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Can your friendship survive casual sex during a pandemic?

As the pandemic slips into month nine, some people are starting to slip into bed with their pod mates. Some call this coronalingus, some call it casual sex or roommate sex, and others just call it a bad idea. But, look, I’m not here to judge. I want everyone to have all the hot, consensual, non-virus spreading sex they can handle, but I also want to people to have friends when the pandemic finally passes, so I asked experts to weigh in on how to have casual sex in a way that won’t kill a friendship.

As usual, the key to navigating sexual complexity in a friendship — or in any ‘ship — is communication. As not hot as it sounds, that means having a conversation with your potential FWB before you have sex. Because, boundaries. “If you and a friend have decided to become intimate, check in with one another and mutually decide what feels like the best next steps,” says Alison LaSov, a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist who specializes in relationship and family therapy. While sexual chemistry does feel like magic, having sex with someone is a decision you are making with that person, and if you already care about them, it’s better to figure out in advance —as much as possible — what having sex is going to mean for your relationship.

“Maybe it was a one time thing to see if there were sparks or maybe one of you has strong feelings for the other,” says LaSov. Having sex with friends can get real messy if your perspectives on what’s going on between you are wildly divergent.

If, for example, you’re just trying to find an alternative to a Netflix binge, but your friend has been catching feelings for you for months, you should probably get on the same page before you hop into the same bed. LaSov says that she encourages her clients to have open and caring conversations from the jump so that expectations are set upfront and neither person is left wondering how the other is feeling.

But conversation isn’t just foreplay. You’re also probably going to have to talk it out post coitus. This is especially important if you live with someone. According to a survey done by dating site Match.com, one in four single people has had sex with a roommate during COVID-19. You may be able to avoid the subject of sex with a casual pod mate, but it’s harder if you live in close quarters.

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Avoiding the subject of sex with someone you’ve slept with is also not advisable, says LaSov. “While it may be initially uncomfortable after experiencing intimacy with a friend, it’s important to work through your feelings together, as friends, so that you can get back on track,” LaSov advises. I think the conversation that happens after sex should be arranged, if possible, before the sex. It’s just too easy to awkwardly bypass talking once you’ve exchanged fluids.

Sometimes having sex with a friend can lead to romance, but even if finding companionship within your pod doesn’t seem likely, sex can actually make friendships stronger. “It can be exciting to enter into a relationship with someone who knows you well and cares deeply about you,” LaSov says. I know, I know, that’s the opposite of what usually happens. That’s probably because most people don’t do the backend work of communicating with care.

But what if you do accidentally have sex with a podmate? We’re all so stressed and desperate for connection and it may feel easier than usual for a hug with a roommate to end up in coronalingus on the kitchen floor. If that does happen, first of, congratulations, we solo dwellers are so jealous right now, and second, try not to freak out about it. Freaking out just makes things more uncomfortable. Or as LaSov says, “The good news is that if you started off as friends, there is likely a strong foundation of trust and open communication between the two of you.”