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Public sex environments

Man alone in park

Some people like to have sex outdoors or in public places. These are sometimes known as public sex environments and include woods, public toilets, parks and car parks.

Why do some people have sex in public?

People have sex in public for various reasons. They may enjoy the risk of being caught, for example, or like being watched by others. Perhaps they prefer the anonymity of sex where there’s little risk of being identified and they don’t need to talk (about having HIV, for example).

What should I know if I have sex outdoors?

Whether you are in a relationship or single, there are a few things to remember if you have sex in public. The most important thing is to look after your health and safety.

Safer sex

If you decide to have sex in public this may be with strangers, people you know or your partner. It is important to use condoms, whoever you are having sex with, as it is easy to pick up sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhoea which can affect your HIV. Find out more about how to stay safe.

Using condoms (or Femidoms) can stop HIV from being transmitted to the other person and can also prevent an unwanted pregnancy. If you have sex with more than one person it is important to use a different condom with each partner.

Personal safety

If you have sex in a public place you also need to look after your personal safety. For example gay men (and bisexual men) have sometimes been the victims of homophobic attacks when they have been ‘cruising’ or having sex in public places.

If you are a heterosexual couple you might take part in ‘dogging’. This is where couples meet to have sex in public places where they know other people might watch them or join in. Usually the people having sex are in cars. Again, it is important to be aware of your personal safety, and if you are a woman it is not advisable to go to dogging events on your own.

If you are robbed or attacked in a public sex environment you should report it to the police to protect others. Contact your local police Community Safety Unit or let a third party - such as GALOP - know what has happened.

Always call 999 in an emergency.

If you are based in London then please feel free to report any issues to our PSE lead or call THT Direct on 0808 802 1221. 

If you don’t know the person or people you are having sex with, it is advisable to be careful about where you meet them and where you go to have sex. Avoid public sex environments if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs as this will make you vulnerable to attack, robbery or making poor decisions about sex and safety.

What about the law?

There are legal implications to having sex in public. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 made changes to previous laws in England and Wales governing sexual behaviour.

Sexual activity in public toilets is still an offence but sex in other public places isn’t, unless it is witnessed or there is a reasonable chance that at least two members of the public might see what’s happening. In this case you could be charged with outraging public decency.

'Exposure' (showing your genitals with the intention that they are seen in order to cause alarm or distress) is an offence.

You may find sex in public exciting, but it also poses risks to your health and personal safety. If you want to talk to someone about this, give THT Direct a call on 0808 802 1221

See also: Telling sexual partners about your HIV ››

‹‹ Back to: Viral load



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 10/4/2015 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 10/4/2018

Content Author: Kerri Virani

Current Owner: Health Promotion

More information:

Exposure, Sexual Offences Act 2003

Sexual Activity in a Public Lavatory, Sexual Offences Act 2003

Sex in Public, The Site (2012)

Can I Be Punished For Having Sex In Public?, Find Law UK (2012)

Public Sex Environment Policy, Gloucestershire Constabulary (2011)