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. As social distancing practices ease, many are wondering if it's safe to date 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.
  • 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 not go to the hospital or other healthcare facilities, including clinics, unless your doctor recommends it. However, if you have symptoms that require immediate treatment, call 911 and inform the dispatcher you may be experiencing symptoms related to Covid-19.

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 it turns out you have the flu or a cold, rather than Covid-19, there is no downside to this: you'll still be helping to keep the rest of your household from getting sick.

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. As a result, even if you don't kiss the person you are having sex with, you are likely to be breathing closely together.

You are also 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.

That said, although the COVID-19 virus has been found in semen, there is no evidence to date that it is transmitted by semen or vaginal secretions. In addition, other types of coronavirus have been found in a range of bodily fluids.

Overall, the risk from being exposed to respiratory secretions is most urgent and clear—and that's unavoidable when you're physically intimate with someone.

Sex With an Existing Partner You Live With

The risk of sex in the time of coronavirus depends a lot on whom 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 will have 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. Many communities, including Seattle and New York City, have also published separate guidelines for sex and dating.

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.

However, risk calculations will be very different 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 that will be passed on to 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 many indoor 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 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 closed down bars, restaurants, and other gathering places. While some public spaces are reopening, a resurgence in virus transmission may still result in changes at any time.

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 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 be intimate in person. Or plan a socially distanced hike together—it's safest to meet in uncrowded areas outdoors, where there's more air circulation.

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 that 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 hard for everyone. The ways in which it is difficult will differ 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.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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3 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).