These days, talking about our bodies isn’t as taboo as it was anymore. Even in conservative Asian cultures such as ours, we’ve shifted towards franker discussions of our relationship with sexuality and self. In ‘Intimates’, we’d like to kickstart open conversations about the wellness of our private parts—in both the physical and psychological sense. Today, we talk about dating post-vaccination.
Illustrations by Ansh Shirohi
I can accurately affirm that I’m not cut out for dating apps. For one, I do not possess what many would call ‘game’ unless online flirting involves rambling discussions about the hidden meanings in A24 horror films. The other reason is that I’m happily married, and I’m told that’s not a good look for my dating profile.
I’m also told that dating apps like Bumble and Coffee Meets Bagel have rolled out features that might help hapless singles in their search to get love or get laid: the ability to display their vaccination status. You know, for the peace of mind with potential matches that it’s safe for two to tango. Tinder and Paktor will be doing the same soon, so the safely vaccinated can get on each other’s radar more often.
It’s interesting how things like vaccination and efficacy rates have seeped their way into our everyday lives and lexicon. Not too long ago, none of us — much less dating app swipers — would give that much a damn if we’ve got the flu shot or not. Now though, it’s a total turnoff if someone hasn’t been vaccinated. Even worse if that someone actively avoids vaccination. As if the agonising sensation of bees stinging their lungs isn’t enough to scare them off contracting the virus.
Generally speaking, getting young Singaporeans to vaccinate isn’t that hard. I’ve yet to come across anyone my age or younger who’ve campaigned against getting jabbed, or maybe I’m just not hanging among the right (or is it wrong?) circles.
But as people have pointed out in our previous article about WhatsApp University, misinformation is shared by people of all ages — not just boomers.
Look no further than local Telegram groups with thousands of members across the generational spectrum sharing unverified reports and out-of-context quotes that question the necessity of Covid-19 vaccines. God, science and Holocaust comparisons are invoked to argue for the right to remain unvaccinated and unpersecuted by the immunised.
So if ethics and decency aren’t enough, what, then, could entice people to get a shot? Perhaps the chance to get lucky in love and lovemaking.
If there’s anything that could motivate people into doing things they don’t usually do, it’s sex — or the chance of it. The implied promise of getting vaccinated and showing off the status on dating apps is more matches, hence more dates, thus more tumbling under the sheets.
At least that’s the hypothesis. With the blessings of the wife (I think) and Moderna as my wingman, I dive into the realm of dating apps to see if my game got a level up.
Gaming the System
Part of the privilege of being married is that you’re able to forget just how hard dating is, especially if you don’t have the build, looks and charisma of a Greek god. On the flip side, the anxieties of crafting a zinger pickup line or flirty retort are absent if nobody’s swiping right on you in the first place.
What’s not as hard is indicating vaccination status on dating apps. Too easy, perhaps. On Bumble, OkCupid and Hinge, it’s just a matter of jumping into profile settings, answering a couple of questions and you’re off to the races as a vaccinated single who’s ready to mingle. I say that it’s too easy because there’s just no way these apps can verify if you have been jabbed—so anyone can say they are.
As much as one shouldn’t put too much faith in these indicators, there’s no strong reason to lie. Chances of getting matched go beyond the parameters of being vaccinated (looks matter most, as per real life), but if Coffee Meets Bagel is telling the truth, those with positive vaccination statuses are 7 per cent more effective in scoring those swipes.
I suppose daters these days are taking those chances to heart. I’m surprised by the number of people positively indicating vaccination status on their bios — at least once in every 10 profiles or so. As recounted by a Hinge match by the name of Jennifer (“We’ll get along if you are jabbed 😉”), it does help in getting her success rates up a couple of notches. Or at least, in her words, more “quality swipes”.
Vaccinated or not, it wouldn’t be an uphill battle for the 26-year-old freelance fitness trainer to get lucky in the dating app game. Pictures of herself in her spandex make it easy, she readily admits, but with vaccination badges, even more so.
“It’s always good to know that you’re matching with someone you can go out on dates with,” Jennifer offers.
Before the badges feature, she would be hesitant to meet anyone — not just out of safety for herself, but the safety of her clients. With gym closures affecting her flow of revenue, she wouldn’t want to jeopardise it any further with the possibility of infection. Even if the dude’s scorching hot, she says.
