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Solidarity Opinions

Bad bitches, fuck boys, and dating after COVID-19

“No one really says, ‘I want to cuddle with you’ or ‘I want to spend time with you’ …Everything is…just about sex, everyone is supposed to be hypersexual and that’s the expectation.”

‘Chis’ in “Gen Z dating culture defined by sexual flexibility and complex struggles for intimacy” by Treena Orchard

Being an old Gen Z, I’ve grown up with a culture of bad bitches and fuck boys. Over and over I’ve heard the narrative of how disposable people are, and that you’d do well not to get attached if you want to avoid heartache (or ghosting). The culture of bad bitches and fuck boys has drilled in me countless times that if I’m not interested in hooking up, I’m boring, and guilty of a generational crime of preferring romance to getting railed. 

Quick-turnaround dating and short-term commitment have been defining features of dating for Gen Z, and I think it’s left little space for those who feel alienated by this culture. Ace folk, survivors, and those of us with abandonment issues can often find ourselves a bit lost in the land of Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge. Personally, a fear of abandonment and/or emotional pain has largely dictated my behaviour on dating apps. When rejection is only a quick swipe away, assuming anything long-term is bound to leave you hurt. However, you have to put yourself out there and date, and today you don’t date people in your town. No, with globalisation and technological advancement, you date online to filter out the people you don’t want. 

This non-committal dating culture is a phenomenon of our digital age and interestingly, has contributed to Gen Z being one of the loneliest generations ever. With many going into their late twenties without genuine romantic experiences, the combination of indifferent dating and loneliness has made me wonder how growing up with online dating and its greater risks of abandonment has affected our perceptions overall, and whether this has changed during COVID-19. 

Wanting to find out what my peers think, I did a quick Instagram story poll for my followers. Trying to scope out what people feel about dating right now, I was surprised to find that overall, there’s ambivalence. People aren’t particularly happy nor strongly disappointed with today’s ‘distant dating’. Actually, the poll ended up showing a 50/50 divide on whether dating during COVID-19 has been better or worse for people. This surprised me, as I’ve always understood dating culture to be centred around hookups, and without in-person contact, I assumed there would be large dissatisfaction. But on the contrary, mindless swiping was described as ‘a game’ and labelled a ‘good distraction’ during times of COVID-19, and because you couldn’t meet in person, there was less pressure of commitment. Subsequently, people were left with little options, and talking to people online wasn’t a bad one.  

I personally spent all of the first UK-wide lockdown ‘talking’ to someone, and as a person who gets anxious about meeting new people, the lack of in-person interaction at an early stage helped me get over those anxieties, and let me create that meaningful conversation without the pressure of quickly moving things to real life. It let me participate in dating culture in a new way which was less exclusive of my natural orientation towards long-term relationships, whilst still remaining seemingly non-committal. My experience isn’t uncommon, and I’m left wondering if COVID dating will lead to long-lasting changes to our dating culture, and allow for more quality interaction over quantity. (Down with body counts?)

During the small hours of the day I often ask myself whether if questioning dating culture is a feminist intervention as today’s culture is indeed breaking apart institutions such as the family unit by rejecting the need for romance. By prioritising physical pleasure we are prioritising ourselves and not society’s need for a reproduction of labour forces (children that take over when we’re gone). However, to what extent are we harmed by the dismissal of emotion and the inevitable affective reaction many of us have to dating. The depiction of ‘catching feelings’ as a sign of weakness worries me insofar as to how it enables suppression of emotion and increasing levels of troubling mental health. Not to mention how it produces a breeding ground for trauma and development of attachment issues. I still don’t know how the feminist in me feels about questioning bad bitches and fuck boys, but I do know that the queer activist in me screams for representation of diverse desires. It screams for increased awareness of the spectrums of sexuality and romantic orientation. It screams for a space where I can be whoever I want to without being labelled “a feminist who just needs a good fuck”… as if my opinions and preferences are simply derived from a lack of mediocre sex with a boy I don’t know.

This is not to say that bad bitches can’t keep sleeping with as many people as they want, because trust me if I could participate in that culture, I probably would. Instead, it just means that we could potentially move to a more equal playing field, and be more open, honest and kind about our desires for more meaningful and lasting connections. Instead of labelling guys who like girls ‘simps’ or ‘whipped’, I think we need to appreciate the diversity in romantic and sexual preferences and stop the rhetoric of “you need to have fun while you’re young”. Happiness and ‘fun’ isn’t one size fits all, and creating a dating culture that over- glorifies one night stands leaves too many people behind. 

Dating during COVID has both highlighted fixations with hookups as well as our need for intimacy, and hopefully, our pandemic experiences will lead us to a culture less concerned with ghosting and more concerned with connections. 

By Nathalie Grigorenko

Co-founder of Solidarity Collective

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