Half of young adults think one-night stands will be thing of past after pandemic ends thanks to ‘virtual intimacy’

NEW YORK — Sometimes, it can be rough being single. Now, a new study finds it can be downright unbearable during a pandemic. Nearly half of young, single Americans haven’t been physically intimate with someone since the pandemic began.

As a result, more than half of young, single Americans say they’ve turned to virtual sexual intimacy more than ever before. That’s according to a survey of 2,900 single or casually dating Americans between 18 and 40 years-old.

Although 42 percent of respondents are open to physical intimacy after the pandemic and feel excited to get back out into the dating scene and meet new people, two-thirds plan to continue being just as virtually intimate after the pandemic as they were during. This includes relying on video chats (61%), sexting (54%), and phone sex (47%).

In fact, 64 percent of singles agree that being virtually intimate during the pandemic changed what they consider intimacy to be. Nearly six in 10 (57%) now place a higher value on other types of intimacy, like emotional or intellectual intimacy, while 45 percent find less value in physical connections.

Commissioned by Plenty of Fish and conducted by OnePoll, the study also finds that these changes in behavior and mindset are likely to be long-lasting. Moreover, 61 percent of singles believe sexting will be even more popular after the pandemic than it was before.

Virtual intimacy making one-night stands obsolete?

More than two in five (45%) singles feel more confident in their virtual sexual intimacy skills than their in-person skills, including 54 percent of men and 39 percent of women. Over half of singles (51%) think one-night stands will become a thing of the past once the pandemic comes to an end.

Interestingly, men are more likely to agree with this sentiment than women (61% vs. 45%, respectively). Additionally, more Millennials (57%) than members of Gen-Z (39%) are likely to believe that one-night stands are a pre-COVID trend.

“Singles spent the last year adapting and learning how to date from a distance by using technology, such as video chats and livestreaming, to forge virtual connections with one another,” says Kate MacLean, Dating Expert, Plenty of Fish, in a statement. “These tools have fundamentally changed the way singles date, from establishing deeper connections quicker to cultivating more meaningful relationships.”

Lots of friends — with benefits

The pandemic is also driving young singles to find intimacy within their own social circles. While nearly half of respondents (46%) have had a “friend with benefits” in the past, 76 percent say they’ve been in such a relationship since the pandemic began.

For 39 percent of these friends with benefits, their casual arrangements have progressed to official relationships. Meanwhile, 49 percent of FWB relationships either ended or fizzled out due to social distancing and other pandemic-related limitations.

Nearly nine in 10 of these relationships (85%) began when singles turned to their roommate or someone they’ve known for years platonically for a friends with benefits relationship.

“Whether engaging in virtual sexual intimacy, turning to their roommates for a friends with benefits relationship – a dating trend we like to call ‘room-mate-ing’ – or fulfilling their sexual needs by streaming steamy shows or subscribing to adult entertainment platforms, the pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone, especially singles,” MacLean adds. “As we prepare to transition out of quarantine, we look forward to ushering in this new era of sex, dating and intimacy.”