The normalization of dating in quarantine.
Defining “intimacy” in quaran-time is a fool’s errand. Be it a question of Zoom intercourse, prolonged sexting, live-in partners, solo play (we could go on), the moment at hand calls for constant pivots. In the era of social distancing, the grander world of sex and dating is amorphous, ever-changing, and near impossible to pin down. We encounter “new normals” weekly. Each time, we readily adjust — and our means of exchanging intimacy shift accordingly.
Inevitably, then, we’re left with questions: What are the rules and regulations when it comes to romance in the cold, dark depths of 2020? What do intimacy’s “best practices” look like when a cure-less pandemic rages on? Whatever happened to hot girl summer?
Well, our short answer is: We don’t know. Our long(er) answer is: At this particular juncture, there is, in fact, some version of a dating etiquette in place. And while it’s eternally subject to change in the instant, there are a handful of truths we’d do well to rely on.
So, for the sake of lending a little contrast to all that grey area, we did our best to compile an abbreviated overview of five new rules of intimacy right now. From where we’re standing (shaky ground), here are your guidelines for playing the field in the time of social distancing (when playing and fields are both effectively off limits).
Whether or not you continue to champion the charm of the serendipitous, IRL meet-cute, for the time being, you simply have no choice but to turn to online dating (or, well, opt out of dating on the whole). In an era when bars are off limits, clubs and teams are a no-go, and speaking to someone in the grocery line would likely mean breaching the 6-foot social distancing boundary, using The Apps is simply the safest and most respectful way to proceed. It doesn’t mean you’re eternally an App Guy (in the gender-less sense of the word “guy”), but for right now, a little text message banter is going to have to cut it.
Likely, you’re going to need to spend a *bit* more time chatting digitally before you plan an outdoor, masked date—being that, if you’re going to meet up with someone in the throes of a pandemic, you’ll want to be sure that the interaction will be worth your while. This isn’t a bad thing, per se, it’s just a thing. Dating by way of your smart phone, is...you guessed it: your new normal.
Pseudo-monogamy is a must
In the early stages of dating (or “hooking up” or “talking”), exclusivity is hardly a fun conversation to have. In fact, the premature monogamy chat is a bit of a faux pas. That said, right now, when engaging in any form of intercourse comes with a whole harp’s worth of strings attached, it is, in fact, important from a health protocol standpoint that you limit your number of partners.
Let it be known: For the time being, the dreaded Exclusivity Talk is not a question of the seriousness of your relationships or the absolute devotion you maintain for one another, but rather, a measure to stop the spread of disease.
Factor in your pod
Sure, to some degree, who you date, and who you choose to sleep with will have some effect on the people around you. But, in large part, these are typically decisions that place you at their center. Right now, however, your pod—the small group of family and/or friends who you freely associate with in the flesh—is implicated. Anyone you sleep with could potentially endanger the folks closest to you. Whether or not your roommates are immuno-compromised or particularly “at risk,” they’re still subject to the repercussions of your actions. So, to start, make sure they are a part of your personal decision-making as you navigate the realms of sex and dating — then take things one step further and agree to discuss romantic prospects out in the open. Be transparent about what everyone is comfortable with.
When the Spice Girls sang, “if you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends,” they simply had no idea what was coming down the pipeline.
Have “the talk”
In the early stages of any relationship, there’s plenty of talking to be done: An obscene quantity of small talk, plentiful time spent sharing backstories, discussing plans, so on. Usually, though, the heavy stuff falls later on. You don’t often lead with your personal traumas and your credit card debt payment plan. But right now, the impromptu conversation you ought to have with anyone you’re meeting up with “in the flesh” should center around your values from a health protocol standpoint. What precautions are you both taking? How careful are you being? Who else are you implicating? Nobody wants to interrupt small talk for a brief and intense discussion of personal values. But if you’re going to proceed comfortably and casually, you ought to, well, get it over with.
Sex, but make it digital
We’re by no means saying that there is any particularly equivalent replacement for actual, in the flesh intercourse. But for now, the “new rules of intimacy” require a little creativity. We’re talking Zoom sex. New toys. Nudes. Sexting. Experimenting with porn. Phone sex. Even masked sex (which, in all fairness, comes with far more risk than its virtual counterparts). We live in an era rife with new and ever-evolving digital platforms, all of which provide us with countless modern, ever-enticing routes of “getting off” without...getting offline.