When The Romance Is Contagious: What Pandemic Dating Looks Like For Young People

Five ways finding love has changed right now

As the University of Southern California’s newspaper, The Daily Trojan reports, the state of affairs is unfortunate for young people, especially college students, who are often “looking to explore their sexuality, courtesy of the freedom afforded by living on one’s own.”

Unlike the NYC Health Department, which became the first to issue guidelines for sex during the pandemic, most colleges across the country, including USC, did not issue sexual health guidelines. In a sweeping enterprise story, student journalists fromThe Daily Trojantook a look at how students have changed how they approach dating right now — both in-person and virtually. Here are the main takeaways…

THE RULES SURROUNDING INTIMACY AREN’T ALWAYS CLEAR

For students, and other young people, the key to dating right now is having intentional conversations with their partners about who they’re coming in contact with, to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

At USC,students weren’t given official guidelines, just loose recommendations of what to do and not do. Officials recommended wearing masks and avoiding face-to-face contact as much as possible during sex, along with using protection to avoid transmission through saliva or other sources.

But The Daily Trojan talked to one official who said, “There are no studies that show that a mask during sex is going to decrease transmission because clearly, there’s probably not physical distancing.”

IT CAN BE HARD TO SPICE THINGS UP

Students have had to come up with creative ways to safely have fun. This was especially challenging last spring when many restrictions on restaurants and bars were in place.

One student remembers going on a few walks early in the pandemic with a match from a dating app. He was at a loss of how to make things more interesting going forward, while also staying safe. “Are we really just going to go on little walks like 100 times?” he told The Daily Trojan.

INTERACTIONS CAN BE AWKWARD

Greetings and goodbyes while dating can be awkward during normal times. But the question of whether to “hug” or “kiss” goodbye, has taken on a new burden.

At the end of a socially distant date, one student reported saying: “I had a good time, I’m just not going to hug you.”

SOMETIMES, THE RISKS ARE JUST TOO HIGH

The newspaper talked to one student who was immunocompromised. She said if she went on a date, “she’d need it to be outside, masks on and socially distanced to protect herself — no exceptions.”

She’s turned to talking to matches virtually instead. “I was at this point where I was so lonely that it was my only way to kind of fulfill that certain desire,” she told the paper.

TRANSPARENCY IS KEY

Some couples The Daily Trojan talked to were able to kindle new romances during this very difficult time, by being super transparent with each other about their comfort levels — and getting creative with date ideas.

“We might not be able to go partying or go to bars, but [we’ll go have] a nice picnic in the park and drink,” one student told the paper. “So it’s just like a different type of fun and I definitely think being in a relationship helps us get through this time.”