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Sex in Public

What are the Laws and Ethics Regarding Sex in Public?


Sex in public is a relatively common sexual fantasy but it’s hard to know for sure how many people have ever had sex in public, and how many people regularly have sex in public. One reason for this is that we as a society, both through our laws and our public conversations, treat sex in public differently depending on who is having the sex. So, to give an obvious example: a young heterosexual white couple having sex in a car is treated as a very different matter than two older Latino men making out on a park bench. When you try to research sex in public you mostly read about the kinds of sex those in power don’t want us having, which makes it hard to get a “big picture”.

Why People Have Sex in Public?

It sounds like a fun list to make, reasons to have sex in public. And it's true that some people have sex in public for thrilling and pleasurable reasons. But there are actually lots of reasons people have sex in public, and before you take the risk yourself or judge someone else for doing so, it’s worth thinking about what those reasons are.

Laws Regulating Sex in Public

Many countries have laws that prohibit sex in public. In legislation sex in public is often referred to as “public lewdness” or “indecent exposure”. Thanks to the Internet it's relatively easy to find sex laws that are still on the books. If you're eager to know the specifics of what you can and can't do in public, here are some places to start your search.

What’s the Difference Between Sex in Public and Public Displays of Affection?

Legal definitions aside, what do we mean when we talk about public sex? As a sex educator this is an interesting conundrum. I like to suggest that almost any activity could be sex if the people involved feel like it’s sex. Does this mean that kissing in public should be considered sex in public? Not necessarily since as soon as you bring your sex life into the public domain you do forfeit the right to be the only one judging what is and isn't sex. So without some sort of public sex vs. PDA algorithm how do you figure out where the line should be drawn?

Is It Ethical to Have Sex in Public?

My short answer is no, sex in public isn't ethical. Of course making an ethical judgment is a way of digging deeper into a topic, not a method of determining some universal answer. Which means we each need to make our own judgment.
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