Queer dating can be complicated at the best of times, but - depending on where you are in the world - we can't really use the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse for an underwhelming social life.
Obviously, our need for intimacy is part of what makes us human - but is asking for a vaccine certificate from your date a bit of a boner-killer?
For Jonathan, 23, dating during lock-down was initially socially-distanced. “We were talking for a while online, and we met up once lock-down rules relaxed. Both dates were park dates, so we were very compliant with social distancing rules,” he laughs.
Andrew, 42, found himself in a similar situation, having met up with a guy just before lock-down. “It felt like the relationship went on pause,” he explains. “The longer it was on pause, the more certain we were that we wanted to have sex the next time we met up.”
Andrew says that he and his partner didn’t want to “wait around” any longer once lock-down rules were eased. “It created a higher sense of anticipation and it also meant that when we did have sex, we cut out all of the usual stuff before having sex like going out for dinner or a drink.”
On the other hand, Yousef, 30, didn’t have such a build up to his first time since lock-down. “I had been talking to guys on dating apps during the lock-down, but being good and not meeting up with anyone, because of the lock-down rules,” he says. “Then I went out to the pub with a friend and ended up hooking up with a guy I’d met that night.”
Risk versus reward
“My partner had coronavirus quite early on during the pandemic, and so he said that he’d now developed antibodies and felt that it was safe,” says Andrew. He says there is still so much we don’t know about the virus, which means that antibodies might not guarantee long-term protection. “But we thought at the time that we were safe, and we did have that conversation.”
Jonathan echoes this, saying that he too had considered the risks before hooking up with his date. But he is more concerned about the risk to others, rather than himself. “I think I’m not naive to the fact that I’m also at risk,” he admits. “My thought process it generally more about protecting people around me, rather than taking risk myself. I don’t have a lot of concern about my personal risk, but I am very conscious as a citizen to protect other people and adhere to the rules and set an example.”
Despite not following lock-down restrictions to the letter, Jonathan thinks that once one person breaks the rules, it’s very easy for a domino effect to form. “When one person starts breaking the rules, than quite quickly others will follow. I think it is important to be responsible.”
Being drunk when hooking up, Yousef says that risk perception wasn’t really on his mind. “I was thinking about other things, shall we say.” It was only when he woke up the next morning did hindsight rear its head. “When I woke up the next morning and went home, my friend texted me and joked that I’d end up getting the virus if I carried on like that. That’s when I realised that I had taken a risk by hooking up with that guy.”
It can also be a bit of a balancing act when it comes to thinking about risk to yourself and others. “It’s complicated,” says Jonathan. “I think that for me, I do try to be responsible and wear a mask and carry hand gel. That being said, like every other human being, I am lonely and I have needs.”
“Don’t tell me people aren’t going to have sex until the end of the pandemic, that’s just not realistic,” argues Yousef.
What we're also seeing is that it is difficult to unlearn many of the behaviours and habits that we developed during lockdown. While that has its benefits - such as wearing masks - it can have negative impacts as well.
During periods of lockdown, there was a lot of pressure from authorities not to see people outside of your household - that meant no dating and no casual sex. If you breached those rules, you faced stigma and rebuke from those closest to you. Even though that guidance has now largely been reviewed, it's not easy to put all of that behiind us and return to some sort of business-as-usual in the dating world.
Find what works for you
There's no right or wrong way to navigate post-pandemic dating - you've got to find what's right for you.
Being vaccinated is an important protection for everyone. Meeting outdoors somewhere is also a good strategy to reduce any potential exposure to the virus.
It's also important not to put too much pressure on yourself. Take things slowly, do what you're comfortable with, but let the world know that you're back in the dating game.