Tech by VICE

Fucking in Public Reveals Who Public Spaces Are Really For

For some, exhibitionist sex in public is a kinky fantasy. For others, it's a reality of life.

by Samantha Cole
Jan 31 2020, 2:02pm

Illustration by Cathryn Virginia

“If something exists, there is porn of it:” Welcome to Rule 34, a series in which Motherboard’s Samantha Cole lovingly explores the highly specific fetishes that can be found on the web. If you’ve thought of it, someone’s jerked off to it.

The links in this article may be considered NSFW.

Dahlia Drake's most memorable moment of exhibitionist sex involved fucking against a parked car at 2 a.m. It was dark, but she and her partner were in full view of a business's security cameras.

"We got out, started making out, and things got hot and heavy quickly, and we ended up having sex against the side of the car as well as on the hood of the car," she told me. "The idea of risking getting caught sends an adrenaline rush and really gets people hot and bothered. It’s that excitement that interests people and really gets them into it. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything more thrilling than performing a lewd act in a very public area."

As a cam model, Drake is used to showing off her sexuality in front of others. Usually, this means performing in front of a small audience watching a stream, or sending videos and pictures to paying customers. On her own time, however, she enjoys getting lewd in public.

"The main reason I do it isn’t necessarily because fans request it, but because I legitimately enjoy public play," she said.

"It makes sex into an adventure and that adventure ends in passion," Raven Risque, an art model and fetish model who often plays publicly, told me. "You are nervous and scared but delighted and turned on... Everything feels heightened because of the adrenaline of being caught, of being seen. Sometimes I even want to be seen."

Every once in a while, a video of people getting intimate in public goes viral. Tabloids pick it up, and suddenly everyone has an opinions about public sex. Last month, it was a duo on a New York City subway platform. In the past, it's been bus riders, a guy with his ass out trying to copulate with a pile of leaves, or Yankees fans.

Sex in public can be fun. It can be gross, regrettable, thrilling, passionate, and inadvisable all at once. But in a time when everyone has a smartphone ready to record or post your sexcapades to the internet, it's a lot harder to get away with it without going viral.

FUCK THE CAR, CALL THE COPS

In 2018, a drunk Kansas man refused to stop fucking the tailpipe of a car until someone tased him. Was he horny for cars, confusing the car with a person's orifice, turned on by the public nature of the car-fuckery, or just very drunk? It doesn't matter—he was charged with "lewd and lascivious behavior." Because in this country you can't fuck anything, let alone someone else's vehicle, in broad daylight.

If you're going by the rule of law in the U.S., your right to have sex outdoors varies from state to state. In most states, sex in public is a misdemeanor under public lewdness and indecency laws, but the definitions of "public" and "lewd" vary, and are often ambiguous. For example, in 1991, a New York court ruled that sex in a car wasn't considered sex in public unless passers-by could see it from outside.

Sex on the beach, while logistically difficult, is one of the most common fetishes, according to some polls—despite being super illegal if you're on a public beach. The 1953 classic From Here to Eternity may have set the mold for sensual beach scenes, spawning a whole trope for romance films.

Pop culture tends to draw a hard line between this dreamy, passionate, thrill-of-the-moment public sex, and "exhibitionism," which conjures images of a man in a trenchcoat flashing people, or nudism and extreme extroversion. But the desire to toe that line—to dawdle in the possibility of getting caught, but not too brazenly—is a common fantasy.

Justin Lehmiller, a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, surveyed more than 4,000 Americans about their sexual fantasies during research for his book Tell Me What You Want . Forty-two percent of participants reported fantasies of having sex in public. But the majority of those who described public sex as their all-time favorite sexual fantasy said that shocking other people wasn't the goal.

"Rather, what turned them on was the idea that either (1) they could potentially be observed, but weren’t actually being observed, or (2) that other people might watch, but would enjoy what they were seeing," Lehmiller said. "In other words, most people with public sex fantasies don’t want to do something non-consensual, which makes them different from the clinical exhibitionists—the ones who get off on other people’s shocked or disgusted reactions."

David Ley, a clinical psychologist who specializes in sexuality, told me that it's important to distinguish between public sex as a fantasy, and exhibitionism for the sake of shocking others without their consent." The place where this becomes a problem, illegal and disordered, is when people violate the rights of others, forcing them to observe their sexual behaviors without consent," Ley said. Exhibitionist disorder is clinically diagnosable, according to the DSM-5, and is defined as "exposing one’s genitals to an unsuspecting person or performing sexual acts that can be watched by others."

Public sex is primal and natural in an unnatural world that looks down on public intimacy.

"In assessment and treatment of these issues, I tend to be more interested in the levels of empathy, impulse control and antisocial tendencies, than in the sexual fantasy itself," Ley said. "Someone who is doesn’t care about the rights of others, the possibility of being arrested and charged as a sex offender, or potentially exposing children to their sexual behaviors, are the people I worry about."

