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Will Hook-Up Culture Ever Be the Same Again?
Alya Mooro investigates what casual sex might look like after the lockdown is over
On the rare occasion we leave our homes, we hold our bodies away from that of others. We stand dutifully behind the lines taped to the floor of the supermarket, bashfully step out of the way. When someone coughs, a crackle of tension sounds in the air around them. There are no more high-fives, no kisses on cheeks. Most of our hands and faces are gloved, now.
Upon returning to the safety of our homes, many of us have taken to stripping at the door; contaminated clothing immediately rendered the domain of the ‘outside’. We antibac our groceries, our doorknobs. We antibac our antibac.
In truth, never have our generation ever been so conscious of our own outlines. Of what it means to be 6-feet away from someone, or the fact that someone else’s body has the potential to harm us, to kill us, even, or someone we love.
I can’t help but think about what that will mean for us, after, especially when the likes of Dr. Anthony Fauci – one of the leading US COVID-19 experts – is recommending that we don’t shake hands, ever again.
Indeed, knowing what we know now, many things we once took for granted are likely to change, not least our interaction with other humans. And while the reality is, after weeks or months of social distancing, people are going to have a lot of sexual tension they’d like to work out, things are not going to go back to any semblance of normal until there’s a vaccine.
Until then, though, and even after, we’ve now been conditioned, in a way, to avoid physical contact with other people. Are we going to be able to unlearn that, after Corona? And what will that mean for casual sex?
Of course, there’s always been the risk of catching something during sex, but COVID-19 is not an STD, from which a condom would protect. As such, it feeds into a whole other sort of discomfort. One that’s not even really about sex at all, but rather about being close to another person.
I’m not the only one to feel weirded out by it all. When researching for this article, I polled my Instagram followers for their thoughts – of 125 respondents, 56% said they too were grossed out.
“Typically, I’m not a germaphobe and I don’t get disgusted easily, but with the current events I’ve been so caught up in my head with every move I make. I find myself thinking a thousand times before I even touch my face,” 26-year-old Lara told me. “I don’t think it will be easy to go back to physical contact with humans for at least a while.”
28-year-old Georgina, for whom hygiene has long played a factor, explained how, prior to Corona, she couldn’t even make out with someone if there was something in their teeth. “COVID-19 definitely amplified that,” she said, “I’m now hyper-aware of how easily bacteria can spread, and it’s definitely lowered my sex drive.”
After years trying to soften my own outlines so that I could ‘more casually’ satisfy my desires, the past year has seen me reassess my thoughts on the matter. As I’ve become more in tune with my own energy, and aware of that of others, I’ve been more and more reluctant to partake in the energy swap that is having sex. For me, this has only served to solidify that.
Indeed, far beyond just fear of actually catching something, our heightened awareness of the possibility, and the subsequent required social distancing, has, I think, made many of us more conscious, and provided pause to reassess, as well as take stock of the things and the people that really matter.
“I’ve had more one-night stands / fuck buddies than boyfriends, but since the lockdown, I’ve realised it’s not the orgasms I miss, or the flirting, it’s the simple act of skin to skin contact,” 27-year-old Noor told me. “I miss being held, touched and kissed by my loved ones. This lockdown has made me re-evaluate what skin to skin contact means.”
27-year-old Georgia similarly explained how she now finds herself craving intimacy from a place of care and love, rather than one of desire. “The people who I’ve slept with casually haven’t reached out to check in during this period,” she added. “[Although] I haven’t really expected them to, I don’t think I can now go back to a place where I have casual sex, knowing it would be so meaningless and for immediate gratification.”
For others, however, this self-isolation has made them want to go out and embrace the world they felt they had been shying away from, before, with all it encompasses. “Life feels a lot more fragile now,” 29-year-old Sophia explained. “I feel like there isn’t time to waste, and no reason why I shouldn’t just go after what I want.”
In truth, just like after any sort of crises or life upheaval, we will all come out of this different. Depending on who we were and what we wanted before this, we will emerge – no doubt tentatively at first – to find new footing in the new normal, having had pause, and a magnifying glass, held up to our lives.
For now, anyway, hook-ups are but a distant dream. Who knows how long it will be until we’re even able to be in close proximity to somebody else, let alone consider whether or not to drench their appendages in hand sanitiser.