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Having Sex in Cars Is Still a Beloved American Pastime, Study Reveals

"Made it through 17 Drake songs. Loved it. Parked in the woods."
Photo by Peyton Weikert via Stocksy

According to a new study from researchers at University of South Dakota, people still have sex in the backseat of their cars. The results, due out in a forthcoming issue of Journal of Sex Research, found that of the 706 undergraduates polled, 61 percent of men and 58.5 percent of women reported engaging in some kind of sexual behavior within a vehicle.

Previous studies found that sex in parked cars began to decline in the 1970s because of "rising gas prices, the shrinking size of cars, the closing of drive-in theaters, an increase in anti-parking regulations, and advancing urban sprawl," the study's authors write. Because of the lack of recent in-depth research on whether people were still getting it on in their vehicles, this team took on the heavy task of executing a descriptive study, polling 195 men and 511 women.


Participants were asked to fill out a survey that included 26 questions regarding the last time they had sex in a vehicle, including divulging the parking location, the vehicle type, whether or not birth control was used, how long the act lasted and where in the car it took place. Researchers also wanted to know the motivations behind engaging in parked-car sex and if there were any negative aspects, such as bodily injuries, or, more seriously, if coercion played a role.

Read more: Finding the Best and Worst Sex on the Internet

Unsurprisingly, the study found that the most common time participants had sex in their cars was during their junior and senior years of high school. More than half reported parking "out in the country" to get down and dirty in the backseat of a standard car, as opposed to a pickup truck or SUV. Sessions were typically brief (less than 15 minutes), but six percent said that they went at it for more than an hour.

More men than women (86 percent versus 48 percent) reported having an orgasm during their last incident of parked-car sex.

For those who had engaged in parked-car sex, researchers wanted to know what made the experience memorable. For some, it was getting caught by police or parents. For others, humor played a big role in making a lasting impression. "One woman said that her boyfriend somehow lost a shoe during exciting sex," researchers write. "Another woman wrote that she accidentally knocked the door open and fell out 'ass naked.'"


Three percent of respondents, though, said they'll always remember the incident because they were hurt in the act by one of the car's features. One woman reported smashing her pelvic bone against the gear shift. "It hurt immensely," she wrote, "but I wanted to keep going so we moved to the field and out of the car."

A handful of the respondents' answers read like poetry. One man wrote, "In the back of a car with soft music playing and candles going we had a picnic. When we were done eating we touched each other and enjoyed each others [sic] bodies then she lied down [sic] and I entered her and we held each other close."

Another male respondent kept it short and sweet: "Made it through 17 Drake songs. Loved it. Parked in the woods."

it's not just the women who are out to please their partners. The men were equally motivated.

Researchers also looked at the dangerous side of sex in parked cars. Past research suggested men wanted to lure women into cars to take advantage of them. The current study found that three men and 13 women reported being sexually coerced while in a vehicle. Therefore, the study's authors conclude, cars do "provide a unique opportunity for perpetrators to sexually coerce partners by trapping them in the confines of the vehicle or by isolating them in remote locations."

But overall, lead researcher Cindy Struckman-Johnson tells Broadly, the study offers "a very positive look" at the serious sexual behavior of young people. It also reveals an equality among the sexes, she says. A majority of both men and women said in the study they had sex in a car to satisfy their partner's sexual arousal.


"If you look at the history of sex and cars," Struckman-Johnson explains, "women were the passive recipients of sexual behavior. [The study reveals that] it's not just the women who are out to please their partners. The men were equally motivated."

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Struckman-Johnson, who also studies traffic safety, says the research came about from another study she was working on about texting while driving. She found that a number of that study's participants said that in addition to texting, they also reported having sex in the car. "I felt that having sex in a nonmoving car was another side of sexuality," she says, "and an important sexual behavior" that needed to be studied.

In order to understand how dating and mating takes place, there needs to be more research about sex in parked vehicles, Struckman-Johnson says. "Courtship is extremely important behavior and it's constantly changing, yet there are some things that I do not think have changed."

"I don't think society realizes how important the car is," she continues. "I think [parked-car sex] was judged to be irrelevant, like an old-fashioned behavior. But really the car is a refuge for young people … who want to engage in a serious, romantic sexual interlude. I think we've underestimated its importance."