At 1 p.m. on a boring workday, Jane, a 30-year-old writer, and her boyfriend began exchanging dirty e-mails. After an hour, it got so hot they decided to meet for a quickie. But not at home, or even a hotel. Instead, they went to a seedy bar in midtown Manhattan and headed straight for the ladies’ room. In the midst of their tryst—pants around the ankles and Jane bent against the wall—the door burst open. “You ought to be ashamed!” a surly barmaid screamed. As they collected themselves and slunk out the door (rather, were kicked out—for good), the last words they heard were, “Get some self-respect!”
“It was humiliating,” says Jane.* “It was kind of dirty. But it was totally worth it.” In other words, the feeling of uncontrollable lust, coupled with the fear of getting caught, topped the few minutes of being berated by a cranky puritan. Yes, having sex in public means you risk mortification (and sometimes arrest), but interviews with dozens of women revealed that the risk is a huge part of the reason public sex is so hot. According to sex therapist Ian Kerner, Ph.D., the rush that comes from the possibility of getting caught stimulates the brain’s production of dopamine—the chemical that gives us a natural high.
And it turns out everyone is doing it. A 2004 ABC News poll of 1,500 men and women showed that 57 percent of respondents admitted to having sex in a public space. But what exactly constitutes “public sex”? Definitions and danger levels—vary wildly. It’s not just about where the deed takes place, but how it makes us feel. Each type brings its own rewards—whether it’s making sex just a little spicier or making you feel like a porn star. Which kind your woman dabbles in says a lot about who she is behind closed doors.
Secret Public Sex: Comfort Zone
For some of us, a little flirtation with exhibitionism goes a long way—say, doing it in a car parked down a dark alley. The fear of getting busted makes for faster, hotter sex, but we don’t actually want to get caught. Instead, much of the appeal comes from the taboo of having sex somewhere society says you’re not supposed to, even if it’s relatively isolated. “I had sex with a coworker on an abandoned floor in our office building,” says Kerry, 26. “We found a room that still had a desk in it, and he just unbuttoned my pants and bent me over it. We wanted privacy, but the idea that a custodian or, God forbid, another coworker could’ve stumbled upon us really upped the ante.” Plus, Kerry says, doing it in the office just felt awesomely kinky. “Our coworkers sitting all buttoned up at their computers had no idea we were screwing just a few floors away.”
The same is often true of sex outdoors. Even if you’re in the middle of nowhere, the location alone can make it extra hot. According to Kara, 27, who’s had sex while hiking with boyfriends, being out in the open feels totally uninhibited. “It sounds cheesy, but feeling the wind on your skin is exhilarating. And it’s sort of animalistic—you’re just outside, fucking.”
Tara, 30, agrees. When she and her boyfriend had sex in the woods, they made sure no one was around to bust them. But just being out in nature provided all the excitement they needed. “We pulled the car in behind some trees and climbed onto the hood,” she says. “Seeing his O face on top of me with nothing but blue sky behind him was one of the hottest things we’ve ever done.” But even if you’ve chosen a secluded spot, there’s still a sense that someone could appear at any moment. And that panicky, stressful feeling feeds into your sexual arousal, most women agree. It’s like getting a turbo boost of adrenaline and pleasure.
Steffanie, 24, prefers her outdoor sex to take place on city rooftops. “Looking down at passing cars or people, knowing you’re doing something naughty they can’t see, even though you can see them, is such a turn-on,” she says. “It’s like reverse voyeurism.” Of course, in some cities, one man’s secluded roof is another man’s view, so if you’re going to take that chance, be sure to scan nearby windows for gawkers.
Risky Public Sex: Hot Zone
Some women don’t want their public escapades to be entirely secret. They need people around to raise the stakes. That explains why Laura, 29, would do it under a blanket in the middle of a crowded park. “People were walking all around us,” she recalls. “I was on my side pretending to read a magazine, and he acted like he was just spooning me. No one knew he was quietly inside me, which made it amazing. I’ve done it in movie theaters and parks, hoping to be seen. We couldn’t even let out a tiny moan or we would’ve been busted.”
