Relationships & Sexual Health During COVID-19

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Relationships & Sexual Health During COVID-19

Table of Contents 3

Maintaining Intimacy In Relationships While Social Distancing



Virtual Dating & Pleasure



Healthy Communication & Boundaries

Sexual Health During COVID-19

Community Resources

Maintaining Intimacy In Relationships While Social Distancing For many couples this will be their first time maintaining a relationship “long distance.” Everything in life has a learning curve and it is okay if you realize your relationship hits a few “bumps” during this time. Here are some tips and tricks to try and maintain intimacy and your relationship during social distancing:

Communicate ■ Always remember to express how you are feeling. ■ This is a difficult time and if you need to adjust your relationship for the time being, talk to your partner about it. ■ Stay connected.

Make your expectations of each other clear ■ How much you talk. ■ How many dates.

Set Boundaries ■ You don’t have to talk constantly. ■ You can take “me” time.

Set up a weekly “date” ■ Have a FaceTime/Zoom dinner. ■ Watch a movie or show together (Netflix party). ■ Write letters to each other. ■ Cook the same recipe together. ■ Do a book club.

Sex ■ Sexting/Safe Sexting (more information on this later!). ■ Make a list of what you are okay with and what you are not comfortable doing. ■ Although sex can be an important part of a relationship, relationships can involve much more than sex, and it is okay to wait until you are physically together.


Healthy Communication & Boundaries Boundaries To set a boundary, do it clearly, calmly, firmly, respectfully, and in as few words as possible. Do not justify, get angry, or apologize for the boundary you are setting. Why it’s good: to practice self-care and self-respect, to communicate your needs in a relationship, to make time and space for positive interactions, to set limits in a relationship in a way that is healthy. We understand there might be barriers to setting boundaries, such as fear of rejection (and ultimately, abandonment), fear of confrontation, guilt, inexperience with setting healthy boundaries, potential safety concerns. These are valid concerns, and if you would like to talk these feelings out, there are resources available for you. ■ You can reach out to a confidential advocate at Safer by making a virtual appointment at ■ You may also speak with a peer health coach by emailing

How to respect other people’s boundaries: ■ Start from a place of respect. ■ Ask about boundaries – don’t assume what others’ are based on your own. Commit the boundary to memory. ■ If you feel like the boundaries set in your relationships are clashing with what you want or need, you still need to respect those boundaries, but you should also examine your own boundaries to see if you’re placing unhealthy expectations on your partners, teammates, friends. It is not okay to expect your partner, teammates, or friends to change their boundaries in order to fit your wants/needs. It’s healthy to find another way to fill those wants/needs.



Communicate wants, needs, and limits respectfully. Tips for better communication: ■ Find the right time Try to find a time when both you and your partner are calm and not distracted. Scheduling a time to have an honest communication might be a good option if you are both considerably busy. Having a time in which both partners are mentally present will result in a better conversation. ■ Talk face to face if possible Schedule a Zoom or FaceTime call with your partner if you are not living together. Talking face to face can minimize the amount of miscommunication that can occur over text or email. ■ Do not attack This can put your partner on the defense and minimize the chance for honest communication. Trying using “I feel” and “we” statements instead of “you” statements to prevent defensiveness. ■ Be honest Honesty is the key to any relationship and allows both partners to feel better after a conversation. Understand that we are not perfect, and apologize when you make an honest mistake. ■ Check your body language Half of our communication is nonverbal. Show your partner you are listening by giving them your full attention, having open posture and making eye contact when possible. This can be especially important when communicating virtually.

