Love and Sex in the Time of Corona

Photographer: Pavel Iarunichev

It was inevitable: a virus, born from the body of a bat, would defy borders and common decency to come and spoil the fun for all of us. And not just any virus, but a deadly one passed unceremoniously on just a breath of air. It would be hilarious if we hadn’t already seen what the aftermath of an unknown virus can cause, especially to the LGBTQ community, and, if the current virus hadn’t already infected or killed so many globally. But here we are, stopped in our tracks because of a wily and wicked bug.

And we were warned. Bill Gates, and even Gwyneth Paltrow, in a 2011 movie called “Contagion,” told us how a novel virus can be transmitted interspecies and hijack a plane on a joyride around the world. Except, this experience has been anything but joyous. And the ride that we’ve been on the past five months has wavered in between frustration and paralysis. Literally, many of us were stuck in our homes for months, moving no further than the journey to the fridge or to pick up physically distanced alcohol deliveries.

We’ve had to make decisions we’ve never had to consider before: should I put on shorts to work today or just sit in my underwear? Do I really need to shower seven days a week, if I barely break a sweat? Or, no one is going to see these hairy legs anyway, right? We’ve lost a sense of care and decency. And we ran out of toilet paper!

Six feet apart has been the mantra to manage disease spread, but how do you date and have sex with someone roughly two arm’s-length away from you? Since the coronavirus can induce symptoms or none at all, kill you or put you on a ventilator, not to mention inflict you with its characteristic raging fever, who in their Grindring mind is willing to take the chance to pick up somebody else’s cooties? For a hookup?

Yet, for those who have more emotional yearnings, there is still opportunity to date virtually. While maybe not immediately sexually gratifying, at least you get more time to chat and become more deeply acquainted. New dating rules call for tidying up the house for a FaceTime call, being aware of your Zoom background and getting proper lighting. And let’s not forget the dreaded test, burrowing so far deep in your nostrils to know your Covid-19 status when it’s time to meet in person.

To answer a question posed by so many singles on how they can date and have sex safely, The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) recommended that they find a “sex buddy” or create a “sex bubble” with someone or those that are negative for the virus and who share strict practices of remaining that way. This advent has inspired everyone to create a bubble for socializing among friend groups or childcare. Even the NBA has one, although in theirs they aren’t allowed to have sexual partners—unless, of course, they’re already enclosed.

And the pandemic has burst many a bubble, too, including for those who have had to modify their plans, including getting married. More than an auspicious occasion, wedding planning often involves many months of preparation and scores of decision making to assemble people from disparate locations in one venue. Despite any financial losses, it can be a bummer to not have the type of ceremony you dreamed of with all your friends and loved ones gathered, and nowhere to jet off to for your honeymoon.

Yet, still life must go on.

We spoke to a few individuals to see how they have been coping and navigating these unprecedented and uncertain times. Each one gave their account in their own words. In some cases, we had to hide their identity for reasons that will become clear. We should also caution you that some parts contain explicit language.


Photo: Vlad Orlov|iStock

Greg, 34, gay, city undisclosed
There’s a group of six of us who hang out. We’re all gay men in our 30s, and we’re very close friends. I went to one couple’s wedding, the other two are engaged, and the fifth is married but his husband isn’t social (and is frequently on deployment, like now). We’re the typical “gay friends” who do everything together, consider each other our “family” social group. It’s rare to see one or two of us alone in a social setting, unless the others are on the way.

While I don’t like using words like “slut”, I’m used to hitting anywhere between 1 and 20 different sexual partners a month, depending on my mood – usually around 5 or 6, but a few times a year I get the itch for a lot more. I have a high sex drive, and I enjoy hooking up. This pandemic is killing me!

So, we’ve isolated ourselves from everyone else, so we can stay hanging out, as several of us have pre-existing conditions (e.g. asthma) that make us high risk. We all work from home (WFH). One of them I dated a few years ago, but we’re just friends now (Sam) – unlike the rest of us, he isn’t WFH, so he was staying home for most of the summer; people at his work kept testing positive, and he didn’t want to risk any of us catching it from him. We all understood.

We drink on the weekends and someone poured a bit too much alcohol in the mix, and away we went. Sexual humor and innuendo are normal with us, but I got a bit aggressive with someone (Michael) when we were alone – slapped his ass, joked he was asking for it, etc., as he had nodded off while changing. It was all mildly sexual, but in the playful dicking around sense, rather than in the “I want to f**k” sense – who took it as an invitation.

We’ve known each other for a few years, so it’s no secret that him (Michael) and his husband (Tom) aren’t strictly monogamous. Things went from “mildly sexual” to outright f**king pretty quickly, when Tom walked in – and joined. I vaguely recall him saying, “Oh what the f**k is this?” before getting my hair pulled and his d**k in my mouth.

