Lockdown laws are ever so slowly starting to ease. Restaurants, pubs and clubs are allowing patrons back through their doors and the idea of going out for date night is becoming a very real possibility – you just may have to book a table for a few weeks in advance.
The lifting of laws also means the horde of horny singles that are itching to get back out onto the dating scene and back into someone’s bedroom, can now do so if they so wish (in Australia, at least).
However, that dating world has always been awash with messages of practising safe sex, a message that tends to fall on deaf ears. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, a study conducted by the “UNSW’s Centre for Social Research in Health in 2018 found that 75 per cent of young Australians who had sex in the (previous) 12 months did so without a condom at least once.”
Another study carried out by sex toy manufacturer We-Vibe reported a rather high number of “sexually active Aussies who don’t use protection in the bedroom – 52 per cent – while around 30 per cent of the 1,000 people asked said they didn’t take a condom on a first date because it would seem “too presumptuous”.
So if those everyday safe sex messages are to no avail, what are the chances of people adhering to potentially stricter ones in the wake of a global pandemic?
To find out if we should be more cautious about our scandalous antics going forward, we reached out to two experts in the dating world, Sydney-based sexologist Dr Nikki Goldstein, and Damien Diecke, Head Coach at Sydney’s School of Attraction, to find out how they see the dating scene and the practice of safe sex evolving in a post-COVID world.
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Even with governments around Australia saying we can now meet up in small groups outside the home, a good majority of us will likely still be slightly cautious about meeting strangers. It’s fair to say then that that behaviour can be carried over to the dating world as well, especially if you have no idea where your potential new fling has been before meeting you. Dr Nikki believes this to be perfectly normal behaviour and that it’s inevitable “until we have a vaccine”.
“Hookups will come with an added risk, but where people once had to look at safer sex options with regards to wearing condoms and STIs, this is a new safer sex issue because let’s face it, COVID could be passed during a hookup too.”
Damien agrees that people should definitely be more cautious when dating, however, he admits he’s “not seeing this in practice. At least not with the majority.”
“I have about 20% of clients who are being cautious, but most aren’t even thinking about it at all.”
“Most people are looking at the statistics and saying ‘well 0 new cases last night, the odds of this lady or man having COVID is low’.”
“I believe the pain and frustration of isolation is overwhelming a bit of caution that might otherwise be there.”
So, if we’re not going to be super cautious going forward, instead just hopping into bed with whoever we lay our eyes on first, should we at least as a society try and instil some etiquette rules to follow whenever a hook up happens?
Both our experts suggest that yes, we should.
“People will want to ask certain questions in regards to someone’s health”, says Nikki, “how they are currently living their life with regards to being in contact with people and how often.”
“The problem is this isn’t a full-proof way of assessing risk, but there are certain questions people will want to know the answers to.”
“This needs to be respected and the questions should be answered truthfully as it’s not just the two people engaging in a hook up that are at risk, but everyone else they then come into contact with.”
Damien takes a slightly different approach, saying “if you have any kind of cold/cough/sore throat, stay away from dates. If someone coughs on a date, that date would end very quickly in most cases, although people should have the presence of mind to re-schedule a date if they were coughing a lot anyway.”
“But now it’s much more strongly felt, everyone is still paranoid of coughing in public, even if it’s a harmless throat clearing.”
We hit both our experts with the million-dollar question, “will safe sex become more popular, or more considered, going forward?” Both returned similar answers.
Nikki tells us, “I fear that people will worry more about COVID and less about STIs. Already there have been reports about STIs on the rise now that restrictions are being eased.”
“I think there is a lot to consider now with a casual hookup and it could feel overwhelming for one. Once you have overcome the hurdle of COVID safety, which has serious risks and no cure, some STIs might not be seen as much of a big deal in comparison.”
Damien backs Nikki’s statements up, by claiming “the statistics tend to show that failure to engage in safe-sex is far more common in younger people than those over 25. That being the case though, I haven’t seen anyone become more concerned about STIs than they previously were.”
“In fact, if anything I’d say it’s possible that people see most STIs as being so much less scary now than coronavirus that some may end up becoming more relaxed regarding safe sex attitudes.”
Damien does admit however that he’s not speaking from experience, but rather he’s “just speculating on the general vibe I’m getting as I work with clients.”
The advice from our experts shouldn’t necessarily come as a shock. As professionals, they’re always going to have to put across the message that we should be practising safe sex whenever it comes to any form of love dance.
But in a post-COVID world, the need to keep yourself safe from infection is far greater. So if you’ve found yourself the recipient of several matches on various dating apps, or you think you’ve found ‘the one’ during lockdown, be sensible if one thing leads to another following your first post-ISO date.