Sex while driving
“Of all sexual aberrations, perhaps the most curious is chastity.”
- Remy de Gourmont (1858-1915), The Natural Philosophy of Love, 1922
“And then … we’re going to get in my car.”
I waited for him to elaborate on a destination. “And?”
He gently kissed the nape of my neck. “What do you think?”
I couldn’t help a small gasp of delight. “Oh, wow.”
-Richelle Mead (1976- ), The Fiery Heart, 2013
Many people drive a car, sometimes to and from, or even for, the work they do; sometimes to go shopping, visit friends or relatives, hit the movies or just venture out for a drive. Everywhere in the world there are mandated rules of the road. Vehicles must be road-worthy, drivers need a license and insurance, and there are all sorts of safety mechanisms in place. People are obliged to keep to the correct side of the road, operate within speed limits, and signal to change lanes. Following the rules is crucial.
Everyone breaches these rules occasionally. We might run a red light, or change lanes when not permitted or without indicating, or momentarily go above the speed limit. No-one’s perfect, after all.
It’s easy to get distracted—so specific rules or well-known customs have emerged. People can’t have a TV screen on their dashboard, they shouldn’t put on make-up or eat while they’re in charge of a vehicle. And everyone now knows that texting while driving can kill.
But when we list the things that distract drivers most, we’re not as likely to bring up sex. A 2014 article reported on mind-bending research at the University of South Dakota, which examined the sexual activity of young drivers. And we’re not just talking about traditional “parking.”
The study, conducted online, enrolled 195 male and 511 female students. Amazingly, 32.8% of male and 9.3% of female respondents admitted to engaging in sex while driving. (I do wonder with three times the reported male acts, if it’s a necessary part of the masculine ego to overstate sexual prowess, by the way.)
The types of acts reported included self-masturbation and touching the other person’s genitals, all the way up to oral and vaginal sex. While men and women were as likely to masturbate (seven reported acts each), women were involved in more genital touching of someone else (38 acts compared to men’s 29). Men said they participated in more oral sex (52 acts compared to women’s 26) and more vaginal intercourse (eight acts compared to women’s four). No-one reported any acts of anal sex, which, thinking logistically, seems reasonable.
On average these were “quickies”—lasting less than 10 minutes. When it wasn’t just about self-pleasuring, and a partner was involved, it was almost always heterosexual. Out of 103 instances, only one case of gay sex was reported, and this involved a lesbian couple.
If you suspect that these hot events actually took place traveling at a snail’s-pace on a deserted country road, you’ll have to think again. The acts took place on four-lane interstate highways, urban streets and every kind of road in-between. And half of the reporting students were driving at an average of 61-80 miles per hour. I’ve heard of fast moves, but that’s ridiculous.
Participants knew all about the possible consequences. About a third of our thrill-seeking subjects reported drifting into another lane (36%), another third went faster than the speed limit (37.8%) and some let go of the steering wheel (10.8%).
Surprisingly, no-one reported running a red light while engaged in a sexual episode. Even more surprising is the fact that no-one actually crashed, although 1.8% owned up to some near misses. In a delicious irony, a high proportion of those interviewed—81% of women and 71% of males who had had sex on the move—thought sex while driving should be illegal.
The authors of the study soberly concluded that sex while driving was an “under-reported in-vehicle distraction” and they sought to “encourage more research and prevention efforts.” It’s not clear what sort of research they’re suggesting. Observational studies? Now there’s a career move for a voyeur: back-seat sex ethnographer.
Perhaps there’s not much else to do out there in Midwest USA? Well, a little digging shows that these behaviors are not at all unique: this kind of adventure appears to be ubiquitous, and it crosses national borders.
In 2009, a 28 year-old man and his 22 year old girlfriend from Oslo, Norway, were caught having intercourse while travelling over 133 kilometers an hour in a 100 zone (82 miles in a 70 zone). The couple were picked up by police because their sporty Mazda sedan was veering all over the road. According to local police superintendent Torstein Hagen, the vehicle was moving erratically because the woman was sitting on the man’s lap, “doing the act” while he drove. “The man couldn’t see much because her back was in the way,” the officer added helpfully, perplexed as to why they did it on such a busy highway (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/norway/5149472/Norwegian-man-caught-having-sex-with-girlfriend-while-driving-at-100mph.html).
A video that went viral a while back showed a Chicago couple having sex while driving along the expressway. As you watch, they are seemingly unfazed by the attention from the cars around them, or the filming: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wpE4ICz3to).
There’s even a rather crude, eyebrow-raising website, complete with illustrations, with a page dedicated to possible positions to adopt while driving. Tongue-in-cheek? Maybe. Or maybe not. (http://www.car-sex-positions.com/while-driving.html).
We may not hear of every sex-while-driving incident but in 2014 surprisingly tolerant police officers in Surrey, in the United Kingdom, thought it best to spell it out, tweeting, “When driving, please don’t attempt any ‘sexual interaction’. It might be fun, but you’ll both be red faced when we stop you for poor driving.” (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/10759540/Dont-try-sexual-interaction-when-driving-police-warn.html). It’s not clear what prompted the tweet, but in the light of what we’ve found out so far, it does seem like sensible, proactive policing.
Other surveys have been conducted, strengthening the case that mid-coitus motoring is more popular than most people think. A US poll from Scout GPS in the US found that 11% of 1,832 US adults had participated in sex while driving. But that poll also revealed some interesting data about other distractors: 58% had talked or texted on their mobiles and another 13% had eaten not just a quick candy bar or bite of a sandwich, but with cutlery, while in charge of a vehicle.
(The survey also found that seven times as many men than women would be willing to get held up in traffic to have sex, but 2.5 times as many women as men would give up sex for a traffic-free week. And then there’s everyday road rage: 63% of respondents had yelled at other drivers (http://www.scout.me/survey).
In 2010, Wired magazine reported an international poll conducted by the phone head-set company Jabra: 1,800 respondents participated, drawn from the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and Japan. Of the respondents, 15% had been involved in sexual activity and 29% admitted to the comparatively innocuous act of having kissed while driving. Sex isn’t the only thing preoccupying drivers, though. Like its counterpart survey from Scout GPS, it revealed other fascinating distractions: 10% had read a newspaper while driving, 12% had read emails and 5% had played a video game (http://www.wired.com/2010/06/driving-distraction-survey/).
What’s legal or illegal? While there aren’t many states with direct legislation prohibiting sex while driving, it does break a number of other, less specific laws in most places. These include reckless driving laws, indecent exposure and public lewdness. In the US, the city of Detroit and the State of Washington are the only places to have a specific reckless driving offence for having sex while driving. In the light of what’s been discussed here, lawmakers elsewhere might need to rethink that one.
It may cause a few red cheeks, but there’s no denying it, having sex while driving is a surprisingly common distraction. Nevertheless, even though it means some of us are living a more amazing life than the rest of us, with their in-vehicle pleasuring, risking everything for a brief hormonal rush may not be worth the high price if it all goes wrong.
Gourmont, Remy de (1922). The Natural Philosophy of Love. New York: Boni and Liveright.
Mead, Richelle (2013). The Fiery Heart. New York: Razorbill.
Struckman-Johnson, Cindy, Gastera, Samuel, Struckman-Johnson, Dave (2014). A preliminary study of sexual activity as a distraction for young drivers. Accident Analysis & Prevention 71; 120-128.