Sex machines

The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has raised many questions, including many about how the virus actually spreads. A question frequently heard these days is whether it can be sexually transmitted. Here's what we do and don't know.

So far, no scientific studies have confirmed the presence of coronavirus in genital secretions, so the jury is still out on whether the virus can be transmitted through unprotected sex.

However, we know that the virus is present in respiratory secretions, suggesting that other common intimate activities, such as kissing, may be an important route of transmission.

Of course, you don't have to kiss to catch the virus. According to the CENTERS for Disease Control, just close contact with another person (defined as 6 feet or less) carries a potential risk of transmission. If you have sex with someone, the distance between you is probably less than six feet, so do the math.

So until the outbreak calms down, it's worth considering some precautions to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission in your intimate life. Include:

Follow the social distancing guidelines for the time being. That means you should consider putting dating and casual sex on hold. Social distancing is key to avoiding viral mass spread and "flattening the curve." Our goal is to make sure we don't have a surge of cases that will completely overwhelm the system. I now call it the "social jerk gesture" (in the spirit of tolerance, of course, it also means keeping your vulva at arm's length -- I just haven't come up with a clever name yet. Welcome!

If you or your partner are experiencing any signs or symptoms consistent with this infection, avoid sex (find the CDC's list of symptoms here). However, keep in mind that the virus can spread even when people have no symptoms.

Consider other forms of sexual expression during an epidemic that don't necessarily involve close physical contact, especially if you're in a high-risk group (e.g., immunocompromised, over 60). For example, sexting, online sex, and phone sex are all ways to have sexual contact with your partner without any risk of coronavirus infection (and obviously sexually transmitted diseases).

Everyone should remember that masturbation is always a healthy way to experience sexual satisfaction before, during and after the pandemic.