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“COVID Tests Are The New STD Tests.” 8 People On Sex & Dating Post-Pandemic

Photographed by Sofia Colon.
We are bored, horny, and ready to re-launch our social lives. Welcome to Hot & Bothered, our guide to safely and stylishly getting out (and getting off) this summer.
Hot vax summer, the great sexplosion. Call it what you want, but after over a year of government-mandated “me-time,” single people are finally getting vaxxed and waxed* (*if you’re into that) and preparing for the horniest season since the summer of '69. At least some of us are. For others, coming out of their shell is a more complicated process, particularly given the ongoing safety concerns, vax-related trust issues, and the emergence of a dreaded new dating variant: The COVID Bro. Here, 8 Canadians discuss how the pandemic has changed their approach to hooking up.
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"I was two years into a relationship when COVID started and we didn’t break up until February of this year. I definitely stayed in it longer than I would have — just because moving out during COVID was complicated, and I got laid off, so I wasn’t dying to start paying rent on my own. Being finally single again though — I am so excited. I feel like I was wearing blinders and now I’m finally taking them off. I downloaded Bumble again. The first guy I hooked up with was an old flame. It didn’t end well, but it was what I needed to hit refresh — something that felt low stakes.
"I’m living with a roommate now, but in the spring I spent a month by myself at a family member’s empty apartment. Let’s just say I made up for some lost time. It’s funny because it used to be the STD chat and now it’s the COVID convo. 'Are you vaccinated? Who do you live with? How have you been spending your time?' The other day, I went over to hang out with this one guy I’ve been hooking up with and he had like 15 people over — everyone inside, no masks. When I got home the next day I was so worried that I went for a COVID test. And then I went for two more over the next few days. You are supposed to have symptoms in order to have a test. I don’t know if I full-on lied. Like, 'yes, I was up all night and had a bunch of drinks, but is this a hangover or is it COVID? I better get tested.' The nurse is starting to recognize me though. It’s embarrassing." — Bethany, 28
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"I'm from a Native household, so I was able to get my first vax in early May. A couple of weeks ago I had sex for the first time since October, so congrats to me! Pretty much as soon as I was vaccinated I was ready to go. Isn’t that the whole point of getting vaccinated? It was with my old fuck buddy. I’m definitely looking forward to a summer of fun — no strings. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t use protection. I think because we have all had our guards up for so long it felt good to be a bit reckless.
"The other day, my friend and I went to this party in a penthouse. The host was a Toronto club promoter. I guess because [indoor] bars can’t be open yet, he is throwing these underground events. My friend heard about it and I said I would go with her — I was really just excited to go out, get cute. When we got there there were maybe 15 people. I started talking to this one guy and he and his friend said they were going to have an orgy and asked if I wanted to join. I went into the room just to see what was going on, and this guy tried to put his flaccid dick in my mouth. No thanks. I get that people are really horny, but I was not into it. We left right after." — Alex, 27

A couple of weeks ago I had sex for the first time since October, so congrats to me! Pretty much as soon as I was vaccinated I was ready to go. Isn’t that the whole point of getting vaccinated?

Alex, 27
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"I recently downloaded Bumble again, and I’m worried guys have gotten worse during the last year. I say guys because I’m interested in men, but really it’s everyone. It feels like there are a lot of people my age who feel like the pandemic was an inconvenience for their sex life. Like, hello — people died, lost loved ones, and you’re acting like this was a buzzkill? I guess maybe I had hoped that this year would have made people a bit more considerate. Instead, it seems like it’s become even more normal to skip the small talk or getting to know the other person. It’s like, 'hi, how’s it going?' And then, 'when do you want to meet up?' This whole idea of 'it’s going to be a summer sexplosion,' has given a lot of people permission to lead with their dicks. The vibe I get from some guys is like, oh, these girls want to fuck, so maybe they can put in less effort.
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"I was definitely pretty strict about the rules. I didn’t see anyone for the first six months and that was really hard. Last summer, I let my guard down a bit, but I wasn’t dating. I don’t think I’ll be dating this summer either. I guess we’ll see what happens with vaccinations, but it just feels too soon. Or too risky. As a woman, dating felt scary enough before. Like you had to trust that some guy wasn’t going to attack you, or put pictures of you on the internet. And now you also have to trust that they’re not lying about being vaccinated. I think I’d rather just wait it out until the fall. The last year has been such an emotionally devastating time. The idea of handing over my heart to some straight white male named Jake, just doesn’t appeal to me." — Nicole, 23
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"I have a heart condition, so I have been really strict about the rules. Where I live, people who live alone were always allowed to spend time with another person, so I guess technically I could have continued dating, but I wasn’t interested in the risk. After a few weeks in lockdown, I realized I probably wasn’t going anywhere for a while and I invested in like $800 worth of sex toys. I was not a toy person before COVID and now I am a total expert. Let’s just say they got me through a very long winter. My favourite is called Lush 2. It’s a wearable vibrator that is Bluetooth-enabled, so it can be controlled by another person.
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"I actually used it a few times with this guy I started seeing. Just in the time between my second shot and the two-week waiting period. He’s this guy who I liked before COVID, but he had a girlfriend at the time. Now he’s single and we ended up working at the same place, so that’s how things started. And then when we did meet in person, we had a really great time. We did a picnic in the park and the other time I went to his place and we made out a bit. I was feeling pretty excited, but now I haven’t heard back from him in a few days, so I’m starting to wonder if maybe he’s ghosting me. I don’t know. I guess we have all been blowing people off for a year, so maybe it feels a bit easier." —Ilnaz, 33
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"I started law school last fall, so I was pretty focused on studying. I guess that made it easier to be single during lockdown — I was busy with school and not so focused on sex. Spending all of that time alone, I think it was good for me, just in terms of taking time to reflect and to think about what I want in a relationship and in life. I have known I was gender non-binary for a few years now, but it is only recently that I have opened up about it to close friends. I wouldn’t say it has a huge impact on my dating life, since I am straight and interested in women, but I think it does mean that I am not going to be one of those guys who feels like he’s entitled to sex after COVID. That’s something I’ve seen a lot on the dating apps.
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"It’s not just the men though. I think women are really taking this opportunity to own their sexuality, which is great. Or at least it can be great. I went out with a woman who later admitted that she had sex with me just to see if she was into me. I didn’t like feeling used like that. Another woman I went out with was super COVID cautious. Every time we saw each other she wanted a full rundown of everything I had done over the last week. I get that transparency is important, but that just felt like too much. And then another woman, we met up and it turns out she believes in the whole 5G cell phone conspiracy theory, so that wasn’t going anywhere. I guess these COVID conversations can be a good way of weeding people out." — Dimeji, 28
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Before the pandemic I was a complete social butterfly and that spilled over into my dating life. Now I am seeing three people and I think I might be on the verge of polysaturation.

