Now that I'm old and disillusioned, I only reactivate my Tinder to get restaurant recommendations when I'm traveling, but back in 2014, when I was living by the East Harlem White Castle, I'd line up three dates a week at the bro-y Upper East Side bars that I knew for a fact had nachos. On one date, after we'd both had three pints of beer and had moved on from playing seeing if we knew people from each other's colleges to overt flirting, I got up to go to the bathroom. Right before I headed down the stairs, I turned around, and he was standing there. He kissed me, and it was good. As I continued down the stairs, I noticed he was still following me. Hmm? "I am going to urinate!" I shouted. He moved into kiss me as I pushed on the door of the women's room. It then occurred to me he wanted to fuck in the bathroom.
"I'll come in with you," he said.
"Truly nah," I said.
As someone who writes openly about sex and just this morning received a message from a stranger calling my vagina a "ran through, open to the public pussy that probably has fentanyl on it," I'm rarely scandalized. But I'll say this: I was scandalized that this man thought we were going to fuck in a public restroom stall. Nothing about the prospect felt hot. There was the issue of hygiene, yes, but also the issue of my biggest, most embarrassing fear: getting in trouble. Plus, I didn't even know if I wanted to sleep with him yet. At one point during the night he had referred to himself as a "classical music junkie."
Despite my reservations, the act of hooking up in public bathrooms continues to capture the public imagination, even if the percentage of the population who have the courage and interest in doing it is quite low. In OkCupid's first annual "Daters' Choice Awards" this year, the company surveyed New York City users and found that the Lower East Side bar Home Sweet Home was voted as having the best bathroom for sex, meaning that this is something people really do. (In Chicago, Slippery Slope was voted the best bathroom sex spot, and in L.A., Good Times at Davey Wayne's.) The Bathroom Bone is a fixture in pop culture, too, from the Kanye West line "Come and meet me in the bathroom stallll" to the first season of Vanderpump Rules, when Jax Taylor and then-girlfriend Laura Leigh notoriously fucked in the restroom at SUR.
Watch: Caitlin Moran on Sex, Drugs, and Hypnotherapy
When I asked my friends if anyone had had sex in a public bathroom, the answer was a resounding "no." The closest I got was this: "Apart from shower sex, which is never as good as it sounds, I've also had sex in a bathroom before, and it was uncomfortable and cramped and just kind of a stupid idea," a female friend told me. "Mind you, it was an apartment bathroom, not a public bathroom, so at least it wasn't dirty."
Yet the more people I spoke to, the more people revealed to me that some of their hottest sexual encounters transpired sweaty and gross in a bar bathroom. One woman told me she migrated to the toilets soon after she started dancing with someone. "Hands began to wander, and suddenly I'm pulling him in the ladies' room and bending over a toilet listening to other women do drugs, pee, and bang on the door, asking us to hurry up," she told me. "The club scene in the early '00s was bananas. It was fun. I'd rate the experience 12/10, but I would not do again. I'm not 20 anymore."
Carmen Ali, a London-based standup comedian who blogs about sex, told me her bathroom quickie was fun and exhilarating, but wasn't super satisfying, as there isn't really the time or space or accoutrements for good foreplay.
"My ex-boyfriend wanted us to go into the Church of Scientology for a laugh," she said. "We went in, but no one was around, so we went to the toilets and had sex in one of the cubicles. It was fun and felt really naughty—my only problem with quickies from a woman's perspective is that there's not much time for foreplay, and usually I don't come—for this to happen I need to use a vibrator while lying down."
One woman, like many I spoke to, said that hooking up in a bathroom was so hot because of how out-of-character it was for her.
"It felt hot, but yuck!"
"I was at a famous 'ruin pub' in Budapest, dancing to dubstep by myself in one of the club's many rooms," she said. "I started chatting with this cute Turkish girl and soon enough we were making out against the wall, so we took it to the girls' bathroom and continued hooking up in one of the stalls. My hands were down her jeans when a security guard came in and told us to get out—there was a long line of girls waiting to pee. So we ran out, giggling, 'Security, lesbians!'" Another woman had a somewhat similar club experience: "We met as strangers in a club and after a few minutes of kissing, he led me to the men's toilet, and we had sex standing up in a cubicle. I think someone looked in over the door? It felt hot, but yuck! A men's nightclub toilet is so gross."
The men I spoke to, too, said the main appeal of public bathroom sex was its weirdness, its departure from the quotidian. No one said they'd want to do it regularly, or even again.
Megan Fleming, a clinical psychologist and certified sex therapist, recognizes that bathroom boning is alluring because of the "erotic element of breaking a rule"—it also taps into many people's voyeuristic or exhibitionism fantasies—but she urges potential toilet boners to keep a few things in mind.
"There's a big difference between fantasy and what actually turns you on," Fleming said. "I love the fantasy of robbing a bank and never having to worry about money. However, I would not have any interest in doing this in reality. I often [tell] clients who want to 'try on' their fantasies: Figure out a way to metaphorically put a toe in the water [instead of] jump[ing] into the deep end."
In other words: You don't (and can't) know if something you fantasize about—like being pushed up against a sticky bathroom stall as full-bladdered people bang on the door—will be as arousing as you imagine it will be. "In fantasy, you are in control of the scene and characters and basically everything that happens, which is not true of real life," she said. "Have you thought about how small bathrooms might be? If public, how it might smell or how unclean it might be? Getting caught? If there would be any shaming or getting kicked out of a venue where you were really having a great time? These are just of the few things I'd have someone take into consideration when exploring the idea of taking fantasy—which is always hot—into reality."
So before your first bathroom sexploit, make sure to manage your expectations, and take a bath in hand sanitizer after the act. And only try it in a place where you wouldn't mind getting banned, i.e., not the East Harlem White Castle. That would just be devastating.