Most people don't take their fantasies that far, or even want to. A public sex enthusiast named Lukas (who spoke under the condition of anonymity—this aspect of his sex life is illegal, after all) told me that although he likes to play outside, it's not because he might get caught. The best sex he's had was while hiking in New Zealand with his girlfriend.

"I like feeling peacefully connected to the world during sex, and nature gives me that," he said. "When having sex in nature, I worry about being caught, because whoever catches me would probably not feel happy about it. Being transgressive can be part of the thrill for me, but only against perceived rules, not some passerby. Under ideal circumstances, I’m in a spot where there is no real risk of getting caught and I don’t have to worry about it."

Many people don't even take it farther than their browsers. Searching "public sex" on most porn sites returns hundreds of pages of videos featuring people doing it in cars, on beaches, in parks, at festivals, parties, and bars. There's even a video from circa 2011 of two people having sex during a skydive. Even if most people don't actually have sex in public, it's clear that many of us find the fantasy appealing. On Pornhub, one of the most visited porn sites, Public Agent and Fake Taxi, two porn channels focused on public sex, are the fifth and sixth most popular channels, where they've gained billions of views.

But sex in public isn't just a sandy daydream, and it's often not a perverse or malicious thrill, either. For a lot of people, it's a reality of life.

WHO IS PERMITTED TO FUCK IN PUBLIC?

Unlike blueberry porn or farts-as-fetish, exhibitionist sex is a topic that brings up a lot of questions about capitalism, bigotry, and class struggle. In order to have a conversation about sex in public, we have to discuss who is privileged to enjoy this kink as a fun, potentially-risky taboo, and who can't.

There are the issues surrounding class inequalities that likely result in many of the videos of public sex gone viral. Many homeless shelters segregate genders and don't allow couples, even same-sex couples, to stay together—who then face the choice of separation or living on the street.

How to define "public space" (and how the inside of a car isn't, until it's in someone's view) is a legal question, but it's also a cultural and societal one. Hostile architecture, like spiked wall edges or sloped benches, makes it impossible to simply sit and chill—let alone cuddle up with another person. Pseudo-public courtyards and parks creep into the few shreds of commons we have left, and those areas aren't policed by the local government but by private security guards. These places are often not public to people who have nowhere else to go, and who aren't the types that those private developers want to attract.

Then there's the not-unrelated topic of survival sex, and the ways being a sex worker in public spaces is policed and criminalized, especially in the U.S. After the 2018 passage of FOSTA, a bill that made platforms liable for sexual solicitation, sex workers were pushed offline and public places were the only option for many sex workers to make what they needed to survive. This, obviously, isn't kink—it's oppression.

Public sex is also fraught in terms of queer history: Who is allowed to display their sexuality in public, without repercussions? Gay men, especially, have been stereotyped as being promiscuous in public places, and have been treated with suspicion in bathrooms or for simply being in public places after dark. This might sound like a shameful relic from the 90s George Michael era, but police still launch massive undercover stings to entrap gay men and charge them for "lewd acts."

Sex and gender activist Gayle S. Rubin grapples with similar questions in Culture, Society and Sexuality in 1998—and also hints at the ways we're surveilling ad censoring each other can be in the same vein of class brutality as landlords and cops:

"The general public helps to penalize erotic nonconformity when, according to the values they have been taught, landlords refuse housing, neighbors call in the police, and hoodlums commit sanctioned battery. The ideologies of erotic inferiority and sexual danger decrease the power of sex perverts and sex workers in social encounters of all kinds."

In part, the culture that vilifies things like cruising or simply displaying queer sexuality in public forced them, too—it's sometimes the only place the queer community can enjoy the anonymity and relative safety of the commons, outside of oppressive and bigoted households or neighborhoods.

Sex work activist Liara Roux told me in a Twitter message that when they were a teen, before coming out, it was the only option to explore their sexuality.

"I was so worried my parents would kick me out if they caught me doing anything so there was no way I was doing anything at my house or at my friends' houses," they said.

Roux said they've had numerous experiences with public play since then. "Usually it's me fingering another girl in a public place where it can look like nothing is going on! Like sticking fingers up a skirt when they are wearing nothing underneath," they said. "Once my partner fingered me on the BART coming home from SFO after a long trip, was very hot... And one of my favorites was sticking my foot into another girls pussy under the table while we were drinking tea at a very tranquil teahouse."

People assume they're platonic friends and don't look more closely than that, they said.

Just because sex forced into the wild is a complex topic doesn't negate the existence of sex in the wild for the sake of celebration. But to do it properly, you'll want to stake out the right spots, and ride the thrill in a reasonable, respectful way—ultimately, away from the suspicious and unsuspecting eyes of the public.

"It can be done easily or it can take much planning," Risque said. "I've been in moments of sheer lust that I don't care where I am, the clothes must come off. And other times it's a date with someone I love. We plan a day of it... Public sex is primal and natural in an unnatural world that looks down on public intimacy, nudity and sex in general. So for me it brings me into my animal nature in a way I thought lost to me."

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

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