If you've got a rebellious streak or a taste for the kinky, having sex in public is probably on your to-do list. (Maybe you've even crossed it off.) From dressing-room hookups to getting steamy against hotel windows, having public or semi-public sex really gets some folks going. But what is the psychology behind having sex in public? What about it quickens people's heartbeats and sends a thrill through their veins?
To be fair, public sex truly isn't everyone's cup of tea. For starters, getting sexed up in a gross, dark alleyway or dank bar bathroom might not be the vibe for folks who want their sex to be sacred, romantic, or even just intimate. Car sex is a public sex staple and it can be kind of hot. I guess. But it's cramped in there and the angles are all wrong, so it's low-key uncomfortable. Then there are the high-risk situations. Good luck staying quiet in a library. And beach sex is all fun and games until a seagull gang swoops in, or you're trying to bone without getting sand in your crevices. Hammocks are already a recipe for disaster, even when you're climbing into one to be innocent and like, read a book, alone. So, what's the appeal?
Well, scientifically speaking, there is "no one conclusive reason as to why any of us do the things we do sexually," says sex educator and sex and relationships therapist Cyndi Darnell. When it comes to public sex specifically, Darnell continues, "The exhibitionist streak can be in all kinds of people — from introverted to super powerful extroverts. There does not appear to be a direct cause-and-effect relationship between what people like to do sexually and how they experience their day-to-day personalities."
But there is an appeal in the rule-breaking part of getting it on outdoors or pushed against the wall of a crowded club. "For some people, the appeal of sex in public may be the taboo and being 'naughty,'" Darnell explains. When you and your partner are having an elevator quickie or mile-high hookup, there's an extra level of excitement there. You're aware that you're having "risky" sex — "risky" being not in carefully constructed, private confines of a bedroom (please get enthusiastic consent and use protection!).
As is often the case with any sexual activity — from watching to porn to sexting to physically getting it on — dopamine, the reward chemical, comes into play. If you successfully get away with having risky, public sex, your brain is going to feel hella rewarded and hella euphoric. Relationship expert Dr. Jess O'Reilly previously explained to Elite Daily that sex is so "overwhelmingly exciting, pleasurable, and rewarding that our brains during orgasm look almost identical to a brain on heroin. According to neuroscientist Dr. Gert Holstege, there is only a 5% difference between our brain’s observable reaction to sex and heroin, which may explain the euphoric high we experience after a passionate sex session." The added rush of you and your partner trying to get each other off ASAP, before you get caught, ranks pretty high up there when it comes to passionate sex.
Another aspect of public sex that gets folks ultra wet, says Darnell, is, "the freedom of being outdoors in nature, or in a community of like-minded others" — the latter referring to sex parties, "play parties," and swinger communities. Unpacking the psychology further, Darnell says, "For some, it reinforces their attractiveness that others want to watch them. For others again it's the thrill of being desired/desiring."
A fully engaged, attentive audience — in a semi-public space — could low-key be the best-case scenario. As Darnell points out, too, "There could be a risk of arrest, depending upon the region in the world you are at the time." Public indecency (or public lewdness) is any "sexual activity or sexual contact that occurs in a public place, where indecent exposure is exposing the genitals or private parts of a person in a place where another person may see and be offended.”
It will either be a Class A Misdemeanor, up there with DUIs and DWIs, or a Class B Misdemeanor, more like shoplifting. Depending on your state, this means possible jail time of up to a year and probation, a fine of $500, a criminal record, registration as a sex offender and/or mandatory community service. (You can check the laws on the books by state at FindLaw.) Yeah, getting busted for public indecency could kill your literal and metaphorical boners.
Second, Darnell says, "People who have not given consent to witness sexual activity have needs that need to be considered." So, if you're looking for a safe and sexy way to get your dopamine rush, a sex club or party might truly be the best bet.
If the thought of hooking up with your partner with the breeze on your skin and chaos in your veins excites you, go for it! Just be safe, keep it cute, and don't actually get caught.