Here's When We Can (Probably) Have Casual Sex Again

The key dates for your diary and how to deal with all this delayed gratification.

So, Boris Johnson has presented his roadmap for bringing the country out of lockdown and back to normality, and once again it’s a case of delayed gratification – especially for single people.

According to the PM’s four-step plan to lifting restrictions, casual hook-ups, one-night stands and other casual ‘arrangements’ remain on hold until May 17, at the earliest.

Johnson stressed this timeline will be subject to review and could be delayed depending on vaccine rollout, a rise in Covid cases, and new variants.

So, if you’re looking to have legal, state-sanctioned intercourse – mmm, sexy! – with someone outside your household in your home or theirs, you may have to wait another three months minimum.

And if hooking up at a house party or club is more your bag – somewhere where you can scan the room and survey your options, remember those days? – it’s all about June 21, aka Midsummer Madness, aka the date when all remaining lockdown restrictions (also pending review) are set to be lifted.

Where did we leave our libidos again?

Accepting we are where we are

For the good part of the past year, sex and intimacy have taken a back seat. While those in relationships complained about couple claustrophobia and a lack of sex drive, thousands of single people and non-cohabiting partners have been unable to meet or spend time together indoors at all – at least not legally.

At the start of the first lockdown, couples not already co-habiting were urged to move in together if they wanted to maintain basic physical contact. Later, but not a minute too soon for many, came the Boris-backed “support bubbles”.

But these only helped those (un)lucky enough to live alone and prompted a dilemma. Who to bubble up with: a good friend – or a friend with benefits? Few were going to choose the person from Tinder they swiped right on last week.

Lockdown has changed dating habits dramatically and possibly for good – according to a survey carried out by Bumble, there’s been a significant shift towards ‘slow’ dating, with users getting to know their matches on a “deeper level” before meeting. In other words, no nookie. Nearly half of people (48%) are also more inclined to date locally compared to before lockdown.

“Previously people would go on dates pretty quickly after matching,” says Naomi Walkland, Bumble’s head of UK and Ireland.

“Brits are now taking the time to talk and explore their connection before even meeting. This kind of ‘slow dating’ is bringing forward conversations that may have happened two or three dates in, as people are working to figure out what they’re comfortable with – both in real life and virtually.”

Helena, 26, an artist manager and model who lives alone in Middlesborough, has been navigating single life during lockdown and is one of those who shifted to dating online and more locally because of government restrictions.

″IRL sex has absolutely taken a back seat – for both singles and couples,” she says, adding that she’s been plugging the intimacy gap by nurturing other relationships in her life. Even so, she says: “I miss meeting people by chance, rather than planned. I’m looking forward to that. Recently, I’ve also realised I miss sleeping next to someone, someone to wake up with.”

Luis Alvarez

Dealing with delayed gratification

The current Covid safe-sex guidelines state you should not meet socially indoors with anyone unless you live with them – or, if they – or you, live alone and are part of your support bubble.

HIV and sexual health charity, Terrence Higgins Trust, made the headlines in 2020 when they recommended your best Covid sex partner is you, and that those still hooking up should avoid kissing or face-to-face positions at all costs.

Of course, the new ‘Unlockdown’ roadmap means there’s finally something more than self-pleasure or neckache to look forward to – and soonish.

Intimacy coach Juliette Karaman from Feel Fully You, suggests there’s going to be a lot of “yearning” as we eek out the last weeks of lockdown, but that there are ways to use the time fruitfully if you’re in distanced or virtual setup.

“Get to know your partner or the person you’re speaking to,” she tells HuffPost UK, “so that when you do meet up – it’s explosive! Communication is key and over the next three months you can use this time to learn and build upon those communication skills.”

Either way, it seems May 17 is the key date to ring in your diary – as that’s when two households are finally permitted to mix indoors, with “domestic overnight stays” – government speak for sleepover – allowed from this date, too.

It’s also when ministers will review all social distancing rules between different households – potentially allowing hugging to return for the first time since March 2020. Hugging, you say...? The absolute dream.

In the meantime, the rules continue to control how we interact with others to limit the spread of the virus, but when we all need love and human contact, people are going to make their own choices about who they touch in private.

Let’s also remember that sex in itself isn’t everyone’s end goal. “This ‘lost year’ of dating is going to feel particularly difficult for people who feel like they’re running out of time to start a family or meet a significant partner,” points out Match’s in-house dating expert Hayley Quinn.

“The latest Covid announcement, which hasn’t explicitly mentioned single people, adds to this feeling that their needs have been forgotten,” she adds.

“I don’t think enough empathy has been extended towards single people and the additional challenges that they’ve faced during lockdown. Of course, I think we should all abide by the rules, but I also wouldn’t judge singles too harshly if they’ve struggled with this, which is something to be remembered by all.”

Helena knows this first-hand. “It’s hard for sure, but I feel hopeful,” she says. “I can see how it’s frustrating for people, but this is the most hopeful I’ve felt since the start of the pandemic a year ago and everything is on the horizon. There’s an end in sight and a goal to work towards. It’s both calming and exciting.”