When Covid-19 cases began dropping, it felt safe to imagine life on the other side of lockdown. The hot girl summer was ours, so the saucy “vaxxed and waxxed” memes said.
Researchers predicted a roaring return of all things fun, including dating and basic social interaction. Anticipating the onslaught of sexy times, I downloaded Tinder and bought some shaving cream.
Instead of the jubilant in-person pleasure I was hoping for, it’s been a WTF-the-world-is-on-fire kinda season. Hot vax summer, where’d you go? If I had known that breaking the dating seal would be so disappointing and strange, I would have waited.
But I have the pandemic skin hunger. I’m craving touch, kissing, sex, and the look of desire. Being starved of intimacy does curious things to a species over time. As an anthropologist who studies sexuality, observing how Covid-19 is impacting activity on dating apps has been fascinating.
As a woman who has been single since May and not loving the celibate lifestyle, it’s been frustrating. The dynamics of swiping are fundamentally the same, it’s what happens when we match that is glaringly different from pre-pandemic times.
Somewhere in our loins and flatlining dopamine receptors, we want to reconnect, but the logistics are seriously amiss.
Have we been fooled by the easy equation between vaccines and good times? Is the hype about re-entry into the land of in-person dating too much to live up to? Are the pandemic glitches new or just extreme versions of dating app mayhem from the before times?
To answer these questions, let’s explore the top takeaways from summer 2021.
Here are 5 key dating trends from my not-hot girl summer:
1. Serious Relationships.
Of the 30–40 guys I’ve chatted with over the past two months, at least half say they want a long-term relationship.
Previously, most guys were after causal hookups only, which is still a motivation but less overwhelmingly so than in pre-Covid times.
Men’s interest in something permanent and their confidence in finding it on Tinder is striking given the prevalence of hookups and short-term relationships the platform is known for.
2. Checked Out.
Almost all of my matches are inactive after the initial connect. They just smile or flex at me from inside their little profile pictures for weeks, months even.
This is unusual, so are the high rates of being unmatched with no conversation. After following up on this with a few guys, I have been told: “I’m hardly ever on here, so…” So why are you here at all?
This despondency is curious and makes an already imperfect platform seem extra useless.
3. Next Level Misogyny.
Intense sexualization and degrading comments from guys are customary on most dating apps. But their recent demands for “more pictures” after I say “no” several times is chilling.
They frame these asks as harmless, humorous requests: “Ha, Ha. I thought I’d ask again.” It feels scary and it’s exhausting to defend myself against men who refuse to listen to me. It’s like I am erased as a person in their mind.
Deliberately ruining a date or the flow of text chatter is happening more often on Tinder, which is known for its flakes and weirdos of every gendered persuasion.
One guy stood me up and I pretended to forgive him just to watch him fail again, which he did by ghosting me before our next non-date. I was using him to unfurl myself from the perplexing dating app game, which I am playing out of sheer boredom and loneliness at this point.
Reminiscent of the 1978 Peaches and Herb pop hit of the same name, reunited in this context refers to the return of my sensual self. Last week I clicked with an Uber driver and exchanged hot glances with a young guy I spied downtown.
It energized me in a way that only in-person sexual vibes can. It also reminded me that I still have my mojo and don’t need to rely on apps to get my hot girl summer back.
Dating trends are complicated in 2021
Such is my current dating life in a small Canadian city, where it’s hard to meet cool guys at the best of times, let alone during this very long pandemic season. But what’s really eroding my erotic potential is the fear that is seeping into many dating practices.
I’m not alone in being fearful of meeting new people. What if he has the Delta variant? Do I remember how to be sexy with someone? A flirty glance with a stranger is one thing, what will 2nd or 3rd base feel like?
Fear of Dating Again, or FODA, is an identifiable dating phobia linked with Covid-19 that impacts 45–45% of app users.
Our opportunities for pleasure have been cruelly curtailed and how we respond to this entirely new set of factors differs from one person to the next, maybe also between genders.
Some of the guys I’ve met crave stability and serious relationships, while others push the limits of civility or check out altogether from the swiping game.
It’s an era of extremes and I’m caught in the middle.
I don’t want to be a gone girl in the love-lust department. I want the sexy feminist freedom I deserve, but I’m not sure how to get it. Maybe I should grieve the ending of my frigid summer and settle in to watch the leaves fall from the trees.
That feels like giving up, but maybe it’s self-preservation in this unending season of longing.
Treena Orchard is an author, dating expert, and wellness mentor who wants to help you live your best life and create long-lasting relationships! For more information on how she can help you, visit her website.