“Swipe left if you have COVID!” “
Sex and casual encounters during COVID-19 can be a bit like bringing a connection to your room at New Residence Hall, except this time, instead of asking for their ID and signature, you’re asking for information about their contacts, requesting a detailed travel diary, or inviting them to join your exclusive bubble.
Seven months after the start of a pandemic, it’s natural for those of us who are single to yearn for a date or the occasional Tinder hookup, but do the benefits outweigh the risks? Montreal having recently entered a orange zone and Quebec having 400+ new cases per day, it’s more important than ever to practice social distancing. In my own personal experience on Tinder, I see a lot of bios ‘swiping to the left if you have COVID’ – while most of these people are probably joking, I can’t help but think of all the asymptomatic carriers who can transmit COVID on a date or on a one night stand.
How can we explore healthy sexuality and dating while avoiding being a risk to public health? This will certainly involve difficult conversations and prioritize informed consent. And, even for people who live with their partner, it’s hard to know what services are currently available in terms of STI testing, contraception, and abortion when healthcare websites are so confusing and pages update have not been changed since March.
Understand and follow public health guidelines
At the time of writing, the Government of Quebec recommended that private gatherings do not exceed six people, and that people from different households should maintain a distance of two meters (or six feet). It can be easy on dates, where you can meet in a park or sit at opposite ends of your dining table, but it doesn’t lend itself well to sexual partners. The Government of Quebec reconciles this, in a way, by saying that It’s allowed have an exclusive sexual partner who lives outside your home, as long as they are not putting themselves at risk and not showing symptoms of COVID-19. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada suggest that if your partner does not live with you, it is a good idea to limit going back and forth by staying together longer.
These guidelines can be helpful for people in long-term monogamous relationships, but what about singles, people in polyamorous relationships, and those who want to experiment with different partners? The McGill Student Wellness Hub suggests that if you are uncomfortable with a partner’s level of social distancing, if they live far away, or have been in contact with someone with symptoms, you may want to try sex virtual via video chats, text messages and phone calls. While the Shag Shop is unfortunately closed at the moment, maybe it is a good time to try out a new sex toy at a local store or support sex workers on sites like Only fans. The same idea holds true for dates – it’s a good time to watch a movie together on Netflix Party, have a jam session together on Zoom, or send a romantic letter to the person who caught your eye. The well-being center also suggests that when meeting partners in person, it’s best to explore options that limit contact, including using barriers like dental dams and condoms and avoiding kissing.
In the interest of public health and safety, the Government of Quebec Remarks that “having anonymous partners or partners whose personal information is unknown may prevent public health authorities from ensuring appropriate follow-up in the event of infection with COVID-19.”
Set boundaries and have difficult conversations
With all of these guidelines and rules, it can be difficult to navigate your way around setting boundaries with others and setting rules. While it may be easier to communicate with longtime partners and best friends, it can be more difficult and embarrassing to discuss health boundaries before having a first date, or with casual relationships. such as friends receiving benefits.
Justin lehmiller, a social psychologist and researcher at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University explained that any encounter during a pandemic feels like a long distance, and therefore communication is more important than ever. Speaking to the Washington Post, he said that “people who have high levels of communication, who are really trying to get to know each other on a deeper level, are more likely to be successful.”
It’s easier said than done. For many of us, especially people with anxiety disorders, neurodivergent people, and those who don’t have much experience in dating or casual sex, direct communication and confrontation like this can seem extremely scary. It can be even more difficult when you are a disabled and / or immunocompromised person talking to someone who is not as at risk if they contract COVID. But it is not impossible : this guide / texting template @sexedsunday on Instagram provides tips for talking to partners about your social distancing limits.
There are also resources available for people who have questions about sex and relationships in general. SextEd is a confidential and anonymous SMS hotline managed by the Education for the Prevention of Montreal AIDS Community Care where individuals can ask questions about sexual health and dating. All texts are answered within 24 hours, and there are information articles about the organization website. To reach SextEd, text at 514-700-4411.
Contraception and STI screening
Contraception and STI screening can already be difficult to access, especially if you are an international or out of province student. It can be made even more complicated by COVID-19. Fortunately, there are still options available.
Currently, the Student Wellness Hub is offering a limited number of appointments, which take place mostly online, with a few in-person appointments available on Mondays and Thursdays. Drop-ins are not currently available. You can see a doctor at the Student Wellness Hub for a consultation on contraception, an HPV vaccine, an STI test, and other services. The Wellness Hub does not currently offer pregnancy tests. If you have a medical question but don’t need to see a professional in person, you can also make a phone appointment with a nurse by calling 514 398-6017. Meet at the student well-being center are offered free of charge to McGill students covered by insurance (including Studentcare and Blue Cross plans). However, students who currently reside outside of Quebec cannot access the services of the Hub, including virtual appointments.
The options for obtaining condoms and dental dams on campus are more limited. From now on, the Shag Shop is closed and there do not appear to be any clear plans to reopen. Moreover, while Queer McGill offers a lot of online programming this semester, they are currently unable to operate their cooperative. While the Union for the Empowerment of Women is actually operating a cooperative where you can purchase a la carte packers, naloxone kits, and reusable tampons. However, a representative from the service said they will no longer be able to distribute safe sex supplies until they regain access to their office.
Head and hands, a community health organization for young people, located in NDG and serving 14-25 year olds, still owns medical appointments in his clinic, but does not offer reception hours. The organization believes in health care for all, which means that you can access their services whether or not you have a RAMQ card (health of Quebec) or other health insurance. If you are covered by insurance, on the other hand, they ask you to present your insurance card. To make an appointment, email [email protected] or call 514-481-0277.
For people holding a RAMQ card, appointments for a contraception and HIV screening consultation are also available in other clinics including Alternative medical clinic and current. The current one offers quick appointments for target groups (i.e. men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users and sex workers). Please note that out-of-province and international students will need to prepay for the services of these clinics. However, out-of-province students can request reimbursement through their provincial health insurance. Based on the language of Health insurance plan for international students, it is not clear if STI testing is covered for international students. You can get more information by calling Blue Cross Customer Service at 1-888-873-9200.
Although the Student Wellness Hub does not offer abortions, pregnant women can make an appointment there to discuss their options with a healthcare professional and receive more information on where they can access an abortion. The Wellness Center also has a list of clinics where abortions are performed.
People with a RAMQ card can terminate a pregnancy free of charge through clinics such as Alternative medical clinic and female medical clinic. However, the fees for this procedure can be very steep for out-of-province and international students, and regardless of insurance coverage, anyone without a RAMQ card must pay in advance. International students are covered for both abortions up to 24 weeks and therapeutic abortions in full up to Blue Cross Insurance. For Canadian students outside Quebec, coverage varies by province and is not covered by the Student care plan via SSMU.
Overall, it is important for us to recognize that this is a context in which we are not used to navigating. Even seven months after the outbreak began, it’s normal and understandable that we are struggling to figure out how to get out and maintain relationships. In these new circumstances, we are all together creating new standards and boundaries and it is important to stay patient, listen, communicate and support those around you as best you can.
Lovers in limbo: can we overcome separation under confinement? by Leah Cowan in gal-dem
Modern-day romance: pandemic edition by Ariane Gacionis in The fulcrum
How homosexuals cope while staying indoors by Naveen Kumar in them.
Quarantine gay dating is frustrating – and oddly romantic by Lane Moore in daily elite