The Back-to-Sex Special: How to Prepare for the Post-Pandemic Summer of Sex

It's time to have sex again. Here's how to get ready, according to the experts.

May 11, 2021 9:49 am
Couple hold hands in bed
The summer of sex is around the corner. Are you ready?

At some point this year — probably June or July, according to most state legislators — coronavirus restrictions will ease and we will all re-emerge, like bears from their slumber, into polite society. To help you readjust, we’ll be sharing some advice on grooming, fitness, getting dressed in something besides sweatpants (but also sweatpants), how to manage your stress and mental health, dating, concert and bar etiquette, and more.

This time last year, like many young and single pandemic-dodgers who fled cities in the early days of COVID-19, I was living with my parents and wondering if I was ever going to have sex again

Reader, I did have sex again — and you will too, if you haven’t already. In case you haven’t heard, sex is expected to make a major comeback this summer. Yes, the great post-COVID fuckfest we’ve been awaiting (and predicting) since the earliest days of the pandemic is finally upon us. It goes by many names: “Hot Vax Summer,” “The Whoring ’20s,” “Shot Girl Sumer,” etc. But no matter what you choose to call it, the general idea is clear: It’s going to be a summer of sex — a grand return to the carefree sex lives most single people were forced to put on hold as a deadly pandemic rendered hookups both inadvisable and much harder to come by — and you’re all invited. 

But while the grand return of sex has been long-awaited, the prospect of a horny bacchanalia as foretold by the Hot Vax Summer prophecy might seem somewhat daunting, especially to those who haven’t yet resumed their regularly scheduled sex lives. If we’re all being adults here, there’s some undeniable pageantry to the Hot Vax Summer narrative, which suggests our sex lives have truly been on hold for the past fourteen months and this summer will mark a collective loss of pandemic virginity in one mass orgy. Of course people — even single ones — have still been having sex. I ended my own period of pandemic celibacy back in August, and plenty of other single and non-monogamous people have also figured out how to resume their sex lives amid the pandemic in a way that feels safe for them and their partners. 

As is true of nearly every aspect of post-COVID re-assimilation into society, we’re all at different places in our post-pandemic sex lives. Maybe you’ve remained dutifully celibate this whole time. Maybe you were one of the lucky ones having lots of quarantine sex with a partner in the early days of the pandemic, but have since become the victim of one of many pandemic breakups. Maybe you’ve started wading carefully and cautiously back into hookups and casual sex, or maybe you actually never stopped hooking up with strangers at all — I’m certainly not here to judge. But regardless of your current state of pandemic sexual activity, Hot Vax Summer represents an opportunity to begin a new chapter in your sex life.

In order to help you prepare for the horny renaissance ahead, we tapped some of our favorite sexperts for their advice on preparing your genitals — and your hearts and minds, of course — for their own grand re-entry into polite (or maybe not so polite) society. 

For the love of god just get vaccinated already

First things first, if you have any interest in participating in any version of Hot Vax Summer, you’re gonna need to get vaccinated — if you haven’t already. 

“The number-one thing you need to do to prep for Hot Vax Summer is GET VACCINATED!” says Courtney Kocak, co-founder and co-host of Private Parts Unknown, a podcast exploring love and sexuality around the world. “If you plan on getting involved in a lot of casual sex or play parties, getting vaccinated is a way to ensure your own and others’ safety,” adds sex-hacker, international sex expert and educator Kenneth Play, co-founder of sex-positive community Hacienda Villa.

It’s also important to remember that just because you’re fully vaccinated, that doesn’t mean everyone you want to hook up with is. If full vaccination is a non-negotiable for you, that needs to be fully communicated to any potential partners, because not everyone necessarily has the same expectations. “Some people are boasting about their vaccines while others don’t want to be bothered by folks who went that route,” says Taylor Sparks, erotic educator and founder of Organic Loven, one of the largest BIPOC-owned online intimacy shops. As is also true of conversations about sexual health and condom use, it’s often all too easy to ignore or overlook those boundaries when you’re caught up in the moment, so it’s always best to have the vaccine status chat before things get too heated, Sparks adds.

