"I've got to get out of here."
I whispered those words to my spouse as we languished in my in-laws timeshare at the beach. Three days of lousy weather had kept us locked into a two-bedroom condo with my husband's parents, brothers, and sister. We were lucky enough to have the bedroom to ourselves—the others slept on air mattresses and hide-a-beds in the living room—but my five-months-pregnant belly (not to mention my raging hormones) were desperate for some space.
My darling husband, ever resourceful, quietly rose and walked to the fridge. Opening it, he commented, "We're almost out of beer. Better go get some." Casually, even nonchalantly, he turned to me and asked, "Want to come, darling?" Moments later, we were cruising up the long beach road towards the bridge, the mainland, and freedom.
Pulling between the dumpsters and a brick wall behind the nearest grocery store, we feverishly clambered into the back of our Dodge Caravan, from which we had removed the seats to create more cargo space. Not even pausing to fully undress, we somehow managed to negotiate around my spherical belly and have a quick and fervent fuck behind the grocery store. Finally satisfied, we completed our beer run and returned to the condo and my husband's family, refreshed and ready to face yet another marathon Uno tournament.
Everybody Does It
According to a 2000 survey by Yankelovich Partners, Inc., I'm not the only one who has engaged in automotive escapades. In fact, odds are, you have some roadside sex stories of your own. Yankelovich estimates that 74% of all Americans have had sex in a motor vehicle. Some of us even had our first sexual experiences in cars. During my first backseat experience, my boyfriend and I were making out in the back of a car in a friend's driveway while a party raged inside. I was so young, inexperienced, and clumsy that, in all our writhing, I somehow managed to nail him square in the nuts with my knee.
In retrospect, he probably deserved it.
My personal sexual awakenings aside, the sexual revolution and the automobile industry have closely entwined histories. In the 1920s, when automobiles first appeared on the scene, courtship rituals changed dramatically when young people suddenly had the freedom to go Out. The 1920s roared with the sounds of Ford engines and horny flappers. (Remember The Great Gatsby?) But this newfound mobility was still limited to the upper classes, who could afford the extravagant prices of what was still essentially a luxury.
By the 1950s, suburbia had boomed and cars were both more affordable and more necessary. And couples everywhere discovered that the backseat provided a rather convenient place to neck, pet, and satisfy their other carnal urges. The drive-in theater became an icon; every town had its own Lover's Lane. By the late-1970s, when Meatloaf recorded his epic ballad "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," vehicular copulation was practically a cliche.
Highway to Heaven
Of course, going parking with a partner is one thing, but engaging in a little play within the confines of a moving vehicle is quite another. When I was young and foolish, I remember fellating my lover as we drove home from the beach one hot summer night. This would be relatively unremarkable except for the fact that my college roommate was sleeping in the back seat at the time. I'm sure she would have been mortified to know how distracted he was as we cruised at high speeds down the highway, but thankfully, she either never woke up or she was pretending not to.
Like the bodies of those locked in passionate embrace, cars and sex are entwined in popular culture, particularly in film. Indeed, filmmakers seem almost obsessed with cruising the highway of love. From Saturday Night Fever to High Fidelity, backseat rendezvous are commonplace; even the relatively wholesome 1978 film version of Grease includes references to Sandy turning Danny's crankshaft in his '57 Chevy. (“Like a rock”? I'd think so!) And who can forget Grease's anthem to that automotive aphrodisiac, the muscle car?
With new pistons, plugs, and shocks
I can get off my rocks
You know that I ain't bragging
She’s a real pussy wagon
—“Greased Lightning”, from Grease; lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Even Titanic transcended its maritime setting to bring us the famous image of Kate Winslet's sweaty palm pressed against the steamed-up window of a Model T Ford. But perhaps the most compelling cinematic portrayal of vehicular vice came from Back to the Future, when Lorraine unwittingly winds up in the backseat with her time-traveling future son, Marty. Marty tries to set up a scenario in which his future dad, George, rescues Lorraine from Marty's advances, but Marty realizes too late that he made some unfounded assumptions about his mother's virtue, and that she is more than willing to engage in a little backseat mambo.
Wrong Turns and Detours
Decades' worth of teens have explored sexual freedom in the backseats of cars and vans, and many have even the part of their pickup trucks so conveniently called the "bed." But experiencing a sexual awakening in a vehicle is neither romantic nor comfortable, and it comes with its own hazards. I have personally been guilty of accidentally leaning on the horn, kicking the gear shift into neutral, and even opening the car door and causing my naked torso to flop out of the car, brightly illuminated by the dome light, in the middle of an otherwise dark residential neighborhood.
One friend confessed that she and her husband, in the throes of passion, moved the party from the backseat to the car's hood on a balmy evening, only to discover after the fact that they had locked both their keys and their clothes inside the car. Thankfully, the officers that slim-jimmed the door for them had a well-developed sense of humor.
If it's so uncomfortable, why do people still have sex in cars? For some, particularly those still living with parents, it's the most convenient place to achieve some semblance of privacy. For others, particularly those who are parents, it's about making the most of a moment. And there's a certain thrill to backseat groping, whether you're discovering sex for the first time or reliving your uninhibited youth.
Dressing up for my spouse's annual holiday party one year, we were overtaken with passion. Perhaps it was the anticipation of the fun ahead, or perhaps it was the sight of my complicated undergarments, but either way, with a toddler in the house, we couldn't indulge before we left. The babysitter arrived, and we drove to a local office complex, which appeared to be deserted on that cold Friday evening. We parked our van on the top tier of the four-level parking deck and, neglecting the fantastic view, proceeded to get mad rutty in the back seat. Expensive shoes were cast aside, complicated underthings were handled roughly, and a sequined gown was crumpled hastily around my torso. Afterwards, as I sat gasping for breath in the steamy afterglow, we noticed lights on in the upper floors of the office buildings that overlooked the parking garage. We're not sure whether or not anyone actually saw us, but we figured if there were still people at work at 7 on a Friday night, they deserved whatever thrills they could get.
"It's almost midnight."
Breathing these words into my lover's ear as we rumbled up the highway led to one of my favorite episodes in "auto"-erotica. We were on our way home from a holiday in my hometown. Driving home on New Year's Eve, we were listening to the assembled revelers in Times Square on the radio and wishing we were in a place where we could properly celebrate. "Why don't you find some quiet place to pull over and we'll ring in the new year right?"
At an exit with nothing but a closed-down gas station and a sign indicating the double-digit distance to the nearest town, he climbed under me in the passenger seat and reclined it as far as it would go. It was pitch dark, and the cold mountain air had created an ethereal mist that hung in the air, nearly as palpable as our desire for each other. I positioned myself on top of him, and somehow we achieved perfect synchronicity, climaxing together as the clock struck midnight.
Happy New Year, indeed.