And most women love the idea that their man has to have them right then, no matter how many people are around. “It’s all about the quick and horny ‘I want you so bad, I need you right now’ mentality,” says Gwen, 32, who’s had sex in such fun-filled locales as elevators and restaurants. “It’s amazing to feel so sexy and wanted.” Bottom line: It’s an incredible turn-on to feel like you can’t wait until we get home to get in our pants—and you don’t care who knows it. Jenn, 29, especially likes to do it in bar bathrooms for that reason. “If someone’s waiting, you have to be willing to put up with some glares when you come out,” she says. “But it just makes the whole experience cooler knowing they were forced to think about what you were doing in there.”
“I like to imagine other people are watching me and are jealous of my sex life,” explains Meghan, 26. “I’ve done it in movie theaters and in parks up against a tree, hoping I could be seen. I don’t really want to know if anybody’s watching, but it’s part of my fantasy to think that someone, somewhere is looking at me and getting turned on.” See, with public sex, we can act out some of our secret porn fantasies without having to actually lose our dignity (and all our pubic hair) by becoming real porn stars. It’s like the home lap dance—your girlfriend likes to play stripper for you, but presumably she doesn’t want to pole-dance for bucks in real life. (And if she does, well, kudos.)
Extreme Public Sex: Danger Zone
Then there are the pure daredevils who do want to know that people are watching. Some of these girls simply thrive on exhibitionism. “The idea of getting caught while you’re in submission is a powerful stimulator,” says Kerner. “It gives a true jolt of thrill-seeking amphetamine to our systems. It’s also an adventure, which is alluring.” Jill, 30, says the riskiest sex she ever had was when a boyfriend went down on her in a packed bar. “We were in the last booth, so we were kind of hidden,” she says. Still, when the bartender went back for ice and caught them, she says it enhanced the act. “We locked eyes, and he almost seemed to want to watch,” she says. “Sometimes, when I’m having sex, I still picture that guy watching me.”
When 25-year-old Nancy and her fiancé did it on a bus in Brussels, she realized the appeal of having an audience. In the back row, she sat facing forward on his lap, her skirt lifted just enough so that they could maneuver. “When I noticed the driver looking in his rearview mirror a few times and enjoying the show, it just took the whole experience to another level. I felt like a total sex object—in a good way.”
Other women gravitate toward really daring sex because it’s liberating. “I’m a pretty timid person,” says Marlene, 27. “But when it comes to sex, I become someone else. It’s the one area of my life where I feel like it’s OK to be aggressive and a little outrageous. And when I see how excited men get when I do something really ballsy, it makes me feel powerful.” Her most memorable sexual exploit? The time she pulled a boyfriend into a dressing room at the Gap. “I told the attendant I needed his opinion. I couldn’t believe she let him in with me. He watched in the mirror as I gave him head.”
At the extreme end of the spectrum, however, are girls whose public adventures get them in trouble all the time. People who are constantly getting kicked off of airplanes and banned from bars for exposing their naughty bits probably have more than just a mild fetish. “Extreme exhibitionism is a cry for attention,” In other words, beware the girl who pushes the envelope too far. The last thing you need is to call a buddy for bail money because she had you two screwing on a jungle gym. During recess.
Get Out, Get Off
Sure, the adrenaline rush that comes with public sex makes it thrilling, but, chemical reactions aside, the biggest reason most women told me they loved doing it was the fact that you want to do it. Nothing’s sexier than hearing you whisper that you want to sleep with us when we’re at a crowded party, stuck at a boring play, or even just walking through a park. It’s the ultimate compliment, and you know we’re total suckers for those.
Still, if you haven’t taken sex outside of the box yet and fear your girl won’t be into it, start off light to make sure she’s comfortable. Try a place where there’s guaranteed privacy—behind a locked door at a party, or even in your own backyard. And make sure she’s wearing a skirt or dress, in case you need to make a speedy escape. Nothing spells disaster more than having to run down the street pulling your button fly jeans up from around your ankles after some guy on a bike rides by. Trust me.