Quarantine & chill?

For many students, casual sex and coronavirus' spread don't mix

COVID-19 is harming world economies, health access, and, most importantly, casual sex.
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For many students at Queen’s, the past few days have been a whirlwind of packing, moving, and self-isolating in the wake of Canada’s growing COVID-19 pandemic. But when the dust settles, and you find yourself at home with nothing to do and a growing sense of loneliness, are you really going to stop yourself from sending “u up?” to your casual sex partner?

While we can all agree that everyone should practice self-isolation to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we can also agree that expecting a campus full of 20-something-year-old students to strictly follow the rules might be a little naive. As part of my ongoing journey to spill the tea on Queen’s students’ sex lives, I interviewed four students to see how COVID-19 has impacted their intimate relationships in recent days and weeks.

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For some students, like Erik Bouquillon, Comm ’23, Kingston’s relatively low COVID-19 infection rate has kept anxieties at bay when it comes to having casual hookups. He says students wanted to have a few more days of fun during St. Patrick’s Day weekend before leaving town to go home. 

“People are cautious, but it seems like young people still want to have fun for the most part,” Bouquillon said. “A lot of people are leaving now, [so] they’re getting their sex time in.”

Bouquillon also attributes this behaviour to the boredom caused by cancelled classes and self-isolation.

“I have nothing to do,” he said. “My classes are pushed back; my friends are leaving. I’m just like, ‘Who wants to have sex with me?’”

Bouquillon, who identifies as a gay man, has found that Kingston’s limited same-gender dating pool made casual hookups hard enough to find. Now, with a pandemic sweeping the globe, options are even more limited. Even if he did want to meet up with someone, Bouquillon has had trouble meeting people in Kingston now that in-person classes are cancelled and students are going home.

“[COVID-19] hasn’t stopped me from making plans or going out to see people. There’s just less and less people around,” he said. “I’ve run out of swipes on Tinder. Bumble is dead. Grindr is a mixed bag. It’s kind of disappointing.”

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Other Queen’s students have made a point to rule out casual sex altogether in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. Megan Afshar, ArtSci ’20, says she started to feel worried about infection long before Ontario declared a state of emergency.

“In the past couple of weeks, [the spread of coronavirus has] made me nervous to pursue any new casual sex opportunities,” Afshar said. “Sometimes you don’t know anything about that person [...] so that comfort level isn’t really there. The past two weekends, that’s been a thing in my brain.”

While Afshar has also found herself considering a hookup out of pure boredom, she acknowledges that sex can wait.

“In the last couple of days I’ve been really bored, so I have thought about texting a couple of people just to see if we can meet up, but I haven’t,” she said. “The boredom has especially been there [...] But I am just being careful for the next week and a half.” 

What can students do instead of seeking out in-person hookups? Afshar suggests getting creative with digital options.

“Sext and have FaceTime sex,” she said. “Yeah, it’s a little awkward at first, but it’s definitely not that bad.”

Frances Tran, Sci ’20, has decided to follow the same rules of thumb.

“I made the decision a day or two ago that I’m not going to see anyone else,” Tran said. “I came down with a little bit of a sore throat on Saturday, and I didn’t want to put anyone else at risk.”

Tran’s decision to self-isolate from social interaction, even sex, was an easy one to make when she looked at how her actions could impact her wider community.

“It’s not about you, it’s about the greater good,” she said. “We’re not the only ones that are going to be affected. There will be a lot more people [at risk] who maybe are not as healthy or as young.”

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For those in monogamous relationships, like Adiel Grechanick, Comm ’20, this pandemic's growing urgency means being separated for weeks, if not months.

“I haven’t seen my long-distance boyfriend since January,” said Grechanick. “We had plans to see each other for Valentine’s Day, but he had caught the norovirus [...] He was basically unable to fly [from Seattle].”

When COVID-19 made its way to North America, causing the border between Canada and the US to shut down, Grechanick and her boyfriend realized their separation might go on longer than they anticipated.

“He offered to come to my Queen’s Commerce prom—I was super excited and bought a Cinderella dress,” Grechanick said. “I had everything planned out, only to have the travel ban enacted and the coronavirus going around.”

For now, Grechanick can only wait for the pandemic to improve.

“We don’t know when the next time we’ll see each other is.”

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