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I don’t feel guilty. There, I said it.
To be clear, we had been respecting the rules and feeling anxious about the virus from the onset. But after spending the first half of lockdown at my boyfriend’s flat before heading back to my place, the idea of making one of our meetup picnics a little more intimate than usual came very naturally. At the time, meeting people from other households wasn’t allowed – the government still hadn’t planned for ‘social bubbles’.
The idea was so romantic. I have had sex in public places before and was aware that the physical pleasure rarely lives up to the excitement of the whole experience – though I still vividly remember that orgasm at my friend’s pool party a few years ago. This time, reality was miles away from what I had imagined.
We had a plan: I made sure to wear a skirt, he spent days checking satellite views of Google Maps. We had a whole pack of condoms, when we barely needed one.
In my head, I had pictured a lush oasis in the middle of Regent’s Park; we would have walked to its most remote meanderings, found a little patch of grass hidden by flowers, and made love atop my red cotton beach towel.
It could not have been a more unrealistic depiction.
“It turns out very few areas of a central London park are secluded on a sunny weekend, especially during a pandemic”
It turns out very few areas of a central London park are secluded on a sunny weekend, especially during a pandemic, and those spots a little out of sight are either used as toilets or covered in nettles. Still, I was delighted to share a fun experience with the man I love, who was already feeling me up during the pre-sex picnic in a crowded garden.
After our salmon sandwiches we set out to find The Spot. We held hands, giggling, wondering if others were up to mischief under that same sky. I felt I was part of some secret community, those who do naughty things in parks.
I quickly realised being able to choose was a real privilege.
After entering a portal of bushes, we found a fence and decided to follow it. I thought that no one would go to chill by the park limits, especially if there is no soft grass to sit on. That’s where we found two men laying down with all their belongings, enjoying some shade under a big oak amid sparse vegetation.
That was my reality check. The secret community of people doing naughty things in parks may be made of those who can’t be anywhere else. For some, sex in a public place is the only chance to experience intimacy.
If my dreamy oasis even existed in Regent’s Park, someone needed it more than us. I thought we should settle for a more uncomfortable space as long as it didn’t have any nettles or thorns. We considered those big patches of tall grass, but someone could have easily stepped on us even though we would not be visible from nearby paths.
“The sex itself was much quicker than the search for The Spot. But when we finished we couldn’t stop smiling.”
We eventually ventured in an area covered with used tissues... then kept going until we found a fence overlooking the road, with a small locked gate probably used for maintenance. There were tiny logs between a recently cut tree and another fence, which had thick bushes on the other side.
We sat on two separate logs behind the trunk, hidden by some faint branches. We were constantly checking behind each other’s backs, stopped when some guy with an orange shirt came too close with his dog.
Around us I could see people walking on the road, hear them talking, laughing and playing music from their phones. If they only peeped over the gate, they would have seen us – although I thought if someone confronted us it would have been very hard to prove we were performing an act of public indecency with all our clothes on.
The sex itself was much quicker than the search for The Spot. But when we finished we couldn’t stop smiling. We walked back to the main bit of the park, aware we were walking among people who had no idea of what we had done. After months of making my own granola and wiping my phone with antibacterial gel in fear of the virus, I finally felt excited.
I’m proud of it – just like I am of my other successful sexual adventures – but I know I wouldn’t do it again. Both out of respect for others and the park itself, but also because I now know it’s also awkward and potentially dangerous.
Having said all that, now that parks on lockdown have been crossed on the to-do list, we’re already thinking about what next – beaches, hiking trails, nightclub toilets? – in the years to come.
Giulia is a journalist in London
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