‘Save the meatspace meetings for later’: Dan Savage gives advice on dating during a pandemic | #tinder | #pof

Sex and relationship advice columnist Dan Savage was seriously impressed by Cross Country Checkup caller Moirae Choquette of Edmonton, who recently had a successful six-hour date conducted via video chat.

“We should all be so lucky as Moirae to find a man who can last six hours,” Savage, host of Savage Lovecast, told Checkup host Duncan McCue.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world of love and dating upside down. Single people with romantic aspirations, like Choquette, have been forced to find creative ways to meet other singles when real-life meetings are off the table.

Savage said that his normal advice for people meeting other singles online is to meet them in person as soon as possible to learn whether their physical chemistry can match their digital correspondences.

“But now that advice has been really turned on its head and we’re urging people to keep it virtual and save the meatspace meetings for later,” he said.

Savage spoke with McCue at length about how the pandemic and worldwide physical distancing practices have changed dating — and what people are doing to adapt. Here’s part of their conversation.

How has the sex advice column business changed? I mean, are you still getting the same kinds of questions? I know you’ve really been pushing the physical distancing.

I have been very much pushing the physical distancing. It’s funny. I used to get a lot of, you know, I used to call them permission slips, people writing and wanting my permission — often to cheat.

And I don’t sign off on cheating. Only in extraordinary circumstances do I. But people are now writing to me, asking for permission slips not to cheat on a partner, but to cheat on the physical distancing. They want an exception for what they’re doing.

And the very fact that they’re asking for an exception means that they know that it’s probably wrong and they don’t deserve that exception. They need to honour the physical distancing so that everybody is healthy and safe, and that we come through this on the other side and that we can get back to all the other ways we want to come through for each other.

Since this pandemic broke, the dating app Tinder apparently switched their settings so that anyone can match with anyone else in the world. In the world! So not just your local area. Why do you think they made that switch?

To give people more options, to connect people all around the world. Really, this is one of those rare events where it does feel like we’re all in this together all over the world. And the more people we can reach out to and connect with and offer moral support to, the better. And we’re all going through this at the exact same time. I think that’s smart. 

Savage appears onstage at the 15th Annual Webby Awards in New York on June 13, 2011. (Charles Sykes/The Associated Press)

I think what Tinder has done is great. I just would urge people to really lean into rediscovering the virtues of anticipation, and the build-up of erotic tension while remembering that there is a risk here.

When you meet in person … it could not work and you may end up feeling rejected. So you want to make this emotional investment, but you want to at the same time adjust your expectations to the realistic for that first meeting.

There are some people who are scared, because of COVID-19, of being anywhere near anybody. And I wondered if there are any comparisons or lessons to be learned about that fear and the loneliness that was experienced by the gay community, by the LGBTQ community, at the height of the HIV-AIDS crisis.

Absolutely. I’m 55 years old and came out in 1980. And so I was there. I’m just old enough as a gay man to be sort of on the back end of that generation, where all my friends suddenly died one day. And it was terrifying…

People still reached out and found ways to be intimate. And one of the things I think is heartening about this is: to be physically intimate right now is very risky. It was a lot harder in some ways to contract HIV than it is to contract COVID.

But people still reached out. People still connected. That human need for connection is so great that … a lot of gay men decided that the risk, if we could mitigate it or lessen it, was worth the reward of human connection and intimacy.

And I think people are finding new ways to have safe sex. A lot of people are getting online … people are having cybersex, as they used to call it. Everybody’s on Skype, Zoom, FaceTime. Some of them have their pants off and are finding ways to connect like that.

People can really make emotional connections online and people can have a good and powerful — you know, not equivalent sexual experiences with each other online, but certainly good and powerful ones that can tide them over.

Written by Jonathan Ore. Q&A edited for length and clarity. Interview produced by Richard Raycraft.

To hear the full conversation with Dan Savage, click Listen above.

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