The moment we’re living in is so strange that even the phrase “unprecedented times” is seeing unprecedented usage. Fear is a natural response to such uncertainty, but it’s worth remembering that this time also makes great change possible. For instance: The New York City Department of Health seems to have quietly endorsed the use of glory holes on Monday.
In a breezy, three-page document titled “Safer Sex and COVID-19,” the department provided a variety of common-sense tips for limiting the spread of the novel coronavirus through sexual activity. Masturbate more, hook up with strangers less, health officials advised. A disease that spreads via saliva and mucus makes kissing high-risk. Wash your damn hands. That sort of thing. Then there was this (emphasis ours):
Be creative with sexual positions and physical barriers, like walls, that allow sexual contact while preventing close face to face contact.
Barriers, sure. Condoms and dams are barriers, for instance. There are also plenty of sexual configurations that don’t require facial proximity. Walls, however, seem like an oddly specific suggestion. Personally, I cannot think of any sex act that involves a load-bearing structure other than the use of a glory hole.
A void meant to facilitate anonymous oral sex for individuals possessing a penis seems like an odd carveout to put in social distancing recommendations. Perhaps the intention was—per the document’s other suggestions—for regular sex partners who live together to drill a hole in the wall of their home or apartment? Perhaps there’s an entire world of wall-based sex acts that I and my security deposit remain blissfully unaware of.
To be absolutely sure this wasn’t a failure of imagination on my part, I did my due diligence and reached out to the city health department for clarification. When asked if the above passage was a tacit endorsement of glory holes, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, Deputy Commissioner for Disease Control and Incident Commander for the Health Department’s COVID-19 response, told Gizmodo (emphasis, again, ours):
We trust our audience and New Yorkers are creative enough to know what this means.
If not before, now we are truly living in unprecedented times.
Thousands of New Yorkers are out marching on a daily basis for racial justice, the abolition of policing, and the resignation of those in government who facilitate the status quo. When the time comes to clean house, let us remember that Dr. Daskalakis was on the right side of history.