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How to flirt in the time of COVID-19 ?

Text updated on 2020-11-23

Social distancing, an essential tool for reducing the spread of COVID-19 is difficult to comply with over a long period of time and in the absence of an end date. The temptation to resume physical contact is great. To reduce the risks, for oneself and especially for our loved ones and family members who may be more vulnerable, wearing a mask, interacting in ventilated areas, and distancing oneself are the best means of protection against COVID-19.

In the wake of the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic, the closure of bars, restaurants, concert halls and discotheques, distance learning, and the large-scale development of teleworking have made it possible to implement social distancing, an essential measure to act as a barrier to COVID-19. Under these conditions, how can we continue to meet and interact with others?

The sudden disappearance of social places has made even more attractive exchange applications such as Zoom or HouseParty and dating applications such as Tinder or OkCupid. These applications have become remote exchange places to counter the imposed loneliness and to meet new people, and their use has exploded during confinement.

Social isolation is difficult to live with, is a source of discomfort for a large majority of individuals, and can lead to a deterioration in the state of mental and physical health. Since deconfinement, the trend has been towards a general loosening of social distancing, with more and more contact within a meter of each other. The idea of an occasional or loving relationship makes one forget the risk of the disease.

To have sex is to take the risk of being contaminated or infecting. Although the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has been detected in the semen of some patients, the question of whether COVID-19 is a sexually transmitted disease is not particularly relevant. Indeed, in sexual encounters, it is obviously impossible to stay more than one meter away, it is very hard not to touch the same surfaces, and it is difficult to prevent contact of secretions through respitory openings, even with a mask. This disease can be transmitted during sexual intercourse through the nose, mouth, and eyes.

When refraining from taking risks becomes impossible, it is advisable to evaluate the risks in order to reduce them as much as possible: evaluate the risks one takes for oneself but also the risks one forces others to take.

The risk of becoming infected with or transmitting SARS-CoV-2 varies according to several parameters, depending on whether :

- we live alone, as roommates, or as a family,

- we frequently see our parents or grandparents who are more vulnerable to COVID-19,

- we work at home or, on the contrary, in a humanly dense environment,

- we limit social contacts or, on the contrary, multiply outings and exchanges,

- we tend to be rather monogamous or polygamous.

The risks are greatest if you live with others, see your parents and grandparents regularly, interact with colleagues, clients or patients, have a life rich in social contacts, and are not monogamous. If it is difficult to wear a mask in a casual or romantic relationship, it is important to keep the mask on when meeting parents or grandparents, colleagues, clients, patients.

Taking risks for oneself is a personal decision but the spread of COVID-19 depends on all of us. To make your choices, you have to consider the real possibility that you are putting all the people close to you at risk. To protect our loved ones, let's continue to apply barrier gestures as much as possible and, above all, wear a mask and visit our loved ones in well-ventilated places, which is the best protection against the transmission of COVID-19.

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The number of conversations and "matches" increased between February and March 2020.

OkCupid investigation.

This survey shows that 71% of French people during confinement thought more than usual about deprivation of liberty and 68% about deprivation of social life. It also reveals that 47% of the under-35s have contacts less than one meter away.

IPSOS survey, COVID19 Barometer, from 6 to 11 May 2020, conducted by "Datacovid association" on 5000 people in France.

Social isolation and feeling alone are stressors that increase the risk of developing endocrine, cardiovascular and inflammatory pathologies, and increase the probability of mortality.

Steptoe, A., Owen, N., Kunz-Ebrecht, S. R., & Brydon, L. (2004). Loneliness and neuroendocrine, cardiovascular, and inflammatory stress responses in middle-aged men and women. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 29(5), 593-611. Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: a meta-analytic review. Perspectives on psychological science, 10(2), 227-237.

In humans, the tendency to take risks can be explained within a theoretical "cost/benefit" framework by the fact that most attention is focused on the perceived benefit rather than the cost of the risk.

Hanoch, Y., Johnson, J. G., & Wilke, A. (2006). Domain specificity in experimental measures and participant recruitment: An application to risk-taking behavior. Psychological Science, 17(4), 300-304.

This literature review assesses the impact of information campaigns to reduce the risk of infection with a sexually transmitted disease, in this case HIV. Even if some campaigns raise awareness of the risks, they do not lead to the disappearance of risk-taking by individuals.

Maticka-Tyndale, E., & Barnett, J. P. (2010). Peer-led interventions to reduce HIV risk of youth: a review. Evaluation and program planning, 33(2), 98-112.

Epidemiological study of 105 cases of COVID-19 and their close contacts in China: the secondary attack rate for contacts who were spouses of index cases was 27.8%, compared to 17.3% for other adult household members.

Li, W., Zhang, B., Lu, J., Liu, S., Chang, Z., Cao, P., ... & Chen, J. (2020). The characteristics of household transmission of COVID-19. Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The semen of 38 patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 in hospital in Henan province was analyzed. In 6 of them, or 15.8%, the semen tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus RNA. Of the 6 patients, 4 were in the acute phase of the disease COVID-19 and 2 were in remission.

Li, D., Jin, M., Bao, P., Zhao, W., & Zhang, S. (2020). Clinical characteristics and results of semen tests among men with coronavirus disease 2019. JAMA network open, 3(5), e208292-e208292.

Semen tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus RNA in 13 COVID-19 patients, 11 after testing negative for nasal-oral secretions, 1 while they still had the virus and 1 who died from COVID-19.

Song, C., Wang, Y., Li, W., Hu, B., Chen, G., Xia, P., ... & Yang, X. (2020). Absence of 2019 Novel Coronavirus in Semen and Testes of COVID-19 Patients. Biology of Reproduction.

The semen of 34 men in remission did not contain the SARS-CoV-2 virus after 9 to 79 days (median 31 days) after the diagnosis of COVID-19.

Pan, F., Xiao, X., Guo, J., Song, Y., Li, H., Patel, D. P., ... & Li, P. S. (2020). No evidence of SARS-CoV-2 in semen of males recovering from COVID-19. Fertility and Sterility.

Some artists think how to seduce themselves without risk!


Further reading

Why put on a mask?

How do you wash your hands?

How do we assess the risks in our daily lives?