Sex & Relationships

What Are The Risks Of Having Sex In Public During The Pandemic?

An attorney and an infectious diseases physician weigh in.

Originally Published: 
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Your evening with hot-person-from-Tinder is going well. So well, in fact, that you and your date officially can't stand the sexual tension anymore, and begin searching for a place to make out. Before you know it, you're considering having sex in public during the coronavirus pandemic — something that, in the back of your mind, doesn't feel like the safest idea.

And yet, it feels better than going back to your apartment, where you have two roommates or your date's place since they live with their parents. Having sex in public — like in the park, or behind a building — can seem like your best and only option, especially when you want to keep your germs to yourselves. But there are more factors to take into consideration. Even if you're doing it in a parked car or in the woods at night, you run the risk of getting caught by the police and facing fines — and even jail time.

So, before you find yourself in a similar situation, let's break down what could go wrong. According to Dr. Aniruddha Hazra, internal medicine and infectious diseases physician and member of The Meet Group’s Safer Dating Advisory Board, the biggest risk is catching or passing on the virus. "COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets," he tells Bustle, so all it takes is one kiss to get sick.

While more research is necessary to determine if the virus can be transmitted through sexual fluids, it has been detected in the semen of people who have or are recovering from COVID-19, Hazra says. That's why he recommends using a condom if you decide to have sex to be extra cautious. And also, as always, to prevent STIs and unintended pregnancy.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your date could be sick even if they aren't showing any symptoms. "If your partner is an asymptomatic carrier of the disease, you can undoubtedly become exposed during sexual activity," Dr. Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, CEO of Dr. Nesochi LLC, an internal medicine practice, tells Bustle. That's why, even if they swear they've never had COVID-19 or that they feel fine, it doesn't guarantee it's safe to get close. It's still recommended that you stay at least six feet apart and wear masks — even on a date.

What Happens If You Get Caught Having Sex In Public

Now, to move onto the legal side of things. While having sex outside is a) exciting and b) a seemingly good option during the pandemic, it's almost never worth the risk. In fact, "it is illegal," Victoria R. Clark, Esq., a Clark Law managing attorney, PLLC, tells Bustle. Even if you're being really careful — say, parking your car in an empty lot — you can still get in trouble with the police.

Each state has its own laws regarding lewd acts and indecent exposure, but usually "having sex or exposing genitalia in public places can subject an individual to up to 90 days, a year, or more in jail, depending on the circumstances," Clark says. "The penalties can be even more severe in places where children are nearby."

Her recommendation? "Just don't do it."

How To Have Safer Sex During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Many people are still dating during the pandemic and starting new relationships, Okeke-Igbokwe says, so the question of whether or not to have sex will undoubtedly cross your mind. While you might not want to do so in public, where you run the risk of getting caught, you might decide to go back to your apartment, get a hotel, etc., after getting to know someone.

To lower your risk of getting sick, Hazra recommends taking advantage of the many video features dating apps are rolling out so that you can vet your date before meeting up. If either of you is concerned about being sick, wait two weeks before hanging out and "if COVID-19 is surging in your area, consider other methods of intimacy such as video chatting or sexting," he says.

Don't be afraid to talk openly about your concerns either, especially if you're thinking about having sex. Talk about things like where you work, if you've been wearing masks, and hooking up with other people. "Any reduction in the number of sexual partners will inevitably reduce your and your partners’ risk," Hazra says.

If you do meet up to have sex, you can always get creative. Keep your mask on and "get kinky," Hazra says, "or try using physical barriers." And finally, get yourself tested at regular intervals, either monthly or within five to seven days of potential exposure. The best way to keep yourself and others safe is to continue social distancing, but if you do want to have sex during the pandemic, these tips will help lower your risk.


Dr. Aniruddha Hazra, internal medicine and infectious diseases physician

Dr. Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, internal medicine physician

Victoria R. Clark, Esq., managing attorney

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