Unless you’ve been living with a partner for the majority of the pandemic, you know that COVID-19 has seriously strained single peoples’ sex and dating lives. Whether you were one to enjoy the excitement of first dates or even had the perfect friends with benefits setup, it’s safe to say you likely hit a bit of a dry spell during quarantine. While dating apps and vibrators have been a godsend during these strange times, there’s only so much small talk and sound-muffling one can take, am I right?
With all this behind us, I’m deeming Summer 2021 to be The Summer of Hook-Ups—and I, for one, think it’s worth embracing. The topic of hook-up culture is one that continues to be taboo for many, but this should no longer be the case, says Sex and Kink Expert Emerson Karsh. “I think a lot of people hold a lot of shame when it comes to casual sex because it goes against the societal narrative that sex is meant for reproduction, or that it’s only meant for two people who are in love,” says Karsh. “Hearing this narrative and then engaging in casual sex can often, at times, lead to guilt and shame.”
And that’s exactly how it was for me. During my time in college, I had a FWB relationship that I felt guilty about. Not because it wasn’t consensual, but because I knew how people in society might view it. Often, when you’re a woman who openly admits to enjoying hook-ups, people feel entitled to let you know you’re making the wrong choice, claiming only *insert degrading word of choice here* have casual sex. This kind of treatment has never been okay and it never will be.
The topic of hook-up culture is one that continues to be taboo for many, but this should no longer be the case.
I spent so long feeling guilty until I realized that I’d be denying myself really great sex just because the people around me were judgmental. I personally think my hook-up experiences played a huge role in my life in terms of learning what I liked sexually. They also gave me a boost of confidence, not to mention some pretty great stories (While I didn’t do it for the stories, there’s nothing like a good debrief with the girlies the next morning).
For all these reasons and more, I truly believe that the pandemic can be the instigator that makes people feel differently towards hook-up culture and casual dating. “The pandemic really highlighted both positive and negative things in our lives and our society—and sex is definitely one of those things,” says Karsh.
She also notes that, because many people experienced touch starvation during the pandemic, these same folks might now be able to better acknowledge the idea of touch and sex being okay, fulfilling and downright important.
That’s not to say we’ll all want to rip each other’s clothes off, though. Post-pandemic, many people will also feel anxiety about returning to the dating scene. “There will be people who are a bit more anxious to start engaging in sexual activity again because of the huge pause the pandemic has put on all physical touch and activities,” Karsh points out.
Post-pandemic, many people will also feel anxiety about returning to the dating scene.
To make sure you and your potential hook-ups feel open and excited as you return to the dating pool, staying safe is key. And of course, the only way safe sex can happen is if two partners are open with one another. “We can take the conversations we’ve been having during COVID-19 and transition them into safe sex conversations,” says Karsh.
The same way you might ask a date if he or she is vaccinated, don’t hesitate to ask about their sexual health with the same openness, suggests Karsh: “It’s the same conversations we should be having with potential sexual partners, from what protection you’ve been using to when you last got checked for STIs.”
So, to anyone of age who may have been reflecting throughout the pandemic on wanting to explore more in their love life—whether it be something new sexually or just putting yourself out there and going on more dates—there’s no time like the present to let go of hook-up culture stigma and embrace openness in the bedroom. You don’t have to commit to something serious, either; you do you!