- A wide range of activities can be considered public sex.
- People have public sex whever they can, including physical and virtual spaces.
- Men have generally had the most access to public sex because they have had access to public spaces.
- Women change public sex by making it safer and more accessible for themselves, and emphasizing diversity.
What qualifies as public sex depends on how one defines sex. For some, dancing is quite sexual, so they'd consider grinding and groping on the dance floor to be public sex. Others who emphasize genital interaction may be more likely to characterize oral sex in a club as public sex. Depending on the eye of the beholder, public sex can vary from solo acts of masturbation or intercourse in a park to a BDSM scene in a public dungeon or an orgy at a house party.
Who Has Public Sex?
Historically, public sex has been the domain of men because they have been the ones with access to public space, greater freedom from family scrutiny, and the money to self-determine their time and actions. Men seeking sex with women have established and frequented areas where they can find women to pay for sex, and men seeking sex with each other have created separate public spaces to connect. Contemporarily, men still dominate public sex, from bathhouses that cater to men seeking sex with men but rarely host events for women or non-binary people, to the men who organize or host sex parties in private homes for heterosexuals and bisexual women but tend to exclude bisexual men.
Sex work has always had a public aspect to it, with sex workers across history openly offering their services and taking their clients somewhere more private to complete the transaction. Many of these professionals have been women, and today, most sex workers are women working as dancers, entertainers, models, and other kinds of sex work in public physical and virtual spaces.
With shifting social expectations and expanding sexual horizons, many other people have jumped on the public sex bandwagon. This includes members of groups that meet each other for public sex, such as swingers at hotel conventions and kinksters who hook up with each other at dungeons. Adventurous individuals of all genders have taken to the wider availability of public sex to find others who want to share in the escapades.
Where Does Public Sex Happen?
Public sex happens in both virtual and physical spaces. Virtually, people have been able to use apps like Grindr, Tinder, and Sniffies to find others for no-string-attached sex that might happen in public, semi-public, or private settings. Web-based erotic content platforms like OnlyFans mix public and private by offering transactional viewing and interaction in private spaces. The advent of virtual public sex has significantly changed the landscape for women offering professional sexual services, creating an environment in which they have a lower risk of violence or sexually transmitted infections and more control over the setting and clients.
Brick-and-mortar spaces also host public sexual interactions. These spaces include strip clubs, sex clubs, bathhouses, BDSM dungeons, and private residences. Public sex also happens in semi-public spaces that offer a modicum of brief privacy, like bathrooms, parks, stairwells, parking garages, and cars. Basically, public sex happens anywhere that people can get away with it.
Why Have Sex in Public?
What do people get out of having public sex? It depends on the person and what kind of sex they have. For some, it is a sexual adventure that comes with a tinge of danger that makes it feel more thrilling. Others who enjoy exhibitionism and voyeurism find fulfillment in displaying or watching sexuality. Many people are motivated by the orgasms and other intense sensations that accompany edgy sex. Some people experience public sex as an opportunity for healing that empowers them to recover from past sexual and social traumas, regain confidence, and explore new parts of themselves.
Women Revolutionizing Orgies
Many public sex environments where women and men aim to have unpaid sex with each other tend to have overly plentiful men and insufficient women. The majority of swingers’ clubs in the U.S. have rules limiting the number of solo men allowed in at any given time and still frequently have a surplus of (cishet) men when compared to the number of available women. Lots of heterosexually oriented orgies have too many men and not enough women, in part because many of them are hosted by men who tend to organize them in ways that appeal to men.
Jess Zakira Wise and Chez Jennings founded FWB (Friends with Benefits), a sex-positive social club in Los Angeles, as an answer to the lack of safe communities available to women and queer people. The duo met seven years ago at a party Wise hosted. Sparks flew, leading to a deep connection and bond that grew into a symbiotic partnership encompassing business ventures and a joyfully shared life.
Jennings recently resumed searching for a new community of sex-positive friends. Despite increased cultural acceptance of group sex in recent years, she found available parties and clubs were still deeply objectifying for single women and restricting of queer sexual expression.
“In eight years, nothing has changed. Clubs are still catering to men,” says Jennings. “We knew a better alternative was possible because we’d already created the magic once. So we decided to come out of retirement and create an even better community experience.”
Wise and Jennings launched FWB a fun, pressure-free environment for curious, interesting, sex-positive people to connect. “We find people are tired of swiping on dating apps. They want to meet people in real life for friendship, partnership, play, and more,” explains Wise. “The fact that solo women love our events says it all.”
Wise and Jennings say they have done this by curating both the attendees and the space, with lots of places to sit and talk and music that is low enough to have real conversations.
When women take charge of public sex, they create fundamentally different kinds of sexual interactions than men. This results in less pressure for sex and more time spent socializing at venues like FWB, as well as a far wider diversity of bodies, genders, and sexualities involved in the erotic interactions.
Facebook image: Reshetnikov_art/Shutterstock
Heaphy, B., & Hodgson, J. (2021). Public sex, private intimacy and sexual exclusivity in men’s formalized same-sex relationships. Sexualities, 24(7), 874-890.
Koch, G. (2020). Healing labor: Japanese sex work in the gendered economy. Stanford University Press.
Nowak, Z., & Roynesdal, K. (2022). Ecological deviance: The botanical politics of public-sex environments in parks. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, 5(3), 1184-1206.
Swift, J. (2019). Whores in the Religious Marketplace: Sex-Positivity's Roots in Commercial Sex Cultures. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 40(2), 93-125.