Check in on your sexual health 

Speaking of condoms and STIs, this might also be a good time for a check-up. As sex and relationship educator Davia Frost, Authentic Tantra Practitioner and owner of Frosted Pleasure, points out, vaccination status isn’t the only health status that matters; we still have STIs to think about. 

Again, regardless of your current level of pandemic sexual activity, Hot Vax Summer represents an opportunity for a new chapter in your sex life, and what better way to start that chapter than with a clean bill of sexual health? Now’s a great time to get tested for STIs, re-evaluate or switch your birth control method or preferences, and discuss any other sexual health concerns with a doctor.

It’s also important to check in with any partners, old or new, about their STI status. “Just because you haven’t had sex doesn’t mean they haven’t had sex,” says Kocak. “There have been many people continuing to party and have sex with plenty of people during the pandemic.”

Now might also be a good time to check in on the mental and emotional aspects of sexual wellness. What’s working in your sex life and what’s not? What boundaries, explicit or implicit, have you been neglecting? Is there anything you want to change about your sex life, your relationship to sex or to your partners? Frost suggests working with a sex or dating coach to figure out what you’re looking for in your love life, set goals and figure out how to reach them. 

“Don’t assume you feel comfortable with the same things you felt comfortable with in the before times,” says Kocak. “You’re a different person now. We all are.”

close-up of a woman's side profile lying in bed
Sex is back.

Leave your body-image woes behind

In addition to every other aspect of our lives, the pandemic also had an effect on most of our bodies. While some people made getting in the best shape of their lives their pandemic resolution, others found the stress, anxiety and general upheaval of the last year affected their bodies in possibly less desirable ways. Maybe you gained weight, maybe you lost it, maybe you stopped going to the gym, maybe you developed a dad bod

It’s normal, and perhaps even inevitable, for unintentional changes to your body to negatively affect your confidence — particularly in the bedroom. But regardless of how the pandemic may have changed your body or your relationship to that body, you shouldn’t let it hold you back from fully embracing and exploring your sex life this summer.

“A lot of our bodies have changed to some extent over the course of this stressful year,” says Kocak. “It’s natural to feel a little self-conscious about those changes, but remember that your body is beautiful. It got you through this challenge, so treat it with the grace it deserves — and anyone worth your time should treat it the same.

Don’t be afraid to take things slow

The Hot Vax Summer discourse makes it sound like everyone is about to have the horniest summer of their lives, and if you don’t, you’re doing it wrong. But not everyone is looking to jump a stranger’s bones the second they get vaccinated. For many people, the prospect of impromptu hookups with random strangers never held much appeal, and holds even less in the immediate aftermath of a pandemic. For the record, there is absolutely nothing wrong with sitting this summer of sex out altogether (and in case you’re wrestling with any FOMO, there’s almost no way it’s actually going to be as horny as predicted, anyway).

But even if you are interested in participating in some version of this summer’s horny celebrations, there’s nothing wrong with going at your own pace. Spoiler alert, everyone else will be going at theirs, too. Again, there isn’t actually going to be any mass Hot Vax Summer orgy in the street that you’ll be missing out on. 

“Start off slow,” says Play. “It might take some time to feel comfortable opening back up, and sometimes our mind might be faster than our body. So, honor your body’s pace.”

By the way, things might be awkward, and that’s fine. “Embrace the awkward,” says Play. “Most people feel a little rusty, so don’t expect to just jump back in the game like nothing happened. Be kind to yourself and others.”

Also, it’s totally normal if the prospect of a sexual bacchanal this summer doesn’t fill you with the pure joy and anticipation everyone else seems to be feeling. “If your sex life has been mostly with yourself during the pandemic, you might be feeling a strange mix of emotions as you prepare to put yourself back out there — excitement, anxiety, maybe even dread — so it’s important to check in with yourself emotionally as you go,” says Kocak. 

That said, remember that sex is something our bodies are literally built to do. No matter how long it’s been, you’re probably not as sexually inept as you fear. “It will be like riding a bike,” says Sparks. After all, she adds, “You never really forget how to have sex.”

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