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Thrill sex

Fueled by the risk of getting caught, students are having sex in public areas on campus every day.

 by Amanda L. Myers  published on Thursday, February 10, 2005

<em>ON THE COVER</em>/issues/arts/691892
cover
ON THE COVER
 
<em>Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE</em><br>
Public relations junior Margaret Piltz says she has had sex in cars about 40 times with one man. The practice of having sex in places where there is the risk of getting caught is known as thrill sex./issues/arts/691892
Amanda L. Myers
Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Public relations junior Margaret Piltz says she has had sex in cars about 40 times with one man. The practice of having sex in places where there is the risk of getting caught is known as thrill sex.
 
<em>Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE</em><br>
Stewart Adams, a crime prevention specialist at ASUís Department of Public Safety, says in his 20 years as a patrolman on campus, he caught hundreds of couples having sex in public places, including cars and the 50-yard line of Sun Devil Stadium. /issues/arts/691892
Amanda L. Myers
Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Stewart Adams, a crime prevention specialist at ASUís Department of Public Safety, says in his 20 years as a patrolman on campus, he caught hundreds of couples having sex in public places, including cars and the 50-yard line of Sun Devil Stadium.
 
<em>Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE</em><br>
Psychology professor Lee Spencer says thrill sex can be harmful to its practitioners and the public. /issues/arts/691892
Amanda L. Myers
Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Psychology professor Lee Spencer says thrill sex can be harmful to its practitioners and the public.
 
<em>Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE</em><br>
Chelsey Spicer, a secondary education in biology sophomore, says she has had thrill sex in classrooms, a park, a convenience store freezer, a bathroom in Subway and a catwalk in her high school theater./issues/arts/691892
Amanda L. Myers
Amanda Lee Myers / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Chelsey Spicer, a secondary education in biology sophomore, says she has had thrill sex in classrooms, a park, a convenience store freezer, a bathroom in Subway and a catwalk in her high school theater.
 

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It's a quiet night in a Chicago diner.

A cook and a waitress don't have much work, so they head to the storeroom, which is brimming with boxes packed with ketchup, coffee beans and maple syrup.

The cook looks around before he puts his hand in the waitress' white, button-up blouse. After a few seconds, he gets a bit nervous.

He walks out of the storeroom to double-check that no one is coming. He returns, and with a grin, begins to undo her blouse. She is unbuttoning his shirt, too.

The cook is still wearing his foot-and-a-half-high chef's hat. When his shirt comes off, he looks ridiculous. But he doesn't know he's on camera, so looks hardly matter.

As the waitress undoes his belt and unzips his pants, he props her on a few flimsy boxes. The couple takes one last look around.

All is clear, so they have sex.

If there hadn't been a video camera in the storeroom, no one would ever have known.

But there was a camera, and what it revealed is a type of sex officials say has become a daily occurrence not only throughout the United States, but also in Tempe and at ASU.

It is known as thrill sex.

Touchdown

Thrill sex can be defined as sex performed in places where its participants run the risk of getting caught, and is not to be confused with public sex or voyeurism.

Those who enjoy thrill sex enjoy it purely for the risk.

Locations vary in creativity and difficulty. They include public buses, restrooms, cars, offices, airplanes, parking lots, sport stadiums, hiking trails, dorm showers, classrooms and parks -- basically, anywhere not inside private homes and not exactly in the public spotlight.

At ASU, a campus teeming with tens of thousands of young, beautiful people and just as many dark corners, officials say thrill sex is a part of everyday activity.

Stewart Adams says he caught hundreds of couples in the act when he was a patrolman for ASU's Department of Public Safety for 20 years.

Adams, who is now a crime prevention specialist for ASU DPS, describes interrupting a couple in the middle of having sex as embarrassing for him and the participants.

"Usually, they didn't have any clothes on, and the first thing they wanted to do was grab their clothes," Adams says.

But, he says he never knew what might be in the clothes and had to check them before the students could dress themselves.

"I never knew how startled a person would act," he says. "The first thing I did was try to get between them and the clothes and try to settle things down."

While Stewart says that often angered or embarrassed the students, he had to make sure there weren't weapons within their reach.

"They were all, 'Come on, you're looking at me naked,' but that's the risk they took when they decided to have sex in a public area," he says.

During his two decades patrolling campus, Stewart says students had sex in the most elaborate places including the 50-yard line of Sun Devil Stadium, the pitcher's mound at Packard Stadium, the rubber mats below the high-jump in Sun Angel Stadium, and on the lawn between the Farmer and Payne education buildings.

"They'd go in the stadium when no one was there and do it on 50-yard line," he says. "I guess it's something they could brag about during a game."

But, he says, the consistent hot spot for thrill sex on campus is the dark, sunken area in the parking lot of Gammage Auditorium.

"Over the years, that has been a pretty common Lover's Lane type thing. They pull over there and fog up the windows," he says.

