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Sex in public: right or wrong?

Milan Perera discusses the questions of morality around having sex in public.

By Milan Perera, Second Year English Literature

Disclaimer: Dear reader, please do note that the content of this article is in no way reflective of the actions, past or future, of the author.

A few months ago, while I was in a queue at a local supermarket, I happened to gaze at a loved-up couple in front of me, carrying some pringles and wine in their shopping basket. The young man was cupping her buttocks and gently stroking them with zero consideration for his surroundings. Taking the high moral ground, I tut-tutted to myself, ‘Ah, for goodness’ sake, get a room!’ Oblivious to my indignation the lovers and I went our own separate ways. Those perfectly nice people weren’t bothering me or being rude to me. Why did I get all pious and sanctimonious? Am I being a prude or worse, a hypocrite? This got me thinking.

Public Displays of Affection (PDA) could be deemed as the prelude to sex. English ethics and morality program us to conduct ourselves in a ‘dignified manner’, avoiding the slightest reference to sex. English humourist George Mikes referred to in his much-quoted observation, ‘Continental people have sex lives: the English have hot water bottles!’ There are still reservations regarding the expression of sexual desire in public. But is it inherently wrong?

Before we go any further, we should determine the legal side of public sex. Being caught could hand you a hefty fine or in some cases, a two-year prison sentence. Definitely no laughing matter. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 defines when a sexual act in public space could be defined as a public order offence. The key piece of legal jargons is ‘intention’. As much as individuals have the right to express sexual desire, third parties have the right to be unaffected by those actions.

Having fulfilled those prerequisites, two or more consenting adults engaging in sexual activities in a secluded areas or out of bounds spaces should not be considered inherently wrong.

In many relationships, once spontaneous and passionate love making is reduced to regimented “once every fortnight” sex where the participants hardly connect with one another. There are a million reasons, ranging from work, academic studies or children. To inject some zest and a new lease of life to a deteriorating relationship, spontaneous sex might be an antidote. The whiff of danger associated with sex in public adds another layer of intimacy and trust to the relationship; ‘it’s our secret’.

It is a hugely positive, psychologically-enriching and not at all sinister process that everyone can benefit from. Some of the moments of sexuality that can seem so opposed to civilised life – occasional ruthlessness, crudeness or uninhibited energy – are wholly compatible with dignity, kindness and love.

According to philosopher Alain de Botton, the ‘dirty’ parts of ourselves can show up disguised as greed, harsh opinions, bad temper, the longing to boss other people about, alcoholism and other forms of damaging behaviour. There is a high price to disavowing powerful parts of ourselves. We may lose potency and desire with those we love if our sexuality feels at odds with our higher feelings.

We get disgusted by ourselves when we feel that our erotic longings move directly against the promptings of our better nature. We generally want to be dignified and rational. But our erotic selves appear at crucial moments to have a radically divergent agenda.

Really lust and erotic excitement are for the most part just equally intense longings for communion that happen to be expressed via the body. The other person’s willingness to do the most intimate bodily things with us is the ultimate outward sign of their inward acceptance. There is nothing wrong with risqué behaviour as long as everyone involved is consenting.

The usual contenders for this exercise could vary from an abandoned building, open fields or in a car! We also often hear about the ‘mile high club’ where the rich and famous make love at a high altitude. For a puritan like myself, though it may sound distasteful, there is a sense adventure in those pursuits.

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We are all going to die. Our sound bodies will not be able to maintain their integrity as the autumn of life approaches. Once functional apparatus will be of little use that would diminish our uniqueness and vitality. When you see a beautiful vase or a Grecian urn depicting two or more people engaging in some of the most intimate acts, they are making a statement of defiance against the tide of time which is about to sweep them into the deep waters on anonymity. Live on the edge!

End of lesson.

Featured Image: Savannah Coombe

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