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It's a beautiful day out and you decide to head on out to a local park. You may have a friend along with you and your music blaring loudly. You park your car and take your skateboard out along with your portable stereo and go about having a good time. You are completely oblivious to the fact that over to the left, yeah right over there, about 70 feet or so, in the bushes, two people are having sex. You and your friend are "non-players" in a public sex environment and have absolutely no idea what is going on around you.

A public sex environment (PSE) is any public place where people can actively cruise for sex. Most PSEs require some degree of privacy and a means for an easy escape. PSEs are generally places where individuals can remain present for extended periods of time without seeming overly conspicuous to non-players (a person at a PSE not there for sex). In many cases, a "player" (a participant in the public sex environment) may simply appear to be listening to their radio or going for a walk in the park.

A PSE is generally divided into three areas. The "Waiting Area" is generally a parking lot where a player will park their car. It is also a safe place where players can retreat to if they feel threatened or if there is no one at the PSE that they are interested in hooking up with. The "Cruising Area" is the area surrounding the "Play Area." It is generally on the edge of bushes, a group of picnic tables and rocks/dunes on the edge of a beach, etc. The "Play Area" is a generally a more secluded spot where people can engage in sexual activity without frequent disturbances and out of visual range of non-players.

In the waiting area there may be brief periods of communication by players parked in cars attempting to make eye contact with other players. Eye-contact usually signifies the beginning of the PSE ritual. In some cases if a player is interested in someone they may drive/walk by another player several times to make sure that they are not a non-player.

In the cruising area there is a large amount of posturing on the part of the players. This is where the largest amount of communication takes place before sexual activity. A large amount of communication between players is non-verbal and therefore body language and its interpretation is very important. The slightest change in body posturing can signify that someone wants to hook up or that they want to be left alone by that specific player.

The ritual of what goes on in the waiting area, the cruising area and the play area also seems consistent from one PSE to the next. The types of players may change, but everything else is more or less the same. Once interest on the part of both players has been established, a verbal negotiation may take place where the rules will be set in regards to any sexual activity at the location.

In the play area, players engage in sexual activity. The need for communication here may be related to such things as condom usage if not previously discussed in the cruising area. A player engaging in sex with another player may also communicate non-verbally to other players who may be watching the action and wish to join in. In some cases, they are welcome, but in most situations, there is a preference for one-on-one sexual activity.

Most players do not feel comfortable with discussing their sex lives with others at the PSE site unless it is during the negotiation process before sexual activity. The PSE is a place for people to "get off and have sex and not have to deal with all of the bull and lies that goes on in the dating world." Many of the players we spoke with were engaging in activities that were clearly both illegal and putting themselves at risk for sexually transmitted diseases and/or pregnancy. There is also a large amount of denial by many PSE players in regards to personal risk and an overwhelming abundance of low self esteem and self-worth. There also seemed to be a larger percentage of heterosexual PSE activity that involved the exchange of money whereas in homosexual PSE activity, money was hardly ever exchanged. The negation of money is always communicated quite clearly to PSE participants before any sexual activity will take place by prostitutes. Prostitution is generally frowned upon by most PSE players because the PSE site "should not be a place where you should have to pay for it. It should be a place where people just go to get off. Prostitutes should find someplace else to chill."

As stated above, there was a general sense of low self-worth exhibited by many of the PSE players during the interviews that took place. Many of the people we spoke with told us stories of negative relationships where they were cheated on by someone they loved or experienced repeated failures in relationships.

There is a degree of fear on the part of most players we spoke with since they are engaging in illegal activities. Many times a player may have a feeling that something is just not right and therefore decide to not participate in sexual activity at a specific time or even leave the PSE. This may be because the player believes there is an undercover police officer present or too many players/non-players in a given PSE.

The majority of the players we spoke with had many reservations about the presence of non-players at a PSE. The presence of non-players is viewed as a further complication to an already somewhat stressful situation. "It is a real bitch that we have the police cracking down on our activity out here. The cops think they can shut us down. Oh yeah, they drive through and scare some of us away but for every person they scare away, like 50 more get off. They need to focus their activities some other place, like maybe where there are murders being committed. Instead, they bust adults who are consenting to do this with one another." Most PSE players felt that they were harassed by the police because they were easy targets, when compared to typical armed criminals. "Oh yeah, it is a hell of a lot easier to bust a guy holding his dick in his hand versus some gang member holding a gun in his hand. We help the police make their quotas because we are easy arrests."

PSE activity is nothing new, and continues to attract individuals for many reasons. Not all of the players at a PSE are there because of low self esteem. Some just simply want to "get off." The PSE serves the needs of a segment of our society and gives them an outlet for sexual expression. On the other hand, a large number of players indicated that they were in long-term relationships and just came out to the PSE for sex. At a specific PSE we found that 97% of all participants interviewed failed to use condoms when engaging in oral sex. At another site, over 50% of the participants engaged in sexual intercourse without any protection. The greater the frequency of sexual contacts, the greater the chance of transmission of a sexually transmitted disease (STD). And since many STDs show no signs or symptoms for long periods of time, there is the possibility that individuals are bringing these infections back to their partners at home. It's nearly 1998, and it's about time that people take responsibility for their actions ... condoms save lives when used and used properly. If you want to get off, that's one thing. But remember, that failure to use protection for anal, vaginal and even oral sex can give you diseases that you can have for the rest of your life and others that can kill you.

Comments from PSE players:
"I find it so much easier to come out here and get off and not have to worry about if my partner is being faithful to me."

"Sure there are risks out here but there are risks in any relationship. Out least out here I know what I am getting into. In a relationship there are all the lies and deceit."

"I Just don’t know how to act in a bar.... I'm really kinda’ shy."

"Out here I can just have sex and that's it. I miss the hugging and kissing, but I don't trust anyone."

"I'm in a steady relationship, but I come out here cause I really like to get my off as often as I can and I don't have to worry about a commitment."

"Look we are all into sex, who isn't? Here you can get your rocks off how often you want, with as many different people you want and then go home and not have to deal with all the garbage involved in a relationship."

"I come here, 'cum' here and leave here. No hassles, no crap, and no commitment."

Back to December/January '97-'98 Issue