Indecent Exposure

Sex in Public: What's behind the passion of doing the deed in risky places?

Published July 8, 1998 7:00PM (EDT)

This sex in the sauna issue got me thinking about sex in public places
in general. As I see it, there are really two kinds of public sex: risk-taking sex where the possibility of being seen is the allure, and plain old blatant exhibitionism. Just about everyone I know has engaged in the
former, and a few more-daring souls in the latter. Personally, I've always
thought might-get-caught sex is thoroughly overrated. For me, the inappropriate
venues have produced not memorable orgasms but memorable
charley horses. I wanted to find someone who has had lots of experience with both
kinds of sex, but in the process, I uncovered what I think is an
interesting new trend.

I phoned around and got some friends of friends of friends to talk to me
-- six men and six women. (One could argue that this informal survey is
slanted by its very nature; after all, what kind of people -- apart from
those with exhibitionist tendencies -- would talk to a virtual stranger
about their sex life?) Some were married; some were single; others were straddling the commitment fence.

All the men, with the exception of one, thought that sex in public places
was a "chick thing" -- either that women like the danger aspect more than
men do, or that they, the chicks, get their ya-ya's from the narcissistic,
you-can-look-but-you-can't-touch appeal (assuming an audience is male, and
indeed, leering). The men also went on to say, a little wearily, that they
would engage in the might-get-caught sex because women seem to enjoy it
so much -- under a restaurant table, in a department store bathroom, on a
balcony overlooking a party, etc. "But it's not my favorite thing
to do," one of them added.

The women all said, yes, they'd done the might-get-caught sex at one time or another, but really it was a "guy thing" -- that men enjoy the
dangerous and risky appeal. "Just look at all the dangerous sports men do anyway," one woman offered as evidence. The general consensus was that men enjoy exhibitionistic sex because it appeals to their narcissistic nature, as well as their competitive side -- as in, look what I've got that you don't. (This, interestingly enough, also assumes a male, leering audience.) One woman asked me, "Are you talking about sex, like real sex? Because in either type of situation, I mean giving a blow job." Several women also thought that sex in public meant solely blow jobs, which, as they said, they did "because he seemed to really like it," but it wasn't something they would have done without some prodding.

If this is true, then it gives the phrase "sexual favors" a whole new
meaning. Here they are, all these sexual adventurers, all these
couples having sex on planes, in public restrooms, in the pantry at a
friends' party -- all in the name of generosity. Maybe this is a new fad
in sex: altruism.

For me, both types of public sex are more appealing as fantasies than as realities. But I know others feel differently. To shed light on the issue, I turned to an aquaintance who frequents sex clubs.

"Well, it's sort of a turn-on," she said. "It's a turn-on knowing there
are guys watching me, and they can't have me."

"Sort of a turn-on?" I squeaked. It seems like quite a sexual limb to go out on if it's only as appealing as, say, masturbating in your bed before
you go to sleep.

"He gets off on it," she said, referring to her boyfriend. "One time, I was going down on him in the club, and I had my back to the door. He said,
'Don't look now, but you've got about 25 men behind you.' I said,
'As long as they're not lining up.' Another time, I was going down on him
at a highway rest stop. It was about midnight, we were outside, and this
guy who was in a car came over to us. Now that was scary. My boyfriend
said, 'Look, buddy, you can watch but you can't come any closer than that.'
That was a little frightening, I must say. Frightening in a bad way, not a
good way."

"Is your boyfriend an exhibitionist?" I asked.

"Well, I guess so," she said doubtfully. "With blow jobs, maybe. Not
intercourse sex."

A male friend said, "I went to a sex club once. Don't ask, but I did. Have you ever been?"

"A few times," I said. "Nothing to report. Once I was with my gay friend
Tristan. We were drunk. I don't know why we went, and I particularly don't
know why I went with him, if I'd wanted to try having sex in public.
But there you are."

"What was, um, the caliber of the clientele?" he asked delicately.

"That was part of the problem," I said, remembering the sticky floor and
the dark hallways. "It was, uh, not the kind of place that I wanted anyone
to get near me, much less touch me."

"That is a problem," he agreed. "When I went with my girlfriend, it was
mostly uglies. After a while, we found ourselves in a room with about six people in various stages of coupling. There was one couple, and after a bit of geographical jostling, I found myself fucking the wife. People watched."

"So, you sound like you enjoyed it," I said.

"Weeeelll ..." He paused. "I enjoyed the being watched more than the

I didn't know what to say about that. "What do you mean, sex in public?"
said Maureen. "I've never done it with an audience, like as a theatrical
performance." She giggled at my question, as if I'd asked her if she'd ever
sang rounds with the Three Tenors. "But outside -- yes, sure."

"Like, in a place that you might get caught?" I asked.

"Yep. In college. It was late at night, and it was on the big lawn, where you couldn't really see anything, but you know, people were coming out of

"OK, so you did it a long time ago."

"Oh, that was only the first time," she said cheerfully. "Then there was
the time in the restaurant where I worked, in the dry storage. And then in
Mendocino, off a bike trail. Oh, and over a balcony at this guy's
apartment building. Does that count? It was 15 stories up."

"Yes. It counts."

"Oh, and there was the time in the swimming pool at this motel, and --
well, maybe that's it. How about you?"

"Well, I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to these sorts of things," I
said. "I like a comfy bed. Sex in public usually means sex standing up. And
sex standing up means lower back spasm. And that means Advil. As far as sex
in nature -- well, I have sensitive skin. It gets a little angry when
rubbed with pebbles and bark." I thought for a moment. "But -- you know,
whatever turns you on. If you really enjoy it ..."

"Oh, I didn't say that I enjoyed it," Maureen said quickly. "I just said
that I did it. I mean, it's OK." She paused, and then added, "I really
just love sex. And if it comes up, so to speak, in a public place ... well,
I'll just take the opportunity. I'm pretty Machiavellian, in that regard."
She sighed.

So much for my ability to spot a trend.

By Courtney Weaver

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