In the Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, Love In The Time Of Cholera, protagonists Florentino and Fermina fall in love but are pulled apart. Florentino swears to stay faithful to Fermina after she moves away and marries another man, but he doesn’t although he tried to cover up his promiscuity.
While not quite the same as Spanish love of the 1800s, Florentino’s infidelity has a vague parallel with gay hook-up culture during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hook-up culture is not just for the gays, but as a community more open sexual expression powered along by Apps like Grindr, Scruff and others, sauna culture and open relationships, our community is especially vulnerable to catching the COVID-19.
With the strong messages coming from government, media and social media that we’ve got to keep our distance (1.5 metres) what impact is that having on hooking up with strangers?
We approached some hook-up apps and websites to find out, and universally none have noticed a decrease in users or web traffic. They have, added alerts and messaging warning users to protect themselves.
But they added they are taking steps to make users aware of the virus and how they can protect themselves.
“All users on SCRUFF and Jack’d have received an alert with a link to the World Health Organization’s advice for the public on COVID-19. We have also sent an alert to all users requesting that they stay home, practice social distancing, and make connections online rather than in person in order to help prevent spreading COVID-19,” Tyler Stafford from Scruff and Jack’d told DNA.
“On SCRUFF, which offers a feature called SCRUFF Events, all event listings have been removed. This section of the app now contains a link to the government health agency for each user’s location,” Stafford added.
Squirt.org tells DNA they have just as many users but they’ve noticed a change in what guys are doing there.
“Really what we’re seeing is a change in behaviour. Our members understand that they can’t go outside and hookup and cruise, but they’re still looking for an outlet for all their sexual energy or craving a connection with someone, so they’re sending more chat messages to one another, creating or contributing to more message board posts, reading the erotic stories, and watching the amateur member videos. They’re really developing a strong online community,” Andrew Nolan from Squirt.org tells DNA.
To help this along Squirt.org has made a premium function free – member videos.
“To encourage the users to stay home and help flatten the curve we’ve made the member videos, one of our most popular premium features, free and unlimited, and we’ve already seen a massive spike in viewing videos,” Nolan said.
Nolan also tells us that Squirt.org is regularly updating users with the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) advice.
“We’ve been sending our members advice from the WHO, but also encouraging them to follow the advice from their local health authorities. As a site with members all over the world, we appreciate that the advice is slightly different depending on the country you’re in,” Nolan said.
Squirt.org were also keen to point out they’re taking the threat of COVID-19 very seriously and their entire team are working from home, some Nolan jokes, “may not be wearing pants!”
DNA also approached Grindr who told us they also took COVID-19 seriously and provide users with an alert asking them to take precautions to keep safe.