University spokesman Manny Ramero says thrill sex isn't something on the administration's radar screen.

"If these people choose to do it in those areas, obviously it's their choice," he says. "ASU DPS would be the ones to say, 'You're not allowed to be doing this.' "

While Romero was not aware of the popularity of thrill sex on campus, he says it's not all that surprising.

"We have very big population on campus and it's a public university, a public campus," he says. "I wouldn't' assume it goes on, but I'm not necessarily very surprised."

Taking risks

Chelsey Spicer, a secondary education in biology sophomore, says she has had thrill sex in classrooms, a park, a convenience store freezer and a bathroom in Subway.

"The idea of getting caught is fascinating," says the short brunette. "It makes your heart pump faster and you're emotions are higher."

She says the most thrilling place she had thrill sex was on a catwalk in the theater of her high school.

While she says she has never been seen engaging in thrill sex, Spicer says she came close when she was having sex in the bathroom of a convenience store and someone needed to get in.

When she and her boyfriend walked out a while later, the person was still there and knew what they had been doing.

"It was embarrassing, but it's part of the game," she says. "If you get caught, whatever."

Spicer says she has never planned to have sex in risky areas; it just happens.

"It's a spontaneous thing. That's the key to everything," she says. "It's more exciting. You know you're both feeling it."

She says she realizes some people don't understand why anyone would want to risk getting caught.

"You just know they've never tried it," she says. "You either like it or you don't. It either gets you pumped up or it doesn't. For some people, it takes something extra. For me, (thrill sex) is the something extra."

Spicer says without that something extra, sex just isn't as fun.

"Bedroom sex is boring; it's not as exciting," she says. "Once you get the taste for it, (thrill sex) just feels better."

She adds that thrill sex can be a part of a normal couple's sex life and isn't wrong.

"For people who say it's wrong, they've never tried it. They've never felt the exhilaration of it," she says. "Your beliefs are your beliefs, but I'm still going to do whatever the hell I'm going to do.

"If you don't get caught, its not wrong," she says.

Margaret Piltz, a public relations junior, says she has had sex in a car 40 times with one person, but never found the fact that she could have been caught exciting.

The 20-year-old says she and her partner would meet in parking lots and get in the back seat. The best places are quiet, dark and have relatively few people, she says.

"It was uncomfortable, but it's not bad as long as you've got a roomy back seat," she says.

Piltz, who is wearing silver hoop earrings, sparkly green eye shadow and a spunky ponytail, says she chose to have sex so often in the car because her relationship with her partner was purely sexual and she didn't want roommates to ask any questions.

She says having sex in a car was no better than having sex in the bedroom, and the risk of getting caught was always on her mind.

"I worry just because I think I have my reputation on the line and I don't like cops very much. There were times when I wished we were in a bed or a hotel," she says.

Caught

Sgt. Dan Masters, a spokesman for the Tempe Police Department, worked for the department for eight years as a patrolman.

Masters says most of the couples caught in Tempe are found in cars or on rooftops.

Possibly the most extreme thrill sex instance in Tempe happened in June 2003. A 22-year-old Tucson woman and a 27-year-old Scottsdale man were caught having sex on the lawn in front of Tempe City Hall -- the building that looks like an upside-down pyramid on Fifth Street near Mill Avenue near the police department. According to the police report, a crowd of seven people gathered to watch.

While police arrested the couple on charges of public sexual indecency, most people caught having thrill sex are not punished for it, says Cmdr. John Sutton, who commanded the ASU Police Department for six years.

"Usually if you happen upon it, no one else has seen it. It's hard for a cop to be a victim," says Sutton, who is now commander of the ASU East campus police squad.

Sutton says for a thrill sex incident to lead to an arrest, it would have to violate what Arizona defines as indecent exposure.

The law states: "A person commits indecent exposure if he or she exposes his or her genitals or anus or she exposes the areola or nipple of her breast or breasts and another person is present, and the defendant is reckless about whether such other person, as a reasonable person, would be offended or alarmed by the act."

Basically, if someone witnesses indecent exposure, which could include thrill sex, and is offended by it and wants to press charges, the offense could turn into an arrest.

If a minor under the age of 15 witnesses it, the offense becomes a felony.

"The bottom line is that you're not allowed to have sex in a public place; that's kind of the rule of thumb," Sutton says. "So if somebody sees you having sex in a car, you may think you're in a private place, but you're not. That could be an arrestable offense."

But it's the threat of arrest and getting caught that fuels thrill sex.

Fear factor

In a recent psychological experiment, a young, attractive woman stood in the middle of a shaky suspension bridge overlooking a deep ravine. She was testing whether men would find her more attractive under fearful circumstances than under normal circumstances.

Under the guise of a survey, the woman asked the men various questions and gave them her phone number.

She surveyed another group of young men under normal circumstances and gave them her number, as well.

