Single Life
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Thanks To COVID, People Wait Longer For Sex Now — And They're Kinkier

Cuffing season is about to make everything even more intense.

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Even when we aren’t a year and a half into a deadly, unprecedented pandemic, there’s a sense of urgency associated with dating in the fall: If summer is all about fun and chaos, the colder months are about settling down and staying inside, ideally with someone special. “The temperature is dropping and the days are getting shorter,” says Logan Ury, Hinge’s director of relationship science. “Enter cuffing season.” But this autumn, in an era of ongoing health and safety concerns, cuffing season looks a little different. People are waiting longer to have sex with new partners, though when they do finally hook up, they’re more likely to explore new fantasies and desires.

According to new research from Hinge Labs, one-third of the app’s users say they’re waiting longer than usual to have sex with new partners; 31% of users say they’re less likely to swipe with the goal of finding a quick hookup or one-night stand. Even though nearly 180 million Americans are fully vaccinated, dating during the COVID-19 crisis is still inherently complicated. “There’s no ‘dating as usual,’” Ury tells Elite Daily, citing “shifting health recommendations, hard conversations about masks and social distancing, and the deep psychological changes brought on by 18 months of stress and introspection.”

But Hinge’s data doesn’t mean that singles aren’t having — or don’t want — sex. In fact, many users say they’re hoping to fulfill new fantasies they developed or discovered over the past year, and 80% of the study’s participants say it’s important for a potential partner to be “sexually open and adventurous.” Shannon, a 25-year-old on Hinge, understands why users are looking for more serious partners and more adventurous sex.

“I feel like I can’t be as kinky with someone casually. I need to really know them, and so I want to try new things, but I would prefer if it were not in a casual context,” Shannon says. “I am having casual things and I have since [COVID] has happened, and they’ve been fine and I’m not unhappy about it, but in my ideal world, I wish that more people on [the apps] wanted a relationship.”

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Hinge bills itself as the app designed to be deleted — according to a 2020 study from The Knot, it was responsible for pairing up 12% of that year’s newlyweds who met online, a 9% increase from the year prior. Amanda, a 25-year-old Hinge user, says she rarely used the app to find casual, one-time flings even before the pandemic. “What I wanted has not changed, because I would not hook up with people I met on [apps] very quickly,” she tells Elite Daily. “I think I was like, five, maybe six dates when I hooked up with someone that I met on Hinge [during the pandemic], and that’s normal, so I feel like for me, it’s still that same timeline.”

That said, she does feel added pressure to find something more serious as we approach the winter months. “I do feel like it’s sort of like last year again, where it’s like, ‘Well, I’ve got to find somebody before the wintertime when you can’t go anywhere,’” Amanda adds. “It’s gonna be intense.”

Shannon and Amanda both say their behavior on Hinge might not change a lot in the coming months, but 23-year-old Anna* anticipates using dating apps differently this fall. “I made a profile on Hinge when I moved to New York in July. I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship, so I was really looking for guys my age to go on casual dates with to scope out cool bars and restaurants [...] instead of trying to get to know them on a more intimate, relationship level,” she says. “I think as summer ends and it gets colder out and I’m more comfortable in the city, I’ll have less motivation to go out and meet guys I don’t have an interest in ever seeing again.”

Maybe that’s one of the biggest ways the pandemic has impacted swiping culture: After months of lockdowns, restrictions, and extreme trauma on both personal and global levels, people know what they want, and aren’t motivated to waste time on something (or someone) they don’t. “People who just expected love to find them, or figured ‘I’ll meet someone when I meet someone,’ could no longer take that sort of dating spontaneity for granted,” Ury tells Elite Daily. “They’re being more thoughtful about how they show up on dates, how they express themselves, and how they build the types of partnerships they want.”

*Name has been changed.