Written by The Strategy
Shedding light on the post-vaccine dating game with Samantha Bitty, our favourite sexual health & consent expert.
With more than half of Canadians vaccinated with their first dose, things are beginning to look up when it comes to a post-Covid world. We’ll be honest in saying we almost thought such a thing wouldn’t exist. But, as Ontario has plans to start the re-opening process next week (🤞) we’re more than ready to get back out into the world. As much as we’re looking forward to coffee dates with friends and dinners with our loved ones, we’re also excited to get back into the dating game. What will the post-vaccine dating game look like?
Last time we spoke, we spoke about ‘New Dating Norms.’ Do you think though, that in a post-vaccinated world, people will be eager to return to old ways of dating, or we’ll be more cautious? For example, will the elbow bump replace a hug when meeting a first date?
First of all where we reside now, 16 months into the pandemic, there are people who are heeding public guidelines and those who aren’t. Those who are not, are already doing their thing, so we’re able to now identify who is ‘anti-mask’ or ‘anti-vac’.
Within the window of people who have been doing what we talked about last time of virtual dates and elbow bumps, there is a range of people who have different levels of comfort and negotiation they have established. People are negotiating risks in a different way. As opposed to questioning if you’re going to do the elbow bump or hug, what has changed is people are negotiating it ahead of time.
What is great about the pandemic (if there is anything great about it) is it has shifted our skill set around our informed consent practices. Before we’re meeting up for dates, we’re asking if it’s okay to hug, if it is a masked get-together, etc. Negotiation of comfort levels is happening before the date and I think that will stay. But for the most part, to answer your question, I think everybody is hella ready to be inside each other’s mouths again.
How should we be approaching boundaries when trying to understand what other people and ourselves are comfortable with? Should we be having this conversation before the date takes place?
Yes. As a consent educator I want people to be having those kinds of conversations, whether pre-Covid, in Covid, post-Covid. Even with friends and family, people have different values when it comes to simple things like being outside without a mask on or not. That awkwardness will still exist where we feel like we have to circumvent our own boundaries to make other people comfortable. What I would like to see is everybody feels more confident saying what their boundaries are. Amongst adults, we’ve had quite a bit of practice now in establishing that we all have different feelings and values, and for a lot of us now, boundaries we’ve had before are backed by scientific evidence.
What do you think ‘hook-up’ culture is going to look like post-vaccine?
I think that it depends. I would really like to see more comprehensive understanding of what being vaccinated actually means. Being vaccinated doesn’t mean that we are ‘post-covid’ and we can’t contract or transmit the virus. What it means is that if we do, we’re less likely to die or have the unwanted long-term side effects of it. There is a lot of attitude swirling around of misunderstanding.
It depends on what is important to you and which factors have been motivating your behaviour. I’ll give the example of myself: Because I am someone who is relatively low-risk if I were to contract Covid (I live alone, I work from home) with the negative factors, in terms of my immune system I would probably be ok and I could probably handle it. One of my greatest fears or what’s been motivating a lot of my behaviour, has been not feeling comfortable with making that decision of risk for another person. If I have Covid and I don’t know, and I’m hooking up with someone and we haven’t negotiated the risks or clearly discussed our comfort or our ability to manage those risks, I don’t feel good about it. I’m the kind of person that if I’ve hooked up with someone, I self-isolate for 10 days, because I have to monitor for symptoms because I am concerned about my transmission to others.
A lot of people are very eager to be back out there! I think there are a number of factors. There is no doubt in my mind (if they haven’t already), people will resume hooking up.
When we have spoken previously during the pandemic, you said that Covid could be sexually transmitted, as technically we’re swapping body fluids and what not. Do you think post-vaccine, a question of “have you been vaccinated” will be an important question to ask a potential date?
I think it already is. If you’re on dating apps, people disclose that information straight-up in their bios. It is absolutely a marker. Your vaccination status is something that people are leveraging. That speaks to any number of inequities as we know. To me, someone who is vaccinated is an appealing person, if my concern is that I could make them sick in a way that I don’t have control over. It is a piece of information people are using to make decisions with.
Since the pandemic and the lockdown, many people have developed a fear and anxiety of crowded places. How would you suggest picking a location for a possible date, if you’re ready for it?
The typical thing is grabbing a coffee, going to the park, having a picnic, going for a walk. I think all those things are the same. Outdoor hangs are definitely the thing to do, especially in Toronto, where every second that we’re able to be outside, we want to be outside! I think we’ve also acclimatized to it being totally normal to get a coffee and go for a walk. I think that’s really helpful too for people who have felt a lot of pressure to spend a lot of money on dates or commute. There is no stigma attached to it.
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*Original Image Photo Credit: Samantha Bitty