Love in the Time of Corona

Illustrated by Jack Li

Pia Baldwin Edwards, SY ’25

The human libido and SARS CoV-2 are among the most aggressive and unrelenting forces in our lives today. Both forces exert control over the most intimate of our daily activities: how we breathe, how we touch, and how we bend over. Yet they’re often in opposition; where virality urges us to cover up, sensuality strips us naked. With this in mind, I asked college students how this tension (of both the metaphorical and sexual variety) has played out. Did the viral force spark a mass retreat back to celibacy? Or, did most students risk their lungs for a kiss and a climax? 

A common to-do list item for many students leaving for college is to break up with their high-school significant others—break the news to that sweet girl you started dating in junior year, start avoiding that guy you went to senior prom with, get yourself a fresh start for college. But with the pandemic raging and classes mostly online last year, many decided to stay with their high school sweethearts. “Since we were moving online, I knew there wouldn’t be many opportunities to meet people, so I decided to stay with my boyfriend,” says Northeastern University sophomore Lilah. “It was nice to have someone to talk to, since I didn’t know many people and he was also stuck at home with nothing to do.” A sophomore at the University of Denver explains, “My boyfriend and I literally started living together during COVID because all we could see was each other.”

But the scene for singletons was a little different. In an attempt to respect both her bodily needs and the community compact, one Yale student confessed, “I fucked in the woods when we couldn’t go inside. COVID-safe.” Still-others admitted to the forbidden act of indoor sex: “My Sleep Number 360
mattress just hits different” (PC’22). Among these rebellious indoor-sex-havers, contraction of the coronavirus was inconsistent. In one case, a student recalls her friend having consistent, tender, loving sex with a COVID-positive cutie and never contracting it. At the same time, another student reveals that her semi-formal date gave her COVID. She was left to spend Thanksgiving break alone in her dorm room, nibbling on a dry slice of turkey. “The hook-up wasn’t even good. Too much teeth,” she describes—what a waste! 

In the end, there’s no doubt that COVID has added a new sense of excitement to the bedroom, turning even the most vanilla of Friday nights into sources of unpredictability and risk. From high school romances to close contact in the woods, one thing has been made clear: sex doesn’t stop for COVID, and COVID doesn’t stop for sex. 

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