CULTURE

Masks on, pants off: Six people open up about quarantine sex

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How do you navigate sex and dating during a four-month lockdown? Illustration by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — You might be asking: “Who could be hooking up at a time like this?”

Despite the rising COVID-19 cases (almost 60,000 in the Philippines and have gone over 13 million globally, as of this writing) and under a government that seems to have focused less on medical solutions and more on fast-tracking measures like an Anti-Terror Bill and shutting down ABS-CBN in a massive blow to press freedom — how could you possibly risk it?

READ: Quarantine sex? ‘Don’t do that now. Just masturbate’

Though experts have outlined all the reasons you shouldn’t have casual sexual encounters in quarantine (and they’re right), love and sex are parts of human life that no one can really just shut off, even for a pandemic. It’s something that we’ve all had to negotiate one way or another — whether you’ve chosen abstinence, figured out safe and remote sexual activities or gone out of your way for a risky hookup.

Still, it matters to mitigate risk for yourself and others. For guidance, you can find one of the most comprehensive documents on safe sex in the time of COVID-19 from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene here.

With that in mind, we’ve collected accounts of six “quaran-flings” from people who’ve (thus far) lived to tell the tale. Interviewed have been condensed and lightly edited, and names have been changed to protect the privacy of these individuals.

The one who kept his mask on

Chris*: I started using Grindr again since the ECQ was lifted. Not really looking for a hookup, just checking out the boys (I swear). I'm super afraid of getting COVID-19, particularly since I've had a COVID scare. I mostly do sexts or video calls. But last week, I was sexting with this guy and I got particularly riled up. We'd already met before but it turned out he moved a few blocks away from my apartment so I decided to meet him super quick and with a few rules: It'll be fast, I'll be wearing a mask, we'll just watch each other jack off. Although I was really turned on by how huge his dick was, so I gave him a handjob. It was over in 10 to 15 minutes.

Is there any way you tried to mitigate the risk of COVID infection during the hookup?

Chris: I washed my hands before and after. Kept my mask on. No blowjobs or kisses. I'd like to think that's pretty safe.

How do you feel about the encounter now? Would you do it again?

Chris: It's really high-risk, especially if your partner-to-be goes out of the house regularly for work. Maybe if it's the same circumstances as with this one, I'll consider doing it again. But I know some guys can't control themselves and would insist on a blowjob. It's a no for me.

Do you have any advice for people who are considering hooking up during quarantine?

Chris: Wash your hands before and after? If you really can hold it in, just masturbate. I think my hookup just happened because he happened to live nearby.

The trick is — and I always do this even before the pandemic began — if I'm itching to hookup, I masturbate first and see if it's just that first wave. If it passes, then I'm good.

The one with alternating fubus

Bart*: I’ve been doing it with two guys (separately), both were my fubus na even before quarantine started so there’s nothing really new. I think quarantine made everyone extra horny, that on day one of GCQ, one of them picked me up from my house (he never did before) to bring me to his condo, and dropped me off after doing it.

Is there any way you tried to mitigate the risk of COVID infection?

Bart: During sex? No, we went all the way. I guess it helped that they’re my friends and I knew them personally before COVID. I wore a mask in transit though, if that answers the question.

How do you feel about the encounters now? Would you do it again?

Bart: Well, I still think it’s risky ‘cause even though I know them I don’t have any knowledge or visibility of who they’re in contact with 24/7. As to the level of risk, they’re not frontliners so I guess it’s not high, but we’ll never truly know naman. We took risks, thought with our wrong heads, but we know each other so we might do it again.

Do you have any advice for people who are considering hooking up during quarantine?

Bart: Just do it with people you know, for easier contact tracing also in case things go south. At this time I don’t think I’m down to meet guys on dating apps yet.

The ones who got cuffed

Cebie*: When quarantine started, I had just gotten off a long-term fling. Quarantine felt extra lonely because of that so I went on dating apps. I probably talked to several guys but I ended up meeting one lang IRL — my current boyfriend whom I met through Tinder.

The idea of falling in love with someone you've never physically met before was alien to me, so when my boyfriend and I started online dating, I was really afraid that people would think I was crazy for having real feelings or that I was being stupid for trusting a stranger. Thankfully, most of my friends were supportive and they really just wanted to see me happy.

With regards to sex and intimacy, we had to do things technically in reverse: fall in love, go on actual dates (thanks, ECQ), have sex. It was a weird concept to grasp but it just made me realize dating doesn't really have to have a set pattern or steps. Every story probably has different beginnings, but not complying to social norms wouldn't make them any less real.

Olivia*: It depends on what you're looking for when you date. It's easy to find people who want to “hook up” digitally by sending nudes, etc., but if you're looking to date for a long-term relationship, that's harder to come by. I'm too concerned for my health to meet them outside, so whatever relationships are made virtually are kept virtually for now. In terms of navigating intimacy, I already approach relationships with the expectation that they're not going to last; that they exist to enjoy in the present, and if they somehow make it to my future, then well and good.

