Casual sex is out, companionship is in – The Economist

Casual sex is out, companionship is in – The Economist

Editor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For our coronavirus tracker and more coverage, see our hub

ON A SMARTPHONE screen Rob (not his real name) looked good. Twenty-four years old, classically handsome, with a job on Wall Street, he was an attractive prospect on dating apps. Shepherding women from bar to bedroom was easy. Sex was on tap. Then in March covid-19 struck New York City and shut off the mains.

It is a frustrating time to be single. Social distancing makes meeting in the flesh hard. Some people are still trying. In socially conservative Bangladesh, where cohabitation is rare, couples rushed to get married before lockdown started. In Italy lovers rendezvous in supermarket queues.

But many more are looking for love on the internet. Some people are trying to recreate old formats online. In Lagos professionals host virtual games nights for the unattached. In China people dance the night away at “internet discos”, before peeling off into message boards to chat privately. But others are embracing a new set-up: the virtual date. And the solitude of lockdown is making them reconsider what they want from romantic relationships.

Nearly 240m people use dating apps and websites. Even before the pandemic American couples were more likely to meet each other through online-dating services than through personal contacts, according to
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