What Is Public Sex To You?

Image copyright Caitlin Murphy, 2016 

Image copyright Caitlin Murphy, 2016 

Semi-public sex, almost public, that sort of steal-away-to-somewhere-private-enough deviance seems to come in two flavors: symbolism and lust.

Have you ever fucked somewhere with a purpose? I’m talking church confessional in that hazy stone cavern on a summer week-day, incense imbibed. Hushed and sweaty and the only adequate “fuck you” one could give to years of Catholic school and decades of shame.

Or stealing into the janitor’s closet or bathroom (though let’s be real, they won’t have single-occupancy or gender-neutral options, will they?) in the office of your nearest bigoted politician. Having a fuck as queer as yourself, the queer defiance of sex to flip someone off and make a statement, wouldn’t it almost be better if you got caught? Getting to yell, then, about all the ways they vote to make you less safe, less human.

Maybe it’s re-visiting somewhere you had a first and comparing that time capsule place of then to who you are now. Or fucking in your childhood bed because you always wanted to and couldn’t, it’s fucking in defiance, fucking as statement even if it’s one only you or a few hear. Does it matter if the plummet and crash of the tree is heard? Why not claim a place, a feeling, or a time by pushing your clothing just enough out of the way to overwrite something you want to take back or add to the thread of a story you’ve kept nourished?

Humans love meaning and symbolism; we’ll do plenty of things for what they represent more than what the action itself accomplishes. So much of what’s sexual is what’s written in our neurons, the experiences of our whole lives. Often what’s not allowed–like having sex in a place that is not your home or your hotel room or your whatever–is more appealing merely for that fact. The knowledge that you shouldn’t–that there could be ramifications if you get caught–is a large part of what makes public or semi-public sex so enticing.

The other flavor is more of meeting a need: sometimes you don’t have a private place to do whatever it is you’re aching to do, sometimes you just happen to be out and waiting isn’t an option.

It’s those times you and the coworker (you shouldn’t be seeing) volunteer to take the trash back to the dumpster in the alley at the end of the night so you can close over the gate and allow tension to break. Not to mention every hint, glance, text from across the room that no one else noticed: those secret languages of intimacy and pheromones are the most subtle expression of public sex. Pushing each others’ buttons while maintaining composure so no one knows what you’re up to.

Haven’t you been out at the restaurant/bar/movies/show and felt someone’s finger trace the line of your leg, coyly threatening to go further yes-even-with-all-these-people-around? You know you shouldn’t, but doing the things we shouldn’t and the added skill needed to do so without detection is such an obvious pleasure. It’s why we have commonly known fetishes like the Mile High Club, or people who enjoy sex in public restrooms, or those secluded areas where teens would drive their dates and feel one another up in the back seat.

Sometimes you can mix flavors. There’s this branch: it’s out behind Toys’R’Us near the dumpster, but not too near the dumpster. It’s at the perfect height to sit on, and your first boyfriend would go there with you during lunch, stand in front of you while you sat on that branch, make out when other students out on lunch weren’t around. It overlooked a swamp you had to walk past–after going through a hole in the chain link fence–next to the school. It was your senior year of high school and that was also the place where, in the fall surrounded by naked trees, that first boyfriend unbuttoned your pants and fumbled around for the first time. It was a place of necessity at the time, but what if you went there now? It’s been a decade; how would you now feel compared to you then? Especially with someone possessing more deft and able hands. Now you know to wear a skirt or dress so you don’t hinder movement or cut off all the blood flow in someone’s hand, making things end early due to pins and needles. How would the ghost of you-ten-years-ago feel next to how you feel now? What would you learn?

Some have the urge to document their just-out-of-sight-sex because if a big part of the point is that you can’t get caught in the act. But sometimes you want proof that you did that thing you shouldn’t have–so you can believe it happened, so you can provide backup if you decide to tell someone later when the ability to get caught has subsided. Would you really get arrested for having had sex in your car, where people could have seen you if no one caught you at the time... but you recorded it with the consent of all involved on your dashboard GoPro? Photo booths are another common motif in public sex, usually off to the side and with a long curtain protecting you from prying eyes. The built-in documentation means less fumbling with phones if you want a snapshot.

There are so many ways semi/public sex toes lines of what’s acceptable, what’s consensual, often blatantly crossing those lines with the challenge of avoiding detection. No matter which way you cut it, we’re always going to be sneaking into places we shouldn’t for sex and pleasure. The challenge is being conscientious of the risks that are being taken and taking serious precautions not to involve other people in your escapades without their full consent. I suppose most of us would put up with the people at the house party who just couldn’t contain themselves, but only if they aren’t holding up the bathroom line.

This post was graciously commissioned by Ninjaphoto!