Casual Sex And Vaccines: What Single People Are Doing And What Experts Recommend

So your crush got vax'd. Time for a Valentine's Day hookup?
People on hookup apps who are vaccinated are listing this as a desirable trait on their profiles. HuffPost Canada explores the trend, how safe vaccinated casual sex is, and what singles are doing to prevent viral spread.
People on hookup apps who are vaccinated are listing this as a desirable trait on their profiles. HuffPost Canada explores the trend, how safe vaccinated casual sex is, and what singles are doing to prevent viral spread.

“Fuck yes. And vaccinated? Even better.”

When a Facebook friend propositioned Alejandro* for a hook-up, it was an instant yes: Their friend, a frontline worker in Toronto, had received the second COVID-19 vaccine dose the week prior.

Like most of the world, Alejandro is eagerly awaiting the vaccine. But until it becomes widespread, being vaccinated is becoming a major perk that singles are listing on their dating app profiles and telling their prospective partners.

The biggest dating apps are seeing a growing number of users are listing their vaccine status in their profiles, CNN reported. A Tinder spokesperson told the outlet that the app saw a 258 per cent increase of the word “vaccine” on profiles late last year, when doses began to roll out.

Whether someone has their shots has even become a deal-breaker for some.

So why are people bringing up their vaccine status on dating apps? There are a number of factors at play, according to Devon Greyson. A researcher who specializes in how people use health information, they told HuffPost Canada that this vaccine trend echoes previous pandemic-related dating profile amendments.

“We’ve seen people share selfies of negative COVID-19 test results and getting the vaccine. We’ve also seen people share that they had antibodies, either presumed they had the virus or a blood donor,” Greyson pointed out.

They listed a few possible motives: signal to like-minded people that they’re pro-vaccine; as a way to attract others who are vaccines; given the scarcity at this stage, sharing vaccine status could also be a way to broadcast that they’re working health care, a profession that’s seen as noble.

“I think considering the current limitations on vaccine access and worries about privilege, people queue-jumping ... the issue of vaccination being seen as a desirable trait on dating apps does raise some concerns,” Greyson said. “But on the other hand, social norms influence people’s vaccine attitudes and behavior. So sharing pro-vaccine attitudes on social media, including dating or hookup apps, is not necessarily a bad thing.”

And as they and others have emphasized, getting vaccinated does not mean a return to normal life. “Even if you are in the early tier, that isn’t a blank cheque to resume all activity.”

OK, my partner is vaccinated. Is it safe to boink?

What we know about vaccines and intimacy is still emerging. COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets, making sex a potentially high-risk activity. At the time of publication, none of the available vaccines are 100 per cent effective. And early research suggests that vaccinated people could still potentially infect others, as they may have gotten the virus shortly before their doses.

In theory, one person who is vaccinated and has developed antibodies with viral immunity having sex with an unvaccinated person could statistically lower the risk. Two people who are both vaccinated having sex would be more safe, second only to the safest activities: Masturbation or abstinence.

Many people have stopped in-person sexual activity with others, as medical professionals have emphasized the ongoing importance of social distancing and mask usage. But as health authorities like the B.C. Centre for Disease Control have also stated, it’s unrealistic to expect everyone without a sexual partner in their household to be celibate.

Messages that discourage or shame people from sexual contact can be harmful and may discourage people from seeking essential sexual health services,” reads the centre’s website.

Vaccinated singles share their hookup stories

Most North Americans vaccinated at this stage of the pandemic are immunocompromised or essential workers. Brandy,* 41, has worked at a COVID-19 testing site since last April and recently got her second vaccine dose.

“People seemed afraid of me,” Brandy recalled, noting that some gave her an unreasonably wide berth when they found out about her employment. “Now that I’m vaccinated, I feel 10 times better ... With all the work I was forced to do, I do believe it’s time.”

Brandy’s new status has led people to be less worried about being around her and has given her a reason to seek physical intimacy via a playful pick-up line: “Vaccinated power bottom.”

<a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">"Vaccinated top"</a> has become a pandemic meme among queer circles, after a Grindr screenshot made the rounds online.
"Vaccinated top" has become a pandemic meme among queer circles, after a Grindr screenshot made the rounds online.

Rose*, 25, is also a healthcare worker with a similarly playful ad: “The fabled COVID safe top,” starts her personal ad on the queer dating app Lex. “Just a pup, spayed and neutered and up-to-date on my shots!”

Rose originally posted her vaccine status as an excuse to make a joke. “I’m just a furry into petplay,” she told HuffPost Canada. “And saying ‘up-to-date on my shots’ was very funny. I couldn’t let that opportunity go.”

Her humorous post landed her two dates, including one with a long-time crush. She did some research on transmission rates before their encounter ― “Don’t want to pull a Typhoid Mary” ― and decided to take additional safety precautions ahead of time, by meeting up outdoors and wearing face masks first.

Rose’s dates ended up getting intimate. “The fact that I was vax’d was mentioned throughout as a source of relief for [them during sex.] It does feel like a hierarchy is forming, with vaccinated people being able to get dates easier.”

“It does feel like a hierarchy is forming, with vaccinated people being able to get dates easier.”

- Rose

For Rose though, this trend ― and lockdown rules that put the needs of businesses before people ― are something they’re critical of, as mean people with more privilege are benefiting.

“You can’t build a society that tells us to work and nothing else. We have to risk our lives to make rent, but can’t leave the house for anything else? You can’t have it both ways, that’s not sustainable,” she said. “It’s been an exhausting year.”

Whatever your status, here’s how you can make sex safer

As the pandemic approaches the year-long mark, people have adopted certain safety rules to reduce COVID-19 spread during intimacy.

Nate,* a Torontonian who works from home, said that someone being vaccinated isn’t a dealbreaker for being intimate, but it is “70 per cent” linked to his future dating plans. At the moment, he has decided not to have casual encounters with strangers, which he’s noted has made people on the gay dating apps he uses accuse him of being anxious.

“I’m not going to take a hospital bed away from someone who needs it more,” he would retort.

Monty*, a Canadian single mom with immunocompromised parents, has chosen to have casual relationships only with people she already knows until the vaccine is common, to keep her social bubble small and safe.

Alejandro sees vaccine status as a nice bonus, but not a deal-breaker. They’re making decisions to see those who take their health seriously, such as another essential worker who they know has been careful all year.

All these actions are steps that Canada’s top doctor has recommended to prevent COVID-19 transmission during intimacy: restricting numbers, foregoing sex, and having honest conversations about one’s health before doing the deed was among the advice given by Dr. Theresa Tam last year, along with wearing a mask during intercourse.

Watch: Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam encourages face masks during sex. Story continues after the slideshow.

Barriers, like dental dams and glory holes, are also Canada-approved pandemic safe sex tools.

For those holding off on intimacy altogether, it’s worth knowing that the vaccine can eventually make casual sex safer for everyone.

“As more people do get vaccinated over the coming months, levels of disease in the community are going to drop. It’s going to make it safer to go on face-to-face dates and hookups,” they said. “Only by getting enough of the population vaccinated and bringing case numbers low can we return to normal life.”

*Names have been changed due to privacy concerns.