Sex and This City
Ladies, as you head out Friday night hoping to meet someone, know this: Nine out of 10 guys you see will have had one-night stands with someone they met at a bar or club — and more than a quarter of them have bagged someone new in just the last month.
One guy's technique: "Begging. It works."
Guys, as you head out Friday, know this: Only half of the straight women you meet have ever hooked up with someone they met at a bar or club. As a 27-year-old single woman, a dancer, put it: I hate "any guy who hangs out at a bar." Yet there she was. Hanging out, at a bar.
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Guys, if you do manage to connect, chances are she would prefer your place to a hotel — and, statistically speaking, you are more likely than she is to wake up Saturday morning feeling satisfied.
All of those things are generally true for gay and lesbian night prowlers, too, with a couple of exceptions. Two-thirds of lesbians have hooked up with someone they met at a bar or club, and gay men are more likely than straight men to wake up the next morning feeling satisfied. "It's all alcohol-driven sex, which is fun but fleeting," explained one straight man. "It's bullshit."
How do we know all of this? Because we asked. On Friday, Sept. 17, 2010, the Weekly sent 10 teams of researchers to locations across the city to learn about the sexual preferences and practices of Angelenos out on the town.
We went to chic velvet-rope clubs and dive bars and just about every kind of place in between, from Drai's, Playhouse and the Dragonfly's Miss Kitty's Parlour sex-themed party in Hollywood, to Sardo's and Shits & Giggles at the 3100 Club in the Valley, the Cha Cha Lounge and Short Stop in Silver Lake and Echo Park, the Golden Gopher downtown, Rage in West Hollywood and Spike's in East Los Angeles. Helping us on this and other stories in this special issue was esteemed UCLA psychology professor Paul Abramson, whose classes in human sexuality have long been campus favorites, and his writing partner, L.A. Weekly contributor L.J. Williamson.
The Weekly handed out questionnaires and conducted interviews; we collected written surveys from 170 people.
At Dragonfly, we set up a camera and invited people to tell us of their desires and adventures. That L.A. WEEKLY PRESENTS exclusive video, Naughty Fairy Tales, can be watched here.
What we found was surprising, reassuring, titillating — depending on your perspective. At best, we are a city of beautiful, creative people, where the sex is as appealingly casual as the lifestyle. At worst, we are all surface and no soul, a population skittering from one empty hookup or missed connection to another.
If neither of those stereotypes is precisely true — and indeed, they aren't — then what is? First, some of us are just plain lonely — and striking out.
Twenty percent of the straight single men on this Friday night had not had sex in the last month. The same was true for 28 percent of the straight single women. According to what they told us, that wasn't always by choice.
A 25-year-old illustrator doodled in one corner of our survey a picture of a lonely little bald man in eyeglasses, whimpering, "Love me."
We didn't find any single lesbians who fessed up to having had no sex. But 23 percent of gay single men said they had no sex in the last 30 days.
One group of people, however, was doing it regularly. Thus we arrive at Lesson No. 1 from our night on the town: If you want regular sex, get into a committed relationship.
Ninety-four percent of the straight women and 86 percent of the men in committed relationships reported having sex regularly. Of those, 11 percent of the women — but none of the men — reported doing it more than once a day. (So some of those women must be getting a little on the side?)
We didn't find one gay or lesbian in a committed relationship who claimed to be having no sex. One hundred percent said they had sex regularly, with two-thirds of gay men putting the number of sessions at more than 10 a month. (Not one lesbian reported having sex more than 10 times a month.)
What does this all add up to? Here's a sketch of the crowd you can expect when you hit the bars and clubs on a Friday night:
Sixty-six percent of the gay or straight men you see will be eligible. The rest will be in committed relationships.
Fifty-six percent of straight women and lesbians will be available. The others will be in relationships.
Straight and gay men will be nearly twice as likely as straight women to have hooked up with people they met in places like the one you are standing in.
About a quarter of the men, both gay and straight, will have had first-time hookups in the last month. Another 12 percent to 14 percent will be players, in that they had first-time sex more than once — many of them three or four times — in that time frame.
Sixteen percent of straight women and 25 percent of lesbians will have had first-time encounters in the last month, with about 10 percent of straight women entering the "player" realm.
Finally, if you are on the prowl, know that one of every four straight women you see and one in five men, gay or straight, will have had exactly zero sex in the last month.
Beyond that, what did the Weekly learn from its Friday-night mission? Plenty.
If you're a straight girl, you should know that 56 percent of the guys would be willing to go as far as receiving oral sex from you on the first night. Alas, guys, only half that number of women will go that far the first night. (More than a quarter of them draw the line at a handshake or a hug.)
But here's a twist: Of those women willing to go as far as oral sex, slightly more women prefer to give than to receive that first night.
And guys? You dogs are predictably the opposite. You like getting more than giving.
What else did our researchers find?
A nubile brunette 24-year-old Cal State Northridge English tutor told us she enjoys a rape scenario where she is tied, choked, gagged, slapped and spanked, with a paddle decorated "with cute things like hearts or things that say bitch or slut or whore attached to it," so hard that it leaves marks on her body for a week.
Think that's strange? Try her friend, who gets off on barnyards.
