When the man who coined the term “monogamish” says that the only junk any of should be touching is the junk that lives in our houses, it’s a clear sign that coronavirus has affected hookup culture, perhaps even for good. Over the course of the past month, sex advice columnist and podcaster Dan Savage has been ordering Savage Lovecast listeners not to hook up with randos. It’s a hard swerve from his usual advice, which includes recommendations to go to sex parties, advice on polyamory and open relationships, and the phrase “oral sex comes standard,” among other sex-positive directives.
But what even is hookup culture? It’s one of those terms — along with “hookup” — that gets thrown around a lot but seems to mean different things to different people. Myisha Battle, a Bay Area sex and dating coach and host of the sex-positive podcast Down for Whatever, tells Bustle that a hookup is "an experience that two or more people share," where the expectation is purely sexual and likely does not lead to a relationship.
“And hookup culture is a broader expectation that that is the type of experience that one must aspire to,” Battle says. “I think that’s what hookup culture has become for a lot of people — a way to be sexual without having restrictions or the perceived confinements of a long term relationship.”
As some of us face down our third month of staying at home, the idea of being sexual outside of a long-term relationship can feel like a fantasy. So, what will hookup culture look like when people are allowed to touch strangers again? I spoke with five dating and sex experts to find out.
A Sex & Dating Coach Thinks We’re All Getting Perspective
Battle says that this pause on hooking up is giving people the time and space to assess what they actually want.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘I just want to go to a bar and pick someone up!’ This experience isn’t going to change, necessarily, what they want in terms of sexual connection,” Battle says. “And for other people, this is highlighting the fact that the experiences that they had with very little expectation are not going to suffice and sustain them when this is all over. Because they want more.”
Both perspectives are perfectly valid, Battle says. Whether you’re deeply craving the excitement of hooking up or you realize it’s just not for you anymore, that kind of personal insight is an excellent thing to have as you move into a post-pandemic world.
A Relationships Podcaster Says Virtual First Dates Are Here To Stay
Jordana Abraham, co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer of Betches and cohost of the dating and relationships podcast U Up? thinks that “there will definitely be more germaphobes in our generation.” She also suspects that women — if not men — will want to continue with FaceTime first dates.
“We’ve seen anecdotally and from our statistics on our dating app, Ship, that women are really enjoying this kind of dating,” Abraham tells Bustle. “Most men who are just looking to hook up are less likely to be going on a FaceTime date because they know it’s not going to end in a sexual encounter. I do think there might be an element of women liking this form of dating and wanting to continue to pursue that, especially as people are a little more fearful of physical contact.”
As for what the scene is going to look like when we’re released from our respective cages — I mean apartments! — Abraham thinks that some people will be so intimacy-starved that they’ll go hard for hookups, while others will probably be more hesitant.
“It’s not like one day the virus is here, and the next day it’s gone,” Abraham says. “I don’t think there will be a clear sense of, ‘This is the day when everything can resume as normal.”
Psychologists Expect We’ll Pivot From NSA To FWB
Dr. Britney Blair, PsyD, CBSM, AASECT, a psychologist and founder of the sexual wellness app Lover, believes that there will be a lot of “pent up demand” when all of the social restrictions are lifted. But that doesn’t mean we’ll all be going to back to hooking up with random people.
“I think it’s going to take a while for people to want to casually date or hook up with people they haven’t met,” Dr. Blair tells Bustle. “But I think we’ll see an increase in a friends-with-benefits situation, where a person feels safe to you, but there’s no romantic relationship outside of friendship and sex. My guess is we’ll see both: less casual sex with strangers, but maybe more casual sex with a trusted person.”
Dr. Blair also thinks that the practices we’ve adopted under social distancing guidelines will translate to a “massive change” in how we interact physically, including hugging, handshaking, wearing masks in public, and also how we have sex.
A Sex Educator Doesn’t Believe We’ll Practice Safer Sex
While many of us are thinking about viruses more than we ever have before, sex educator and blogger for Blex App, Tatyannah King doesn’t think that means people will be better about safer sex practices after the pandemic.
“Sadly, no,” King tells Bustle. “However, I do think, at the very least, it will start conversations on safer sex and how it relates to the coronavirus pandemic.”
King points out that the recent New York City Health Department memo about safer sex and COVID specifically mentioned that rimming (which is oral sex on the anus) could possibly spread the virus, as it has been found in feces. Memos like that, she says, “cause dialogue” and could get people talking about safer sex.
A Sex Tech CEO Predicts Self Pleasure Is Only Getting More Popular
“During this period of shelter-in-place, we see a massive surge in demand for sex toys — Unbound has seen 150% growth week-over-week — which is amazing,” Rodriguez tells Bustle. “My hope is that coming out of COVID-19, we'll continue those practices of self-care AKA masturbation, that hopefully the stigma around vibrators and sex toys more broadly will continue to erode.”
Rodriguez is also hoping that the increase in “digital sexual engagement” like “FaceTime sex and digital strip clubs” will continue after the pandemic. “It's healthy and (to me) wonderful to see new ways of sexual expression as a result of a global crisis,” Rodriguez says. Ultimately, though? She doesn’t think the hookup world is going to be too different.
“I think it's going to take a while for us to get out of shelter-in-place, depending on your state governor's level of basic, common sense — looking at you, Gov. Kemp — but once we're out of shelter-in-place, I think we'll probably be very cautious for a brief period of time, and then things will resume back to normal, in terms of sexual encounters, for the most part,” Rodriguez says. “I just think it's human nature to want to move, and have sex. We always will want to have sex.”
Myisha Battle, Bay Area sex and dating coach
Polly Rodriguez, founder and CEO of sexual wellness company Unbound