Despite being far from having a body chiselled from marble, the fact that I crafted an explicitly pro-vaccine profile (“First round is on me if you’re vaccinated AF”) was good enough for her to send a like my way.
Or maybe it was the heavily VSCO-ed portrait of myself with my cat. Either way, Jennifer appreciated the like-minded priority in keeping safe.
“Plus, I just like the quality of conversations I get when I match with someone who’s jabbed. It’s a conversation starter! We exchange stories about how our bodies reacted after vaccination. Then from there, I get to see if we have a good enough chemistry to take it to the next level.”
No Vaccine, No Dates
The hypothesis fails if I didn’t try out different profile bios to see the contrast in match rates. On the first week on Bumble, my non-vaccinated profile (bio: “Investigative journalism in the streets, unmoderated comments section in the sheets”) received a grand total of zero matches. Despite maxing out the number of daily swipes.
On the second week with a vax-positive profile (bio: “Postmoderna man, hmu”), 4 matches. It’s pretty much the same positive outcome on OkCupid, where you can exclusively browse and swipe on vaccinated folks.
Bumble match Alyssa, purple of hair and stout of personality, maintains this exclusivity for her dating app preferences. As someone with a relative who contracted (and survived) Covid, the 23-year-old is way more forthcoming with her refusal to swipe right on anyone who isn’t vaccinated.
“No, they need to be jabbed before I even talk to them. No vax, no date.”
The only way to be sure, she says, is by relying on vaccination indicators on dating apps. I point out that you can’t really verify their genuine statuses with those alone, but Alyssa mentions that it’s easy to figure out if they’re faking it after a round of chatting. People who are indifferent or against vaccinations won’t go out of their way to tout it on their profiles, after all.
“I think it speaks volumes about themselves if they haven’t even received their first shot yet, especially now that everyone can get jabs for free. Selfish, irresponsible, stupid, whatever. I don’t want to get the virus just because someone is scared of side effects or don’t believe in the science.”
The reality of dating, however, is that vaccination statuses aren’t the only element of attraction. Alyssa acknowledges that ultimately, the wittiness of the dating app profile and quality of photos determine who she swipes right on. But when she’s swinging either way (“ya’ll men need to improve your selfie game”), vaccination indicators sway her decision.
Set Pfizers to Stun
Another match I managed to chat up with on Tinder is admittedly a friend — one of those cases where you swipe right on their profiles for yuks and bust each other’s balls.
I’ve known Sara since our college days, but what I didn’t know was that she’s a dating app power user. Having been on Tinder since 2015 and experimented with Bumble and Hinge later on, the 30-year-old senior ad sales director uses the apps to find long-term dates and the occasional one-and-done hookups. The quality of men went down ever since Tinder gained traction among Singaporeans, she laughs. Some men that she liked at first ended up being douchebags.
So what does she think of the vaccination badges? Surely it helps in filtering out the douchebags too?
“I love it. You get to weed out anti-vaxxers from the get-go,” Sara remarks.
“Vaccination status doesn’t really play a part in my swiping decision—vaccination opinions do though if anyone specifically says they do not want a vaccine. These are the people that slowed down our fight against Covid, and I do not like such people. However, if you’re half-vaccinated, then great—you’re on the right track and I’ll still talk to you.”
As long as someone’s cute enough and doesn’t specify that they’re not vaccinated, she’d swipe right. But it’s the non-believers that grind her gears. Sara wouldn’t even want to meet matches in person — much less get intimate with them — if the reasons behind their non-vaccination don’t align with her values.
“If you indicate you’re an anti-vaxxer from the start, nah fam. I want to meet a progressive, inclusive, thinking person who has common sense. Not someone who bases his ideas off Google research or word of mouth.”
Two things are clear from this little venture. One: vaccinations magically makes us all more attractive. Two: vaccination statuses matter in providing loved ones (current or potential) a better sense of security and comfort.
The successful match rates speak more about the sentiments among younger Singaporeans — they just want things back to normal as soon as possible and want everyone to do their part in making it happen. Hooking up just doesn’t have the same allure without the assurance of safety from all maladies, be it Covid or STDs.
The primal needs of sex and companionship have been inherent components of human well-being, but the ways of achieving it have changed.
Regardless of your beliefs in getting shots, it’s an entirely new landscape now. People are ready for their dating lives to get out of quarantine; you just need to make sure you’ve got all the protection you need first.