What does riding public transit have in common with having sex?
Canadian health officials say you should probably wear a mask for both, especially if it’s with people you don’t know well.
That’s the latest advice of Canada’s chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam. In a statement Wednesday, Tam offered advice on sex in the age of COVID-19. Chief among her tips: wear a mask if you’re engaging in sexual activity with people outside of your close social circle.
“If you choose to engage in an in-person sexual encounter with someone outside of your household or close contacts bubble, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk,” Tam said.
Tam particularly recommended limiting kissing and general face “closeness,” and suggested people consider wearing a mask that covers the nose and mouth.
“Even if the people involved do not have symptoms, sexual activity with new partners does increase your risk of getting or passing COVID-19 through close contact, like kissing,” she said. “Remember as with all social interactions, try to keep your number of close contacts low if possible.”
She also recommended monitoring yourself and your partner for symptoms, avoiding alcohol and practising good safe sex in general, including using condoms.
Tam also highlighted that solo sex is the safest sex when there’s a global pandemic going on.
“The lowest risk sexual activity during COVID-19 involves yourself alone,” she said.
But if you’re getting down with a new partner and they whip out a novelty face mask, know that it’s on the advice of the country’s top doctor.
The glory hole in the room
Tam isn’t the first health official to offer pandemic sex guidance. B.C.’s Centre for Disease Control memorably published its own guidelines earlier this summer, including the suggestion to use glory holes and dental dams for sex.
They’re worth checking out, as Tam’s guidelines don’t necessarily cover the broad range of sexual interactions people can have. Oral sex can be a vital part of the experience for queer people in particular, and a mask can prevent that. But that’s why things like dental dams or glory holes can be great, says the CDC.
“Use barriers, like walls (e.g., glory holes), that allow for sexual contact but prevent close face-to-face contact.,” the site recommends.
If you are choosing to mask up to bone down, you’ll be happy to know that research has shown that masks can even make people hotter. A recent study from Temple University found that people wearing masks were judged to be more attractive than those without.
“Many people believe that the appearance of the eyes is one of the strongest influencers of judgements of attractiveness,” David B. Sarwer, one of the study’s authors said.
Recent pop culture examples ranging from Lady Gaga’s appearance at the Video Music Awards to the film “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” highlight the fact that masks can certainly be, well, steamy.
Masks draw attention to our hair and our eyes, while hiding certain blemishes and jawlines. And we all have to admit there’s something sexy and mysterious about a partially obscured identity. Who’s under there? What secrets do they hold? Arguably, a face is more attractive when you have to imagine part of it. There’s a reason masks figure heavily already in BDSM sex communities. And yes, there’s already been a lot of coronavirus face mask porn.
That’s all to say, nothing is sexier than considering the health safety of the people around you — and that’s what a mask communicates.
So, if you’re planning to engage in sexual activity with some new faces, don’t make them ask — just wear a mask.