The video calls serve as what some singles term a “vibe check,” allowing them to gauge chemistry in a context beyond text banter. Kang predicts these vibe checks will be the norm long after the cure for Covid-19 has been found, as people seek to trade selfie culture’s filtered photos for a more realistic image of a person. “At first, people don’t feel like they look very good,” Kang says, but “then they’re forced to try it when they realize they won’t meet people for a very long time. Once they try it, they’re likely to do it again.”
Jazz, a woman from London, has been on dating apps since 2014. Video calls have made dating less casual, she says.
“I can now have first meets on video and build an emotional connection with a man over the physical,” she says. “Three weeks no-contact means you will be able to drop the fakes like flies and engage with the ones that are truly wanting to have something more.”
Jazz claims she hasn’t changed how she presents herself (“Loungewear and no makeup—if they like you like this, then they’ll like you in any state”) and enjoys the ease of the date: “I can also drink a glass of wine and roll into bed. Woohoo!”
Sex at a distance
Coronavirus isn’t just changing norms around dating: sex tech is also seeing a surge in popularity. Much of this is to do with the effects of quarantine, says Justin Lehmiller, a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute. While the coronavirus and the resulting lockdowns are still too new to allow for real analysis, he says it’s clear that the strange times we now live in are changing our behavior. People are trying out the newest sex gadgets, visiting virtual-reality strip clubs, attending Zoom sex parties, and even searching PornHub for very specific porn: homemade videos that fetishize coronavirus.
Polly Rodriguez, the founder of sex toy retailer Unbound Babes, says that when the coronavirus arrived, sex tech firms struggled. Many sex toys are made in China, which meant the supply chain was badly hit.
But demand remains high. Once the first patients started getting sick with coronavirus in the US, Unbound Babes raced to fill orders for vibrators and multipacks of condoms, which were up 30% the first week of March and then another 40% the second week. “This is usually our slowest time of year,” she says. “People are stockpiling and anticipating this will take a while.”