Lockdown Love: Dating and Sex in the Times of COVID-19
By Eshna Sharma
Picture this: You’re lying around, scrolling aimlessly through Instagram and Twitter. You realise you’re missing your partner, so you text them a couple of cute emoji faces, and then they drop a text: Pictures? They say. Yesss!!! You reply, as your heart does a somersault. Your boredom has suddenly disappeared off the face of the earth, your skin has cleared, life suddenly seems to have new meaning.
Did the scene sound familiar?
A quick dive online shows that tongue in cheek tweets like ‘Tomorrow isn’t promised, send nudes today’ are doing the rounds on social media. Terms like “nudes” tweeted alongside “coronavirus” jumped up 384 percent on Twitter from the beginning of March to April, according to data from Khoros, a digital customer engagement platform. Furthermore, emojis with sexual connotations have seen a considerable uptick in usage, and the rise is predicted to continue, as the pandemic shows no sign of receding and people are more isolated than ever.
Sexting and Online Dating, Currently in Vogue
Sexting, the practice of using text, images, photos, video and audio to get intimate with someone online, is having a heyday. Recent scientific research suggests people are getting out of their sexual comfort zone while stuck at home. One in five people (from a sample of around 1,200) reported a new addition to their sex life since the pandemic began, according to a research fellow analysing people’s sexual behaviour.
“New addition,” in this case, means something they’ve never tried before. The most common are sexting and sending a nude photo. With increased isolation and lack of intimacy, more and more people are also turning to online dating apps for comfort and companionship. Dating app Bumble has seen a 35% increase in messages sent since social-distancing was introduced, with the dating app Hinge revealing 70% of its users are open to having a virtual date.
In simpler terms, more and more people are getting it on (or trying, to at least), albeit virtually.
As more and more people are going online to find romantic connections, video-call dates are becoming increasingly popular ways for people to get intimate with each other. A quick Google search reveals various trending articles that suggest ‘virtual museum tours’ ‘watching movies together’ and other ‘fun virtual date ideas’.
What Research Says
While the surface explanation for such behaviour would be that people are bored, researchers studying people’s sexual behaviour during the pandemic feels that there are other factors at play.
“People are scared, and there is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety regarding the future,” says a sexologist and researcher Tanya Koens, “this is why people are engaging in behaviours that keep them rooted and grounded. Our feelings of isolation and fear are causing us to reach out and connect
Play it Safe!
Amidst all of this, the idea of consent becomes more important than ever, and therefore here are some important tips to follow when you go online:
Establish boundaries and get consent: Keep in mind that since this is a collaborative activity, have a talk with your partner about your likes and dislikes and lay down some ground rules of what you and your partner are comfortable with and what you both would rather avoid. Always remember, as with all sexual situations— consent is most important.
Avoid using WhatsApp or any other App that stores photos for the recipient: The ideal app would be “open source” and one that offers end to end encryption (protect your pictures from state snoops, companies that own social media platforms and hackers) screen shot blocking, self destructing images and does not require your contact details to sign up. Be wary while using WiFi in public places as the establishments providing that connection may be able to access your pictures.
Avoid apps like SMS, Whatsapp, Tinder, Bumble, Facebook Messenger, Telegram
Instead, go for alternatives like Dust, Confide, Wickr, Signal, Privates!
Protect your pictures from physical attacks on your phone: Apart from your partner misusing your pictures, your phone could also be stolen (leaving the content on it accessible to others), your family members could chance upon your phone and take a peek, or it could be hacked into by a third party user. Make sure you delete your nudes from the gallery, and from all other folders (including google drive, cloud, dropbox) etc.
Delete your MetaData/ EXIF Data: EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) Data or MetaData is data that is automatically attached to a photo once it is clicked. This information includes location, date and time the photo was taken and what camera was used. While social media apps strip away this data when shared on their platforms, it is much safer to strip it yourself before sharing the images. Apps like ViewEXIF and EXIF photo editor are some apps that have proven helpful.
Finally, stay safe, stay informed and remember to have fun while navigating these new waters!