As we enter post-pandemic life and restaurants and bars open their doors, we welcome back the possibility of one-night stands. Maybe you were in a relationship over the pandemic and had the luxury of a normal sex life, but for the rest of us… well, it’s been a while. Don’t worry though, the majority of us are in the same boat! So along with managing the inevitable social awkwardness that comes with spending a year and a half yelling at your TV because Jessica from Love is Blind kept flirting with Barnett after she was ENGAGED to Mark (still not over season one, give me another year), you also have to figure out how to safely get back out there. To quote my new girl crush, Olivia Rodrigo, it truly is “brutal out here.”
If you’re like me, then you’re hitting the dating apps…. Maybe a little too hard (whoops). As bumble and other platforms adapted to the new normal that COVID created, people got the chance to video chat with their matches before meeting them. Studies show that 70% of people who did use video chatting in their dating life say they’re going to keep using it! As awkward as an online date can be, it allows you to rule out any possible catfishes or creeps before wasting your time and meeting them in person. But what happens when you’re ready to physically get back out there? How do you protect yourself from COVID and STIs in the post-pandemic setting? Let’s dive in.
Before Meeting Up
Assuming that this is a new person, it is probably a good idea to discuss how “COVID-conscious” the both of you are. This pandemic has revealed a lot about those around us, and how seriously they take their health and the health of others. I don’t say this to shame anyone, but it is important that we recognize that people have different levels of caution when it comes to COVID. So, if you are concerned about getting COVID from any potential new partners, set some ground rules.
You can have a socially distanced first date! Grab a blanket and some wine (separate glasses ofc, don’t get too excited folks) and hit the park. You may get some Too Hot to Handle vibes by keeping 6 feet between yourselves, but who knows, maybe Lana is right and it does lead to deeper emotional connections?
Be straight up. If you do want to hook up with someone, whatever that looks like for you, just ask your date what their comfort levels are. I’m not talking sexual comfort levels here, calm down y’all. Although safe words are always a good idea!! There’s nothing wrong with asking your date “what are the odds I will get COVID from you?” This line is funny while also getting to the point. My friend gave me this line and it gets you honest answers without seeming like you’re about to report them for hosting a Habs viewing party. Sorry Tampa fans!
To sum it up, there is nothing wrong with setting some ground rules. The pandemic has made everyone take their health more seriously. If your date isn’t on the same “COVID-safe” level as you, then hun don’t risk it. There are plenty of other fish in the fully vaccinated and law-abiding sea.
Meet up Time!
Take a small moment to celebrate the fact that you are going on a date again. We made it y’all!! I don’t know about you, but I didn’t think this day would ever come. Blast your favorite pre-date songs like you did before the world started looking like that back alley everyone used as a bathroom on pub nights and put on those hot clothes you almost threw out when all the clubs shut down.
I went on my first date post-pandemic last month, and had originally planned for it to be socially distanced, but ended up getting vaccinated a couple of weeks before. Sending the text “I am vacced so if you are okay with not socially distancing that works for me” basically felt like I was saying “hey I want to have sex with you!” Like maybe saying you’re vacced is the new “DTF”?? Please help me out here though, I’m still struggling with this one.
Anyways, enough about me.
What happens if you find out that your tinder date is an anti-vaccer??
Reya truly does believe in science and we support the COVID vaccine so I’m going to recommend that you run. Very fast. You need to decide if this is someone that you want to be involved with, knowing that they have not been vaccinated and likely don’t take the virus that seriously. Do you want to put yourself at risk? No shame if you say you’re going to the bathroom and then sneak out the window…. But things have changed because of COVID, and there are now more risks that come with casual hookups.
My advice is to put your mask on when they try to make a move. That sends a pretty clear signal. ;)
Speaking of Risks….
We have spent a lot of time touching on how COVID affects our ~sexy time~ plans, but remember the other thing we were concerned about before all we talked about was the virus?
You guessed it! Sexually transmitted infections! So much fun!
“Getting tested” nowadays means getting a cotton swab shoved up your nose so far that you are convinced they’re getting some brain cells on that sample, but we can’t forget about STI testing. Just because you are confident you won’t get COVID from your new partner, doesn’t mean that STIs are off the table. Here are some general guidelines on how often you should get tested:
You should get tested if you have a new sexual partner BEFORE you start hooking up with them. Condom or no condom, you need to be safe, because hate to break it to you, but sometimes the glove doesn’t hold strong and you’re at risk for contracting or spreading an STI.
You notice any discharge, rashes, bumps, or any other changes to your body that are not normal for you.
If you or your partners are hooking up with other people. This is an important thing to know COVID-wise as well. Don’t think that you are being nosy, this is your body and honesty is key for any kind of relationship. Even if it’s just sex.
There are many other reasons why you should get tested, but how often should you get tested?
Generally, once a year is a good rule of thumb if you are with the same partner and don’t have any concerns. But if you’re getting back on the horse, or horses, you should get tested before you have sex with someone new. Keep in mind that just like some people are COVID asymptomatic, some people are also STI asymptomatic, meaning that they can transmit it, but not show symptoms. This is why it’s important to make STI testing a part of your medical routine.
So what’s more important? A negative COVID test or a negative STI test?
TRICK QUESTION! They are both so important. Obviously, people aren’t out here flaunting their negative syphilis test like they are showing off their vaccination certification. Like seriously guys you don’t need to put “vacced x2” in your bio. We get it, you’re DTF. Consider addressing STIs the same way you address COVID. Maybe don’t say something like “what are the odds I get crabs from you,” (or maybe do…) but it’s important to discuss these risks before hooking up with someone new.
COVID has added a whole other layer of trust to casual hookups. Not only do you need to consider the risk of STIs, but you also need to assess how likely this person is to have COVID. I mean, unless you’re doing it doggy style with masks on as the CDC recommends, socially distanced sex has some logistical difficulties.
What will hookups and dating look like in this ‘new normal?
We have all made our predictions on how the pandemic will permanently change everyday life. Maybe we will all be able to work from home in our baggy sweats with tiger king playing in the background a couple of days a week? Maybe we will stop complaining about getting elbowed during a mosh pit because we are just so happy to be back in da club? But what about our sex lives?
The Kinsey Institute partnered up with Cosmo and Esquire magazines to answer this question. If you thought that everyone was going to be doing the dirty deed like rabbits, well you’re wrong. 52% of singles out of the sample 2000 interviewed said that they want a committed relationship, and over half said that they are not interested in one-night stands anymore.
In terms of sex and health, 42% of respondents said they are more likely to ask their new partners about their physical health before having sex, and 51% report they are more likely to use a condom. We hope the other 49% were already using condoms… c’mon folks, no glove no love!
Live your truth this shot girl summer!
Whether you are looking to start a committed relationship, or just want to enjoy the looser COVID restrictions and hookup, don’t forget that you need to take care of your body! Don’t be afraid to ask important questions. Anyone who is lucky enough to be getting it on with you needs to be honest about their STI and COVID status. Remember that condoms are the only form of birth control that protects against STIs, so please do not be silly and wrap that willy girl!
From all of us at Reya, please enjoy your shot girl summer, whatever that looks like for you!
Editors: Lisa Hou, Dallas Barnes