An excerpt of this post was published in @theU, titled, "Dating and partnerships during the pandemic"
Sex and the C-O-V-I-D
Navigating dating, intimacy, and personal health during a pandemic
The first six months of the pandemic were all about getting my bearings. For someone who used to spend thirteen-hour days on campus, (shout out to the Union sushi for providing 1/3 of my diet) --between class, club meetings, and naps on the Bennion Center couches--the transition to full days spent in my 750 square ft apartment overhauled everything I knew about myself.
Dating was out of the question for some time.
I began therapy the week classes shifted online, so many days were spent processing ongoing losses by reading books on grief and wondering how to find love and connection while in isolation.
It’s easy to talk about the things that are different about dating now than before the pandemic. The way I would casually meet a girl at a party who would show me how to dance cumbia with her and we’d end up dancing throughout the night. Or how a seminar friendship could bud into romance after weeks of side conversations and wayward glances. Especially how the prospect of turning 21 last year felt like the emergence into a broader queer community filled with even more dancing and fantastic music. Oh well, this I grieve too.
“Grief dares us to love once more” – Terry Tempest Williams
For many of us, dating can be frightening right now, especially when the scene has moved almost entirely online. Now, more people are online dating than before the pandemic. More than half of people on dating apps say they’ve been spending more time looking for prospective partners than they did before the pandemic. Many are also finding flirtation through Tiktok and Twitter.
Love is a triumphant endeavor. Finding connection during this moment of uncertainty takes bravery and dedication, as well as a hefty amount of thorough communication.
Here are some things I’ve learned dating during COVID, along with tips from some of my buddies.
- Communicate openly to keep you, your lover, and your respective circles safe. Now more than ever, boundaries are essential. If your partner is seeing other people and that isn’t something you’re comfortable with, bye bye! Establishing expectations early is a positive investment towards your potential relationship (and sex life too!) Check out one of our It’s A Match! workshops for more info on how to identify and develop a budding relationship.
“If you think it’s a red flag IT IS A RED FLAG !!“ – Alanna, 22 (she/they)
“Stick to your guns, you have every right to know who a person has seen and ask them to limit the people they see and get tested” – Nicole, 20 (she/her)
- Go with the flow. Understand plans can flip on a dime and that it may be days, weeks, or even months in between dates because of case spikes and COVID-19 scares.
Also: recognize the kind of energy you’re putting into dating. How does it make you feel? Are you falling into the all-too enticing pattern of apocalypse dating aka treating “every relationship like it may be your last”? Almost 1 in 3 Zoomers admit to the trend since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Try to frame the inability to hang out in person as a cute Gay Longing thing instead of a barrier to intimacy” - Juls, 21 (they/them)
- Get creative with it! Yeah, it would be nice to meet at a bar or have dinner irl but that’s not in the cards right now. Here are some dates I’ve gone on instead:
- Stargazing! Bundle up, throw blankets, pillows, and your favorite snacks into separate cars. Check out the Full Moon Calendar or the American Meteor Society to plan ahead for the best views!
- 3-2-1 Virtual Movie Night. Alternate who picks the movie. Screen-share or press play at the same time to catch in-the-moment reactions from each other.
- Take a masked neighborhood stroll. This could be a rollerblade sesh, a loop around Liberty Park, or a multi-mile jaunt through the neighborhood.
- Victorian courting, baby. Send all the ephemera-filled letters. Write poems. Send them random doodads and support the USPS. Make a playlist of songs that make you feel giddy and send them the link through ye olde snail mail.
- Sledding. Personally, I haven’t tested this one but the moment we get some snow I will be at Sugarhouse Park like there’s no tomorrow 😤
- BYOPicnic! I am of the humble opinion that sunsets never get old (imagine getting to know someone as the sun glints upon their cheeks!). Space out your blankets and bring your favorite treats or grubhub each other lunch! Remember to support local restaurants if you can! Here are some picnic spots I’d recommend based on accessibility by transit and views.
“My partner and I had our first date over Facetime… it was like a normal in person date except we door dashed each other food to make it a little more fun so it was more of a date than just a phone call” – Josh, 24 (he/him)
- Consider quarantining before getting down. Most health advisories take a strict approach to sex during the pandemic. As a sex educator, I know that abstinence-only approaches aren’t realistic, but harm reduction is! Before jumping into bed, isolate for at least one week to avoid unintentionally transmitting COVID.
“Put money into a good vibrator and spend less time on bumble” - Alyssa, 22 (she/her)
- Got a long-term partner? Spice it up! Even the healthiest relationships need growth! Try something new together! Birding, backpacking, tarot, roller skating, and more...
“...setting time aside to be apart & independent is important. Embrace “me” time and give each other some breathing space.” – Maddy, 24 (she/her)
- Also, there is a whole world of ethical porn that can spice up video chat. or if you’re more of a podcast babe, check out Dipsea for short-form sexy audio stories.
- Listen to your flirtation read you a chapter from their favorite book or an article about something they’re passionate about. Listening to people talk about things they love… is hot. Extra points: gift each other $1 gaudy romance books from your local grocery and read them over Facetime.
- It’s OK to end a relationship. Honor the level of commitment you can give a relationship right now. If things aren’t working out or it’s bad timing, you are well within your bounds to call it quits.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Getting dumped sucks! Check out these tunes to help you through. There’s love out there for you, even if this isn’t the right time.
“I’ve had so much fun just flirting and approaching that as an end. Like I don’t care if it “goes anywhere.” If it does, cool and if not, I had fun and hopefully they did too”
– Faith, 20, (they/she)
Indigo Mason is senior double majoring in Gender Studies and Health, Society, and Policy. They are an ACES Peer Health Educator on the Violence Prevention team.