Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Everyone’s kinda freaked out right now. The Coronavirus has turned things upside down, both here in America and around the world. We’re all panic-buying toilet paper (which, WTF?! This virus doesn’t cause diarrhea, so stop that!), and learning to open doors with our scarves and elbows, and practicing social distancing and sheltering in place. It’s crazy. We thought we as a society were beyond this; the last major pandemic in the US was the Spanish flu which is practically beyond living memory, since you’d have to be at least 106 to have any possibility of remembering it at all.

But I’m gay, and you don’t have to go back very far in gay living memory to get to another plague that turned the community upside down. So we gays have some practice in dealing with shit like this. There are some striking parallels:

  • A newly-discovered disease for which we have neither vaccine nor cure
  • Enormous uncertainty about how the disease functions
  • A Republican president and administration that was content to ignore the situation as it got out of hand
  • People losing work and struggling to pay the rent and the bills
  • Disruptions to the way we have sex and can express ourselves sexually
  • Fear, misinformation, and social isolation

So let me offer you a few lessons and perspectives from the gay community’s experiences with an epidemic.

  1. Educate yourself on how the disease spreads and what the actual risks are. Fortunately, unlike AIDS, most people who get this disease will have minor symptoms for a week or two and then recover. It’s currently thought that asymptomatic people are unlikely to be significant transmitters of the virus, but that once symptoms start showing up, those who have it are fairly contagious. (That’s what the CDC says, although thanks to the GOP, government agencies are no long as science-based as they used to be.)
  2. Learn who is most at risk and take steps to stop transmission to them. In the case of HIV, those most at risk in the 80s were bottoms who were having unprotected anal sex, so we learned to use condoms until PrEP came along. In the case of Coronavirus, it’s those over 60, those with medical conditions that compromise their immune system, and those who have certain pre-existing illnesses like diabetes, asthma and other respiratory problems, and heart disease. (Update: a recent study suggests those with Type A blood may be more vulnerable as well.) So learn to keep your distance from people, use greetings like elbow bumps or bowing or waving, wash your hands with soap and water regularly (or hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available, and wipe down commonly used surfaces and objects with cleaners that will kill viruses. (Note that antibacterial cleansers won’t do shit against viruses unless they have soap or alcohol as well. Vinegar isn’t very effective against viruses either, and a lot of ‘natural’ cleansers probably aren’t likely to do much. This isn’t a time for home remedies.)
  3. Support each other. Many AIDS victims became unable to tend to their needs and had to be fed and bathed by friends, because in the 80s and early 90s, even the medical establishment didn’t want to touch them. There are gut-wrenching stories about nurses refusing to even enter rooms with AIDS patients, families completely disowning their sons and brothers, and funeral homes refusing to accept the bodies; the worst story I know is a man who had to bribe a hospital orderly to smuggle his lover’s body out of a hospital in a literal trash bag. The gay community came together to support each other because the government sure as shit wasn’t going to do anything for us.

    So don’t try to do everything yourself. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help; this particular crisis is going to disrupt a lot of people’s income and something like 40% of the country doesn’t have the savings to handle a $400 emergency, much less the loss of their main job. If you need help, ask those you trust for it. The internet has created new ways to get help, like Gofundme. The development of tools like PayPal and Cashapp mean that it’s much easier to send money than it used to be, and various Twitter communities sometimes use them to support those in need.

    At the same time, don’t just think about yourself. Think about your elderly neighbors who might need you to run to the grocery store for them because they need to avoid social spaces. Think about the single mother you know who has to work and might need someone to babysit her kids so she can keep putting food on the table. Think about that sex worker you like who might be struggling but who has to project an image of being well-off so they can keep doing their preferred mode of sex work; be a bit more generous when you tip them, or book them for an appointment by camera or phone even if that’s not your ideal way to interact with them.
  4. Get angry. The government pretty much entirely ignored the AIDS Crisis until groups like ACT UP started making a huge stink and engaging in things like die-ins at Catholic cathedrals. Millions of gay men still loathe Ronald and Nancy Reagan to this day because of their total indifference to AIDS, even when close friend Rock Hudson was dying of it. We organized letter-writing campaigns and protest marches and sit-ins and built advocacy groups to lobby for us.

