How to navigate sex safely during COVID-19 times

by Erin Brandt

Unsurprisingly, a highly contagious and debilitating virus is still actively storming through our communities, making it difficult to touch others — nevermind actually getting to have sex. What the hell is a person to do for the foreseeable future for sex?! How does one navigate health and safety with very real physical and emotional needs? This reminds me so much of what it is like navigating sexual interactions when a person has a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

So what is a horny person to do? At the beginning of any sexual relationship, you should be talking about STIs and agreeing to get tested before exchanging fluids. You may agree that protection like condoms, female condoms, and/or dental dams are necessary. You share your STI status with partners and talk about ways to safely pleasure each other without passing on an STI. All of these points hold true for COVID-19.

You’ll want to talk about your status — had it previously, positive, negative, or quarantining due to exposure. Do you wear masks? Do you agree to not kiss or engage in anal play? Note: COVID-19 is highly transmittable through saliva, mucous, and fecal matter. If this feels like too much for you to navigate then you shouldn’t be having sex. Same goes for conversations about STIs. If you are going to be sexually active you need to be responsible enough to talk about health and safety.

I want to yell “DUH” right here but I’m trying to remember that positive, comprehensive sex ed has not been and is still not accessible in this fucking country.

Right now finding safe people to have sex with is one step in the process to getting laid. You are your safest partner so masturbation is the safest option at the moment. Virtual sex via phone, video, or text is safe physically but may present some emotional hurdles and privacy concerns. Finally, finding people in your life that you can trust to meet your sexual needs and honestly navigate COVID-19 sex is, for this column, the least safe option. However, depending on your lovers and the safety steps you all take this may actually be quite safe sex.

I am not going to talk about hooking up and sex with strangers in this column. One, I’m not recommending it, and two, it’s a whole ‘nother bag o’ worms.

So let’s look at sexual choices:

• Ex Sex

• Friends with benefits

• Online sex

• Masturbation

• Celibacy

Sexual Choice #1Sex with your ex(es) may be the last thing you want to do, especially if they were terrible to you or you were terrible to them. Sometimes. though, sexual relationships end for reasons other than bad behavior. Maybe one of you wanted to make babies, live somewhere else, wanted to stop partying all the time, wanted to travel — whatever the reason, you may have parted ways amicably. There’s a chance that you share values and this could be a safe space for having sexual needs met!

Ex Sex does require communication upfront, an agreement of sorts. You all agree that past decisions still stand and that you all are not rekindling a relationship, rather everyone involved is just using each other for sex. With enthusiastic consent, let the sex begin!

Sexual Choice #2Friends with benefits is similar to Ex Sex. There’s an agreement that the friendship comes first and that no one is looking for a romantic relationship. FWBs can be difficult to navigate because there is almost always an emotional relationship between friends. Emotional relationships can blur into romantic feelings easily. Communication is your best tool here to ensure that the friendship can survive all the sex you are having.

Set expectations. Come up with a plan in case romantic feelings begin to show up. Identify all the reasons you are friends and post that above the beds you are having sex in (or somewhere you’ll see it regularly).

Sexual Choice #3I wrote about online sex back in April (500 years ago *sigh*) and everything from those columns still holds true.

Find a safe online space for video chats (i.e. where you’ll be staring at each other’s bodies while you touch yourselves) – Zoom, Facebook Messenger, and Google Hangouts are probably not the best platforms.

• Don’t record anything unless you all agree

• Ask for consent before sending nude photos

• Know that once something is on the internet it lives forever

Yes, it is new and scary but it could also be sexy and hot hot hot!

Sexual Choice #4MASTURBATION! Touch yourself whenever and wherever! If you are able to work from home, you can take a 5-minute masturbation break in between Zoom meetings. Coming home from a long day working and wearing a mask all day, play with your genitals in the shower or bath to orgasm the stress away.

Is it your day off? Taking a vacation day? Looking for a job and have more downtime than you’d like? Pass the time by masturbating in every room of your home.

Do you normally use your hands to masturbate? Try using a toy or a pillow or the removable shower head.

Sexual Choice #5Celibacy has a bad rap. It is often associated with religions that carry some strict and negative views of sex. Also, it is seen as only relevant to those of us humans who are deemed unable to secure a date on looks alone. Celibacy is for everyone and anyone! Throw the judgment and exclusionary siloing in the trash. Be your own person and do what feels/is best for you.

Celibacy is a conscious decision to put on hold your physical, sexual needs for any amount of time. It is an intentional refocusing of sexual energy into other areas of your life. It is not about denying your sexual nature, rather it is fully embracing the control you can have on your sexual needs.

HomeworkYou are in control of your sexual choices and making one choice doesn’t mean it can’t change tomorrow, next week, or in ten years. Sexual needs are fluid and changeable. Right now there is more going on in the world around us than we’ve seen in our lifetimes. It is ok to take a moment and think about what is really important to you and find new or different ways to have your needs met. Ask for consent, always.


Moving forward I will use space in every column to highlight a racial justice organization or resource that we all can support or learn from. This is meant to bring awareness and change to Durango, this state, and this country. Please support however you are able, Fair Fight — — which brings awareness to the public on election reform, advocates for election reform at all levels, and engages in other voter education programs and communications. Fair Fight was started by Stacey Abrams to address voter suppression of voters of color and young voters. You can donate, join as a volunteer, check out their career opportunities, and amplify their message on social media.

Erin Brandt (she/her/hers) has been a sexologist for 15 years. When she’s not spreading sexual knowledge, Erin can be found learning from her child, hiking with her partner, cuddling with her pitbull, knitting with her cat, dancing with friends, and searching for the nearest hammock and ocean breeze. Want more? Visit


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