One of our other friends was wondering where the three of us wandered off to, and was yelling for us, as he was coming upstairs. We quickly scurried to get some modicum of clothes on before he got to the door. The day carried on as usual, but once it was the three of us alone, it all resumed, in all its debaucherous glory.

We only see each other on the weekends, and the next weekend we all behaved – we never really talked about it, didn’t really address it. The following week we had dinner, and Michael was a bit drunk before I even got there, and commented repeatedly on how “This could work, we’re mature enough to have fun,” etc. So, we did the second time.

Since then, it’s been more or less every weekend. Nothing’s particularly different than before we started f**king: we get together, we drink, we hang out, we drink, we play games, we drink, we swim, etc. It’s been a huge change from our pre-pandemic lives: bars, restaurants, speakeasies, events, concerts, fundraisers for homeless LGBTQ youth orgs/politicians/etc., but it’s peaceful and we’re enjoying it as best we can.

Sam’s shifted to WFH, so he’s started coming around more – which is when it turns into a foursome after the other two go home (they’re monogamous, but there’s no secret what’s going on). We’ve always had strong sexual chemistry, but his relationship is weird, so I usually just stay out of his business. Still, he wants to join in, and god knows he’s hot with a gorgeous body and the sex is sooo good, so I sure as hell won’t say no, and neither would Michael and Tom.

At this point, it’s been going on for… Three months? Four? And no problems.

We’ve all said our friendship is more important than anything else, so if anyone else has to stop, no one will begrudge them for it whatsoever. Afterwards, I imagine we’ll still f**k around sometimes, but I’m not really known for consistency in sexual partners – this is probably the longest I’ve had sex with the same person(s) in… Five, six years? Not that I can’t – not to toot my own horn, I know I’m attractive – I just enjoy variety.

We’ve all made jokes about “it’s a pandemic, we’re just doing what we gotta do,” and I think that’s our shared sentiment. I’m the only single person in the group, I don’t want a relationship to begin with, and none of us want some kind of throuple situation.

It’s just sex, nothing more.


Photo: Santi Nunez

Kristen, 27, lesbian, outside of Boston
I’ve been more or less single for a few years now. I’ve had a few short-term relationships that were never really made official though. I came out later in life and wasn’t in a place to date seriously, which I didn’t realize at the time.

I met a woman on Tinder. She followed me on Instagram, and I gave her my number. We talked for a few weeks on Bumble and we had a nice conversation. We met up a few weeks ago at a park and I brought cocktails. The date lasted an hour, but it was kind of a disaster. Disaster is probably a strong word. In normal times, it would just be a sucky date, but I made the mistake of not FaceTiming her first to see if there’s chemistry, so we both went out of our way to meet a random person during a pandemic and we just had zero chemistry, despite having a nice conversation online. The things we talked about were so sad: the pandemic; the lesbian scene, like Boston’s only lesbian bar closing because of the pandemic (that was the first safe space I felt I had after I came out even if the food and drinks weren’t stellar); and about Naya Rivera who had died that week, that was also a big loss, as her character was the first lesbian I had ever really seen on TV besides Ellen. I couldn’t think of any normal things to talk about on the date.

I was single going into the pandemic, so I continued using apps mostly out of boredom, but now I’m putting more effort into it since it’s been lonely, despite living with roommates. Before Covid, I was just getting to a point where I was feeling really solid in my identity and was getting better at dating as a result. I had started to play around with my physical appearance which I wasn’t doing before. Before I crafted myself in such a way as not to be noticed by anyone. I wore my hair up in a bun and dressed as plainly as possible. I cut off all of my hair in October and had started figuring out what clothes I actually felt good wearing and embracing androgyny more openly. And the confidence was showing too. I was getting attention I wasn’t before, and in general I was getting better at dating.

I haven’t had any physical contact since March except for a leg hug from my three-year-old nephew and from my hairdresser when I got a haircut. And I think the lack of physical contact of any kind is affecting my mood. I’m frustrated and on edge a lot more.

For dating, I don’t think that there’s any amount of things that will entirely mitigate risks. My background is in immunology, although I don’t currently work with Covid. The best I can do is just have a really frank conversation beforehand to get an idea of where we’re both at with physical touch and when, and what we’ve been doing the last few weeks as a means of risk assessment.

I’ve been talking to someone new for a few weeks on Tinder. She’s really different from other girls I’ve dated. She’s an artist and seems super open with herself. She has a private Instagram account for body positivity where she posts sexy pictures of herself (I don’t follow it yet – wanted to be cordial). She’s also a little older than me and seems to know what she wants. She seems a lot more driven by raw emotion while I tend to be driven by logic. And that’s actually a lot of what I like about her – it’s kind of uncharted territory, her art is really cool, and just seems like a cool person to get to know. I’m curious to see how it plays out. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I am actively looking for a relationship, or even “quarantine casual” is okay with me. (That’s a term I made up). I don’t necessarily need to be emotionally exclusive with someone right away, but definitely physically exclusive because of the pandemic. Or I would even consider some kind of pod system. I might just try to not talk about the pandemic at all on this date.

