The Language of Consent Is Perfect for Quarantine Hangs

Sexual harm reduction strategies work for social distancing, too

Christina Tesoro, LMSW
Forge
Published in
4 min readJun 10, 2020

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Photo: NurPhoto/Getty Images

Across the United States, we’ve been in some form of shutdown or social distancing for at least half of 2020.

With most states starting to reopen — some in phases, and some more quickly — it can be easy to forget that the pandemic isn’t over. Many places are already seeing new spikes in cases as precautions relax. Experts are warning of a potentially devastating second wave in the fall. Protestors are flooding the streets to do the essential work of standing up to police brutality and the white supremacy this country was built on.

All of this means that harm reduction practices around potential exposure to Covid-19 are more important than ever. To that end, many of us have already found ourselves navigating different people’s boundaries and risk levels in new and unfamiliar ways. Activities that were once carefree, like inviting a friend in your home, now require clear conversations about what is and isn’t okay.

Fortunately, where the intersections of harm reduction and consent are concerned, we already have successful models to turn to. Both the queer community — whose elders remember what it is like to live during a willfully unmanaged epidemic — and people in non-monogamous sexual relationships, have had to navigate risk, practice collective care, and find creative solutions in the absence of any leadership, support, or respect from mainstream society. Here’s what we can learn from them.

Why harm reduction matters

Throughout this crisis, many of my therapy clients have talked about their struggles with a lack of human touch, otherwise known as skin hunger, and loneliness. Especially for individuals who are quarantining alone, isolation can wreak havoc on a person’s mental health. We need each other, physically, in order to be able to regulate our physical and emotional responses to stress and stay well.

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Christina Tesoro, LMSW
Forge
Writer for

Christina Tesoro is a New York City-based writer, sex educator, and therapist.