In the spirit of it being Women’s History Month, can we talk about the fact that it’s been kind of nice, as women, during the pandemic to be subjected to a little less harassment (at least in person)? I’ve personally been hit on less at the grocery store since I started wearing a mask and since we’ve been directed to stay six feet away from each other. When I meet a friend for a socially distanced hangout in a park, it’s very rare that random men approach us and ask if they can sit with us – the way they would in bars pre-pandemic, all of the time. A lot of women have been wanting some space from strange men, in general, for a long time, and the pandemic has gifted us that. It’s actually given us a natural way to control interactions with men in a lot of ways, including in dating.
Most dating has moved online now. And even if men want to get laid, they tend to want to avoid coronavirus more (just a little more, but still). That means less pressure to meet up IRL quickly – pressure women got from men often before the pandemic. If you aren’t together physically, there’s just one thing to do: talk. Individuals who meet online are forced to create more substantial bonds. Meeting up after a few DMs and one phone call to have sex and throw some hormones at the situation to confuse everyone…that’s not really a safe option. Perhaps it’s all made women feel a bit more comfortable with online dating — in more bold when participating in it. Some of the research OkCupid shared with us makes it appear that way at least. Here are ways the pandemic has empowered women when it comes to online dating.
We’re online dating more
First and foremost, we’re hitting the dating apps much harder. You may have already known that, but the trend actually jumped early in the pandemic. As early as April of 2020, the apps saw a 12 percent increase in new registrations from women, strangely accompanied by a three percent decrease for men. It sheds an interesting light on how the two genders define dating “success.” When the chance for in-person meetups essentially evaporated, women flocked to the dating apps – finally ready to chat online. And when the chance of an IRL hookup went away for men…they moved away from the apps.
Initiating more conversations
Women are becoming more confident about initiating conversations on dating apps, too. Of course, we always had apps that only allowed for women to start the conversations, but across many platforms, there’s been a surge in women sending that first DM. In fact, the research showed women sending 28.5 percent more first messages in January of 2021 compared to January of 2020. That’s a massive jump. Additional figures show that women get rewarded for being bold, getting a response 2.5 times as often as men do who sent the first message. So maybe as ladies told their friends about their success sending that first message, their buddies jumped on board.
Requiring less feedback
OkCupid’s research found that individuals are looking to friends and family for dating advice less than they did before the pandemic. It’s hard to say exactly why, but there are some dynamics unique to a pandemic that can help us connect the dots. First, we simply aren’t socializing as much so there are fewer chances to share recent dating stories and receive feedback. Next, there’s the fact that relationships can only go so far during the age of social distancing. Perhaps women only asked for advice from loved ones if the relationship progressed to the point of having sex and meeting friends, and that’s not happening as much. And finally, the pandemic has given many a seize the day attitude, which doesn’t allow for much outside opinion.
Standing one’s political ground
This one may not come as much of a surprise, but we’re all becoming more rigid about which political parties we’ll date in. The number of online daters stating they refused to date someone on the other side jumped from 53 percent in 2019 and 61 percent in 2020 to a whopping 70 percent in 2021 (and it’s only March). The majority of individuals on dating sites now refuse to entertain the idea of a relationship with somebody who doesn’t vote the way they do. What this says about the increasing polarization happening in this country is a bit frightening…but more on that another time.
No respect for my health? No date
Women are often having to advocate for their own physical health in a society that deemphasizes our body’s importance. Before the pandemic, that meant packing our own condoms for fear that men wouldn’t have them on hand. It could also mean requiring a guy who didn’t want to use a condom to use one. And the pandemic has given us another obstacle: pushing for social distancing. But we’re doing it! OkCupid found that tens of thousands of users say they will cancel a date with a user who refuses to social distance, and four out of 10 will cancel a date with someone who says they have no plans to get the vaccine. We are putting our health first.
There’s a shift in priorities
The last couple of stats on women canceling dates with people who wouldn’t put their health first show an interesting and good shift that’s occurring. One study from 2019 showed that when assessing potential mates online, men only asked, “Will I like her/will she meet my requirements?” But women asked “Will I like him?” and “Will I meet his requirements?” Leave it to us to be people pleasers. But not so much anymore. If the stats about women canceling on dudes who won’t play it safe show anything, it’s that we’re looking out for number one more these days. We don’t mind if men find us disagreeable or dramatic for protecting our wellbeing.
Dating across borders
Hey, if close in-person meetups may not be a thing for a while, then why exactly does it matter where your online beau is located? Let’s not forget that this entire pandemic has left many feeling less certain about their geographical location, anyways. One report looked at the many reasons and ways people are moving around during the pandemic. It seems that one’s geographical location tomorrow is anything but certain, so why limit one’s dating pool to any given area code? That exact mentality could be why more women are saying they’re more open to date someone “anywhere” than they were before the pandemic.
More video chatting
We’re using the video chatting and voice call tools in dating apps more than we did before the pandemic, too. When I was single, if I wanted to do some voice or video calls before doing an IRL date, most men just pushed for the in-person meetup. They wanted to skip that phone call. It was hard to argue with them since you could say chemistry is best determined IRL. However, that was also a form of rushing things. Now, women can say, “Let’s just video chat for a while,” and men don’t have much ground to stand on if they want to skip that step. It offers the opportunity to build an emotional connection before complicating things with the physical, and it provides an opportunity to assess a man’s communication skills early on.
Sending more nudes
Nudes, nudes, everywhere a nude. One story from this news outlet described the many ways women are posting nudes more than they did before the pandemic, and some of that of course includes sending them to potential romantic interests. If DMing and video chatting go well enough that you want to take things a little, um, further, sending nudes can be an option if you aren’t quite ready for straight-up cybersex. There is something freeing about taking and perhaps sending a nude, but this is no time to let our guards down. It’s still important to fully trust those who will possess your images. And maybe someone you’ve only chatted with online shouldn’t have access to such explicit photos…
Do we feel safer?
All of this research points to something that contradicts past data surrounding women and online dating. Several studies have shown that a good deal of women report having negative experiences when online dating, such as having men contact them after they’ve expressed a desire to end communication, receiving threats of physical violence or slander, and receiving unsolicited explicit messages. Women haven’t felt totally safe using the apps. So, do we feel safer now knowing an IRL meetup is less likely? If we do, perhaps there’s an important lesson to take from that: we always have and always will have the power to determine how far an online connection goes. Pandemic or no pandemic, if a reduced opportunity for IRL meetups makes us feel safer online, let’s take that empowerment into the future and never let men pressure us to meet up until we’re ready. Oh, and always be as safe as possible when dating online.