In all honesty, I’m just really horny. I do hope that a long-term relationship comes out of it but even if I just found someone who I liked and trusted enough to fulfill our very human needs in a less risky manor, then I’d consider that a success.


Photo: Luckie Fuller

Luckie, 40, trans man & Sunflower, 39, gender fluid, Los Angeles
Sunflower and I have been together for five years. We met on a cruise to Mexico. I was with my frat and she was my frat brother’s wife’s best friend. We had been planning our wedding for about a year.

At the start of the pandemic we thought we might still be able to have the wedding as planned until we realized that this wasn’t going to be a short-term situation. We had very specific small things that we wanted like a circle ceremony that symbolizes our full circle return to each other. We separated in the middle of our dating to grow and find ourselves and we circled back a year and a half later. We also wanted a water component specifically the beach, because of the healing and solace it provides, and it was our place for that.

We had planned to have at least 150 – 200 people and we were looking for a venue that would hold that many people. We looked at several venues, including the Aquarium in Long Beach, California, which was our ultimate favorite because it reflected our personalities of fun and being unique. It also was the seemingly most LGBTQ friendly venue according to the website we found. We wanted something that would be comfortable for our guests too. As an LGBTQ advocate (a board member of the March Black LGBTQ+ Activists for Change and the Trans Advisory Council) I wanted to be able to invite the community and not worry that someone was going to be disrespectful to our guests. They never got back to us, though, after the tour we did with the event planner there. She seemed distant after we revealed that we were an LGBTQ couple.

We ended up having our wedding on the staircase near the “All Black Lives Matter” street mural because of the current racial movement and what it meant to us. I am the artist of the mural and came up with the design. We wanted to include it and its message of true inclusion and it being representative of everyone in the black community. The colors represent different intersections of the black community that captures everyone. It is especially important to me as a trans man, because we are so very often left out of the narrative of the trans community as well as important conversations around mental health, HIV prevention and care, reproductive rights and health and so many other things. This was a way to not only bring visibility to trans men but also the black LGBTQ community as a whole who were being left out of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

We had about 20 people at the wedding because of Covid and social distancing rules. Sunflower’s family was there and community members and fellow trans advocates. Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell officiated the wedding. Two of our out-of-town guests contracted Covid and couldn’t make it but were able to enjoy it via Facebook Live.

My mom couldn’t make it as well because she had a mild stroke the week prior. We did buy a teddy bear and a dress to represent my mom so she could still be there in spirit. She walked the “aisle” and everything. It was more important that my mom was ok and safe than it was to risk greater sickness to her with Covid looming all around.

Also, my brother, who was supposed to be my best man, and my sister couldn’t make it either. They are in the Navy and had been placed on quarantine two days before the wedding. I was a little upset that they couldn’t be there, but I understood the rules that the Navy imposed, and I was mentally prepared for things like that to happen because of the unpredictable position Covid has put everyone in.

The day of the wedding was hot, and we were excited! We separated the week prior, so we didn’t see each other. The night before we had a mini bachelor party and bridal shower with two friends with each of us. We talked on the phone and eased each other’s nervousness. When I saw my wife for the first time, as she walked across the street, I was floored by how beautiful she was. I had every butterfly known to man in my belly. The closer she got to me at the “altar” the more and more I was excited to say, “I do.” I really just wanted to rush the rest of the ceremony. We took wedding pics on the mural, had a rooftop toast at Trailer Park Group’s building across the street. Then we went to her sister’s house in Compton for a mini reception. We spent the night and the next 2 days at the Roosevelt Hotel.

We streamed the wedding on our Facebook pages for those that couldn’t make it. We received so much love from the FB Live of our wedding from so many people across the world. My friends in South Africa and across the country were overwhelmingly excited for us.

We are going on our intended honeymoon to Australia and Fiji soon as Covid is not a threat. We are a couple that loves to travel and experience new places. Australia is her bucket list place to visit and Fiji is mine. She has dreamed of going to Australia most of her life. It’s a place that she is intrigued by. As an army brat I have visited so many places and Fiji was one I haven’t been to and the spiritual energy there is something we would like to experience. We found a Groupon deal that included both places and we were excited that we could do both and set our sights on it!

We plan on having a proper reception on our first anniversary next year, provided it is possible with Covid. We are not sure where the reception is going to be. It’s extremely hard to plan anything further than a week away with all of the unpredictability of everything going on. We are still searching for that special place.

I think because of the way we did it and where we had it, we will look back and be proud of the wedding and our statement we made with it.

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