Sex and Love in the Time of Coronavirus

sex and dating covid

 Verywell / Hugo Lin

The novel coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 has been quickly spreading around the world. In the United States, as well as in other countries, this has led to increasing calls to engage in social distancing practices. Many are wondering if it's safe to date and/or have sex during the coronavirus pandemic.

While COVID-19 is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, this is not a simple yes or no question. The level of risk will be different depending on a variety of factors, including whether:

  • You are trying to meet someone new.
  • You have an existing partner(s).
  • You live with your partner(s).
  • You and your partner(s) are able to generally avoid contacts outside your household(s).
  • You or your partner(s) are in a high-risk category.
  • You or your partner(s) have symptoms and/or have tested positive for COVID-19.

If You Have Symptoms

If you, someone you live with, or someone you are involved with has symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, including coughing, fever, or shortness of breath, you should take a timeout. No dating. No sex. Instead, you should call your doctor, ask if testing is appropriate, and figure out whether (and how) you should be seen.

You should try to stay away from other people, including other household members, and you should take appropriate precautions to minimize the risk of transmitting the illness to others. (If you have the flu or a cold, there is no downside to this. You're still trying to keep the rest of your household from getting sick.)

You should not go to the hospital, healthcare facilities, including clinics unless your doctor recommends it or you have symptoms that require immediate treatment.

Can Coronavirus Be Sexually Transmitted?

The question of whether COVID-19 is sexually transmitted is largely irrelevant to the risks of having sex with someone who is infected. Coronavirus is transmitted, among other ways, through droplet infection.

Secretions from the mouth (consisting of saliva and mucus) and nose can contain the virus. Even if you don't kiss the person you are having sex with, you are likely to be breathing closely together.

You are likely to be touching the same surfaces, which someone could have touched with soiled fingers. Therefore, it doesn't much matter if coronavirus can be transmitted through sex.

If you're close enough to have sex, you're close enough to be exposed to COVID-19 through other means.

That said, although it is too soon to have data on COVID-19, there is no evidence that previous types of coronavirus have been found in semen or vaginal secretions. However, different types of coronavirus have been found in different ranges of bodily fluid.

It's possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) could be found in other secretions, but the risk from being exposed to respiratory secretions is most urgent and clear.

Sex With an Existing Partner You Live With

The risk of sex in the time of coronavirus depends a lot on who you are having sex with. If you are currently living with someone and sharing a bed with them, it doesn't much matter if you're having sex. If one of you has COVID-19, the other will probably be exposed to it.

In China, transmission within households was a major source of new COVID-19 infections. Sex is unlikely to add any additional risk.

Therefore, if you two want to have sex, fears of coronavirus are not a good reason not to go for it. (This is assuming you are both asymptomatic. If one of you has symptoms, or tests positive, you should follow quarantine guidelines to reduce your risk as much as possible.)

Sex With an Existing Partner You Don't Live With

If you have an existing partner whom you don't live with, you start having to think about risk and social distancing. Assuming neither of you has symptoms, you can each figure out your own tolerance for risk based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Some communities, including Seattle and New York City, have separate guidelines.

If you decide to have sex, the risk of COVID-19 is mostly constrained to the two of you if:

  • You each live alone.
  • You are both working from home.
  • You are both avoiding social situations.
  • You are only dating each other.

The calculation will be very different than if you each have a bunch of roommates, or if one of you works in a crowded environment. It's different if one or both of you is interacting with a number of different people in close quarters. At that point, you need to start considering the fact that you are each taking on additional risk for everyone you are closely involved with.

The amount of risk will vary depending on how common COVID-19 is in your community. Until there is widespread testing, there is no way to be entirely certain where the virus is and where it isn't.

In an area implementing strong social distancing precautions (closing most or all public spaces, recommending staying at least 6 feet from others at all times), getting together for sex, or even a snuggle date, doesn't really fit the social distancing model. If you choose to do so anyway, you should be aware of how that choice can affect not just you but the most vulnerable people in your life.

It may be a good idea to consider phone or video dates and sex as an acceptable alternative to in-person hookups. Those are safe for everything, except possibly your phone bill.

Meeting New People

Pandemics are a great time to explore online dating—not just meeting, but actually dating online. Many communities have already closed down bars, restaurants, and other gathering places. More will soon be doing so.

Going out and meeting new people every night isn't a great idea in a society that is trying to limit the transmission of a very contagious virus. Instead, try hanging out on a video chat or sending long e-mails. Watch Netflix together from your own couches. Engage in sexy texting and look forward to when it is a reasonable choice to meet up and play in person.

If you decide that getting together is reasonable given the current status of the virus in your community, agree in advance to cancel if either of you has symptoms or a fever. Plan to cancel ahead of time if one of you has a known exposure to someone infected with or suspected of having COVID-19.

Follow the CDC's hygiene guidelines for reducing infection risk as well as any specific guidelines for your community.

It's normal for the current COVID-19 pandemic to make you feel lonely while social distancing. Being proactive about your mental health can help you keep both your mind and body stronger. Learn about the best online therapy options available to you.

What Types of Sex Are Safe?

Anything that falls under the umbrella term of "cybersex" can be a healthy option during COVID-19, especially for those who don't live together. This means sexual interactions are virtual and do not involve person-to-person physical contact. Examples include:

  • Sexting
  • Webcam/video sex
  • Teledildonics (connected sex toys that allow you to provide stimulation to a partner through the internet or an app)
  • Alternate reality and virtual reality sex
  • Pornography and erotica

A Word From Verywell

Social distancing is going to be hard for everyone. The ways in which it will be difficult will be different depending on who you are, how you live, and how you love. In this time, it's critical to do what you can to maintain your emotional health as well as your physical health.

For some people that means doing something good for their community. Others need to focus on distractions such as gaming or reading. Still others need to find ways to get their bodies moving—in isolation or at home.

Many need some form of touch. That's not a failure. It's just something to figure out how to accomplish as safely as possible. Keep informed. Think about risks. Then do what you can to manage those risks without losing your mind.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Niedrig M, Patel P, El wahed AA, Schädler R, Yactayo S. Find the right sample: A study on the versatility of saliva and urine samples for the diagnosis of emerging viruses. BMC Infect Dis. 2018;18(1):707. doi: 10.1186/s12879-018-3611-x

  2. Fan J, Liu X, Pan W, Douglas MW, Bao S. Epidemiology of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease-19 in Gansu Province, China, 2020. Emerging Infect Dis. 2020;26(6). doi: 10.3201/eid2606.200251

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seattle Community Mitigation. 2020.

Additional Reading
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronavirus (COVID-19).