Oakland, CA – Sex can be affirming, pleasurable and positive for a range of health-related reasons including stress reduction. It is also an opportunity to (re)discover our bodies. Like many gay and bisexual men, you might be wondering about sex during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some tips to help you make choices that are right for you.

            Knowledge is power: COVID-19 is highly transmissible. The virus is airborne through droplets when a person coughs or sneezes, meaning it can be transmitted from talking, singing or shouting. The virus is found in saliva, mucus and feces. Having this knowledge can help you make informed choices about your sexual and social activities. Get (re)acquainted with yourself:          

            Masturbation is always your safest option. Take this time to (re)discover parts of your body you may not have known were erogenous zones. It is also a strategy for being present, getting centered and staying in the moment.

            Add porn and/or sex toys to the mix: Porn with or without your favorite sex toys will help expand your horizons as you continue to blaze new exploratory trails.

            Keep it wet: Wash your hands and any sex toys you may want to use with soap and water for 20 seconds or more before and after use. The wetter the better!

            Phone a “friend:” Consider bringing others to your masturbation sessions via phone, text or video. Use your favorite sex app or encrypted platform for one-on-one or group meet-ups. Know about the risks that come with sex online, including privacy, safety and security violations, especially if you are going nude on cam.

            Put on a show: If you live with your sex partner(s) and one or more of you travel for work, wear a mask at all times when outside the home. If you choose to keep your distance from one another at home, you can watch each other get off. Mutual masturbation is a great way to get in touch with your inner exhibitionist or voyeur.

            Form a sex pod and keep it closed: If you do choose to have sex with others, limit sex to live-in and known sex partners. Alternatively, define your quarantine hook-ups and reduce the number of sex partners you have. Small, closed sex pods or bubbles are good alternatives to large sex parties. Engage in chats with your partners about protection against COVID before you decide to meet in person, each time.

            Discuss what’s on and off the menu: Since the virus has been found in saliva and feces, kissing, rimming or any other sexual activity involving ass to mouth and mouth to mouth, contact may raise the risk of acquiring or transmitting COVID-19. Communicating the ins and outs of your play session is key.        Mask for Mask: Wearing a mask during sex might not only reduce COVID-19 transmission, but it could also be really fucking hot! It is also a good time to get creative with other physical barriers — creating your own “glory hole” can be fun.

            Remember the 4 ‘Cs’ of sex: Communication, Consent, Choice and Community are helpful guides during sex. Openly discuss your COVID-adaptive strategies with your potential partners so you can collectively assess risk and come to agreements together. Always get consent from your partners before having sex. Be respectful of other people’s rights to make choices that work for them, even if they differ from your own. Be mindful of how your sexual choices can impact your wider community.

            Remember the tools at your disposal to stay safe: HIV and other STIs are still disproportionately affecting gay and bisexual men in every part of the world. Stay informed and use the tools at our disposal. This includes HIV/STI testing, condoms, lube, PrEP and PEP. If you are living with HIV or on PrEP, stock-up on your antiretroviral medications if you can, as multi-month dispensing of your meds might now be available where you live. If COVID-19 testing is available where you live, get tested. If you and/or your sex partner(s) are not feeling well, save sex for another day. And keep yourself and others informed.

            MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights was founded in 2006 as The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) by an international group of activists who were concerned about the disproportionate HIV burden being shouldered by gay and bisexual men. It has since expanded its work to focus on the broader sexual health and human rights needs of all men who have sex with men. (Q Notes Online – MPACT Global Action at https://goqnotes.com/67241/sex-during-covid/)