Navigating dating world during COVID-19 pandemic

Lauryn Aviles, Contributing Reporter

Singledom and dating already presented a whole host of problems before the outbreak of COVID-19.  From first-date jitters, to getting ghosted after a weeks-long fling, to much-to-be-desired hookups, dating can be reduced to one word: complicated. With COVID-19 mandates and regulations varying across state lines, the dating scene, along with every other sector of our lives, has completely transformed.

Though Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and Grindr were staples in the pre-pandemic college dating and hookup scene, dating apps have reported increased popularity and usage, with many apps rolling out virtual dating options. Bumble even allows users to include a virtual dating badge on their profiles, alerting potential matches that they are willing to date via phone and video calls. And as thousands of undergraduates returned to New Orleans for the start of the fall 2020 semester after emerging from months of quarantine and isolation, many students felt incentivized to re-enter the dating and hookup scene with a whole host of self-set parameters.

Some university health centers have released ways to mitigate risk in dating and sex in the midst of a pandemic. The University of Georgia released now-deleted guidelines for sex and relationships amidst COVID-19, adapted from the New York City Department of Health’s guidelines, that suggested safer alternatives to approaching sex and relations. These suggestions, which included masturbating, wearing a mask during sex and being “creative with sexual positions that reduce close face-to-face contact,” has resulted in an internet roast of the University of Georgia, with one TikTok user interpreting the memo as the university encouraging  students to “hit it from behind.”

Aside from linking the CDC guide for individuals on mitigating the spread of viruses including COVID-19, the Tulane Health Center has not released a statement regarding sex and relationships under their Health and Prevention FAQs webpage. Senior Amanda Blum, deems Tulane’s lack of forethought and recognition of this aspect of college life as “negligent.”

“I know a large portion of students will not follow a statement … no matter where it comes from, but for students who are more health conscious it would be nice to have a public health guideline specifically tailored to Tulane University students on how the university expects us to have relationships and some helpful social distancing guidelines,” Blum said. “More information can never be harmful.”

Without guidance from the university, students are creating their own household rules regarding the risks they are willing to take in dating, relationships and sex. Using testimonies that students sent to The Hullabaloo, responses show that the risks that students are willing to take differ greatly across social bubbles and quarantine pods.

Some students wrote in that they are strictly hooking up and pursuing relationships with those they already know, feeling that it takes some of the unknowns out of dating in the midst of a pandemic.

“Under normal circumstances, hooking up affects primarily the two people involved, [but] during COVID it affects two people and their presumably separate quarantine bubbles,” senior Fiona Kennedy said.

Before agreeing to go on a socially distant date with someone from Tinder or Bumble, Kennedy said there are lots of questions to ask beforehand. “Are they social distancing? Do they go to parties? When was the last time they got tested? What are the habits of people they live with?”  

 These necessary questions to mitigate risk “take some of the fun out of dating,” she says.

Senior Evan Bennett says he is “setting strict boundaries” for himself and that if he ends up going on a date, “it will be outside or socially distanced, especially from other people.” The majority of the responses indicate that many students are taking these precautions when dating by doing things like walks in Audubon Park, picnics, or eating at restaurants outdoors.  

Most of the responses indicate that their dating lives will be taking a back seat this semester. Certainly, there is an inherent risk in pursuing any relationship, though the risk of COVID-19 has led students to form their own parameters for safer dating and relationships. Whether taking themselves out of the hook-up scene entirely, vetting romantic interests by asking about their social distancing practices or starting a romance with those they live with, the dating scene has a whole host of new, self-set rules that make spontaneity a thing of dates’ past.

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