Why Hooking Up in Public Is Exciting—According to Women Who Have Done It

Do you ever think about having sex on the beach during your summer vacation? Sure. Getting more than just handsy with your significant other on the dark corner of a dance floor? Absolutely. What about pulling off the highway and finding a discreet place to park, because you and your partner are just feeling it mid-road trip? You get the picture.

Hooking up in public may not have society’s stamp of approval. But taking part in any act that feels forbidden has a serious way of spicing up your sex life. Taboos charge up many of us because fear and passion are two sides of a very thin coin, says New York–based sex therapist Sari Cooper, founder and director of the Center For Love And Sex. Kissing, touching, even full-on intercourse in public all press the performer button many of us have. The idea that someone else might be watching from a distance can be super arousing, adds Cooper.

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The thrill is about more than the risk of getting caught. Connecting with your partner in a new way and handing over control can not only be relaxing, it can also help you feel closer and experience deeper, more pleasurable orgasms. To find out more about why public sex is such a popular fantasy, we asked 8 women (who requested that we not name names) to share why exactly it’s such a turn on for them.

Spontaneity is sexy

“I had had my eye on a friend of a friend, but he had a girlfriend for the first couple of years that I knew him. One summer, I noticed that he attended more and more social gatherings without the girlfriend, and at a party at the end of the season, he finally made a move on me. We ended up hooking up on a quiet, dark street against the gate to someone’s front steps. I was so excited that this guy, who I was attracted to for years, shared the same attraction—and we couldn’t even wait to get to one of our apartments to reveal how hot we were for each other.” 

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Having this secret bonds you together

“During my senior year of college, me and the guy I was seeing hooked up on top of a stage in a theater classroom on campus. It was thrilling because 200 or so students right outside the room were participating in a sporting event. We didn’t get caught, and we joined the group tailgate outside right after. Having this little secret between us was a huge turn on.” 

Anonymity is exciting

“I live in New York, and a guy introduced himself to me on the subway while I was heading to check out what would be my first Brooklyn apartment. I was in my early 20s and he was in his 30s. We ended up going out on a few dates to trendy lounges and restaurants around the city—pretty thrilling when you’re young and living off ramen and cheap tacos. We’d go to places I could never afford on my own, drink fancy cocktails, and make out. I loved the anonymity of it. No one knew who I was and I didn’t know anyone—and no one cared.” 

Putting on a show is arousing 

“It was my first vacation with my now-husband, maybe six months into dating. We had sex in the pool at our hotel in Bermuda, and in the moment we saw people looking on from their balconies. That just made it more erotic, especially since the odds that we knew any of these people were pretty low.” 

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You aren’t in control

“I’ve hooked up in cars and parks, mostly because we were really feeling it at the time. The excitement is about being in the moment, submitting to the loss of control of what’s going to happen, or who might be watching.”

It’s liberating to break the rules

“My boyfriend visited me in Paris for a weekend. While exploring the city one day, we both suddenly had the urge to get it on. The downside was that we were too far from my apartment, but the good news was that we were conveniently in front of an old, dilapidated church…with an unlocked door. We snuck inside, climbed the stairs to the top floor, and hooked up next to some beautiful stained-glass windows. Although I was no longer a spiritual person, I had grown up going to church every Sunday. So having sex inside a holy building felt a little wrong, but at the same time, completely freeing.”

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It makes same-old sex feel fresh and new

“My ex and I had an on-off relationship, but we always remained very close. At one point, we were both single and decided to take a trip together to Asia. On our flight from London to Nepal, we had a layover in New Delhi. There was a lot of sexual tension on the first leg of our trip, since we hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years, and the attraction was obviously still there. As we settled into some lounge chairs in the airport before our second flight, some deep eye gazing led to discreet kissing which ultimately forced us to relocate and hook up in a handicap bathroom in the airport. Not only was it thrilling to try and keep our PDA on the down low, but it made the comfortable sex we’d always had feel hotter and unfamiliar.”

You’ll always have a good story

“I was in a long-distance relationship and only got to see my boyfriend about once a month. On one of those visits, he took me to his friend’s wedding at a fancy hotel. We hadn’t seen each other in weeks and wanted to hook up, so we searched for open rooms near where the reception was being held. We finally found an elevator operating room and started going at it. Two minutes later, the wedding planner was banging on the door to make sure we weren’t doing any ‘hanky panky,’ as they put it! Although I wanted to pounce my boyfriend as soon as I saw him, most of the motivation behind hooking up at the wedding venue was for the story.”

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