The global pandemic has complicated hookup culture in a massive and unparalleled way
(Colin D / Unsplash)
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College and hookup culture are about as entwined as the sweaty bodies littering dance floors across America’s university bars. The idea behind our generation’s dating style is that it’s commitment-free and uncomplicated, with no pressure to see last night’s lover ever again or even remember their name.
But while unreciprocated feelings and perhaps a little too much social lubrication in the form of dollar margs have been known to muddle this casualness, the global pandemic has complicated hookup culture in a massive and unparalleled way.
A 2017 analysis estimates anywhere between 60 to 80% of college students have had at least one casual sexual encounter, with bars, nightclubs and other parties serving as a major meeting place for these encounters. When COVID-19 forced the indefinite shutdown of these millennial hotspots, hookup culture felt the effects.
In addition to the amount and kind of sex we’re having, the pandemic has also affected people’s mood toward sex in the first place. Some people find it to be a great way to pass the time, while others have felt a sharp drop in libido due to anxiety.
But for a generation that already has some level of intimacy issues, a lot of college-aged people are left wondering if and when they might be able to casually date again.
Here’s what we know so far about sex and the coronavirus, according to Planned Parenthood:
COVID-19 is transmissible through respiratory droplets, such as in saliva and mucus. While this doesn’t make it an STD, sex usually involves an exchange of saliva through kissing, and it certainly involves closer contact than the recommended six feet of social distance. The virus has been found in fecal matter, which puts those participating in analingus (or rimming) at a higher risk. COVID-19 has also been found in semen, but it is currently unclear if it is transmissible that way.
The truth is, there’s a lot we just don’t know yet about sex and the coronavirus, or the coronavirus in general. We do the best we can with the information we have at the time.
So, with what we do know, can you isolate yourself for two weeks, meet another person who has been isolated and engage in oral- and anal-free sex in a freshly sanitized space, wearing a mask and showering before and after? Sure (and lots of people have found kinkiness in that and other corona-related sex scenarios.)
For the time being, though, and especially as the cases of coronavirus among young people are rising, it’s worth exploring the many alternative avenues for intimacy available to us.
Dating apps, for example, have seen a surge in engagement over the past few weeks. Tinder temporarily made its “Passport” features free to account for the crisis inhibiting people from traveling. If meeting new people is your speed, don’t be afraid to do it digitally.
FaceTime dates and phone sex are viable alternatives to meeting in person and have even become tools for couples who suddenly found themselves forced into a socially long-distance relationship.
NYC Health released a statement regarding “safer sex” and COVID-19. It acknowledged that the safest people to have sex with are people you live with, and yourself.
Maybe you have a roommate who’s down to clown, or maybe you’re one of the lucky ones quarantined with a partner (though we’ve seen that situation present its own set of challenges). But what’s true across the board is that no matter who you’re holed up with, you’re definitely in quarantine with yourself.
This alone time has allowed us to explore and discover things about ourselves that we may not have otherwise—like maybe you really have a knack for drawing cityscapes on an Etch-A-Sketch.
Why not extend this period of self-exploration to your own sexuality? Curl up with a raunchy read or buy yourself that vibrator you’ve had your eye on but never could commit to. Masturbation can help you pass time and relieve some of that pandemic-induced anxiety we’ve all been feeling, and it has even been linked to strengthening one’s immune system.
Physical intimacy is necessary for a lot of people, though, and there are real health effects of going without sex.
If you are thinking of hooking up with someone, have a conversation about what their social distancing has looked like and if they’ve experienced any symptoms within the past two weeks, similarly to how you would talk to someone about STIs.
Condoms (and their less popular sister, dental dams) can play an even more important role than usual, too, as you minimize contact with someone else’s bodily fluids.
Safe sex is full of risk assessment, and COVID is one of those risks to factor in. Of course, it differs from something like STIs in an important way, being that it’s transmissible to many more people than just your sexual partners. But this is something we are all well aware of and factor into other essential activities, like going to the grocery store.
Saying flat-out to not have sex would be as effective as abstinence-only education—that is, not at all. However, I would seriously implore you to get creative and challenge yourself with your definition of intimacy, especially when there’s a lot more to catch right now than feelings.
After all, the pandemic will end, even if it seems eternal at times. We’ll soon enough be free to swap spit with strangers in a poorly lit nightclub again. If quarantine has shown us anything it’s that our societal practices are highly adaptable, and one of our most natural needs — the good ol’ college hookup — is surely no different.
Morgan is an Online Writer at Rowdy Magazine and a fourth-year journalism and women’s
studies student at UF. You can usually find her at a local coffee shop, petting her latest foster cat
or on social media @morgangoldwich.