Will we ever get to have sex again?
If you’re reading this, I hope you’re doing well.
The world is a different place from the one we found ourselves in a week ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic reached its tipping point in America, dramatically altering life as we know it for the foreseeable future. We’ve become more of our primal selves, fighting for our survival in the most literal sense.
With the risk of infection being high, many cities around the country are enforcing strict rules for social distancing and even self-quarantine, and many are talking about the huge economic recession that is already underway. Less attention has been paid to another aspect of social distancing: sex.
In a world where health officials are demanding we keep six feet of distance, sharing a bed with someone is out, though some people seem to be in denial about it; according to the dating app OKCupid, a whopping 88% of people surveyed globally say they’re still dating during the outbreak.
That should alarm everyone. If shaking hands is considered dangerous, then kissing is downright anathema. Even the most benign date would likely break all of the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 prevention rules. And what happens to couples who don’t live together? Should they take a grace period of two weeks to see if symptoms arise and wait to get tested before seeing each other?
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The truth is, sexual relationships will be profoundly impacted by life under the pandemic. It might not seem like the most pressing issue compared to the upward spiral of death and the downward spiral of the economy, but for many it’s a risk factor they haven’t given much thought and is getting little to no attention.
This is going to be hard for people to accept, but if distance is what keeps us safe in this crisis, then all logic points to avoiding sex and in-person dating until the virus passes — which could be months.
In the age of coronavirus, there is no longer such thing as safe sex.
If physical intimacy is out of the picture for people who don’t live with their partners, what type of intimacy is left? People are going to have to get creative — with their devices. Because despite the risk of dating, there is one benefit to dating apps could be powerful at a time of physical isolation: It’s a platform for remote social connection.
Conversations on dating apps are often rife with superficiality, but one toll social isolation can take is on people’s mental health. While public meetings are discouraged for the time being, having a platform for people to engage in even the smallest of small talk could be enough to save lives in its own way. And of course, there are other ways to enjoy someone’s company on some dating apps!
It’s crucial that we are vigilant at this time. Earlier this month, the National LGBTQ Task Force held their annual Winter Party Festival — a fundraiser that drew 10,000 people to Miami. Pictures of the event show a sea of shirtless men partying at an outdoor rave. It’s a scene that a few months ago could have been very appealing to someone like me, but now draws fear, and disgust.
Despite practicing stepped-up hygiene with hand sanitizer and a moratorium on hand-shaking, an attendee at Miami Beach’s Winter Party Festival tested positive for #COVID19, according to the National #LGBTQ Task Force https://t.co/4Wdldyk5VC
— Tell It Like It Is! (@Jeres_Rant) March 17, 2020
As anyone could have been predicted, the party resulted in several confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The LGBTQ community has been trained to think about safety and transmission ever since the AIDS epidemic, when there was virtually no understanding, no support, and utter fear and stigma. It’s made a difference. Yet now, it feels like some of that is being disregarded because COVID is viewed as something harmless.
It’s not. Not all intimacy has to be lost, but people’s behaviors must change to preserve safety.
It’s tragic that something as natural to our being as love and passion can be the vehicle for our own destruction. While we should caution against blaming victims for acquiring the virus (like so many did during the AIDS crisis), it’s vital to call out dangerous activity that is easily preventable. How irresponsible to cluster in the thousands at an event specifically geared towards socialization and close contact!
Our consciousness must shift from one of self-indulgence to one of safety and pragmatism and perhaps most of all compassion. Our compassion for others does not have to deplete our sense of our own liberation if we redefine what it means to be free.
Peter Fox is a writer who focuses on the intersection of LGBTQ identity and Jewish world politics. His writing has been featured in The Jerusalem Post, The Advocate, and Tablet Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @thatpeterfox.