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5 Ways COVID-19 Has Changed College Hookup Culture

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The college social scene is known for its hookup culture, but the COVID-19 pandemic created an entanglement for getting into, well, an entanglement. Even as more and more people are being vaccinated, wearing a mask is still being encouraged by the CDC, which, needless to say, makes certain things pretty difficult. Even Saturday Night Live poked fun at the difficulties of hooking up during the pandemic with their song “Bottom of Your Face.” And for many college students who relocated to their home houses from campus dorms or apartments when the pandemic started, being sexually frustrated became the new norm.

Luckily, with things slowly returning to normal, including school, college students everywhere are figuring out ways to adapt to the era of social distancing while still getting their needs met. So, dust off your passwords for Tinder, Bumble, Grindr, Hinge, and more, because students both on and off campus are getting back to having fun with a few new twists.

1. We’re More Reliant on Dating Apps

Considering that college students have more limited opportunities to meet people than before the pandemic (remember crowded bars?), we’ve become more reliant on dating apps to help us connect. Dating apps have adapted with the pandemic, and now include features like Hinge Date From Home and Bumble Video Chat. According to fortune.com, Tinder recorded its highest number of swipes on a single day in March 2020 (three billion!), and Bumble video calls have increased by 70 percent. And while we’re all anxious to get back to normal, the convenience of dating apps isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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2. Hookup Culture Is More Direct

Restrictions on bar capacities make the go-with-the-flow vibe of college hookup culture a lot more difficult. One college student I spoke to said, “It’s more cut-and-dry. Before COVID, if you were hooking up with someone you’d meet at a bar or go to their fraternity house, and now it’s shifted to just asking if they want to come over after their night.” While this does help communication, it definitely also takes the mystique out of “let’s see where the night takes us.”

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3. We Set Stricter Rules with Roommates

If you live on campus for college, one of the biggest perks is not having to answer to anyone, but COVID-19 has forced us to ensure our plans are okay with our roommates for safety reasons. Roommates often ask each other permission to have someone over or if they feel comfortable with them seeing a certain person, whereas before this wasn’t always a must-have conversation. Everyone has different boundaries regarding safety, so it’s important to take into account the people you’re living with. “My roommates and I are pretty safe with COVID, but with hookups you don’t want to just tell your friends not to hookup with someone, but you also want to be safe,” one college student told POPSUGAR.

4. It’s Normal to Ask About Someone’s Health History

While the question of where someone “has been” would seem more direct pre-COVID (but still absolutely valid and important to ask!), it’s become much more normalized during the pandemic. While you don’t necessarily need every detail about the person’s previous sexual partners, many students are asking up front if the person has physically been anywhere that would put them at risk of carrying COVID-19. Hopefully this will help normalize conversations about sexual history in regards to STI’s, helping make students be more aware and communicative about risks.

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5. Outdoor Dates Are More Popular Than Ever

According to the CDC, activities are less risky if they’re in outdoor spaces with more ventilation and room to social distance. This has pushed those on campus to get outside for dates and meet-ups, which can actually be a lot more fun than the usual, “Hey, wanna come over?” The CDC’s recent statement that people who are vaccinated could gather outdoors without a mask will likely increase the amount of outdoor dates (and double dates!), too.

It’s tempting to long for the days where college students had full agency over our decisions regarding dating and sex. These unprecedented circumstances have certainly pushed us to get out of (or stay in) our comfort zones. Luckily, more people in the United States are being vaccinated every day, which makes a return to normal almost within our reach. When that day comes, you can find us at the bar!


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