Sex and Love in the Time of Coronavirus

 Verywell / Hugo Lin

The novel coronavirus that's responsible for COVID-19 quickly spread around the world in March and April 2020. As social distancing practices ease, the virus remains part of the community, and many are wondering if it's safe to date or to have sex.

While COVID-19 is spread from person to person, it is not sexually transmitted.

The level of risk when it comes to dating depends 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) 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.
  • You or your partner(s) have been vaccinated.

If You Have Symptoms

If you, someone you live with, or someone you are involved with has symptoms that could be due to COVID-19, including coughing, fever, or shortness of breath, you should take a timeout. No dating. No sex.

What to do if you have symptoms:

  • 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 unless your doctor recommends it.
  • If you have symptoms that require immediate treatment, call 911 and inform the dispatcher that you may be experiencing symptoms related to Covid-19.

You should try to stay away from other people, including other household members, and 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?

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 also likely to be touching the same surface.

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

Exposure to an Existing Partner You Live With

If you and your partner want to have sex, fears of coronavirus are not a good reason to avoid it if you both do not have COVID and have not been exposed to it.

If you are currently living with someone and sharing a bed with them, if one of you has COVID-19, the other will probably be exposed to it.

If one of you has symptoms, or tests positive, you should follow quarantine guidelines to reduce your risk of spreading it 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.

Risk calculations will be very different if you each have a bunch of roommates, or if one of you works in a crowded environment. The amount of risk will vary depending on how common COVID-19 is in your community.

It may be a good idea to consider phone or video dates as an acceptable alternative to in-person dates hookups if one of you has been exposed, has symptoms, or has tested positive for COVID-19.

Meeting New People

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

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

It's normal to feel lonely while social distancing. Being proactive about your mental health can help you keep your mind and body stronger. Learn about online therapy options that are available to you to help you maintain your mental health.

What Types of Sex Are Safe?

Cybersex with your partner can be a safe option during a COVID-19 infection. 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

As with all sexual interactions, mutual agreement and consent are key to maintaining a safe and healthy, respectful relationship.

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.

Many people need some form of touch. Sometimes you need to figure out how to accomplish that as safely as possible. Keep informed. Think about risks. Then do what you can to manage those risks in a healthy way.

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.

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

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

By Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, MPH, CHES, is a social worker, adjunct lecturer, and expert writer in the field of sexually transmitted diseases.