Sex risky in the time of corona

The pandemic has cast a shadow on intimate relationships. Doctors tell you what’s safe and what isn’t
Last Updated : 28 April 2020, 11:20 IST
Last Updated : 28 April 2020, 11:20 IST
Last Updated : 28 April 2020, 11:20 IST
Last Updated : 28 April 2020, 11:20 IST

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Covid-19 is changing the ground rules of intimacy. Casual sex is a strict no-no, and doctors are saying kissing and hugging even between spouses is best avoided.

The virus can be transmitted by saliva, but it is still unclear if semen or vaginal fluids carry the virus, experts say.

Dr S S Vasan, uroandrologist, Ankur Hospital, says individuals are their own safest sex partners. “Masturbation will not spread Covid-19, especially if you wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after,” he says.

The next safest partner is someone you live with. “You should avoid close contact—including sex—with anyone outside,” he says. Condoms and dental dams can reduce contact with saliva and faeces during anal and oral sex, he says.

Dr Vasan recommends video dates, sexting and chatting. “Sexually active persons should be selective, pay attention to partners’ health, and limit new partnerships to the fewest possible. The lowest sexual risk will be for monogamous couples,” he explains.

Time for bonding

Dr Padmini Prasad, gynaecologist and sexologist, says intimacy with a non-infected, non-quarantined trusted partner is safe. She recommends the use of masks, and washing before and after intercourse.

“The virus can be transmitted by kissing, oral sex and anal sex. Vaginal sex is safe as the virus isn’t found in semen or in vaginal secretions,” she says.

Casual sex is best avoided during a pandemic. Intimacy between regular partners cannot be wished away because people now have time at their disposal, she reckons.

“In fact, for couples locked up in their homes, this is the time to be more loving, romantic and passionate,” she says.

Working couples

Dr Thejavathy G V, senior consultant OBG, Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Hospital, also believes telling couples to abstain is not the best prescription.

“If even one in a couple is working, the risk of exposure to infection at the workplace is a possibility. The partner going out must wear a mask, wash hands, maintain respiratory hygiene and follow social distancing of six feet. It is safe to come together if partners don’t have a travel history in the last 15 days, and no contact with infected people,” she says. She adds, “Getting intimate with known and safe partners is the need of the hour. Both should be free of symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat and gastrointestinal symptoms,” she cautions

More vulnerable

Dr S M Manohari, professor and head of the department of psychiatry, St John’s Medical College Hospital, says even a hug with a stranger or someone you have met only a couple of times is not a good idea now.

She says “intimacy” means different things to different age groups.

“It is more well-defined and mature among those above 30 or 35 years. They are more committed in relationships, so getting intimate comes with respect. But those between 18 and 25 years are worrisome; a sizeable number don’t think they need to stay committed to have sex,” she says.

Flings are hazardous because you never know who is a carrier of Covid-19.

“The safest partner is the one you are living with. But sadly, we have seen a spike in cases of domestic violence and also cases of violence during intercourse,” she says.

Explore rational intimacy

Dr Meera Baindur, professor of philosophy at Bangalore Central University, feels the rules of intimacy must become more rational. “More than the actual sexual act, casual contact and intimacy, involving kissing, holding hands and hugging, are more dangerous at this time,” she says. She believes this is the time to explore other forms of intimacy, like cybersex.

Women, drink water

Dr Bindumathi P L, senior consultant, Internal Medicine, Aster CMI Hospital, offers five suggestions:

Take a shower after reaching home.

Avoid oral contact like kissing.

Symptomatic carriers can transmit the virus orally through the throat and respiratory tract.

Use contraceptives because chances of unwanted pregnancy are high at such times.

Women must drink enough water and ensure proper urinary discharge before and after sex. They are prone to urinary tract infections during a pandemic.

How long will this last?

Medical experts say it will take at least six months before things begin to normalise.
Restrictions on intimacy will continue till a vaccine is found, reckons a leading doctor Metrolife spoke to. “We notice that a lot of people are getting infected but they are not symptomatic and don’t exhibit high viral tendencies. The manifestation of the disease in India is not as high as it is in Europe and America,” he says. He believes India is slowly but steadily developing “herd community.”
“Those who have a strong immune system will survive the virus infection. As for the vaccine, it will take more than a year to come into the market,” he says.

Published 28 April 2020, 11:12 IST

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