Even as LGBT Chicagoans, like so many Americans, have adopted social distancing and self-isolation tactics in order to contribute to "flattening the curve" of new COVID-19 transmissions, some community members are still looking to hook upor are have been approached online with offers to do soat a time when doing so can have significant health consequences.
Richard (not his real name) lives in the western suburbs with his husband, and said that he has had an uptick in invitations to hook up from friends and online acquaintances since the statewide call for self-isolation started.
"That includes from a lot of people I hadn't seen in years," Richard added. "I was like, 'Really? Now's the time you want to do this?'"
Richard emphasized that he considers himself to be "super-sex positive," but his husband tested positive for COVID-19 exposure, so the couple are taking their isolation seriously.
Indeed, one acquaintance is holding a weekly sex party to which he has extended repeated invitations.
"To me, that just seems kind of thoughtless," said Richard.
According to Jim Pickett, who is the AIDS Foundation of Chicago's (AFC) senior director of prevention advocacy and gay men's health, community members should either consider not hooking up for the duration of the pandemic, or at least give serious consideration to how they're going to carry it out and still stay safe.
Pickett noted that no data exists detailing to what extent hooking up is still going on, but that numerous individuals have described offers like those extended to Richard on social media and in other forums.
"My take on that is that I'm not surprised," Pickett added. "This is human nature. When people are stressed out and scared, you still have a human desire to connect. So I don't want to pathologize people who are doing that. I just think some people don't understand how serious this pandemic is. It's not spread sexually, it's spread casuallyyou can breathe this virus into your body."
Pickett has no illusions that every single community member will refrain from hooking up, and offered some tips should someone absolutely insists upon it. He has long maintained that shaming and "finger-waving" from community members and authorities does little more than add to the anxieties that might trigger the behavior in the first place or strengthen the resolve to carry that behavior out.
As such, Pickett suggested, "Keep your circle small. If you have someone who is your 'quarantine bae'one person, and you're both very careful about physical distancingyou're not going to eliminate harm but you're going to reduce it. You're focusing your hookups on one person."
Pickett suggested that, if someone is meeting for sex with someone from outside their own immediate living space, those people should minimize face-to-face contact all they can, since COVID-19 is transmitted primarily through the nose and mouth.
"There are things that you can do sexually, positions that you can do, that are less risky," Pickett said. "You can fuck from behind, or jack off together. But face-to-face kissing, that's where transmission occurs, in your mouth and your nose. … If your favorite position is to have your face in a pillow, that can be a potential harm-reduction technique. You're not coughing, spitting or breathing on that person.
He added, "Obviously, if you have any signs or symptoms, stay the fuck home. But even then, that recommendation doesn't address the fact that you can spread this when you have zero symptoms."
Indeed, Pickett concluded, "The safest sex partner you can have is the one you're with with all the timemasturbate. Have a good time."
Pickett said that hookup apps have value in the current medical climate, even when persons aren't using them to find physical encounters.
"I think a lot of people are using the apps to share pictures and connect with each other," he noted. "There's a lot of sexting going on, which is hot. I think phone sex is coming back. With our technology right now, you can do FaceTime and Houseparty, for example, and have amazing video-sex with people. Keep doing that. Embrace pornthere's so much available. Explore it and enjoy it."
Indeed, even Richard admitted that "it was kind of a turn-on" to receive photos from the previous installments of the orgies he was being invited to, even when he had no intention of going to one.
Pickett said, "There are all kinds of ways to connect without being in the same physical place."