I have long maintained that the sooner you have sex with a potential partner, the better. My theory has always been that if you enjoy the sex, and the person you’ve slept with doesn’t lose interest, then you’re off to a good start. And if the sex is bad, or the person in question has less respect for you because you had sex straight away? Then you’d have been wasting your time if you’d spent ages getting to know them.
The stats back this idea up: a recent survey of 2,000 found that a third of men found long-term love after sleeping with their partner on the first date.
It’s a theory which should, however, have been put on hiatus by social distancing measures. After all, if we’re not supposed to stand near people in the queue for Waitrose, then putting your tongue in someone else’s mouth seems like a no-no.
Only, that doesn’t seem to be the case. As lockdown wears on, my contemporaries are slowly admitting to their less than perfect lock-down behaviours. The most common one? Meeting up with someone you’ve been talking to online and taking the relationship from theoretical to physical. I rang a friend last week for a chat and when pressed she admitted that she was sitting in the garden of a Tinder squeeze who lived a half an hour walk from her house. "I know it’s bad," she told me later. "But it turns out, two months is the absolute maximum time that I can go without sex."
She's not alone. Dating website IllicitEncounters.com asked 2,000 people whether they were violating lockdown orders to have sex. One in five respondents in the anecdotal study said they had broken quarantine to get physical, with 64 per cent saying they'd do it again.
"I’m wearing a mask, using hand sanitiser and social distancing", one woman, in her early thirties, told me. "I was aware of the irony of wearing a face mask to walk to the house of a man I’d never met before. We both washed our hands when I got there, and then we had sex. The whole thing was surreal, but honestly after all these weeks, it was exactly what I needed. There’s only so long you can keep things going on Whatsapp and with Netflix watching parties."
"I realise it’s dangerous," another woman in her late twenties, told me, "but I’ve been living alone for two months and there comes a point where you think f--- it, I’m going to take my chances. I’m not seeing anyone else, I’ve run down the batteries in my vibrator and I need to feel another person. I kind of see casual sex as dangerous anyway – so this isn’t that much of a change."
The idea that casual sex is inherently dangerous isn’t entirely accurate, of course – under normal circumstances, fully protected sex comes with pretty low risks. But anyone who sat through a lecture about safe sex at school will probably remember coming away from the classroom believing that it was best avoided unless you were married. We’ve created generation after generation of adults who see sex as something 'bad', and yet choose to do it anyway. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that during this pandemic, they are continuing to do so.
According to Dr Carlos E. Rodríguez-Díaz, associate professor of prevention and community health at George Washington University, "there is no evidence that Covid-19 can be transmitted via sexual intercourse; either vaginal or anal."
But that doesn’t mean sneaky lockdown sex is safe. Dr Rodríguez-Díaz explains: "Kissing is a very common practice during sex, and the virus can be transmitted via saliva. Therefore, the virus can be transmitted by kissing. There is also evidence of oral-fecal transmission of the Covid-19 and that implies that oral-anal sex may represent a risk for infection.”
And that’s before you’ve factored in the risk of inessential travel to your squeeze’s house, and the risk that one of you might be incubating the virus.
I spoke to four people who have broken lockdown to have sex, and three of them told me that it’s hard to explain how much they need physical touch, and how hard living without it has been.
"I’m not even that tactile", one man in his early forties explained. "But I hadn’t realised how much physical contact I was getting day-to-day, until it all disappeared. I live with a flatmate who went back to their native country when this all started, so I hadn’t had contact with another human until I met up with someone from a dating app. I know it was dangerous, but honestly having sex was the only way I was going to get to touch another human. It’s not like you can arrange a hug online."
The Dutch government, who are routinely praised for their positive attitude towards sex, have been characteristically pragmatic about the lockdown, predicting this problem and suggesting that single people pick a ‘sex buddy’ to ride out the pandemic with.
Rather than simply telling its citizens that sex is off the cards and expecting them to do as they are told, the Dutch have been realistic about what we can expect people to put up with. The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) have said, ‘it makes sense that as a single [person] you also want to have physical contact.’
In order to achieve that contact, while keeping safe, they went on to suggest that people could, 'for example, meet with the same person to have physical or sexual contact (for example, a cuddle buddy or sex buddy), provided you are free of illness. Make good arrangements with this person about how many other people you both see. The more people you see, the greater the chance of [spreading] the coronavirus.’
Perhaps the UK Government should take heed of the RIVM’s attitude towards lockdown sex, and provide guidelines for the safest possible sex during this frustrating time – or at least acknowledge the struggles that come with being a single person in lockdown.