How to communicate when you are angry It is okay to be angry - everyone is from time to time - but it is about how you express yourself when you are angry. Consider the following steps when you’re experiencing anger in the moment: ■ Stop Take time to take a breath. Tell your partner when you need to take a short break from a conversation to calm down. ■ Think After you are no longer upset, think about what made you angry so you can verbalize these feelings better. ■ Talk Talk with your partner using the above tips for better communication. ■ Listen After you have taken your turn to talk, be sure to return the favor by actively listening to what your partner has to say. 5

Now living with partner in close quarters for first time? ■ Set healthy boundaries If you are quarantining with a partner, the two of you will be spending a lot of time together. Be sure to be open and honest about your boundaries and when you need to be alone it’s okay to want personal time, especially in this stressful moment. ■ Be honest about finances This is a difficult time for most individuals financially, as many people could be out of a job or have a significant decrease in hours. Talk about how you can and will split the finances during this difficult time. Money issues is one of the leading causes of stress on a relationship. ■ Have open communication Specifically about your routine and habits. Not everyone has the same morning routine or cleaning and lifestyle habits. Be honest about what your normal lifestyle is like and any expectations you have. ■ Be willing to compromise Many people have conflicting lifestyles but can live together because they are willing to compromise. It is unreasonable to expect one person in the relationship to completely change their lifestyle. In order to expect someone to follow your expectations, you must also be willing to compromise to make your partner feel at home as well.


Virtual Dating & Pleasure Online safety Privacy is paramount ■ Only release personal information (your full name, location, age, pictures, etc.) to matches, partners, or anyone when you feel comfortable. Do not feel pressured to release personal information to someone you do not know and trust. ■ Many dating apps allow for calls and messaging between matches so that you do not have to release your phone number until you are ready.

Sugar Dating/Transactional Relationships ■ Establish an agreement with your sugar parent. Discuss beforehand what will be exchanged and what the expectations are for both parties. Be sure to thoroughly discuss your boundaries and what you are comfortable with. ■ To maintain and protect your privacy, utilize secure money exchanging services like Venmo or PayPal to avoid sharing banking information. ■ Never feel pressured to do anything you are not comfortable doing. Keep an open line of communication with your sugar parent and be sure that both parties obtain consent for any and every exchange, virtual or in person. Remember that consent is ongoing can be withdrawn at any time.

Safe sexting ■ What is sexting? ❒ Sexting is the act of consensually sharing sexually explicit content with another person, whether that be videos, photos, texts, websites, etc. ■ Talk to partners about what sexting may look like. ❒ Just like any other sexual activity, you must obtain consent before sexting, and while doing so. ❒ Talk to partners about your comfort level in exchanging pictures, videos, and sexy texts to make sure you’re on the same page and all parties feel comfortable.


Dating Virtually Here are some ideas on how to have a fun and exciting virtual date with any partner: Prepping for your virtual date ■ Get dressed up as you normally would for a date to boost your confidence or dress up in your favorite pajamas for a comfy casual option.

Buy each other dinner ■ Utilize online takeout delivery services like GrubHub or DoorDash to order dinner for each other! Discuss budget and food allergies and let your date surprise you with a dinner. ■ When the food arrives, open the meals together and enjoy a virtual dinner date! ■ Keep in mind that if you choose a delivery service you may have to disclose your address to your date. Consider choosing a pick-up option to increase privacy.

Zoom dates ■ Zoom is a great video chat option as it allows for people to meet face to face without exchanging phone numbers and at a safe social distance. ■ Utilizing Zoom allows you to change your background to increase privacy. You are also in control of your audio and camera which can be turned on or off at any time. Additionally, you can change your name to a screen name, an alias, or a nickname to further increase privacy.

Netflix Party Google Chrome Extension ■ If both parties have Netflix accounts, download the Chrome extension “Netflix Party”. This extension allows for people to sync up their Netflix videos and use a chat feature to message while the video plays! ■ This is a great option for people who want to keep messaging their date but do not want to exchange personal information.

