Most of the people I know—myself included—are very lucky that one of the biggest quarantine woes they have is their horniness. Pre-pandemic, we could easily satisfy our desires by meeting up with a Tinder match, making eyes at that hottie from across the bar, or messaging a hookup buddy. Now, in quarantine, (hopefully) we realize that alleviating our horniness isn’t worth putting ourselves and others at risk of contracting COVID-19. But being responsible still isn’t enough to distract us from our sexual frustration, so we’ve had to get a bit creative in finding alternative modes of satisfaction.
It seems that the realities of social distancing are antagonistic toward the measures that are necessary for exercising our libidos—except for one aspect. The increased reliance on technology to keep up with our friends and do work has also resulted in an emergence of virtual sexual stimulation. The screen acts as a type of shield from embarrassment, plus there’s the guarantee that people won’t be seeing each other in person for a considerable amount of time. Combined, these conditions have endowed an unabashed confidence in people. Suddenly, people are requesting nudes from that girl they used to hook up with in freshman year, or sliding into the DMs of that boy they always saw in the library but never had the courage to speak to before. Nobody seems to be off the table. The shock of receiving a seemingly random or salacious message usually morphs into a feeling of excitement as the recipient, equally emboldened by a diminished risk of embarrassment, partakes in the sexting or flirty banter instigated by the other party. Thus, the Quarantine Cutie is created.
In quarantine, there are no hoes or sluts—at least not in the traditional sense. Though their iconic legacies definitely influence the boldness and confidence that comprise the making of the Quarantine Cutie, a hoe or a slut is traditionally empowered by the amount of physical encounters in which they participate. Unfortunately, physical intimacy is almost nonexistent in quarantine, thus prompting the creation of a QC—someone who takes ownership of their pleasure by engaging in remote sexual encounters, by participating in the encounters on their own terms, or by even shooting their shot at all. Of course, there are times when those messaging are rejected or are left on read, but their unruly confidence serves to eradicate any embarrassment they might have experienced had they been rejected in person. Nobody likes being rejected, but it’s a much more manageable feeling when your parried advances are lost to the cloud or are digitally abstracted.
When successful, the ensuing virtual encounters have quickly become the best way to appease our desires and lessen the amount we miss physical intimacy. But, as with any type of hooking up, rules and standards are attached; the only difference is, because the popularity of remote dating is so sudden and new, the new etiquette is uncertain. Without a doubt, the most important condition of any type of dating—in person or otherwise—is consent. Just as you had to get consent to touch a person pre-pandemic, you have to ensure you have consent to receive or send a picture. Besides that, it’s difficult to establish a new code for remote dating or “one-night stands,” especially when touch is prohibited, or when all encounters take place via apps like Snapchat or Zoom. Do I message the person the next day after a sexting session? If and when I see the person again, do I say hi or is it like nothing ever happened? How much of my energy should I put into this digital dalliance if I don’t even know whether I’ll be able to see the other person any time soon? This amount of overthinking has the potential to ruin an experience meant to alleviate one frustrating aspect of quarantine, but there isn’t exactly a standard protocol when it comes to navigating pandemic dating.
Receiving or successfully sending a DM meant to start a sexual or romantic encounter with someone else during quarantine is undoubtedly very gratifying and flattering—this person finds you attractive enough to partake in some meaningless sexting or flirting. More importantly, it’s a fun and sexually satisfying (at least, it better be, otherwise you’re wasting your time) way to restore some type of sexual or romantic intimacy to our lives during quarantine. But as these virtual encounters increase in popularity, they begin to be characterized by the same seemingly inevitable lines of questioning and overthinking that comprise in-person sexual exchanges. No one has ever had to so fully rely on remote dating to fulfill their needs for intimacy, and as such, no code of conduct has been established, allowing free reign for our thoughts to focus on meaningless minutiae or concoct worrisome and anxiety-inducing scenarios about these new digital dalliances. My main advice to you is, though this spiraling is natural, to relax; remember that you don’t have to fixate on pointillistic details of your remote exchange because by the time you see the other person, the exchange will most likely be meaningless, if not forgotten. Instead, enjoy being the Quarantine Cutie while you can, because who knows when we’ll be able to establish any type of physical intimacy again.
Annie Walton Doyle