To Avoid Monkeypox, CDC Advises ‘Virtual Sex’ and Socially Distanced Masturbation

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“Try having sex with your clothes on,” advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a new two-pager issued this month, or masturbating 6 feet away from your partner if you’re worried you might have monkeypox. If clothes-on sex, whatever that means, doesn’t interest you, you could go for “virtual sex” or anything where you “avoid kissing” and keep body parts with inexplicable sores covered (which seems like good advice regardless of whether monkeypox is spreading). Regardless of which route you go, though, be sure to wash your sheets and your fetish gear, says the nation’s premier public health nanny.

Raves have “some risk,” says the CDC, crucially noting that “back rooms, saunas, or sex clubs, where there is minimal or no clothing and where intimate sexual contact occurs have a higher likelihood of spreading monkeypox.”

So far, little is known about monkeypox other than the fact that it appears to possibly be sexually transmitted, possibly through lesions (but also maybe through aerosols, so not necessarily sex), primarily via men who have sex with other men. There are fewer than 100 cases in the U.S. and a few thousand cases worldwide, though The New York Times notes that “epidemiologists are concerned because of the level of global transmission and because cases are cropping up without clear links to one another.” Next week, the World Health Organization will try to ascertain whether monkeypox qualifies as a global health emergency.

But the fact that monkeypox spread is a legitimate public health problem worth being somewhat conscious of doesn’t make the CDC’s fact sheet any less silly.

To some degree, the CDC’s job is to give people comically obvious advice like, “if you have open sores on your genitals, don’t rub them on someone else’s until you’ve identified what’s going on.” But we also, in this country, have a hallowed tradition of mocking and ignoring silly, impractical, and crazily obvious CDC advice, like their guidance on steak (don’t order it rare or medium-rare!), egg yolks (never consume raw eggs, you’re putting yourself at risk for salmonella), and even dental dams (put weird latex or polyurethane barriers between your mouth and the nether regions of the lady you’re giving oral sex to!). This is the same agency, after all, that tells the delicate ladyfolk to limit their booze consumption to one standard drink per day.

During the pandemic, though, that tradition went dormant. Many people succumbed to fear and hypercaution—sometimes for good reason, having undertaken a measured risk assessment, other times out of a misunderstanding of their own risk level and how the virus is spread. For the better part of two years, the CDC handed down impractical recommendations, and many people dutifully listened. The agency asked people returning to the U.S. to test themselves in the days after returning from travel (having already been required to test themselves to reenter the country); it pushed double masking in some public spaces (even very well-ventilated ones, like subway cars and airplanes); it handed down guidance which forced people to mask their very young children for the entirety of the school day, despite the fact that we’ve known for a very long time that young kids are at the lowest risk of contracting severe COVID cases.

Hopefully, the halcyon days of lambasting our nation’s public health nannies will soon return, as we collectively affirm that sex is probably better if done in person, with clothes off (or nice lingerie on!), at a range closer than 6 feet—CDC fact sheets be damned. Or, if you’re feeling cheeky, you can always don a special outfit to pay homage to our public health overlords while you flout their hypercautious guidance.

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