Physical Distancing in Our Hook Up Oriented Culture

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As I publish this blog post we’re seeing some of the physical distancing restrictions lifted in many places around the world. Based on the outcome we may see future cycles of restrictions until the pandemic is over. This month I’d like to explore the implications of physical distancing in our hookup oriented culture.

Conspiracy theorists and virus deniers aside, I find it shocking that so many gay men seem to be flagrantly ignoring physical distancing measures in favor of hooking up. We have spent years understanding how to deal with a deadly virus. We’ve learned to do what needs to be done to protect ourselves and those we love. Even when it isn’t easy. This isn’t different. I’m not comparing COVID19 to HIV. But we need rational, personal, responsibility if we’re to beat this thing.

The number of infections and deaths from the Winter Party in Miami are proof that we need to be cautious in the face of the pandemic. Yet we see people, Aaron Shock for instance (yes, I know, no surprise there), conducting business as usual as they “quarantine” with their friends. I actually had a follower on Twitter scold me for spreading fear while claiming that physical contact is required for human connection and love. Recently pics were posted of a huge “circuit-like” house party being held in New York, still a hotbed of infection.

I’m a staunch defender of personal choice and freedom however those things cannot outweigh social responsibility. It’s not just about you making a foolish choice. There are also all the other people you might infect, as well as the impact on your local health care system. It’s not just about an individual.

Virtual connection is not the same as physical connection. In some ways it makes separation even harder. Many of us have been apart from lovers, partners, and spouses during this crisis. Sometimes at great distance with no end in sight. But what about the single people among us. The people for whom the isolation may be almost unbearable at times. Many have sought relief from their loneliness in dating apps. Either for hookups or in search of someone to date. Where does that leave this significant part of our population?

Emotions are running high right now. Worse for those who spend far too much time in their own company. While they may be poor substitutes for physical connection virtual connection on the dating apps might just give guys who need it enough relief to keep themselves sane while keeping themselves safe.

Flirting and getting to know each other in virtual is a great approach but it can build frustration with not being able to initiate physical contact. Make sure that whatever you do isn’t creating pressure to take risks. That decision is completely up to you because each of us has a unique reaction to the unprecedented stresses we’re experiencing. If you feel that you’ll be unable to resist closer contact until the crisis has passed then by all means don’t use the dating apps at all. If virtual connection helps you deal with the loneliness and isolation then go for it. When this is over you may find your dating calendar filled with possibility.

Now that restrictions are easing it’s very tempting for all of us to return to business as usual. It’s important to proceed with extreme caution. Remember that sexual activity of any kind is extremely high risk for spreading this virus. Even if you limit yourself, much like with HIV, you are sleeping with every person your partner has been with in the last couple of weeks creating potential for many infections. So consider your potential impact as you stay safe, and sane, during these challenging times.