In the end, more men who were on the precarious bridge called her.

The experiment -- the results of which were published online by Life Tips Centre, a Web site devoted to explaining relationships -- concluded that the men who were on the bridge were already in an arousal state when they met the woman, and in her presence, the arousal became sexualized.

Lee Spencer, an ASU psychology professor specializing in human sexuality, says fear and sexual arousal are closely related and oftentimes, people mislabel what they are feeling.

Spencer says in both fear and sexual arousal stages, people experience similar physiological reactions, including an increased heartbeat, faster pulse and raised blood pressure.

While motivations for sexual practices are highly individualized, Spencer says the thought of getting caught is a turn-on for some people.

But, she says, if thrill sex becomes a staple in an individual's sex life, it could lead to problems including a dependency on having sex in public areas.

"By definition, really getting off on doing something that is risky and dangerous really does put you in a category of things you may not want to find yourself attracted to," she says. "The truth is, everybody needs to be very careful about what makes their arousal patterns. Once they establish arousal patterns, it can be hard to stop."

She says a component of thrill sex is exhibitionism, which is not a victimless crime.

"I don't think people should have to worry about stumbling across people having sex," she says. "If you want to have sex in public, go to a sex club."

Kathleen Todd, a certified social worker and sex therapist in Tempe, counsels couples on how to deal with sexual problems, build intimacy and enhance their sex lives.

She says thrill sex could become a destructive practice.

"Risk taking falls under the umbrella of addictive behavior," Todd says. "The thrill of getting caught, that's not for sexual enjoyment. It's the purpose of risk"

The same reason alcoholics drink is the same reason some people have thrill sex, she says.

"The reason they started drinking in first place is to meet another need, whether it's an escape or to anaesthetize against something," she says. "Thrill seeking behavior is a way to anaesthetize."

Todd says she advises couples on how to enhance their sex lives, but that would never include true thrill sex.

"I would not recommend it," she says. "The thrill part of sex behavior that spices up a sex life might be having sex when your parents in another room and you're a married couple. That's pushing the limit a little bit. That's more spicing up the sex life."

Mainstream

While the term "thrill sex" is relatively new, the practice is not.

While members of the public may not realize it, they have been aware of thrill sex even before the term was coined on a recent episode of "Berman and Berman," a television program on the Discover Health Channel that offers "straight talk about men's and women's sexuality."

Celebrities such as pop singer George Michael was caught on the verge of engaging in thrill sex.

In 1998, an undercover Beverly Hills police officer arrested Michael -- whose songs include, "I Want Your Sex" and "Faith -- for engaging in a lewd act in a park restroom. Michael pleaded no contest and was sentenced to pay an $810 fine and serve 80 hours of community service.

Michael later said it was an incident of entrapment and that the undercover police officer was playing "I'll show you mine if you show me yours." He said he was considering have sexual relations with the officer before he was arrested.

On a smaller scale, thrill sex is also on the public's radar screen in the form of movies and books.

One book, 1982's How to Have Sex in Public Without Getting Caught, is simply a collection of illustrations of couple's having sex in public. The book is meant to be a joke since the couples are in places where they obviously would be seen.

Other products actually show couples having thrill sex.

"Lovers Caught on Tape, Vol. I," shows dozens of couples unknowingly caught on camera. The scenes, one of which is described in the beginning of this article, include couples having sex in ballparks, restaurants, offices and parking lots.

On amazon.com, consumers gave the video an average rating of four and a half out of five stars.

The movie's reviewers describe the video as more thrilling than regular pornography.

"There's something special about watching real people, instead of actors who are obviously pretending to enjoy themselves," one person writes.

Another writes, "It's nice to see porn presented differently from time to time. I think this is a fun change to the usual stuff."

Taboo

While the existence of thrill sex may not be news to some people, others are stunned to learn it exists on such a large scale.

That may be because talking about sex performed in public areas is considered socially taboo.

"Everyone is kind of in denial," says Sutton from ASU DPS. "A lot of people wouldn't want to admit that stuff goes on. They would say, 'I'd never do anything like that.' "

Adams, the former DPS patrolman, agrees.

"To a lot of people still, sex or being intimate is just that, and is something that's just not talked about. They think it's something done between two people, and they don't even talk about it between themselves."

Piltz, the student who has had sex in cars dozens of times, says she doesn't care if the subject is taboo.

"I'm a very sexual person, and I'm very open about everything, so why not?" she says. "To keep it under lock and key is ridiculous, whether you have a boyfriend or you sleep around.

"Sex is a part of a lifestyle. I don't think it's crazy. Some people are so set in how sex should be -- that not everyone should know about it and that they shouldn't do it in public. But I think it's fine."

She adds, "Others are more closed down, whereas I'll tell you everything.

Reach the reporter at amanda.l.myers@asu.edu.



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