Coronavirus—it has taken over our lives, completely redefined our relationship with sweatpants, and turned our dating expectations on their heads. We now live in a world where Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, Deputy Commissioner for Disease Control at the NYC Health Department, has said, and I quote, “eating ass is safer than kissing,” leaving single and poly folks with a lot to translate as they navigate sex during COVID.

Just like with pregnancy and STI prevention, the safest sex is no sex at all. But since physical touch is a natural human need, especially in a crisis, many public health departments have put out guidelines about how to experience safer sexual intimacy in a pandemic. The guidance from all consistently recommends keeping your pool of partners as small as possible. If you live alone, your safest sex partner is yourself, but after that, it seems the best option is a trusted “sex buddy” (as the Netherlands public health department famously put it).

And, as sex workers in the Netherlands returned to work in early July, their government released further guidelines on safety, including the recommendation to avoid kissing and positions that put them face-to-face with clients. The New York Department of Public Health concurs, emphasizing that “kissing can easily pass the virus,” and suggests wearing a mask during sex as an added layer of protection beyond condoms or PreP.

So what do you do if you want to upgrade someone in your life from socially-distant buddy to sex buddy? Or pick up again with an existing buddy? Extrapolating from these sources, it would seem a phased reopening of your bedroom is in order.

Establish chemistry

In order to make sure meeting up is going to be worth it, try a little digital or phone intimacy first! Exchange sexy texts and nudes (sans face if you’re still relatively new to each other), try mutual masturbation over a video call, or go for an old-fashioned phone call. If making the transition from slightly awkward zoom dates to slightly awkward zoom sex feels right, you may be ready to take the next step together.

Establish trust

Once you’ve decided to take the next step towards being in a room together, talk to your potential sex buddy about their habits, the nature of their work, how often they grocery shop, who they see, and anything else you need to know in order to make an informed decision before meeting. In the before-times, questioning someone to the nth degree about all their personal habits before having sex would have been something of a red flag, or just very off-putting, but now it’s kind of a requirement. And the way they handle the conversation will be a key indicator of their trustworthiness. Willingness to talk openly about everything you need to know? Awesome! Evasive or resistant to discussing safety? No thanks! Maturity and deftness in discussing sexual safety and boundaries is key in these times (and all times).

Get tested

Get comfortable discussing COVID testing, sharing results, and discussing how long either of you will need to quarantine prior to meeting (based on how long it takes to get test results back with your preferred, or available, form of testing). Uncomfortable talking specifics? You’re probably not ready to meet up! And that’s ok. Honor where you are.

Make a plan

Before meeting, discuss expectations for the encounter. Describe what’s on and off the menu. Talk about mask etiquette and what kind of greeting you’re comfortable with (hug? fist bump? handshake?). Remember, barrier protection is important even during oral to limit exposure to saliva, so come prepared with condoms or dental dams. And if this person is new to you? Consider meeting in a public place like a park first, so you can feel out the vibe before moving to either of your homes.

Get creative

Ok, so you’ve gotten tested, made a plan, felt out the vibe, and now you’re feeling ready to take the leap. Awesome! If you want to be as safe as possible, limiting kissing and face-to-face contact is key. In lieu of kissing, you can spend some time holding hands, or touching each other without being face-to-face. Try a hug from behind (basically vertical spooning) or some horizontal spooning. And if you’re really missing some lip contact, discuss whether you would feel safe getting kissed elsewhere on your body. Maybe you can even make a game out of leaving your masks on—if your masks are particularly secure, and try kissing through them. And if non-face-to-face sex positions aren’t normally your jam, inform your buddy of that in advance so they can take it slow.

Kinkify your play

It’s possible with all the emotions running high during this time, the lack of physical touch we’re all experiencing, and the sheer novelty of playing with sexuality in a different way, that you may end up finding all these safer sex precautions to be… kinda sexy? And if you do—lean into that! Get imaginative. Incorporate your masks into fantasy play (doctor/nurse, a robbery, strangers at the grocery store—the sky’s the limit!). Get excited about playing with less-familiar positions. And most of all? Take the pressure off yourself and relish this opportunity to explore a new side of your sexuality!

Make a plan for feelings

Even in the best of times, sex can provoke unexpected emotions. But nowadays? We have a whole lot of pent up feelings that could come pouring out at any time. Discuss this with your buddy before getting into it, and make a plan for taking things slow and stopping as needed. Check out our article on aftercare for more tips!

So what have we learned? When it comes to sex during COVID, the keyword is SLOW. Allow trust to build with any chosen sex buddy, and take the pressure off yourself to go faster than you’re comfortable with. And even as you begin easing into it, remember that a phased reentry into your sex life may be exactly what the doctor (literally) ordered.

Not ready to meet up with someone in person yet? No worries! In our "Get Intimate With..." series, the characters whisper their deepest desires directly into your ears. Cozy up with a sexy Dipsea character, like Freddie or Ari.

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Lina Dune is a 24/7 collared submissive, passionate writer, kinky memestress, and, most importantly, a fairy submother to all who seek her advice. Her name is derived from two Anais Nin stories, “Lina” and “Woman On The Dunes.” She is based in Los Angeles and lives on Instagram.