As the vaccine programs continue to be rolled out, and even blue states lift their lockdown restrictions, there’s plenty of talk of the ‘Hot Vax Summer.’ in which gay men release their pent-up sexual energies in an orgy of hookups.
In an interview with Queerty‘s sister site, GayCities, podcaster Carey James, asked what he and his friends would do once restrictions were lifted, put it this way: “Party like a fucking animal for two or three days straight.”
But what does that mean and are you prepared?
The Hot Vax Summer concept dates back to March and was coined by an article in Insider Magazine shortly after President Joe Biden vowed to have every willing American vaccinated by 4 July. It was a twist on the phrase ‘Hot girl summer.’
After a year of cutting back or totally avoiding dating and hooking up with others, many people began to dream about a summer packed with new social interactions (i.e. sex).
In mid-May, the CDC announced it was relaxing its guidelines for people who have been fully vaccinated.
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing.
As the vaccine program has continued, many have noted that the world appears to be edging slowly back to some sort of normality… even if some restrictions remain in place in most countries.
Airbnb has already seen a surge in bookings, leading it to impose restrictions for one-night bookings over the July 4th weekend. It’s worried about being the cause of too many parties in guest homes.
“We’ve learned that July 4 is being pegged as the ‘reopening’ date in the US, which is great for the country as well as for the Airbnb community,” the company said in a statement. “We also know that public health and safety experts are still saying mass gatherings should not happen. That’s why we’re introducing new rules.”
MisterB&B is a smaller rental site aimed specifically at the LGBTQ market. It told Queerty its business basically stopped for three months during the first wave of Covid. It’s now bouncing back, fuelled by the success of vaccine programs.
“It immediately reflected in the figures with a surge in searches and bookings that has not declined since then as European countries lift travel restrictions. We’re now close to 2019 levels and expect summer to be very busy,” says a spokesperson.
They said more and more hosts and travelers were communicating their vaccination upfront.
“How do we see that? When we analyze the tens of thousands of messages sent through our platform since January 2021, we see a surge in the usage of words like “vaccination” or “vaccinated” in all our different languages since early March. It’s now growing exponentially.”
According to a survey Mister B&B did in March, “Nearly 90% expressed their willingness to get vaccinated if it was the price to pay to be allowed to travel, and 87% said they planned to be vaccinated before summer anyway.”
They do advise you to practice caution, however. For instance, only traveling to destinations you’re allowed to visit and taking face masks and sanitizer. Needless to say, it’s also advised you’re fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Online, the popular dating apps have also seen a surge in activity compared to 2020.
A Grindr spokesperson told Queerty: “We can confirm that we are seeing increased usage on the app recently. As we all know, 2020 and 2021 have been extremely difficult years for everyone. But over the past few weeks, it feels like there is palpable optimism that many parts of the world will re-open soon. We believe that Grindr members are extremely excited to get back to normal and connect in-person soon.”
Phil Henricks is Director of Marketing for the app, GROWLr.
“Overall traffic and messaging started to steadily come back last summer,” he told Queerty. “2021 has been incredibly busy for us, it appears our members are extra eager to connect, for a variety of reasons.
“The vast majority of GROWLr members in the US are already vaccinated — in a survey from last week, 88% reported to have been already vaccinated. They definitely want human connection, 51% have gone on dates in the past 30 days, and 87% plan on going on dates in the next 30 days.”
Around the US, bathhouses and other sex venues have begun to reopen again. It does seem that those who are fully vaccinated are preparing to throw themselves back onto the scene.
It should be pointed out that the vaccines don’t stop you from getting Covid-19, but are effective at minimizing your chances of developing serious illness or symptoms. It remains unknown how they impact your ability to transmit the disease.
But what if you’ve been living a very isolated, sexually withdrawn life in recent months?
New York City-based psychologist and author, Dr. Tony Ortega says many men are eager to have sex again – but others now want something more.
“Without a doubt, gay men are looking forward to throwing themselves back into dating/having sex/hooking up.
“Historically, gay men are not always great at delaying gratification. With the ongoing threat of COVID-19, this was enough to keep most folks from acting out. Now, with restrictions easing and vaccinations occurring at great speed, the thrill of the hunt resumes and perhaps a sense of catching up for lost time.
“However, I have also seen how some men got really present to how empty hooking up is for them and have shifted their desires to more romantic connections and dating.”
He says that meeting up with others might take some practice.
“Be prepared to encounter a lot of social awkwardness. Because folks were not socializing a ton, if at all, certain social graces may have fallen by the wayside,” Ortega says.
“Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself feeling socially awkward. This has been a very jarring experience for all of us so going easy on ourselves if we notice something is off is paramount. You may notice that certain things that were fun and okay for you prior to the pandemic no longer are. That’s okay and it provides you with the opportunity to explore new things.
“Be very mindful not to go overboard as restrictions ease. The temptation to do so will be there, however, just because we can doesn’t mean we should.”
Ian Howley is Chief Executive of LGBT HERO, a UK-based health and wellbeing charity. He says that although you might be raging to hook up again, some anxiety is normal.
“I can imagine after the year we’ve had that many gay men can’t wait to get back to a somewhat normal sex life that resembled their pre-pandemic life. While there are some things you can do to prepare yourself, what I’d advise is that you are 100% sure you’re ready to start hooking up again.
“It’s OK if you feel anxious or worried. Just because restrictions have been lifted does not mean you need to put yourself in a situation where you feel uncomfortable.”
Howley also advises you to think about being tested for Covid a couple of days before hooking up with someone – even if you’ve been vaccinated – and again 3-5 days afterward.
“There are also some things you can do to limit the risk such as refrain from kissing and face-to-face activity, though we know that’s easier said than done.”
Also, get checked out now for sexually transmitted infections.
“If you haven’t had sex in a while then now is the time to test as you know that the results that come back are 100% accurate. It’s good to have some peace of mind before you start hooking up again,” says Howley.
“Also we recommend that you reintroduce yourself to all the ways to prevent HIV. If you are HIV-negative we recommend looking into whether PrEP might be a good option for you. If you’ve been on PrEP before and looking to restart it, reach out to your local GUM (sexual health) clinic and speak to a health advisor.”
It’s also worth remembering that the Covid-19 vaccine is not the only vaccine out there. You could also speak to a health advisor about the vaccines for HPV, Hepatitis A, and B if you’re not already vaccinated.
“Whatever you decide to do, just remember that we’ve all been through it over the last year. It’s OK to take your time,” says Howley. “To enjoy the summer ahead as best and safely as we can, preparation is key.”