To Do or Not to Do – That is the Question
By Anura Pareek
Imagine this: Lately, you and your partner have been extremely busy with work. Both of you have been putting in those extra hours, making those monies and earning them all – roti, kapda and makaan. However, somewhere in the middle of the grind, both of you are losing out on quality time together and could really use a break. Then boom, in the middle of it all, both of you get to work from home for an indefinite period and you couldn’t be more grateful for it.
Well, all of this did happen to a lot of couples worldwide, except, the picture is far from being as hunky dory as it looks – all credits to the COVID-19 pandemic for playing spoilsport.
Being stuck in the house with your partner with nowhere to go might sound dreamy (cue Hum Tum Ek Kamre Mei Band Ho in the background), but as the global lockdown progressively feels like infinity due to the coronavirus pandemic, uncertainty of the future, anxiety over the next pay-check coupled with the abundance of news of rising death tolls and State failure in curtailing the spread of the virus coming in, staying at home has become more stressful than ever before.
While we look for escape mechanisms and stress busters, some of you might be wondering – is it even safe to have sex? Read on my friend, as we attempt to break through the hush-hush around intimacy during quarantine.
What do we know?
Let’s get some basic facts about COVID-19 and its transmission right – as far as we know, the virus causes respiratory diseases. The modes of transmission have been found to be droplets sprayed from the nose while sneezing, coughing, breathing or talking and through faecal matter. No evidence has been found yet that hints at sexual transmission of the disease.
Arguably, these aren’t sexy times. Some might ask, why would anyone want to have sex during this tumultuous period? Well, fair question. Depression and anxiety are known to have a negative effect on libido, and the general atmosphere of uncertainty, stress and rising job insecurity surely aren’t helping. However, trauma can push people to indulge in risky sexual practices (fatalism, if you will). That’s exactly what one needs to avoid at all costs.
What are safe sexual practices then?
For starters, your safest sexual partner is you, yourself. Yes, it’s exactly what you think it is. Masturbating is proven to have several health benefits. You can use sex toys to enhance the experience, however make sure to clean them well before and after use and if you have been sharing them with someone, the best practice would be to wait for 72 hours before using them.
Next in order on the list of safe sexual partners is, the Household Sexual Partner (HSP), someone who has been living with you since the outbreak of the virus. Having close contact with a small circle of people only, helps in preventing the spread of the virus. And remember, proceed with the act only and only if there is a resounding, enthusiastic yes from all people involved! (all One Day at a Time fans in the house, give me a cheer!) Added precautions are to avoid or limit kissing (putting a check on saliva exchange) and rimming (mouth to anus). Condoms and dental dams can help to reduce contact with saliva and faeces.
However, if your partner or you have to be out in the open, as front line workers or for other work commitments, please avoid sexual interaction as a measure of protecting your partner from getting infected.
It is highly recommended to avoid having sexual contact with anyone from outside of your household. If you are in a long distance relationship (sigh), or usually meet sexual partners online, then allow technology to come to your rescue. Sexting, video and phone sex are alternate (and safe) options in the times of coronavirus – provided consent and technical precautions are in line.
What about STIs, contraception and family planning?
While coronavirus might not transmit sexually, there is still a high risk of STI transmission. Using a condom helps in prevention of STIs. As for birth control, if you are on short-acting contraceptives, make sure that you have enough supply. On the other hand, if you are on long-acting contraceptives, such as IUD, make sure that you don’t have a hospital visit scheduled or an urgent need to get it changed within the next month. Please stay in contact with your healthcare provider for the same.
A word of caution: sexual health services might get disrupted because of the pandemic, including the supply of condoms and other contraceptives. However, do not panic and keep in touch with your provider.
Don’t give up on intimacy… yet
As we enter the new normal, couples might be busy adjusting to the altered routines. Amidst all the chaos, they might need intimacy more than ever before, both physical and emotional. While some people’s reaction to the current situation might result into them losing all or a large chunk of their sex drive, for others it might be heightened more than ever. The difference in level of desire can lead to conflict.
Therefore, what is most important is to express. Talk about what you are feeling, confide in your partner your fears, your worries. Talk to them about how you want them to be there for you in these difficult times and listen to them when they open up. And remember, intimacy can mean different things to different people, and feeling emotionally close and supported by your loved ones can go a long way in making this tough time bearable for all of us.