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Talking About Sexual Risk Has Made It Easier to Discuss Covid-19 Risk With My Partner

·505 words·3 mins

We’re both working from the same graphic, a chart that stratifies the covid-19 risk of various activities. It’s been flying around social media a few weeks. But it’s not just a meme. The url in its upper right corner redirects to an article where health experts weigh in on the topic and provide this information.

My partner and I have rarely left our home over the past 3.5 months. All our supplies (including food) have been delivered, and we both work from home. Other than driving to a post office drop box to mail an oversized tax document, I haven’t had a need to leave.

But things are starting to pile up. Outer world tasks. Because when Texas “reopened” in May, the grace periods for things also went the way of the whale.

We need to get the car inspected. And the doctor suddenly doesn’t want to do telemedicine visits anymore, insisting that patients come in for checkups and medication refills.

So we’re talking about risk. The chart is an extremely helpful reference point.

“I’m comfortable with anything 3 or lower,” I say, “provided there’s a mask-required policy with full compliance wherever you’re going. And I’d prefer if you changed your clothes and showered after you return home.”

“I can do that,” he says. We note that the doctor’s office is technically a 4 on this particular chart but that our office has a mandatory masking policy that they actually enforce.

He says he’ll feel things out when he gets to the inspection garage. If he sees people crowding the area or walking around barefaced, he can leave and go somewhere else. He plans to wait outside away from others while the actual inspection takes place.

It’s a fairly seamless discussion. Takes just a few minutes. And we both abide by it.

It’s curious, because I keep running into folks who tell me they’re having a harder time coming to an agreement about acceptable covid-19 risk.

Talking About Sexual Risk Before This Built Up Skills to Discuss Non-Sexual Infection Risk

I think it helps that we’ve had risk-based discussions in the past on multiple occasions. Not about covid-19 of course —  but about sexually transmitted infection. We’ve spent years discussing in frank terms what we’re comfortable with our partner doing with others sexually and our expectations surrounding condom use and testing.

And we’re used to working from information from experts and letting that guide us. In those days, we didn’t have this particular covid-19 chart to guide us of course, but we had other information that we referenced about the level of risk of different sexual acts and ways to mitigate it.

And I can’t help but smile, noticing we tended to phrase things a certain way. I can remember saying, “I’m comfortable with X, provided Y happens.”

Anyway, it was something I never anticipated, when I was working on the sexual health portion of relationship agreements that one day the same skills would come in handy in a pandemic.

But here we are.


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