Dear Kiki: COVID-19 has halted my sex life. Help!

Questions about love and sex in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids area can be submitted to, or anonymously using this form. Questions may be edited for clarity and length, and may appear either in print or online.

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My girlfriend and I are 60+ years old. We are both concerned about getting the COVID virus. We have separate homes and practice social distancing when we spend time together. My question has to do with sex. We do not kiss, massage, have intercourse, oral sex or manual sex at all now. I think we could safely use our hands to manually give each other orgasms. She thinks this could not be done safely. Help, I think with masks and hand sanitizer we could enjoy it safely. It has been four months of abstinence and thinking of possibly a year or longer seems too long. Are there safe options to give each other orgasms?

Sexual Distancing

Dear Distancing,

I’m so glad that you are keeping safety at the forefront of your considerations! That can be a challenge, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on for more than half a year. Impatience can rear its ugly head, but the beautiful thing is that waiting can be a powerful aphrodisiac. Coming together again after a long period apart can be cataclysmic — especially with the knowledge that the cause of the delay is a deep concern for one another’s well-being.

The key to a loving relationship at any time, but especially in COVID-times, is carefully assessing risk together in all things. If one of you is completely comfortable and the other is not, then the encounter will not be mutually pleasurable, and it may strain the relationship worse than abstaining. If your other risk factors are minimal, it’s worth considering simply widening your “COVID bubble” (the people who you interact with as normal) to include one another — but again, it’s a decision to be made together, taking into account your individual work, family and health situations.

Various experts from the Mayo Clinic to the American Sexual Health Association and many others have noted that there is no evidence that the novel coronavirus can spread through semen or vaginal fluids. However, all of their sex recommendations begin with the fact that it’s safe to pleasure yourself, but anything beyond that is just mitigating — not eliminating — risk.

COVID best practices are changing constantly as new information comes to light. Remember that the reason we’re all in this (ahem) position is because this is a novel virus. Research is ongoing. (So even if you can’t be comforted by my words, please don’t despair.) But the key recommendations that have persisted are: wear a mask, wash your hands and monitor your symptoms. If you decide to move forward with your explorations of safer sex, please do so with those three points in mind.

I’m truly sorry that I can’t give you a more positive response, Distancing. Please make sure that you’re taking care of your relationship in other ways while you abstain. Now may be a good time to explore couples counseling, for example (remember that, like physical health, visiting doctors for mental or relational health can — and should! — be preventative, not just after damage is done). Explore non-sexual types of intimacy. Love actively, and you’ll survive this season of lack of activity.

xoxo, Kiki

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