What role has COVID played in the way you’ve navigated and planned your relationships?

Cebie: COVID was a real bummer for us because we met and started liking each other during ECQ. He's from the East while I live in the South, making it practically impossible at the time to meet.

So for dates, we had to be creative in terms of getting to know each other: stuff that we can do at home. We’d often go on Zoom dates (watch movies, down some soju, play escape room games online) after work and during the weekends. Since communication was technically all we had going for us at the time, we made sure to dedicate time for each other. COVID taught us also to be more open when it comes to communicating, because it’s so easy to misunderstand things online. We had to take better care of each other’s feelings — making sure both parties are heard when they have something to say.

When we did eventually meet (two months after), it was nerve-wracking. We rented an Airbnb for our first in-person date (sex on the first date... shocking) where we spent the weekend getting to know each other.

Olivia: I have anxiety. I absolutely cannot take the risk of contracting COVID-19 and giving it to the people I live with right now. So virtual relationships stay virtual until I'm very sure the risks for contracting the virus are low. He just has to accept that. But at the same time we can feel how things go as time goes by. It's very touch-and-go.

Do you have any advice for people who are considering hooking up or dating during quarantine?

Cebie: My advice to people who want to date or hook up during quarantine: please be safe always in all ways! Wear a fucking mask when you're out because that shit ain't hard to do.

Olivia: Stay virtual. A physical hook up is not worth your life. Just because you're in your twenties, it doesn't mean you're invincible to this virus. It could still ruin your organs and disable you for years to come, and that's not worth even the best one night stand of your life.

The one with Car Fun Tunnel Syndrome

Mike*: I’ve only met up to have sex once this entire quarantine. The guy was one of my regulars, so even after the ECQ was enforced, we’d regularly send each other photos and videos to get each other by. I wasn’t going to do it at first, but months without physical intimacy was enough for me to risk it. Before we did, though, I made absolutely sure he hadn’t been out and about, exposing himself to the virus. He said he wouldn’t risk his own kid’s health (he’s a single father) and that was enough for me. So he drove to my place, picked me up and we did it right there in the car.

Is there any way you tried to mitigate the risk of COVID infection?

Mike: Other than making sure he was self-isolating during the weeks before we met, none. Unless you count turning off the AC and rolling the windows down an inch.

How do you feel about the encounter now? Would you do it again?

Mike: Guilty, definitely. Even though he assured me he had been in quarantine, there really is no way to make sure. We both put our personal wants over the health of our families. I mean it was good, but it wasn’t worth risking complete respiratory failure. So no, I don’t think I’d do it again.

Do you have any advice for people who are considering hooking up during quarantine?

Mike: Yeah. Just don’t. That D you’re hunting for might turn out to be death.

The one whose girlfriend cheated in quarantine

Nina*: Strap in, dudes, because this is a wild one. I was seeing this girl a couple of weeks before quarantine, and all was going pretty good. The sex was fire and she’d said “I love you” on like the third date and as a lesbian that’s all you really need before moving in together. So we actually did it. Within like three weeks of meeting her. When the virus was getting more serious and quarantine started, we parted ways and we both went to our parents’ to wait it out. But it was taking too long and it was starting to feel like the Sahara down there, so we started making plans to traverse the checkpoints to make it back home together.

It was crazy, dude. Did the Reddit research, pulled out all the stops, brought like three photocopies of our lease just so she could use her food delivery rapid pass to pick me up at my parents’. Not sure of the legality of it, but one checkpoint even kept my license for me to have to walk back and fetch before their lunch break (the soldier added me on Facebook afterwards so I guess that was the ulterior motive). It felt like mission impossible. And all for a crumb of good pussy.

Is there any way you tried to mitigate the risk of COVID infection once you moved back in?

Nina: I was being crazy careful when we moved back to our place. Spent tons on a test, bought a footbath, did the laundry like twice a week, bought us both a set of rainbow-colored masks. She wasn’t working from home, so I would shove vitamins in her mouth every time she got back from work. I thought everything was good but I noticed she was coming home late from work and “sometimes sleeping there” and at this point my tiny cottagecore lesbian brain was going, “Huuuh?”

That’s when I wised up and realized that she was hooking up with [a high-profile influencer, name redacted] the whole time, at [the influencer’s] house parties with tons of randos in attendance. You best believe I moved out my shit the next day. [I was] a crying, sniveling mess. And then I took another test. ‘Cause you never know where the influencers of Manila have been.

How do you feel about it now? Would you do it again?

Nina: No way, José. Moving in with someone who wasn’t as careful as me was super unwise. No matter how careful you are, you can’t be sure of what the other person is doing or whether they’re lying about their own safety. I let my heart and my nether regions speak for my brain. It’s not something I’m proud of, and I may have gotten out scott-free this time around, but our frontliners deserve better than that. I’m sorry.

Do you have any advice for people who are considering hooking up during quarantine?

Nina: Don’t do it. Or set aside money to get tested frequently. Or marry them. That’s literally the only advice I can give.

*Names have been changed to protect the interviewees’ identities