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Toronto daters and cruisers tell us how they're navigating pandemic rules, confusion and shame to keep the flames of desire burning. In so-called normal times you could entertain them all and schedule a weekend full of dates to test the waters. Not anymore. Ever since COVID gave rise to physical distancing in March, that admonishing voice in the back of your head tells you to think twice. Maintaining a dating life can feel like a trivial desire compared with the deadly impacts of the pandemic, but intimacy, affection, sex and pleasure are basic emotional needs.
Messiness arises when guilt, anxiety and moral panic come into play. People have different risk thresholds and ethical standpoints, which has made dating uniquely complicated. It can also just make you feel disconnected from yourself. Some single people have sworn off dating during the pandemic, some are limiting their of partners, some are trying to be socially responsible while maintaining a sex life. And of course, some are being a bit reckless. Pointing fingers, policing the behaviour of others and determining who deserves leniency are ways that we grasp at feeling in control of our uncertain future.
When living in a city, dating is tangential to a social existence. Of course it can be about romance, but a lot of dating is related to creating a sense of self. Meeting and interacting with strangers is alluring and exploratory. As Toronto enters a second lockdown and public health officials tell us to stay home and socialize only with people we live with, the question remains: Has COVID cancelled casual dating? In the early months of isolation, government messaging focused on people doing their part to flatten the curve by sheltering in place.
As the lockdown extended, it became murky what the social and dating expectations were for uncoupled people or people who live alone. Mikiki, who is also part of Fagdemic, believes experiences in the queer community have not been part of public health conversations. Taking into consideration the sexual and drug habits of community members, Fagdemic created guidelines and suggestions for COVID-safe sex.
Singleton stresses that people feel empty, confused and lonely, and that safe sex guidelines would go a long way in mitigating part of that lack. She points to the guidelines the Dutch government released at the onset of their lockdown to help their citizens practice COVID-safe sex as a prime example of what other governments could have done.
Getting messages for sex on Grindr made him feel like his mouth was gagged and his hands were tied behind his back — and not in the fun way. Damien lives alone and spent most of the first lockdown completely isolated, except for essential errand runs. When I did have my first pandemic hookup, towards the end of June, I was really too freaked out to even do much. The stakes feel higher for many single people on dating apps. Rather than entertaining dozens of people at once, users are streamlining matches into a chosen few. If meeting up is a risk, a person better be worth it. Ghosting is predictably rampant.
Singleton finds that her patients are noticeably more anxious about romantic rejection. It has a more acute sting now because of all the other stresses people are juggling. We have a lower tolerance for distress when the base elements of life, like health, shelter and work are potentially at risk.
But having sex outdoors, facing away from each other with no kissing, is probably your best bet these days. For some people, the fear of going into another lockdown without a partner spurred them to find someone to shack up with long term. Cuffing season happens every winter, but this year it was exacerbated by the possibility of a prolonged season of loneliness. NOW spoke to her before the second lockdown in Toronto and she was actively on the hunt for something long term.
Using all the apps and going on FaceTime dates as a form of preliminary research, she narrowed her list down to a couple of potentials. Emotional investment was necessary before the first IRL park date. She says even if she found herself in a friends with benefits situation, that would be the only sexual situation she would feel comfortable in, making it inherently monogamous. People who prefer no strings and no commitments are finding themselves falling into pseudo-monogamous relationships during the pandemic.
But it was clear neither of us were going to go looking for something else. Currently, there is a constant checking in that needs to happen about the whereabouts, social activities and daily lives of anyone people are sleeping with that makes detachment difficult.
Singleton has non-monogamous and poly clients that are mourning their atrophying social skills. For some, having to change and rethink practices around sex has been a hit to their identities. And the longer it lasts the more disconnected many people feel. Texting back a friend or replying to a meme in the group chat has never felt like more of a chore. How we talk about casual sex during this perplexing period matters. Valelly says that preaching for abstinence is not helpful. Everyone has different socializing boundaries and different comfort zones with regard to the virus.
Open dialogue rather than shame is the best way to keep people safe. NOW What is a twice-weekly podcast that explores the ways Torontonians are coping with life in the time of coronavirus. New episodes are available Tuesdays and Fridays. Kelsey Adams. Kelsey Adams is an arts and culture journalist born and raised in Toronto. While legalization offers consumers a smorgasbord of strains to choose from, you have to dig a little deeper to refine. Save my name, , and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
By Kelsey Adams Nov 26, Nicole Zaridze. View this post on Instagram. Kelsey Adams Kelsey Adams is an arts and culture journalist born and raised in Toronto. Brand Voices Four factors to consider when searching for a home internet service provider This story is sponsored by Diallog. Real estate FOMO in Canada le to good and bad choices: economist There's a real psychological factor driving the market, but it's hard to quantify. Op-ed: The solution to crowded provincial parks?
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