerns. Everyone has a different situation and different level of comfort.”
If you really want to meet in person, Witmer suggests creating a two-week safety plan before meeting up, where you both limit outside contact for 14 days.
3. Communicate Your Intentions
“It’s essential to discuss consent, but I would also emphasize the importance of intent,” Dr. Christopher Ryan Jones, sex and relationship therapist and host of Sex Therapy with Dr. Jones, tells Bustle. “Making sure the two of you are on the same page could resolve a lot of problems later on.”
Will you talk at all after the hookup? Are you going to spend the night? Did you tell your roommates? According to Dr. Jones, you and your date need to be clear about your intentions going into the hookup. Amid a pandemic, this communication is even more critical. Because it’s so easy to get swept up in the heat of the moment, discussing your comfort levels before you meet up can set healthy parameters for the date.
“Give them the information that they need to make informed decisions,” Dr. Jones says. “Communicating openly and effetely makes you both aware of your potential risk factors for contracting the virus.
4. Have A Plan
Before the pandemic, your pre-hookup routine may have included doing hair and kicking all your dirty clothes under your bed. But dating amid COVID-19 concerns demands extra preparation.
“If you live with roommates, you should notify them anytime if you are planning to meet someone or bring someone home,” Dr. Bhuyan says. “Also, make sure to sanitize surfaces, sex toys, and any other go-to accessories with a disinfectant both before and after you, get it on.”
From washing your sheets to wiping down any tables or surfaces, Dr. Bhuyan suggests being proactive about sanitizing. You and your date should have a post-sex plan in place. If one or both of you test positive for COVID or start showing symptoms soon after the hookup, you need to alert the other as well as your roommates and close contacts.
“Anytime you expand your social bubble, you are increasing your risk for COVID-19,” Dr. Bhuyan says. “It’s important to monitor yourself for any symptoms, including fevers, chills, shortness of breath, or cough.”
5. Accept The Risks Involved
Not to sound like the gym teacher from Mean Girls, but having sex at any time, with anyone, does come with some inherent risk. While it’s important to be mindful of someone’s COVID risk factors (in addition to the usual contraceptives, barrier methods, STI status, and consent), Dr. Jones says it’s also imperative to be aware of the potential consequences of a one-night stand — especially during the pandemic.
“You and only you can decide what risk you are willing to take,” Dr. Jones says. “Intimacy and human connection are vital for human survival. We must make personal connections, but during these times, we must do so wisely and safely.”
Dr. Jessica A. Shepherd, M.D., OB/GYN
Dr. Christopher Ryan Jones, relationship and sex therapist, and host of ‘Sex Therapy with Dr. Jones’
Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, One Medical provider and regional director
Jaclyn Lopez Witmer, licensed clinical psychologist at Therapy Group of NYC
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