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Let’s talk about (pandemic) sex, baby

Tinder. Bumble. Hinge.

Meet up. Hook up. Maybe talk again, maybe not.

For many college students, this was the pre-pandemic reality. For some, it still is. For others, the pandemic has caused them to stay away from those random strangers at the bar or that Tinder match (not so) made-in-heaven.

Whether searching for the love of their life or simply looking for a quick hookup, one thing seems to be true for many college students’ sex lives during the pandemic — they’re more cautious, reevaluating who they’re having sex with and what their values are.

Junior Maddie Rennie has found herself moving away from meeting new people or finding hookups online in the past months. Instead, she’s turned to a much different source — her inner circle.

“I’ve hooked up with other people in my friend group and got to know them better, which has kind of eliminated me trying to meet new people and go places where I haven’t gone before or environments I haven’t really been exposed to,” Rennie said.

She’s hooked up with friends from high school and friends-of-a-friend. While she may have hooked up with one or two of them anyways, others she may not have if not for the pandemic.

“A lot of times, before the pandemic, I would meet people at the bar or in class or things like that, which made it a little bit easier to meet people outside of my circle, which sometimes is nice … but for right now, it’s easier and safer to stay within the circle.”

Rennie is  also grateful that she has company — something that the pandemic has often prevented in the past year. She said it’s nice not to feel alone and hooking up with someone is a good way to relieve that feeling of isolation.

The one downside to staying within her circle of friends? Feelings sometimes get caught in the middle.

“The only thing that has been a negative effect on me personally is getting my feelings involved when it comes to people in my inner circle, because that makes things a little more complicated and dramatic,” she said.

A sophomore kinesiology major, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, also found himself turning to a person that he already knew, and someone who he knew takes the pandemic seriously,to lose his virginity with.

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He hooked up with a friend from high school, and while he isn’t sure if this would have still been the case in a non-pandemic world, he does know that his friends’ views on the pandemic were a contributing factor.

“I’m more inclined to just go with someone who I’ve already known who obviously takes the pandemic as seriously as I do,” he said. 

He also felt more motivated to go with someone more than a stranger, building a connection and fighting the college hookup culture he says our generation has become more accustomed to.

Like Rennie, he feels the constant isolation many people have experienced over the past year has caused them to crave human contact even more — and not just for sex.

“People are more looking for someone to be with, [and] they don’t basically just have to have sex,” he said. “I know that I’ve grown pretty lonely during this time, and all I’ve wanted was to just, like, have someone, obviously that I know, just in my bed with me, watching TV, cuddling, whatever it is.”

A junior strategic communications major, who also spoke under the condition of anonymity, has found herself wanting that special connection with another person, whether physical or emotional. 

While she was never really interested in hookups and one-night stands, the reopening world caused her to want a deeper connection even more.

“When things have opened up a little more and you’ve been able to see a few more people … I feel like you don’t take those things for granted as much anymore,” she said. “And I’ve been more focused on actually trying to find that [connection].”

While she was careful to remain isolated at home, she has branched out a little more since returning to campus. 

“It’s not that I was taking it less seriously, but it just seemed like things became a little more normal and a little less scary,” she said.

Still, with the rise in COVID numbers Miami saw in the fall, she knew she wanted to be extremely careful about who she associated with. One of her go-to conversation topics became a good way to assess how cautious her prospective partners were.

“In this day and age, getting to know people [means] talking about the pandemic and how they view it,” she said. “I usually like to associate myself with people who do take it seriously and are at least a little concerned.”

If they don’t take the pandemic seriously, that’s her cue that she wouldn’t want to pursue any type of relationship with them anyway.

“[It’s] a judge of character, almost,” she said. “If you’re talking to someone and they have no regard for the pandemic, they don’t care about it as much or take it seriously ... then I probably wouldn’t want to hook up with them, because that is a thing about their character.”