Whether it’s hook-ups or social distancing dating – there’s no justification for breaking lockdown, only risk
Monday, 27th April 2020, 11:57 am
In the week before the lockdown measures came into force, Boris Johnson issued advice around social distancing and self-isolating, believing the public would be sensible and do the right thing. But as that week unfolded, it was clear that while some were following the advice, many were not – or to be charitable – were unclear about what was and wasn’t permissible.
In dating app land, it was a similar situation. People were definitely feeling it. Several days into the UK lockdown, Tinder experienced a record day of swipes – three billion globally – the most it saw since its launch in 2012. Sex toy brands like Lelo experienced a 40 per cent increase in sales.
On apps, I noticed that people were a lot more chatty and responsive – probably a result of the reduced social interaction. But I also noticed that all four guys I chatted to suggested meeting up. At first, I thought it was a joke, but it turned out they were all being quite serious. One suggested cycling over so that he wouldn’t be ‘at risk’ on public transport.
In that first week, we were all trying to wrap our heads around the severity of coronavirus, and how infectious it actually was. But as I started to feel symptoms that week, there was no way anyone would be cycling over.
‘Can I drive over?’
Two weeks into the lockdown, however, one of them, Daniel, resurfaced to ask if he could drive over. I asked him why he thought that would be a good idea, given that we were still knee-deep in a pandemic. “Well, I can drive straight to your place, so it’s low risk,” he replied.
Full disclosure: there was a tiny part of me that was considering it.
I was isolating on my own, so was he – would it really be that bad? But the fact remained that if Daniel was so willing to break lockdown, then who else might he have broken lockdown with? Could I really guarantee that I wouldn’t pass the virus onto him?
I felt incredibly guilty for even contemplating it and texted back a polite but firm no.
‘Postponing our wedding because of coronavirus means we can’t live together yet’
When I told a friend about it, she said that she had heard about people covertly meeting up. And then I saw a post on the sex, dating and relationship Instagram page @lalalaletmeexplain, which described how people have been meeting up for a range of things, from one-off shags to polite social distancing dates.
I put a call out on Twitter to find out if people had been meeting up and why, and frankly, I was shocked at the number of responses. Bear in mind this was after lockdown had been extended, after 18,000 people – at that time – had died from coronavirus, and long after we knew the virus didn’t just kill the elderly. The responses ranged from people just wanting to have sex with randoms on dating apps to people who had started dating before lockdown but weren’t self-isolating together.
Two stories shocked me the most. The first was from a person who had travelled to another part of England for a one-night stand with someone they hadn’t met before. The other was about a woman who, after seven days of isolating alone following mild coronavirus symptoms, without any way of knowing if she was still infectious, had apparently met for sex with a date via Tinder because she “needed a treat.”
There were also a lot of people who seemed to think going on social distancing dates was acceptable, and others who had been spending just weekends at each other’s places because they felt that because they were self-isolating alone, they would be low risk.
It’s tough to say this without sounding like a judgemental prude, but the bottom line is that there are no loopholes with the current lockdown guidelines, though it’s evident that people are trying hard to find ways around it.
But to parrot back the Government’s line, we have to be guided by the science. Without testing, we simply don’t know who has had it. Even if you have had it, we don’t know how the virus stays in the body for, and we can’t rule out the possibility of re-infection. Social distancing dates on paper, or weekend sleepovers if you’re isolating alone may seem low risk, but it’s still movement that carries a risk with it.
I asked my sister Priya Joi about this – she works in infectious diseases as a freelancer for the World Health Organisation, among others – and she posted a video about it saying: “I understand why people would want to do this. I understand the need for human connection, intimacy, emotional connection as much as anything else – but you’re putting yourself at risk and the other person at risk, anyone else that you might meet at risk.”
When you consider what people are risking it for – sex with a stranger or someone you know – I’m not convinced the risk is worth it.
If enough people bend the rules, or find loopholes, or convince themselves that they’re low risk, it defeats the point of lockdown altogether. And so, if there is one last argument to convince a person not to break lockdown for dating, it’s that thousands of people have had their loved ones die, and have not been able to say goodbye, or attend their funerals to pay their respects. I don’t believe that our individual needs around having sex or needing companionship trump something like that.
Perhaps another way to think about it then is that by sticking to the rules, you’re actually committing an act of service, a much bigger act of love. Because if the person you’re breaking the rules for is so incredible, just isolate with them already. And if they aren’t, then they don’t sound like they are worth it in non-pandemic times, let alone right now.