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Sexpert: Here's how to have safer sex during COVID-19.

If you're thinking about having sex during Arrival Quarantine, please think again.

“Ask the Sexpert” written on a light blue background. In the bottom left corner sits the yellow, red, and blue Peer Health Advisors logo. “The Prospect” is written on the bottom right. 
The Design Team / The Daily Princetonian

I can’t wait to see my partner again in person! We’ve kept it going virtually, but it’s been so long since we’ve been able to be together that it’s the first thing I want to do when we return to campus. Is there a safe way to have sex during the pandemic? Will we be violating the social contract if we do? And where will we be able to find condoms on campus?

Chomping at the Bit


Dear Chomping,

This year has been difficult for us for so many different reasons, including not being able to see our partners and connect with them like we long to do. Not being able to be with our friends, family and sexual partners is one of the many painful things we have endured.

Unfortunately, and as you probably already expected, even when you return to campus, you’ll need to wait just a little while longer. Sex needs to wait until your Arrival Quarantine period is over to avoid spreading the virus.

All of us coming together from many different locations will create a highly risky environment for transmitting the virus during the arrival period. Following the Arrival Quarantine protocol and staying physically apart until you are notified that your quarantine is over will help us get the semester off to a safer start. If too many cases arise during the arrival period, we may have to stay physically apart for even longer, and rules may become stricter for people on-campus in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

So, safer sex under the Social Contract is waiting for that Arrival Quarantine period to be fully complete for any and all partners. You should also know that the Social Contract does not allow for either off-campus students or people not associated with Princeton (like students at other universities for example) to access the dorms. So, you won’t be able to host a sexual partner on campus unless that person is also another on-campus student. We know that’s a bummer for many of you; it’s a bummer to even have to write it. But for this short semester, it’s how it’s got to be. 

As you’ve probably already discovered, there are sexual activities that you can do during the Arrival Quarantine from the safety of your separate sleeping spaces. Solo sex/masturbation with or without toys is always a good option. Your partner can get in on the action virtually or even with toys that let them play from a distance via an app. You could consider buying a toy for your partner or vice versa.  


Once the Arrival Quarantine ends, the safest sexual activities will continue to be solo sex/masturbation or virtual sex (via phone, FaceTime, Zoom, etc.). COVID-19 is spread through saliva and mucus from the mouth and nose. It has also been found in feces and semen, so it may be spread through those as well, though more research is needed. There’s no evidence of transmission via vaginal fluids yet.

Even with the testing and adherence to all the public health guidelines, there will always be a risk of transmitting the virus when close enough to someone else to have in-person sexual activity. That’s why we call it “safer” (not safe) sex! This virus is highly transmissible, and it’s not always possible to say how or when someone got it. (This is also a good reason not to stigmatize or blame people who have the virus or ask them how they got it.)

If you do engage in in-person sexual activities after Arrival Quarantine, it’s best to only have one partner and agree to be monogamous with each other for the time being. When engaging in sexual activity, wearing a face covering (even though it may seem really weird — we get it), avoiding kissing, and washing hands thoroughly before and after sex will help prevent the spread of infection, as will the usual barrier methods (condoms, dental dams, etc). 

Speaking of barriers, if you want to get external/male condoms from University Health Services, give them a call at (609)258-3141 to see when you can come by to get some (don’t just show up).  You can also go to CVS (when not in quarantine or isolation and following all public health guidelines), or order from your favorite online Black-, female/femme-, or queer-owned sexuality shop for barrier methods.

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During the semester, skip sexual activity and stay physically apart if you or your partner feel unwell or have felt unwell recently. 

If your ongoing or potential partner is in either isolation (has gotten a positive COVID-19 test) or in quarantine (has been possibly exposed to COVID-19), no matter how hot they are, you both need to wait until the full isolation or quarantine period is up to get together. Violations of isolation or quarantine are a really big deal, public-health-wise. Again, try sexting or virtual chatting to build up anticipation. Let’s not make COVID-19 a sexually-transmitted virus on our campus.

Right now, it’s more important than ever to discuss what feels safer for both of you in terms of sharing bodily fluids before taking off your clothes or your face covering. Research shows that feeling safe and comfortable with a partner makes for a better sexual experience, so have these hard conversations first, over text or DM if that makes you feel more comfortable. 

You may want to ask: when were you and your partner last tested for COVID-19, HIV, and other STIs? What does safer sex look like for you during COVID-19, both physically and emotionally? Do you want to kiss? Does one of you have a medical condition that increases your risk of complications from COVID?  Let your partner know what will make you feel comfortable and cared for. You can find tips for communication here.

— The Sexpert

Find more resources here: (“Introduction to special issue on sexual health risks and assessments.” Contains a COVID-19 sexual health risk assessment.)