    While the GOP didn’t engineer this virus, they engineered the conditions in the US that are going to make a containable disease an uncontainable one, and a few people have already died because the Trump administration ignored the need for pandemic planning. The president has repeatedly lied about and tried to minimize the Coronavirus situation. Decades of underfunding of the health care system and the safety net and GOP attacks on Obamacare have left a huge swath of the country without the resources to cope with this problem, and a lot of sick people are going to go to work and spread it simply because they can’t afford to stay home or go and get the medical treatment they need. Mitch McConnell has thus far resisted an emergency bill to address the crisis and is trying to play politics with it. This is an election year, so vote the fuckers out of office at every level of government. The GOP has become a death cult we can no longer afford to keep around. Let sane conservatives create a new political party if they can. (And note that I’m not laying all the blame at their feet; Clinton played a major role in slashing the safety net too.)
  5. Most importantly of all, DON’T STOP HAVING SEX! Sure, it’s scary to think the the guy you’re hooking up with might have Coronavirus, but remember that asymptomatic people probably aren’t highly infectious. Yeah, washing with soap and water might be a bit of a boner-killer, but nothing kills a boner like having to stop and put on a condom, and for three decades that’s what gay men did when they wanted to fuck. And AIDS didn’t stop gay men from fucking. Trust me–we fuck a lot, even in situations that most people would consider inappropriate…

    Note: I’m not a medical doctor or a health expert, and even the experts don’t have a ton of solid answers right now because the Coronavirus is still pretty new. So don’t just take my word for it; follow my links and do your own research online to stay current. It’s guaranteed that as time goes by, some of these recommendations will change as we learn more. Also, if you are a medical practitioner and can correct any of the following advice, please do so in the comments and I will edit this. Providing a link to evidence is appreciated.

    You can still have sexytime while working from home. There are lot of ways to do this. If Coronavirus hasn’t yet popped up in large numbers in your community, you’re probably at low risk to play, assuming your partner hasn’t traveled somewhere where it’s spreading fast. Find a fuck-buddy and agree to be exclusive for the duration of the crisis to reduce the risk of transmission. Have a conversation with your partner of the moment about whether they have any symptoms and don’t get upset if they ask to cancel. (Also, find out if they’re Republican, because the GOP base is literally starting to emerge as a likely disease vector. Fucking a Republican could make you sick.) Go on a date but make it a walk in the park or a bike ride instead of going to bar (they’re all gonna be closed anyway). Sanitize your phone before you start swiping right. Maybe skip the sex parties and the bath houses for the time being; the fewer sex partners you have, the less risk you have of getting Coronavirus or transmitting it.

    At this point, there’s no particular reason to think that Coronavirus is spread through sex; it’s not in sweat in a significant way, but it’s unknown if it is in semen or vaginal secretions. However, it is in saliva, and that means it can be spread by kissing, the same way it can be spread by coughing. Fucking without kissing is obviously a bit less fun, but it’s still fun. It’s probably not transmittable through urine, so watersports are still on the menu if that’s your jam.

    If you want to bone, take a sexy bath beforehand to get in the mood and get REAL soapy. Use positions like doggy style that don’t bring you face to face as much. If you don’t feel comfortable sticking your dick in someone’s ass or pussy, oral sex is probably safer, at least for the one whose dick is getting sucked; a lot depends on whether the virus can be passed through semen or vaginal secretions. If you aren’t up for insertive sex, think about jacking each other off. Worship each other’s bodies. Then take a sexy shower when you’re done.

    Don’t want full-on body contact? Use a toy; just make sure you sanitize it before and after. Spanking, tit torture, and other non-penetrative activities are going to be much lower risk (assuming you’ve washed your hands and toys). Watch porn together or talk through a fantasy while your pleasure yourself. Pay for a session with a cam model or use a phone sex service like Niteflirt. Explore findom or do a verbal abuse and humiliation session. Put on your sexiest leather, rubber, or spandex outfit and let your sub worship you from afar; make them beg for permission to touch you and then refuse it. Pose for sexy photos. Pup out with your handler. Use a remote control butt-plug. Read some sexy fiction and jack off. There are tons of possibilities.

    All of this assumes that you and your partner are not high-risk. If one or both of you are, take additional precautions and opt for the less physically intimate options I just listed.
  6. I’m really serious about the importance of sex during times of crisis. Sex is, at its heart, optimistic. It’s life-affirming, pleasure-affirming, love-affirming. It celebrates our bodies and desires in the here and now, and it holds the promise that the future will be good and joyous again. Gay men as a group didn’t just completely stop having sex during the AIDS Crisis, because life doesn’t stop just because there’s a disaster going on, and in times of crisis, we need the reminder that life goes on, that love can flourish even in dark times, that our beauty and our value doesn’t depend on our economic situation, and that life will eventually overcome disease.

    So go out and fuck like the sexy beasts you are!

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