Why do it in Public?
Kyle Werth, another sophomore at Northeastern, wants to keep sex exciting. That’s why he’s done it in a dorm shower, a parking lot, and the top level of a dorm staircase.
“Sex gets boring. You eventually have to spice it up,” said Werth. “It’s a danger kind of thing and I’m an adventurous, outgoing kind of kid. Other guys I’ve been with sometimes aren’t as excited about it as me but I convince them that it’ll be fun and it always is.”
Excitement, fun, and danger are the most popular explanations of public sex. Karen Halnon, professor of sociology at Pennsylvania State University thinks that public sex is like any other risk-taking activity.
“It’s much less about sex than about taking risks and seeing how far you can get away with something,” said Halnon. “I don’t think this is much different than jumping out of a plane or going on a rollercoaster.”
Erick Janssen, researcher and contributor to the Kinsey Institute, a think-tank promoting research in human sexuality, gender, and reproduction, says that sex in public is not only fun for people but is also a sexual stimulant.
“From studies, we know that anxiety actually boosts sexuality in some people,” said Janssen.
Janssen also points out that it takes a certain kind of person to be turned on by this situation. It can often have the opposite effect in others, making it impossible to enjoy and sometimes even perform sex in a place where an interruption is likely.
“People vary a lot on how easily they are sexually aroused. It only takes a phone call or a doorbell (to get turned off) for some people,” said Janssen.
However, this explanation may be too simplistic in today’s society. Halnon studies a portion of society called “shock culture” and thinks public sex, like heavy metal music, is an escape route for people under the pressure of today’s society.
“We’re controlled all the time today, in a technical society by computers, by bureaucrats, by the media telling us what to do, especially in young people. They’re the main target in a consumer society,” said Halnon. “It becomes very hard to escape, to figure out who we are.”
Ogden agrees that the motivation has a lot to do with the need for definition and identity. Like other sexual statements, public sex is a way to figure out what you want and who you are.
“One of the marks of the millennium era has been so much rethinking about what sex is and ‘who am I?’ Am I a lesbian? Am I queer? How many different colors am I going to die my hair, or my pubic hair? The displaying of who you are is about acknowledgement to a certain extent. It’s like being a football player and getting cheers from the crowd. Whether it’s being acknowledged or forming your own identity, college is the time to explore your sexuality,” said Ogden. “Maybe you don’t know whether you like men or women, or whether or not you want to sleep around. You’re trying out different things.”
On the other hand D’Emilio sees society as threatening even sexual freedom, and restricting choices in this area as well.
“Society is not doing a good job informing people on their sexual decisions. We live in a very politically polarized world and people don’t have a lot of freedom because of that,” D’Emilio said. “They see the two sides as very extreme and what if you want something in the middle?”
The Sexual Attitude of Today
Walking home from a bar late one Saturday night, Joseph Beare did not expect to witness what he did. Lying on a grassy divide was a young man about his age being straddled by a girl with a hiked up skirt. He had to look twice to make sure they were doing what he thought they were doing.
“She was whooping and making cowboy noises and obviously was very drunk. It was pretty funny. Everyone walking by just pointed and laughed at them,” said Beare, a third-year journalism major at Northeastern.
Laughter might be a strange reaction, one might think, at first. Surely not everyone was pleased about having to watch strangers having intercourse. And besides that, it’s illegal.
Massachusetts law states that any “open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior” be accounted as a criminal charge and warrant no more than three years in a state prison and no more than a $300 fine. Northeastern’s disciplinary code prescribes probation and possibly suspension, expulsion, cancellation of Residence Hall and dining license agreement, and up to $200 in fines, depending on the severity and repetition of the incident.
But they’re not getting caught.
James E. Ferrier, associate director of public safety at Northeastern, said that there have not been any incidents of students being caught for having sex in public in the past year. Valerie Randall-Lee, director of the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution at Northeastern wrote in an e-mail that there have been no incidents of sex in public last year, and only one the year before. Likewise Maria Carpenter, the library advancement and communications officer, reported that there have been no documented incidents in the six years she’s worked there.
Yet the trend is popular enough to put together a list of the most well liked places to have sex on campus, with the library being the most popular.
“The students who are doing this must just be very good at hiding at. I’ve never heard anything about it,” said Carpenter.
One might wonder where the disconnect is until they considered Beare’s experience. The natural thing to do in today’s society may just be to laugh and walk away.
Matthew McAndrews, a former resident assistant at a freshman dorm at Northeastern, recalls more than one instance where he came in contact with students having sex someplace besides their rooms.
“I’ve definitely walked into the bathroom multiple times and heard people having sex in the shower. I just kind of turned around and walked out. We weren’t required to report that if we saw or heard it,” said McAndrews. “It was mostly just ignored.”
D’Emilio sees these reactions as a result of the way this generation was raised. Unlike their parents, many young people today are barely fazed by any explicit sexual act.
“We’re living in a time where sex is very public,” said D’Emilio. “The daily newspapers, the internet, cable television, what we can watch on DVD, the images of sexuality are very public. They saturate our culture in everyday life. (For) older adults that came of age before that was true, the idea of sex in public seems like ‘Oh what’s going on here?’ But if you’ve grown up in this it’s kind of like, ‘What’s the big deal?’”
With this type of numbness toward an act that has been traditionally thought of as inappropriate and offensive, one wonders how far the next generation will go.
“We still live in a world where there is a sense of good and bad among sexuality,” said D’Emilio. “People are going to continue to push that.”
Have you done the deed in public? Tell us about it in the comments section, let us know how old you are, and if you’re a student, say where you go!
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