Catherine, 39
"I have been online dating for the last year and one thing I have noticed is that there is a new species of dude out there. It used to be the guy holding the fish, now it's the COVID Bro. Sometimes he’s the backwards baseball cap, just-rolled-out-of-bed-look and other times it’s more of a gym rat/obsessed-with-my-body sort of vibe. Sometimes it’s super easy to spot. His profile will say something like 'NOT VACCINATED!! If that’s not your jam then swipe left.' Or he’ll post a picture of himself in a large group setting indoors and then post the date, just to make it clear that he is not going by the rules. Other times, it’s a bit less subtle. I started chatting back and forth with a guy whose profile seemed totally normal. This was back in April, so when he suggested meeting up I said that I wasn’t really comfortable with that. His response was, 'Oh my god, why is everyone in this city into this sheeple hoax?' Another guy I did meet up for a park hang — I was obviously thinking we would social distance — as soon as he saw me he ran up and gave me a hug.
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"I say the COVID Bro is new, but I really think it’s more there is a certain type of guy who has been given permission to really lean into that whole 'don’t tell me what to do,' 'I play by my own rules' sort of vibe. Which I guess, fine, do whatever you want, but I don’t want to date you. Safety is something women have always had to worry about, particularly when it comes to guys you meet online. This is just one more example of how COVID has exacerbated a problem that already existed. I don’t want to be that person who assumes that every guy I meet is lying to me, but anything else seems unsafe, at least for now." — Alexandra, 29
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"The pandemic was a particularly challenging time for people in the polyamory community. There was that time last summer when public health was saying limit your partners or that it wasn’t safe to see more than one person, so obviously that was tough for anyone in multiple relationships. Then the other part was dealing with this perception that just because you are poly you would be less serious about the health and safety protocol, or more likely to make unsafe decisions about who you were spending time with. 
"I wasn’t into hook-up culture before the pandemic and I’m not into it now. I am demisexual meaning I need the emotional connection in order to be able to enjoy the physical part of sex. In that sense the whole virtual dating part of COVID worked pretty well for me, just because you had the chance to get to know people: watch movies, play board games, all before physical intimacy was on the table. I’m dating a guy right now who I met a few months ago through a Facebook group. He offered to read me a bedtime story and we’ve been hanging out ever since. He’s in the States, so I’m not sure when we’re going to be able to see each other. I also have a girlfriend who I would say is my primary relationship. We met on set a couple of months ago — she’s a makeup artist, I’m a body painter. She overheard me say something about being part of 'the community' (as in the polyamorous community) and she came over an introduced herself. It’s still relatively new, but I’m excited. 
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"I would say that my standards have gotten a lot higher. I don’t want to waste my time with people who aren’t worth it. I think one thing I have learned over the last year — the great pause, as I call it — is that you can fill your calendar with all of the partners in the world and you will still have moments of loneliness. Before the pandemic I was a complete social butterfly and that spilled over into my dating life. Now I am seeing three people and I think I might be on the verge of polysaturation. I don’t know if that will change as things go back to normal, or even how much it has to do with the pandemic. I’m also turning 40 this month and from what I hear your tolerance for people goes down as you get older." — Catherine, 39
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"I started the pandemic married. I had been with my husband for 12 years, we have two daughters. I think we probably would have gotten a divorce eventually, but after a month and a half stuck at home, it was like okay, I can’t do this anymore. The last time I was single I was 18, so definitely I was ready to make up for lost time. Last summer in Nova Scotia, case counts were super low so we were able to move around.
"I definitely had fun, basically just hoe-ing my way around the province, driving from one town to the next to meet up with new people. My sex life had been dead for a long time, so it was amazing to just be out there, not worried about anything long term, just learning so much about pleasure and what I like. It was a lot of fun. To the point that I actually felt guilty, like, so many people are suffering and here I am having a sexual awakening.
"I have been dating someone for a few months now. Nothing too serious, but I’m excited about it. We met before Nova Scotia went back into lockdown this spring. We weren’t able to see each other for four weeks, which felt like a looooong time. I was laughing to myself like, who are you? Sixteen months, ago I would have said I was someone who just wasn’t that into sex. I’m definitely excited about the summer and moving forward. I’m not sure if it will be the horniest summer ever — last summer will be pretty hard to top." — Allie, 32
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the Public Health Agency of Canada website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.

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