Jackbox Games ■ The Jackbox Games allow for you to turn your date into a game night! Jackbox offers many different options and packages so you can play many games over Zoom, FaceTime, or another screen sharing app! ■ Only one person needs an account and the other can play using their phone! ■


Healthy masturbation and self-pleasure

The safest social distanced sex is sex with yourself! Benefits of masturbation ■ Masturbation can be good for your health, both mentally and physically! It’s pretty much the safest sex out there — and there’s no risk of getting pregnant, getting an STI, or exposing yourself to COVID-19.

Why masturbate? ■ Masturbation is a great way to release sexual tension, especially when you cannot have close physical contact with a partner. ■ Other benefits of masturbation include reduced stress, improved sleep, menstrual cramps and muscle tension relief, and strengthened muscle tone in your pelvic and anal areas.

Can you masturbate too much? ■ Masturbation only becomes “too much” if it gets in the way of your job, your responsibilities, or your social life. If that’s a problem for you, you may want to seek help and talk to a counselor or therapist or seek out resources for support.

Porn and Masturbation ■ Pornography can add a visual stimulation to your experience, you can even watch similar videos with a partner as a form of mutual masturbation. ■ Keep in mind that porn is for entertainment and is not meant to be realistic. ■ Online resources:


Sexual Health During COVID-19 There is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread through vaginal or seminal fluids; COVID-19 is not an STI. ■ WWH-Sex-and-COVID_v4.pdf However, COVID-19 can be spread through coughing, sneezing, or breathing on others. In order to prevent COVID-19, follow social distancing and avoid close physical contact with anyone who doesn’t live with you. ■ covid-19-new-coronavirus/covid-19-and-your-sexual-health

STI education/testing/resources It is important to get tested for STIs once every three months if you have multiple partners or yearly if you are in a monogamous relationship. Many STIs are asymptomatic and can be spread from person-to-person even if you are not showing signs or symptoms – that’s why regular testing is so important. If you had a risky sexual encounter and are concerned about STIs, always contact your doctor or medical provider, or a local sexual health clinic like Planned Parenthood. During the COVID-19 pandemic, most Planned Parenthood health centers are still open and providing services such as free or low-cost STI testing. Even if they have switched to telehealth, they can still do some limited STI testing. Call your local Planned Parenthood to find out more. Remember: barrier methods of contraception like condoms and dental dams are the only forms that can protect against STIs. Online resources for STI education: ■ CDC: ■ Planned Parenthood: stds-hiv-safer-sex


Contraception Education/Resources It’s important to talk with a physician or medical provider to discuss which birth control method is right for you. Some require a daily commitment like taking the pill. Other birth control forms, like the IUD or implant, require an initial insertion done in a doctor’s office with yearly check-up appointments. There are many different forms of birth control, both hormonal and non-hormonal. Hormonal contraceptive methods generally must be prescribed to you by a doctor. Some non-hormonal birth control methods also must be prescribed to you but others, like condoms and dental dams, are available over the counter.

Getting birth control during the COVID-19 pandemic Most Planned Parenthoods are still open and providing services. Some have switched to telehealth and can still provide birth control prescriptions over the phone/online. â– See Community Resources For insertion/removal of IUDs and implants, this will have to be done at an in-person doctor appointment (either with a local doctor or at a Planned Parenthood that is still providing in-person services). If in-person services are unavailable, other hormonal birth control like the pill, patch, or ring can be prescribed or refilled via a doctor over-the-phone or even online. Some telehealth resources for birth control includes Nurx, The Pill Club, and Pandia Health. These resources can send your birth control directly to your door and, depending on what US state you are in, can even give you a new prescription for birth control. 11

Nurx ■ Price - $15 initial consultation fee. Price of birth control depends on your insurance. If you don’t have insurance they have low-cost options for as low as $15. ■ Available in Alabama, California, Colorado, Washington, DC, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, & Wisconsin. ■ Can also provide STI Home test kits (varies by state), emergency contraception,and more!

