Sex, Media & Culture 

Making Kink COVID-19 Safe

David Ley Jul 31

Making Kink COVID-19 Safe

As communities open up from quarantine, kinky gatherings pose a risk.

As states and communities are starting to open back up and relax rules around quarantine. More people are starting to resume leisure activities, social gatherings, and hobbies.

Amidst this, people are navigating ways to maintain safety and minimize risks of infection and transmission of COVID-19. While still enjoying their pursuits.

The Red Cross has issued general health and safety guidelines, as have many government and health agencies. Guidelines are being developed for activities such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu and martial arts to ballroom dancing.

Folks who practice consensual nonmonogamy have been wrestling with ways they can resume their relationships and activities. Whether its swingers wanting their clubs to re-open or polyamorous people. Exploring ways to maintain multiple relationships while sheltered in place with their partners.

The BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadomasochism, dominance & submission) communities typically have frequent social gatherings. And organized kink activities, ranging from house parties to week-long hotel takeovers or even camp outs.

While these activities don’t always involve engaging in BDSM activities with other people. The social aspects to them are a critical and important part of the communities’ self-monitoring of consent and safety. And ways in which the people in these communities can experience healthy acceptance and social connections.

Isolation due to COVID-19 is likely to hit these groups hard. As many people within the BDSM community keep their interests in kink private.

And view such gatherings and connections as some of the only places they can be open about who they truly are.

Adapting health guidelines for COVID-19 to the kink community may begin to offer ways to accommodate safety and community needs. Because intimate, personal contact can transmit the virus, mindful awareness, planning.

Also caution is important, to maintain personal and public safety.

Kinky people, according to research, have well-developed communication, negotiation, and consent skills. To enhance their activities and ensure that they are safe, sane, and consensual.

People involved in such activities tend to be well aware of risks. And likely have skills and foundations which well prepare them for life in the current COVID-19 world.

The New York City health department has recently put out sexual guidelines for managing risk in the COVID-19 pandemic. They include recommendations about wearing masks, avoiding contact with unknown people. Who have unknown levels of exposure, and go on to recommend against certain sexual practices that might have higher levels of risk.

They recommend using videoconferencing to have sexy encounters at a distance, using good hygiene before, during, and after sex. To use protective and barrier devices including condoms and dental dams to reduce exposure and contact.

They also recommend incorporating COVID-19 testing and awareness into peoples’ personal consciousness and planning. Just in the same ways that regular monitoring testing for sexually-transmitting infections is a responsible way to be sexually healthy. 

The kink community can adapt and incorporate many of these guidelines and approaches as well:

-       Currently, kink activities are safest with your housemates and people you are quarantined with. Maybe this is a time to flip the script, and turn the tables. Exploring new aspects of your sexuality and kink with each other.

-       If you incorporate others into your kink activities, the safest ways to do so are by videoconferencing strategies. But just remember to attend to the privacy and security settings on those devices!

Get creative and detailed in what you want to see or experience, even if you’re halfway across the globe.

-       If you do choose to go to or have a gathering of your kink community, keep it small and intimate! Limit the number of people into the party.

-       Consider limiting the length of the party so it lasts 2-3 hours at most, as a way to reduce potential exposure.

-       Encourage attendees to get tested for COVID-19 and remember that antibody testing may not be reliable or necessarily ensure immunity or safety from infection.

-       Encourage attendees to self-monitor for illness or symptoms of infection, and to stay home if they or anyone close to them is sick.

-       Taking people’s temperature at arrival is best practice, to ensure attendees don’t have fever, though COVID-19 doesn’t always produce fevers.

-       Keep contact information for all attendees, in case of future needs for contact tracing. But again, make sure that contact information is secure and confidential.

As many people fear exposure and stigma if their interest in kink is revealed.

-       Indoors activities may create challenges for social distancing and increase risk of infection.

If you have access to outdoor private spaces, these might be safest during this long, hot summer ahead. If indoors, use well-ventilated areas, and keep windows open if you can (without disturbing your neighbors!)

-       At such a kinky gathering, remind people to socially distance during the party, except for with those people they live with and came to the party with.

-       Wear masks! Kinky people have long incorporated masks into their activities. Add some leather or studs to that medical mask!

-       Gloves and other protective barriers have never been more important to have available and use.

-       Make hand sanitizer available, and set up handwashing stations, so people can wash hands (and other parts) frequently.

-       During kinky activities, keep social distance, set up activity areas with distance and safety. Screens and curtains and other protective barriers may be useful to keep people distanced and safe.

-       Ensure everyone is using wipes and cleaning equipment to sterilize equipment, spaces, and surfaces, between and after use. Don’t share any toys or devices.

-       Party organizers may consider arranging for sign-ups and scheduling for use of different rooms or areas during the gathering.

People who participate in kink and BDSM communities tend to have experience. Familiarity with managing risks around sexually transmitted infections, personal emotional and physical boundaries. And enacting consent and integrity with their personal actions and choices.

In the COVID-19 era, these skills offer foundations to assist the BDSM community to remain connected and active. While still mitigating risks of infection.

Because knowledge and research about COVID-19 is fluid. Very quickly evolving, additional intervention and prevention steps may be needed in the future.

People involved in the kink community will need to constantly update. Check their strategies and processes, and incorporate new health and safety guidelines.

This article was drafted with the support and guidance of Heather McPherson, LPC-S, LMFT-S, certified sex therapist.

CEO of The Sexual Health Alliance, an organization dedicated to education and training around modern sexuality, relationships, and health.

Photo on https://janetsungart.com .


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