Ready for a Hot Vax Summer?
Over a year of pandemic isolation has been tough for many people. Most of us have been limited to in-real-life (IRL) contact with only the people we live and work with during COVID lockdowns. For some couples, the cracks in the connection pre-COVID became chasms which unfortunately led to the demise of their relationships. For others wanting to start relationships, it has been a challenging year of dating online and (mostly) missing out on in person contact.
The Freedom of Vaccination
With the effectiveness of vaccines, it's now safer to go out and interact with people. So far the vaccines have proven to be effective against variants of concern (like Delta). However, some folks who have weak immune systems, live with others who are unable to get 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. 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. Where our store is located in Ontario, Canada, nightclubs, sex clubs, restaurants, concerts, and general social events are re-opening. Dating is no longer relegated to an online or outdoor experience due to safety concerns. 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 the breakup of relationships, to name a few. For some, it may be a delayed hot vax fall or winter instead of summer.
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 the people we're interacting with. 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 place.
FRIES for Consent
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: You can change your mind 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. Say no if you want to.
- 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 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 in a hot vax summer. 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.
Kinds of connection
Not everyone is into dating and meeting new people. Some are putting that pursuit on hold. Others are looking for a long-term relationship while another group of folks are seeking something more casual. Overall however people are tired of online interactions and are looking forward to some face-to-face interaction.
One thing that the pandemic offered many of us however was incentive and time to experiment. Some people experimented on their own and others reached out to their partners new and old, many finding new experiences through the internet. Experimenting and trying new things is a great habit to continue IRL as well.
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 two 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. Otherwise following protocols outlined at the beginning of the pandemic should be followed and updates can be found here.
The lower numbers of new infections per day is reducing people’s inhibitions about coming in contact with others and increasing expectations of how amazing sexual connection will be. Unfortunately these high expectations can also fall fast onto hard ground. As with pre-pandemic sex, go for a great time while understanding that it may not be as great or easy as you hope, know your boundaries and communicate them, practice safer sex and ensure you obtain consent.