Is Pandemic-Induced Virtual Dating Here to Stay?
A new survey reveals that 94% of people who had virtual sex during the pandemic enjoyed the experience.
For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it looks like our long months of isolation may finally be coming to an end in the United States and Canada.
How soon we’ll be able to return to a semblance of pre-pandemic life is anyone’s guess. What is clear is, if vaccinations continue and necessary precautions stay in place to help prevent further outbreaks, we will eventually be able to get out there, and even meet and date other people.
Shocking, I know. Perhaps even more shockingly, the pandemic may have changed how we connect, hook up, or have sex: giving us a world where virtual experiences remain popular—or maybe even preferred.
Virtual dating and sex are on the rise
It’s an interesting quirk of human nature that we can adapt to unusual circumstances, and eventually feel a sense of normalcy about a relatively new situation.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect example, as many have developed unexpected new ways to cope with its economic impact, health concerns, and especially social isolation.
Sextech and online dating sites, for instance, have seen an unexpected surge in interest. According to an article in the National Post, Tinder reported swipes during 2020 rose 11%, and matches between users rose 42%. Those numbers make 2020 Tinder’s busiest year to date.
And dating itself has changed dramatically since the start of the pandemic. A recent survey completed by the beverage manufacturer Basic Hard Seltzer of two thousand Millenials and Generation Z folks, found that 58% of participants had played around with virtual sex during the pandemic.
Of that number, 75% reported it had been their first time engaging in virtual sex. 25% of recipients said they left physical intimacy behind and instead opted to go entirely virtual. Meanwhile, 33% connected virtually and physically met up with their partners.
The definition of virtual sex given to the participants was broad: it included nudity and dirty-talking, one person masturbating, and both people masturbating.
An enjoyable experience
This increase in virtual sex during the pandemic is not all that unexpected. However, it is interesting to note that the same survey revealed that 56% of participants enjoyed this different dating scene, and only 44% are eager to get back to the way things were before the pandemic.
More impressively, of those who tried virtual sex, 94% enjoyed it.
Reporting on the survey, the Chicago Tribune asked the founder of Lakeview-based center Embrace Sexual Wellness, Jennifer Litner, who is also a certified sex therapist, for her opinion on virtual sex. Litner said it was “a nice option for a lot of people (because) it can kind of provide an avenue for connection with another person in a way that is a little bit safer.”
One final tidbit, which appears to validate Litner’s opinion: 77% of the survey participants said their virtual experiences were with someone they hadn’t been previously physically intimate with.
Can we go back to the way things were?
Despite how much we say we can’t wait for life to return to “normal,” we should be prepared to face the reality that COVID-19 has shaken things up so much that life won’t ever be the same.
The pandemic has undoubtedly had a huge emotional impact on most folks. For over a year, we’ve had to wear masks, socially distance, and stay at home as much as possible. When the all-clear is finally sounded, and we’re able to emerge from our quarantines, it may be a slow, uncertain, and anxious time.
On top of that, the Basic Hard Seltzer survey reveals that a considerable number of people have come to prefer virtual sex and online dating, or a hybrid of virtual and in-person interactions, over traditional, in-person dating.
Online interactions offer physical safety
Virtual sex and online dating have more going for them than the perks of avoiding in-person interaction during a global pandemic.
I’m talking safety—and not from contagions like COVID-19. By moving sex and dating online, we’re providing people with novel methods to reach out to others or have sex with them, without putting themselves at risk for physical abuse or assault.
Additionally, virtual interactions could provide a healthy avenue for folks with social anxiety, or for those who have physical challenges, for example.
The future remains uncertain
We can’t say what the future will look like. After all, we don’t know how the pandemic will shape tomorrow, let alone a year or more from now.
But, again, humans are adaptable. We have changed and will change as time goes on, taking what we like and leaving behind what we don’t. The rise of virtual dating and sex over the last year is a pertinent example of humanity’s willingness to change and grow.
The pandemic showed us the pleasures and potential of online and virtual experiences, and that habit may be one that sticks.