A 48-year-old bisexual man told us something that required a genealogical chart: "I fucked my dad's girlfriend while she was married to his best friend. Twice. Her name was Sissy." His ideal sex life would be a monogamous relationship with a boy ... and a girl.
For one girl's 22nd birthday, she received the gift that keeps on giving — a moresome: "It was three girls having a threesome, then the fourth girl came in, then there was a guy that never touched anyone except for his partner," she explained. "He was very respectful."
A 38-year-old gay man at a bar in West Hollywood had her beat by about a half-dozen people — he'd participated in a 12-person orgy.
"I pissed on someone," said another gay man, a waiter.
"I fucked the bellboy at a hotel," said one more.
"I wore a wig, pretended I was a call girl, met my boyfriend in a bar, and had sex pretending I was a prostitute," said a Latina woman at the Short Stop in Echo Park.
"I was managing a very affluent kitchen in Hollywood," began another man. "I took two girls back to cook for them. I had sex with one in the kitchen. She fell asleep. Then I took the other one and had sex with her in the women's bathroom."
One Mexican nurse had sex in a church. "Jesus said it was OK," she reasoned.
A young Swedish au pair did it on a couch, at a party, while people were coming and going. Now, anyone who wants sex from her a lot, she feels less and less like giving it to them.
One girl likes sex in a graveyard.
Another girl had sex on top of a traveling-circus camper.
A gay guy had sex in a Dumpster, surrounded by trash.
One couple had sex at Disneyland, under the bridge.
A deputy sheriff had sex on a mattress on the floor with an ex-girlfriend while her dog, a boxer, licked his ass (accidentally).
A makeup artist had sex atop a construction mound on a freeway median divider. Motorists honked. It was muddy. She slid down at the end.
L.A. is full of freaks, right? But here's the thing: Ask 170 people about their attitudes toward sex and you get 170 different answers, yet there was a shape to the responses. Winding through was a yearning for connection.
When we asked folks what their ideal sex lives would look like, they were more apt to say they wanted sex with one person or just a few people on a regular basis. (Except for one young man, who wants five different girls every week — on condition that they would all be loyal to him.)
On the whole, people craved consistency.
Whatever their stated objective, single people at the clubs aren't just looking for someone who's DTF ("down to fuck") in the moment. They'd much rather find long-term FWBs or FTFs ("friends with benefits" or "friends that fuck") — or a relationship.
If you're in the market for a serious partner, half of the club-going populace are living lives that will give you hope. These guys and gals managed to turn their casual hookups into serious romantic relationships. For the majority (56 percent) of people — gay, straight, bi, transgender — nights out had resulted in monogamy.
So despite their reputation for being dens of empty debauchery, your chances of finding your soul mate at a bar or club actually aren't too bad. Whether this is a good thing or bad, though, is a whole other matter.
One pleasant surprise was how candid people were. The danger of a self-reported survey, of course, is you never know if respondents are saying stuff they think will make you see them in a favorable light. But the people we spoke to were not afraid to look bad, or desperate, or vulnerable. They were not afraid to look like losers or assholes, a refreshing turn of events in a town obsessed with the favorable light, where every waitress has a publicist and every toddler is working the angles.
Let's clear up another misconception: Women get the bum rap for it, but men are twice as likely to hand out a fake phone number — 20 percent of men compared with only 9 percent of women said they'd used this tactic.
Does it seem like we live in a sex-obsessed world? We thought so. We asked: Is anything better than sex?
"I sure hope so," replied a woman, a 41-year-old stylist, " 'cuz I haven't had sex in so long."
Other answers included: tacos, cookies, "big wanger chicken wings," chocolate and cheese. cocaine, beer, heroin, weed and vodka.
Ladies, gentlemen, here's a tip. Want to make a lasting impression? Give a girl cake and eat her, too. One woman told us the only thing better than sex is "oral sex under the table at a restaurant while eating awesome dessert."
One young woman would much rather have "a stimulating conversation" than stimulating sex. If so, clubs and bars are a funny place to seek it out. The music was so loud that it often all but negated conversation, stimulating or otherwise.
If you can get cozy with the idea that what's better than sex is the proto-foreplay-type stuff that sits at the intersection of sex and love, like kissing and holding hands and cuddling — those electric moments that are not quite sex, not quite love — you are in good shape to connect. An overwhelming number of people of all stripes prioritized those things over the wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am.
But there were also those who came out of the box entirely.
"Puppies" are better than sex, offered a 32-year-old female model.
"Feeling beautiful," said a 38-year-old woman, a writer.
"The wave at baseball games," said a 39-year-old man, a bus driver. An odd choice, until you picture the wave as a kind of collective orgasm rippling through a stadium.
"Realizing that your one-night stand is your future husband," said a 33-year-old woman artist.
"God almighty," said a 50-year-old African-American man, the only person out of 170 to pick God over sex.
"Life," a young man at an upscale club wrote in a hurried, breezy hand, as if he had no time to stop.
Some people left the space beneath the question on their survey sheet empty. You had to wonder about that emptiness. Probably, they couldn't be bothered to fill it in. They were too busy checking out someone across the room.
What crazy, or painful, or delicious experience might they have recalled or desired? Is there anything better than sex? Surely it must be, as one person wrote, "the promise of sex."
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