The Pill Club ■ If you already have an active prescription for birth control, they can deliver your prescription to you in any state in the US. ■ If you need a new prescription, they can prescribe birth control to Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, & Wyoming. ■ Accepts major insurance including MediCAL and Family PACT. If you don’t have insurance, they offer competitive pricing for birth control. Initial consultation fee is $15.

Pandia Health ■ If you need a new prescription, the cost for an online doctor to review your health questionnaire and prescribe birth control to you is $20. ■ The price for birth control depends on your insurance. The price without insurance for birth control can be as low as $15. ■ If you have an active prescription, Pandia Health can send you your birth control to all 50 states in the US. However, if you need a new prescription, they can only provide online doctor visits for those in California, Florida, and Texas. If you are on the birth control shot (Depo-Provera) and are unable to see your regular nurse or doctor, you may be able to get your next scheduled shot at a clinic like Planned Parenthood or even at a pharmacy. Not all contraceptive methods have to be prescribed! Barrier methods like external condoms, internal condoms, and dental dams are available over the counter at drugstores, grocery stores, convenience stores, or online. 12

Getting emergency contraception during the COVID-19 Pandemic Plan B and its other generic forms are available at drugstores and pharmacies over the counter. Another emergency contraception pill, Ella, you will need a prescription for. Either call your local health provider or Planned Parenthood. Even if they are no longer doing in-person appointments, they may still be able to send a prescription for you to your local pharmacy. ■ Ella is effective for longer than Plan B - and is more effective for people with higher BMIs. Insertion of the copper IUD can also be used as a form of emergency contraception; however, this can only be done at an in-person clinic appointment and you may be limited in getting this if your local health clinics are no longer doing in-person appointments. Online resources for education: ■ Bedsider: ■ Planned Parenthood: Birth control is not one-size-fits-all. If you are thinking of starting birth control, discuss different types with a doctor or medical provider to find out which form might be best for you! Some things to consider may be which is easiest to use, which is best at preventing pregnancy, or if you want to use a hormonal vs. non-hormonal form.


Community Resources The Center (San Luis Obispo County) Free to low-cost family-planning and reproductive health services for adults, teens, and undocumented individuals. ■ Accepts CenCal. ■ Most clients qualify for free services via a state-funded program based on a sliding-fee scale. They have suspended in-clinic services. They are still providing contraceptives, treatment medications, emergency contraception, condoms, and limited testing in a drive-in car hop manner. You can drive to their parking lot and call when you arrive in the parking lot and they will take paperwork and other supplies out to your car. ■ Can still do emergency contraception services (just not copper IUD). ■ Can still start you on birth control and do refills (pill, patch, ring, and shot). ■ Not doing insertions or removal of long term birth control (IUD or Nexplanon). ■ Can start people on presumptive treatment of UTI/yeast infection/ or other bacterial infections. ■ Can do precautionary testing where they give you a urine cup, you take it home, urinate in it, and you bring it back. They seal it and send it off to the lab.

Contact Information: ■ 705 Grand Avenue San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 14

■ Phone: (805) 544-2478

Planned Parenthood (Nationwide) Many Planned Parenthoods are open and still providing essential services along with precautions in place to protect the health and safety of staff. However, some Planned Parenthoods have suspended in-person appointments and are only doing telehealth (phone or video appointments). Some have reduced hours or have temporarily closed. They recommend calling your local Planned Parenthood for more specific details. If a Planned Parenthood is doing telehealth, they can reach patients online or over the phone to provide services like birth control, STD testing, and gender-affirming hormone therapy.

For San Luis Obispo Still open and providing services. Call to make an appointment or make an appointment online.

Contact Information: â– 743 Pismo Street San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 â– Phone: (888) 898-3806

For students not in the San Luis Obispo Area: Find your local Planned Parenthood:

This guidebook was written by Cal Poly students, for Cal Poly students. Thank you to Bri Tomlinson, Kiki Basil, Michaela Donofrio, and Sarandon Gilbert for collaboratively developing this resource guide.


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