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Life skills: How to decide if you should have sex with someone you don't live with during the pandemic

By Hannah Herrera Greenspan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Dating Advice

Q: With stay-at-home orders lifting in some areas, how can you have safe sex with someone outside of your home during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: If you are thinking of having sex with someone you know or someone you have been in a relationship with, and you trust that this person has practiced social distancing and hand-washing, then great, go for it.

If it's someone you don't know, such as someone you've met on a dating app, I don't think so. The days of the one-night stand are over because of the coronavirus. I think now is the time to get to really know someone before you go home together. Again, this is a huge leap of trust you are making with someone you barely know.

Any healthy relationship needs safety, trust and emotional intimacy before physical intimacy. Emotional intimacy is talking and sharing, which you can still practice virtually or from a distance. Try talking on the phone, having a Zoom call or sitting outside together at least 6 feet apart.

During this time, you really need to know whom you are sleeping with. It's not just a certain age demographic getting COVID-19; it affects everyone. You aren't just putting yourself at risk for a sexually transmitted illness, but also for a deadly virus. You can't tell by looking at people if they have coronavirus. They might not show symptoms but could still be a carrier.

Despite how much fun sex is, before there is a vaccine, it's not worth your life.

- Michele Day, licensed clinical social worker, certified sex addiction therapist and executive director of Chicago Center for Sexual Wellbeing

A: This time offers an invitation for people to think deeper about why they are having sex, what they are getting from it, and whether that benefit is worth the risk. In fact, there is always a risk when we have sex, especially when we do so casually and with multiple partners, so now is a good time to bring more thoughtfulness and intention to your sexual decisions.

 

For instance, let's say you meet a Tinder date for a hookup. Is a one-night stand really worth the risk of exposure? What am I really seeking? Is it connection, release, validation, company or just the comfort of not being alone? Are there other ways I can get my needs met that won't put me at risk? And can you still meet some of those above-listed needs if you put physical intimacy to the side for a while and just focus on building an actual emotional connection with someone on a virtual and openhearted level? You can still meet your own sexual needs by yourself while enjoying emotional intimacy that is also sustaining and fulfilling.

If you decide the risk of a casual encounter is worth the benefit to you, then be sure to inquire about your date's travel, health, job and whether anyone your date knows has tested positive for COVID-19.

If you're meeting up with a boyfriend or girlfriend (as opposed to a hookup), you likely already know the risk your partner has of being infected with the coronavirus.

Although some may balk at the idea, wearing a mask during sex could be a good idea, especially if you are high-risk or your partner is high-risk, or if you or your partner haven't been social distancing or strictly wearing masks, or if you simply don't know your partner that well and what your partner's exposure risk is. Until we understand this virus better, enjoy sex at a distance (such as via sexting). Wait to have sex with someone you know is virus-free, and even better, someone with whom you have built a real, lasting connection.

- Dr. Laura Berman, sex therapist, host of "Uncovered Radio with Dr. Laura Berman" and author of "For Women Only, Revised Edition: A Revolutionary Guide to Reclaiming Your Sex Life"

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