In stage 4 of Victoria’s lockdown, social visits to other households are forbidden, unless you are seeing someone that you are in an intimate relationship with. The state government did not define what an intimate relationship is, but the broad assumption is that it means a sexual relationship. This is discriminatory against single people and reads to me that romantic relationships are more valid than other type of relationship.
WHAT DEFINES AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP?
What defines an intimate relationship nowadays and who assess that? Do police officers have a checklist to determine the level of intimacy of one’s relationship?
- Do they know how to make each other cry?
- How comfortable are they with touching each other’s genitals? Rate out of 10.
- Do they have nude photos of each other on their phones?
- If the relationship is hetero, has the male partner ever comfortably purchased tampons and period snacks for their female partner?
THE TYPES OF INTIMACY
There are two types of intimacy: physical and emotional. Healthy romantic relationships are built on emotional and physical intimacy. Strong platonic relationships are bonded by emotional intimacy. But physical intimacy comes in many forms: one-night stands, friends with benefits, hook ups at saunas, transactions with sex workers, sleeping with someone you lack feelings for but continue to date them because it’s a less painful alternative to going back on dating apps…
THE LOCKDOWN SEX LOOPHOLE
I’m fully supportive of the lockdown measures and commend Daniel Andrews’ leadership. He deserves a nice long holiday after this. However, this hall pass for people in sexual relationships opens a loophole around the restrictions, putting the public more at risk. Does this exemption give an excuse for Covidiots on dating apps to sleep around with strangers within a 5km radius because they are technically being “intimate”? Since there is no defined length for what constitutes an intimate relationship, nor a defined limit to the number of intimate partners one can have, technically one could have a different intimate partner every night. Could I technically have a sex party and say that we are all in a polyamorous relationship?
If I was to create a list of people who I would consider to be my intimates, it would include:
- the three friends who helped bury my cat
- anyone who I have cried in front of
- people who I have exchanged at least 50 texts with a week
- former housemates who have been exposed to me at my worst (first thing in the morning).
I can list at least 20 people who know more intimate details about my life than any of the schmucks that I have been physically intimate with. A single person’s good friend or relative is just as important as another’s intimate partner.
LONELINESS IN LOCKDOWN
Research has showed that 1 in 2 Australians have felt lonelier in lockdown. Social isolation can have a negative effect on mental and physical health, manifesting in depression, anxiety, dementia, high blood pressure and weakened immune systems. This is not to say that living alone or being single equates to loneliness, or that living with people or being in a relationship immunises one from loneliness. Numerous studies have shown that single people are happier than married people as they are more socially active. Single people rely more on friends for our social needs. A survey by Swinburne discovered that people living alone have reported the highest level of loneliness during Covid. Depriving single people of the right to see one family member or friend, when people in relationships can see their partners during the lockdown, is unfair and harmful. Since the state government has taken into account the sexual needs of people in intimate relationships, then why not the emotional needs of single people?
New Zealand effectively implemented a bubble system during their lockdown, in which people could see someone from one other household regardless of what their relationship is, as long as they agreed not to see people outside of their bubble. Since New Zealand went 100 days without a community transmission, this seems like a reasonable way to balance the social needs of everyone while reducing community transmission.
Though the Victorian government has invested $60 million in mental health support due to Covid, including close to $7 million for online and phone counselling services, for some people it does not replace the benefits of seeing a close friend or family member in person, as social relationships are one of the most important factors of happiness. Virtual counselling services may be inaccessible to those who do not have the technology or data to access it.
Solitude can be bliss when it is a choice, whether I am travelling solo or spending a leisurely Sunday alone. But when solitude is the only option – and I have experienced many years of this in the past – it can be a very dark place. I greatly empathise with those who are feeling isolated and lonely during the lockdown and hope that the government will consider making the household visitation rules more equitable.