Monkeypox seems a lot easier to avoid than coronavirus. Monkeypox is much less contagious than covid-19. Coronavirus spreads through the air, simply through being in the same enclosed space as an infected person for a few minutes—a coworker in an office, a fellow meatpacker on the line at Smithfield, other kids or teachers at school, fellow worshippers in the pews at church. Avoiding those activities while we waited for coronavirus vaccines put a serious crimp in our daily and economic lives.
For the most part, quashing monkeypox seems to require simply boinking less and knowing whom you’re boinking:
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said 98 percent of the monkeypox cases detected since the outbreaks emerged in May have been among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. He called for those at risk to take steps to protect themselves.
“That means making safe choices for yourself and others, for men who have sex with men,” Tedros said. “This includes, for the moment, reducing your number of sexual partners.”
Infectious individuals should isolate and avoid gatherings involving close, physical contact, while people should get contact details for any new sexual partners in case they need to follow up later, the WHO chief said [“WHO Chief Advises Men to Reduce Number of Sexual Partners to Avoid Monkeypox,” AP via PBS, 2022.07.27].
The CDC agrees: if you gotta do it (and, seriously, you don’t gotta do it, but if that ship has sailed…), do it yourself… scrub up when you’re done… and again, give up anonymous sex for a while:
If you or your partner have (or think you might have) monkeypox and you decide to have sex, consider the following to reduce the chance of spreading the virus:
- Have virtual sex with no in-person contact.
- Masturbate together at a distance of at least 6 feet, without touching each other and without touching any rash.
- Consider having sex with your clothes on or covering areas where rash is present, reducing as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. If the rash is confined to the genitals or anus, condoms may help; however, condoms alone are likely not enough to prevent monkeypox.
- Avoid kissing.
- Remember to wash your hands, fetish gear, sex toys and any fabrics (bedding, towels, clothing) after having sex. Learn more about infection control.
- Having multiple or anonymous sex partners may increase your chances of exposure to monkeypox. Limiting your number of sex partners may reduce the possibility of exposure.
- Avoid touching the rash. Touching the rash can spread it to other parts of the body and may delay healing [CDC, “Monkeypox: Safer Sex & Social Gatherings,” updated 2022.07.29].
The hardest item on the CDC’s list should be “Don’t touch it!” That’s just like with chickenpox: it’s gonna itch, but don’t scratch it!
Let’s say you don’t have monkeypox, but you’re worried about getting it. How can you protect yourself?
Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
Do not kiss, hug, cuddle, or have sex with someone with monkeypox.
Avoid contact with objects & materials that a person with monkeypox has used.
Do not share eating utensils, cups, or toothbrushes with a person with monkeypox.
Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face, after you use the bathroom, and after sex/other intimate contact. (This is always a good idea.)
…How to have safer sex:
- Talk to your partner about any recent illness and skin lesions. [CAH: I’ll note that if you’re not comfortable talking about illnesses and skin lesions with the person you want to have sex with, that’s a sign you’re not ready to have sex—i.e., intimately relate—with that person.]
- …Stick with one sexual partner until you’ve ogtten the Jynneos vaccine.
- Avoid anonymous partners until you’ve gotten the Jynneos vaccine.
- Put a pause on having sex until you’ve gotten the Jynneos vaccine [Dr. Céline Gounder, Twitter thread, 2022.07.31].
Hmmm… no anonymous sex, no sex with people with lesions, stick with one partner—these are not hard rules to follow, and without going into detail, I can attest that I’ve lived under these restrictions for over two decades with no apparent negative effect on my money or my mental health.
Monkeypox is a lot easier to beat than coronavirus. Preventing the spread of this new disease requires far less sacrifice of far less essential activities than the previous pandemic required.