It’s no surprise that the pandemic has turned dating rules and intimacy absolutely upside-down. With stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and even lockdowns, we quickly saw the ease with which we used to meet people IRL (especially romantically) wither away. Planning and communication became essential, and when it came to sex – well late-night pick-ups at the bar were just out of the question. So what’s the play? Singles had to have their needs fulfilled somehow. As we often do here at Plenty of Fish when we’re curious about the great wide world out there, we did some digging!
We polled 2,900 single or casually dating Americans aged 18-40 about intimacy, sex, and beyond. The results provided insight into the changing dating landscape, and how things might look as we come out of quarantine. More than half of singles (56%) said their views on sexual intimacy have changed since the pandemic began and 55% say that as a result of the pandemic, they’ve used technology more as a means to be sexually intimate than they ever have before. Naturally, it’s made me think a lot about what this looks like IRL. Are trends like friends with benefits arrangements (FWB) on the rise? Maybe. Will one-night stands make a comeback? Maybe not.
Room-mate-ing and Beyond
Meeting prospective dates anywhere but virtually came to a standstill and singles turned to video to get back out there. Safety was, and hopefully still is, everyone’s top priority but it certainly required some adjustments when it came to intimacy. The spontaneity of sex becomes a little different when you have to have conversations you might not be used to having to get the job done. It required a little more communication that might feel a touch easier with someone you already know. A potential solution? Friends with benefits.
Singles may have seen their romantic lives take a hit, but trying times call for creative solutions to fulfilling yourself, well, sexually. If the pandemic had you calling up that single friend of yours you always had a little bit of sexual tension with and suggesting a Netflix and Chill sesh, you weren’t the only one. Compared to the 46% of singles or casual daters that have had a friends with benefits relationship in the past, 76% said they’ve pursued one since the pandemic started last March. Out of that group of FWB bandwagon-ers, 85% said their ‘friend’ of choice was a roommate or someone they had known for years platonically. Choosing someone already in your bubble to get it on with is honestly pretty smart IMO. Safety first, am I right?
Proximity is Key
If you think I was about to gloss over the mention of FWB relationships with a roomie above, think again. Years ago, if you asked people Family Feud style who they thought was the worst person to spark up a casual fling with, a roommate would probably be pretty high on the list. The pandemic strikes again. If you think about it, a roomie is kind of the perfect FWB partner when you have to keep your circle small. You always know what they’re up to, and you don’t even have to leave your house to have a fun time. It is so hilariously functional, the team here at Plenty of Fish decided to name a dating trend after it – Room-mate-ing.
What once might have been a bit taboo, now seems like it deserves a round of applause. A creative and responsible solution? We love to see it.
But What About Feelings?
“But FWB relationships never work!” cries most of TV and Pop culture, and understandably so. What so many rom-coms have taught us isn’t necessarily wrong. One party usually ends up catching feels, leading to an inevitable misunderstanding and dramatic blow-up at one point or another. The difference between those movies and real life, besides the obvious, is that Covid has removed a lot of the nuances and expectations,. It’s caused us to act out of necessity instead. Yes, sex being the necessity here.
Singles reevaluated, rightfully so. After being constantly told all the things they can’t do, finding a safer way to combat a little loneliness and a lot of sexual frustration was a win. A great one with the right expectations. This past year and a half has made us more honest, so using that to your advantage may have helped any bumps along the way. 39% of singles surveyed said the pandemic caused them to make their FWB relationship official and start dating casually, but 37% said it caused them to break off their FWB relationship and go their separate ways. Casual flings have no guarantees, especially when it comes to friends with benefits. It can often feel a lot easier to talk it through though when it’s someone you’ve known for a long while. Another bonus.
So, Where Do One Night Stands Come In?
Maybe I’ve convinced you why friends with benefits are on the rise, but you’re probably still wondering why on earth that would mean they’re so much better than one-night stands. What about the post-pandemic free-for-all everyone keeps talking about? What about the ‘vaxxed and waxed’ attitude? It’s a fair point, and I’ll be the first one to say I assumed loosened restrictions would slowly (or quickly) lead to everyone going absolutely buck-wild, especially when it comes to sex.
Here’s the interesting part, Gen Zers are definitely ready to get back out there with only 29% of them thinking one-night stands will be a thing of the past. Not surprising, considering they’ve had a good chunk of their ‘prime youth’ ripped away, forced to participate in Zoom happy hours when all they really wanted to do was dance on a table in a bar and make out with a stranger (probably). But Millennials? They’re over it. 58% think one-night stands will be no more. A shocking stat that really isn’t all that shocking when you think about it.
Millennials have, for the most part, experimented in their 20’s and perhaps are at a different time in their lives. They’re looking for a more meaningful connection. Covid-19 was the unpleasant reminder that germs (and STDs) are a reality. While once upon a time it might have been worth the risk, it just isn’t anymore. FWB on the other hand? There might be more feeling-related factors involved, but it just might beat the awkward morning-after routine that comes with a one-night wonder.
The kicker? Men are more onboard than women! 61% are over one-night stands compared to 45% of ladies. Maybe the novelty of the chase has worn off, or maybe virtual intimacy is on the rise. Whatever the case, sex and intimacy are definitely changing fast. It looks like we’ll get to see how it all plays out soon enough.
So, what do we think? Will one-night stands be no more? Will friends with benefits continue post-pandemic? Let us know in the comments and stay tuned for more posts this month that dig into everything intimacy, sex, and dating!