Just when you thought COVID-19 was going to literally cockblock the lives of horny singles everywhere, dating-app users created a trend in hopes of finding an option of “safe-er” sex (emphasis on the “-er”) amid a global pandemic. Allow me to introduce: the hookup pact.
It’s exactly how it sounds, in that two people commit to breaking social distancing orders for each other—and only each other—in an attempt to get laid. (The thought process being that if two people are going outside only to see each other = less COVID-19 risk).
But don’t confuse this hookup pact as a means to find the LOYL. While it seems this arrangement basically forces some singles into monogamy under the guise of a “hookup pact”—their sole intention is sex. And only sex. Basically, zero nonphysical expectations.
“A hookup pact can be a good idea if you have significant trust established in a relationship,” explains Andrea Syrtash, relationship expert and author of He’s Just Not Your Type (and That’s a Good Thing).
And most of these singles are establishing trust—or at least trying to? Like, rather than a Fifty Shades of Grey contract filled with kinks and clauses, the hookup pact establishes a level of accountability, sometimes agreed upon verbally or via a text message.
And the rules look different for each partnership too. Some singles may opt for a “no-feelings” agreement, while others may agree to take pictures of themselves in a mask any time they were outside in an effort to disclose their whereabouts.
Whatever the case, the hookup pact is clearly declaring itself as the official “DTR” of the year 2020.
Why a hookup pact though? What is it exactly?
Meet Ramona*, a 31-year-old Hinge user who wasn’t going to let a virus stop her from…well, experiencing partnered orgasms. And after only three virtual video dates—one consisting of a super-sexy FT sesh—she initiated a hookup pact.
Since she has immunocompromised family and friends, Ramona was eager to place strict stipulations on her intimacy “agreement” as a way to feel safer. She had maintained social distancing protocols in her daily routine and asked her new partner to do the same.
Once they agreed, Ramona saw him an average of four nights a week. He drove into town for work from Monday through Friday, and she’d meet him most evenings.
Then there’s Leslie, a 32-year-old single in Houston, who penned a hookup pact agreement via text message with a newish Bumble beau. His only response? “We’re golden.” The two crafted a no-feelings policy via text message and made plans to meet the following week.
FWIW: “Before you make this arrangement, you’ll want to make sure you’ve learned enough about the other person’s character (through actions, not words),” suggests Syrtash.
And that’s just it: How well can you actually get to know someone over Zoom dates and texts? Even more so, how can you trust them enough to know they’re adhering to the agreement?
For Ramona, this was the downfall of the hookup pact. She couldn’t control what her partner did, who he dated, and who he came into contact with. After all, they were “monogamous but super casual.” (Okay, Jed Wyatt.)
And since he not only maintained his dating-app profile (potentially allowing contact with other women) but also made frequent trips to the gym, she eventually ended things. “I can’t say I was a hundred percent feeling secure [that he wouldn’t get COVID-19].”
Okay, but why are people opting for hookup pacts in the first place?
It’s not that surprising when you consider the stress of the moment (hi, a global health crisis, a war on racial injustices, an election year, etc.!). For obvious reasons, 2020 isn’t necessarily smooth sailing. Every person I spoke with shared the same sentiments: they’re lonely, helpless, and, quite frankly, horny.
“I think what’s alluring is the illusion of taking control in a world where so many things seem out of control. A hookup pact allows you to think there is one less thing you have to think about while normalizing an important part of your life,” says Lidia Bonilla, a pleasure strategist for women and the founder of House of Plume.
Outside of the control awarded by taking your sex life back into your own hands, physical touch can also protect your mind from negativity. “If you have no positive reinforcement or physical contact [from others], you can begin to feel really imprisoned by scary, unhappy, or lonely thoughts,” says psychologist Stephanie Newman, PhD.
But despite the mental health perks a romp session might provide, just how safe can a hookup pact be for actually protecting you from COVID-19?
Gwen Murphy, an epidemiologist at the testing company LetsGetChecked, says this: “There’s no scenario for dating risk-free.” And sorry to break the news, but close contact is never safe during the pandemic.
Even if you think getting tested gives you a pass, Dr. Murphy encourages you to reconsider. While testing can help mitigate risk, she cautions that it’s “just a snapshot” of a moment in time.
Outside of being an asymptomatic carrier, “it’s possible to test negative one day and positive the next day because that’s how the virus works and amplifies in your system,” she explains. “Testing has helped, but it’s what you do between the day you take the test and the day you meet the person.”
If you do opt to take the risk, however, there are some important questions you should ask yourself before going all in on a hookup pact with someone:
Where do you work?
How many contacts do you come across a day?
Are you an essential worker and therefore at a higher risk of exposure?
Do you live with anybody who might be particularly vulnerable?
Do you see your grandparents or your parents regularly and therefore could potentially infect them?
But to make this crystal, crystal clear: If you’re leaving your house during a global pandemic to have sex, for whatever reason, there’s always going to be a risk of COVID-19.
For Leslie and her partner, things are still going strong after nearly four months. Her partner even keeps a temperature log, filling in Leslie on the slightest movement. (Aww, modern romance!)
But even despite state advisories and more than 144,000 American lives lost, the fact that we’re coining the term “hookup pact” during a pandemic says one thing: People are horny.
So really, who knows what the world will look like in a post-pandemic universe where we don’t have to make hookup pacts just to have sex. But one thing’s for sure: There will always be singles who know what they want—and will get what they want. No matter the circumstances.
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