Let's address the question that is being least pronounced yet present in every one's conscious and sub conscious mind, while we are in the throes of the ongoing pandemic: Is it safe to have sex? Can the virus spread through sexual intercourse?
To state the obvious, coronavirus is a respiratory disease that spreads through tiny droplets released through sneezing and sometimes from the mouth while speaking.
"Therefore saliva is a potent and clear route of infection transmission and hence intimate kissing, which is invariably the first step of any foreplay can definitely spread the virus," cautions Dr Geeta Malik, a renowned sexologist from Delhi. "Like many people already know, the interesting thing is that while there have been no visible traces of the virus in vaginal fluid it has been traced in the semen samples of men who are either suffering from the infection or have recently recovered. However, there is no conclusive evidence that the virus can be transmitted through semen during sexual intercourse," informs Malik.
She also cautions against anal and oral sex because the virus is present in human excreta and hence it is possible that it might cling onto the anus. Talking about a few blanket rules that can ensure safe sex during the pandemic, Malik says, "The best option really in these times is celibacy or self pleasure through masturbation or sex toys. Online sex with your partner too might be a great option."
However, these things apply to couples/partners who are not cohabitating together. "The ones living together should restrict their sexual activity only to each other. In other words having multiple sexual partners is medically very risky and unadvisable in these times of covid. Moreover, the safety net provided by contraceptive methods and condoms cannot be overemphasized," Dr Malik reveals. Needless to say the same broad rules hold true for married couples too.
While there have been no visible traces of the virus in vaginal fluid it has been traced in the semen samples of men who are either suffering from the infection or have recently recoveredExplaining further, Dr Malik says, "When you have sex with your spouse or live-in partner you are aware of his/her physical condition. You will know if your partner is experiencing symptoms of the virus or not. If the symptoms are manifesting it's not at all advisable to make love. Brazenly put, if you have sex with someone on a blind rendezvous or even with someone that you have not met for days at a stretch you are much less likely to be apprised about his/her actual health condition. While there may be no raging fever there could be a sore throat or diminished olfactory sense that the other person is not disclosing."
Malik also adds that having sex with someone that you are not in a close relationship with or cohabiting with makes you less privy about his/her recent sexual history. Chances are that he/she could also have visited a professional sex worker that aggravates the risk factor of contracting (and hence transmitting) the virus. Sexologists are in agreement that the virus is spreading through sexual contact because a lot of people are asymptomatic. Even a live in partner or spouse can be an asymptomatic carrier.
So how does one thwart transmission in such cases? "If your partner has a recent travel history or generally travels frequently you need to be cautious and discerning about the timings of your sexual activity. It's best to not have sex for a week after he/she returns home. Also if your partner mingles with too many people socially and professionally it's best to exercise caution," advises Dr Malik.
Dr Malik states that while having sex during the pandemic requires extra caution and discretion one cannot also discount the fact that a healthy and intimate sexual relationship can help to alleviate the overwhelming levels of stress and anxiety that most people are contending with today. After all, sex releases endorphins that can help to relieve stress.
"All things considered, I would probably say that people should focus on quality and not quantity when it comes to sex in these trying times. Having sex with an intimate partner while both of you are conscientious and careful about your mutual health can infuse yet another beautiful dimension to your overall relationship," she shares.