Back on March 21st, the NYC Department of Health issued initial guidelines regarding sex in the time of coronavirus. The main takeaway: “Your safest sex partner is yourself.” But as the country has “opened back” up, it recently released a revised set of “safer” sex guidelines. Like a cool mom handing out condoms, the amended protocols include the suggestion of sex in face masks, fooling around in open, well-ventilated spaces and using walls as barriers (a COVID-conscious glory hole, if you will).
And yet, even among such a comprehensive harm-reduction document, two noble sex acts were sadly overlooked: Fingering and hand jobs.
“No sex act that involves contact with another person is totally safe, but hand sex is among the safest options available,” confirms Caitlin Neal, a clinical sexologist and relationship coach. “As long as people are using proper hygiene, washing hands and not coughing or sneezing on each other, sex acts involving hands are the most safe,” sex therapist Miro Gudelsky agrees. “The safest sex acts are obviously going to be solo, but the runner-up is definitely using hands.”
Both experts suspect that the main reason public health officials neglected to comment on fingering and handies is because they were mainly looking at how the coronavirus is transmitted through bodily fluids and airborne droplets, and hand sex doesn’t necessarily have to involve either if proper precautions are taken. But they were also probably omitted because they’re considered juvenile sex acts, despite ample anecdotal evidence that hand stuff is underrated.
All the while, the pandemic has forced hookup culture to basically die. Walking dates through the park have replaced drunken one-night stands, and corona-induced exclusivity is the new ethical monogamy. With this return to innocence, fingering and hand jobs could be set up for quite the comeback — Zoom Sex Spring giving way to Hand Stuff Summer.
According to Anthony, a 26-year-old utility worker in New Jersey, if you’re going to take a walk through the park, you might as well get jerked off while you’re there. “I love hand stuff; I don’t know why people stopped,” he tells me. Doing it outside, he says, only makes it all the more risky and transgressive (but with the increased safety of proper ventilation, of course). “Trying to be discreet adds to the intensity of it, making it that much better.”
Rebecca, a 33-year-old nonprofit manager in Oregon, is another proponent of Hand Stuff Summer, suggesting a private backyard if exhibitionism isn’t your thing. Moreover, in addition to her day job, she mentors a group of twentysomething women. They’ve been pretty cautious throughout the pandemic but are starting to entertain the idea of getting back out there. In discussing ways to responsibly do so, the idea of getting fingered outdoors has come up on more than one occasion.
Meanwhile, some horned-up single people are simply framing it differently. “I prefer to think of it as no-kiss dating,” says Jessica, a 35-year-old producer in New York City. It’s somewhat on trend as well. This season of the Bravo reality series Summer House started off with a storyline where one of the roommates fingers the other, sans kissing. “Fingering is only hot if the person knows what they’re doing. Not kissing can be hot with anyone you’re already attracted to,” Jessica says.
Anthony has noticed a move away from kissing in general. “Even before COVID, most people weren’t really into kissing,” he says. “The virus will just magnify that.” He adds that he’s only been able to “observe” Hand Stuff Summer once so far, but hopes there will be more of it in his future. Admittedly, he’s had sex and kissed that person since, but he’s trying to “play it safe” and keep it to one partner. “If I were seeing multiple people, I might stick with fingering and hand jobs,” he confides.
All agree that these classic sex acts don’t get their just due. “They’re underrated because most people only talk about their bad experiences with fingering and hand jobs,” Rebecca tells me, adding that sites like OMGYes as well as a number of subreddits devoted to hand stuff can help people up their game. She even suggests taking Hand Stuff Summer to the next level with a massage table.
“If I were a really horny single guy on Tinder right now, I’d get a portable massage table and some coconut oil and offer to exchange tantric massages in a well-ventilated space or a private backyard,” Rebecca advises. “Because I know some really horny single women who would think that sounds awfully good.”
Overall, the main thing stopping Hand Stuff Summer seems to be the fact that, so far, data indicates that transmission of the coronavirus through vaginal or seminal fluids is unlikely. So as long as people are outside, wear masks, avoid anal, stick to reverse cowgirl and other positions where you don’t face each other, vaginal intercourse is about as risky as hand stuff — it’s just way more difficult to pull off al fresco. (That said, people do it.) In other words, if thirsty singles are going to take their chances, there are arguably more indulgent items on the menu.
That said, there’s never anything wrong with receiving a little helping hand.