Written by Natasha Lawrence
Since COVID-19, we have said goodbye to casual drink first dates, coffee dates, and one-night-stands. Instead, we’ve adapted to first dates over FaceTime, socially distanced walks, and sexting with our latest Tinder match. As if being single wasn’t hard enough, COVID has created a new set of dating norms we just don’t know what to do with.
Long distance relationships are almost normal, sending nudes and having phone sex is encouraged, and many are finding they suddenly are experiencing a lack of physical connection. To help answer our questions on how to navigate this difficult time, we reached out once again to sexual health & consent educator and relationship expert, Samantha Bitty.
Being single or living alone during this time can be difficult. Do you have any suggestions on how to cope with a lack of physical connection and intimacy?
I think it’s important to dispel the concept that there is a universal answer to this question. There are people who are thriving right now because they don’t need a lot of affection or touch, and then, there are people who thrive on physical connection and intimacy. It has been different for everyone, but for many people, physical connection is what fuels them and keeps them mentally healthy. For the people lacking physical connection and intimacy it’s important to honour, and accept what you are feeling right now. Feel bad, feel uncomfortable, and don’t feel guilty about it. If sex, relationships and physical intimacy is something that nourishes you, the way you can use this time, is as a fast. The intention of fasting is to grow spiritually, and emotionally. Prioritize your mental, spiritual and emotional health.
A lot has changed since COVID had the world go into lockdown. Not only has the dating world changed, but also, people’s ability to be around friends and loved ones has been taken away. How can a single person navigate this difficult time?
I strongly suggest the concept of a ‘pod’. When you live with people, it’s called your ‘bubble of safety,’ and it’s the idea that everyone you live with is taking precautions to help prevent the spread. If one person gets sick, it stays within your bubble of safety because they are the only people you are not physically distancing with. When you are single or live alone, you can develop a pod. Have a couple of people, ideally who are in close proximity to you, who you don’t physically distance with. Figure out who you want in your pod and make sure to have a conversation about precautions each member is taking.
FaceTime dates and socially distanced walks are all part of the new dating world. Do you believe the types of dates will become the new norm?
I think it depends on the person. There are two camps: The people who have been hooking up, and are willing to take the risk, and the people who are practicing social distancing. I do think that for people who have dating anxiety or are more shy, the normalization of the idea of just going for a walk, takes a lot of pressure off. FaceTime dates really depend on your generation, I feel. For a lot of my generation, video calls aren’t super normal. Also, these new norms offer some emotional mobility for people who felt the pressure of whether or not too hook-up.
Do you see any positives and/or negatives to virtual dating?
Positive: I think virtual dating allows people some space to have their needs met, in a way they have capacity for, without the commitment of dating in real life. It has created space for people to be more honest, especially when it comes to mental health.
Negative: We are no longer able to f*ck in real life.
How do we navigate intimacy with strangers, at this time?
First things first: You have to educate yourself about transmission and risk. Coronavirus, we cannot definitively say, is a sexually transmitted infection, but it can be sexually transmitted. It has been found in some sperm samples, and we know it’s in saliva. You also need to know regionally relevant information.
Then, it’s about communicating with the other person: What are their risk factors? What are the precautions they’re taking? Have they been socially distancing? How many people are they not social distancing from? Do they live with people? etc. Because we are not just negotiating our health, but also those who are close to us, it has to be a community-based decision.
When it comes to the actual act of having sex, some precautions are: wearing a mask during sex (which I think can be kind of kinky), having different types of sex that are in positions reducing the risk (positions where you are not facing each other), wear gloves, wash your hands and wash your bedding.
As the world slowly re-opens, how do you think the dating landscape will have changed?
In some ways, I think it’s impossible to say. It is so intersectional, and everyone has been impacted in different ways. I think many of us will have grown emotionally. I think communication will have improved, and I think we all will have cultivated a lot more resilience. I think people will have a deeper understanding of what they need and want, and what’s important to them. There has also been a huge normalization of sex positivity and masturbation, which is great.