Is Wearing a Mask During Sex Really Safer During a Pandemic? Here’s What a Doctor Thinks

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Photo: Getty Images/Violeta Stoimenova
Masked sex is hot topic since the New York City Department of Health released its Safer Sex and COVID-19 guidelines. Among many non-vanilla ideas to practice responsible relations is wearing a mask during sex to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. "Heavy breathing and panting can spread the virus further, and if you or your partner have COVID-19 and don’t know it, a mask can help stop that spread," read the guidelines.

Sounds kind of kinky if not a safer sex practice, yet in a survey of 1,160 adults conducted by Ella Paradis, only 6 percent of respondents said they would wear masks during intercourse. And I get it; once someone’s inside you, you're not likely to obey that six feet apart rule without some wild positioning. Masks are great, but they’re not miracle workers when you’re all tangled up with someone all night. But for those of us who are sick of virtual sex, want intimacy, and want to know how to play it safe, what’s the best course of action?

Experts In This Article
  • Ranjith Ramasamy, MD, Ranjith Ramasamy, MD, is the director of Male Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at the University of Miami Health System, as well as an associate professor in Department of Urology at the University of Miami in Florida.

To get some answers, I dialed up Ranjith Ramasamy, MD, director of male reproductive medicine and surgery at the University of Miami Health System, who's currently researching the correlation between how and if COVID can be sexually transmitted, particularly through semen. Early research showed traces of COVID-19 have been found in the semen of those who have or were recovering from this illness; condoms are advised as protection no matter what because STIs aren’t going anywhere. COVID-19 traces have also been found in fecal matter, so you know, don’t go around rimming Tinder matches thinking that’s the safer option.

Keeping all that in mind, Dr. Ramasamy acknowledges that COVID-19’s primary form of transmission seems to be through respiratory droplets. And while that does mean wearing a mask in public can save a life, it probably won’t make an enormous difference during sex.

"It's going to be almost impossible or impractical to do anything with a mask," says Dr. Ramasamy. "Then there’s obviously a certain element of risk associated with [sex].”

Certainly, it’s why a constant pandemic refrain is that you are your safest sex partner. And masturbation is self care. But orgasms with robots is not an ideal forever plan for many of us. So is there a way to have somewhat smarter, safer sex with someone, or is it just me and my 17 vibrators until the end times? (I mean, I hope not.) The most realistic safe sex option might require slowing down with someone and treating a COVID-19 test like it's the new STI test.

"I think the safest thing for people to do moving forward to get a test at one of the health centers to know that their tests are negative,” says Dr. Ramasamy. "That may offer some comfort. And obviously if they've been asymptomatic for about two weeks, at least prior to their first encounter, they haven't come into any contacts, and they haven't had any plans and visible symptoms, then they can probably proceed to do whatever they need to do with a relationship."

The core takeaways? Wearing a mask during sex is certainly the responsible thing to do. But unless you're really into medical play, we understand that most people are probably not going to wear face masks during sex because it's not exactly intimate. That said, always wear a mask when in public to protect yourself and others.

Most importantly, you can practice safer sex by keeping your partners low, yourself isolated, and your COVID-19 tests frequent enough. Sure, the whole swab-up-the-nose thing isn't sexy, but it's a small price to pay for more pleasurable types of penetration.

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