Crystal*, a 21-year-old in Ohio, has lived with her parents throughout the pandemic and snuck out a few times to hook up with people. “To be honest, I don’t feel they were worth it,” she says. “It was nice to get out, but I also felt like, Why am I risking this for people I don’t even like or resonate with?”
Mya*, a 30-year-old in Los Angeles, is also rethinking the way she wants to date. “I’ve learned that it’s really important for me to have some power and control in my relationships, and it’s really okay if that means that a lot of dudes are not going to be into it,” she says. She lasted through a 14-month pandemic completely alone—not getting a text back from some guy she met on Tinder is not going to end her world.
Regardless of sexual identity or relationship status, women have had a year to be in our own bodies with little input from the outside world. Maybe you got dressed more this year without worrying about how your boss or the parents at school drop-off would judge. Maybe you faced less catcalling, took a break from the mental workout of having to invent a fictional boyfriend when aggressive men won’t leave you alone. Maybe in the absence of regular dating, you had more time and space to think about what really feels good to you, what you like, what you want. Maybe the governmental mishandling of the pandemic has felt like such a profound waste of your time that you’re simply not willing to have any more time wasted. Whatever the past year of reflection has meant to you, women will be setting new rules this summer.
“No vaccine, no vag-een,” says Tara*, a 28-year-old in Wisconsin. “That’ll be my new rule.” (Turns out, that’s actually an old idea: Activists in the 1950s promoted polio vaccines with similar slogans—they proclaimed, “No shots, no dates.”) For Tara, the proliferation of vaccines doesn’t necessarily mean that safe(r) sex feels in reach. She watched, throughout the pandemic, as people in her conservative community proudly rejected masks and ignored scientists. About half of Republican men, an NPR-Marist poll found, say they will not take the vaccine when it becomes available. Only 6% of Democrats who are men say the same. “I feel like I’m going to have to interrogate people to make sure that they’re being safe so I don’t feel like I’m risking my life just to get some ass,” Tara says. “I’m going to quit having sex with Republicans.”
Of course, all sex carries risk. And after more than a year of feeling screwed over by the pandemic, there will likely be a rise in selfish sex. “I think fuckboys are definitely going to lie about getting the vaccine,” says Alice, who feels anxious when she contemplates sex and dating even after mass vaccination. She is one of the more than 30 million Americans who fell sick with COVID, and it changed her perspective on being single. “I remember my chest closing up, and I was having such a hard time taking a full breath that I couldn’t stand up without falling over,” she says. She became scared that she would die alone in her apartment, and nobody would even know. “As lame as it sounds, I’ve learned how important it is for humans to be close to each other,” she says.
Will we emerge transformed by an earnest appreciation for each other’s bodies, craving pure connection? Or simply out for all we can steal? “I hope dating is better now, cause before coronavirus, it wasn’t exactly the greatest thing,” says Jax. She dreams of “going to a bar, getting drunk with my friends, and just making out with a stranger. Having someone spit in your mouth, and not worrying about dying.”
Our culture is not designed to help women claim our own pleasure or get commitment without giving up some essential freedom. But after more than a year away from mainstream sex and dating culture, more women have gained a better sense of what they want, and deserve. Jax wants a messy makeout. Mya wants agency. Abbie wants more sex, hotter sex, and more experimental sex. Crystal wants better ~vibrations~. Tara wants respect and honesty. And Alice wants to feel the exquisite preciousness of human connection, without losing herself.
It’s going to be a long, hot, horny summer. When it’s safe for you, don’t forget sunscreen, a mask, and a condom if applicable. And don’t forget that you survived a major tragedy and a really, really tough year. You don’t have time to be slut-shamed, or play by sexist rules, or have bad sex. Welcome to your sweaty, sexy, self-finding summer.
*Name has been changed.
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.