Covid Vax Dating
What Is Driving Our Connections
By Carlyle Jansen
Eighteen months of pandemic isolation has been tough for many people. Most of us have been relegated to in-real-life (IRL) contact with only people we live and work with during covid lockdowns. Summer has given us some freedom to have more contact outdoors and indoor gatherings are also opening. For some couples, the cracks in their connection pre-covid became insurmountable chasms, unfortunately leading to the demise of many relationships. For others wanting to start new relationships, it has been a challenging time of dating online and with limited in-person contact according to your personal risk tolerance.
The Freedom of Vaccination
With the effectiveness of vaccines, it is now safer to go out and interact with people. So far the vaccines have proven to be effective against variants of concern such as the Delta. The numbers of infected have not increased significantly so far in Ontario as predicted with school back in session. However some folks who have weak immune systems, live with others who are medically advised not to be vaccinated, or are at greater risk still might have to take more precautions. For most vaccinated folks, however, it is less likely that we will get very sick or die from contact with the virus, which is a great relief. As a result, many people are now posting their covid-19 vaccination status on their dating profile to provide reassurance to prospective dates about the relative safety of connection with them.
The Desire to Break Free
Dating apps are seeing a surge in traffic. In Ontario, nightclubs, sex clubs, restaurants, concerts and general social events have reopened to limited capacity. Dating is no longer relegated to an online or outdoor experience due to safety concerns. Bubbles are a thing of the past. People are excited at the prospect of returning to some variation of pre-pandemic sex and dating life. Lots of us are hungry for physical touch. Even the most platonic hug feels electric; the thought of a sensual touch sounds orgasmic. We are seeing the future with high expectations and hopefully most of us will not be disappointed.
But Not For Everyone
While hedonism is common after periods of isolation, this is not the sentiment for everyone at this time. We have all been impacted to varying extents by the pandemic: depression, anxiety, and grief have taken hold through the loss of loved ones, businesses and jobs, the stress of working on the front lines, symptoms of long covid, and/ or the breakup of relationships, to name a few. For some, it may be a delayed hot vaxx dating scene.
Social Skills Update
After such a long period of isolation, our social skills might be a bit rusty. We might need a reminder of our Ps and Qs of dating and relationships. When we feel starved, we sometimes rush into situations that can end in unsatisfying or even disrespectful consequences. When we want to fill a deep need it can feel excruciatingly slow to date at others’ paces, but ultimately we always need to remember consent: for ourselves as well as for others with whom we interact. It might be a little awkward to relearn some of these skills but it is important for our emotional, physical and sexual health. And just because we might be eager to cut to the chase does not mean that others are in the same mood.
FRIES for Consent
Consent is something we all hear about but rarely think about how to do in practice. The publicised university sexual assault and drugging incidents this fall are a sober reminder of the duty to treat each other respectfully. Here is a friendly reminder of what consent means in practice:
- Freely given: Consent only exists when it is given without pressure, ultimatums, fear, or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Reversible: We can change our minds at any time, regardless of what was started, how aroused anyone is, what you have done before, and/or what you said you wanted to do.
- Informed: You are fully aware of what is being asked. Agreeing to have intercourse with a condom but then not using one is not informed consent.
- Enthusiastic: Only do things you really want to do. And if a partner responds with “I guess so” or has some reluctance in their voice, don’t proceed. Check it out with them or ask for active consent such as saying “Let me know when you would like to…” so that they have to actively state what they want. It is a horrible feeling for all parties to later learn that one person was shut down or not fully enjoying themselves but unable to communicate their discomfort.
- Specific: Agreeing to go to another person’s apartment is not code for agreeing to have sex. That is a response to a different question.
The Anxiety of Sexual Relationships
Some of us had social anxiety before the pandemic. Others of us have gained some due to being out of practice. It can be nerve-wracking to ask someone out on a date or tell them that you like them. The fear of rejection is real. Studies in neuroscience have shown that the impact of being rejected is similar to physical harm in how the brain processes the experience.
Performance anxiety is also a factor that might be heightened when back in the dating game. It can feel scary to wonder whether our bodies will perform as well as they used to or will still struggle to relax. Some of us fumble over our words in intimate settings. It can be hard to know how much to share for fear of rejection or judgment. Generally being honest about what is happening for us though can bring us closer together, put the other person at ease (knowing that they can also be real with us), and reduce anxiety. And anyone who does not respond to authenticity and vulnerability is really not worth the time anyhow. While it can feel like a loss in the moment and people can be shallow, in the end it is not worth the anxiety to remain in a relationship with someone who does not accept us as we are, emotions included.
Covid vaccines do not protect 100% and they certainly don’t protect against sexually transmitted infections. It is still important to remember safer sex protocols even when vaccinated. Since covid-19 might be in semen, it is wise to still use condoms for protection against the virus for 2 weeks after full vaccination. The coronavirus is transmitted primarily through infected saliva, mucus, or respiratory particles being inhaled or entering the eyes, nose, or mouth. Covid is easily transmitted through kissing and close breathing. This can be really hard to avoid if kissing is something you like to do with partners. Covid-19 may be transmissible during sexual activity through vaginal fluids and feces as well. And if you experience any covid-19 symptoms, it is important to get tested and quarantine while positive. Even vaccinated people can spread the virus. Unvaccinated people still need to exercise more caution. It is advised for them to minimize the number of sexual partners or have sex with only vaccinated people to lower their risk.
Carlyle Jansen is the founder of Good For Her, a sexuality workshop centre in Toronto. If you have questions or comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit goodforher.com