Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: Madison, WI

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.

Brigid, 22

Do you currently have a summer romance?
This is the first summer that I've had a romance in Madison. This is actually only the second summer that I've lived in Madison, though I've lived here on and off for about four years and just finished my undergrad. The other summer that I lived here, I lived alone and was kind of hermit-y and weird and didn't do anything, only stuff like crafts in my bedroom. So I definitely was not in a romance at that point. And now, my summer romance is my long-term boyfriend, so I have nothing exciting to tell you.

When you were single, where would you go to meet someone in the summer?
The Terrace at the Memorial Union, at any time of day. There are just people milling around and everyone out there is so friendly. You could just walk around and be like, "What kind of beer are you drinking?" and they'd probably say, "Oh, it's the Lakefront Fix-Gear from Milwaukee. It's really good," and just strike up a conversation and share some pitchers. Automatically you're getting drunk together, which is a good start to any Madison romance. I mean, I met my boyfriend at the most skeezy bar in Madison. [laughs]

What's your take on the Madison dating scene?
The Madison dating scene is very incestuous. As a student or post-grad, you become friends with the people that those people are also friends with. So you meet people through this network. You create this web of people you know and then you realize, "Oh my God, I've been hooking up with this guy, and he's also hooked up with three of my friends. And I've made out with him and his best friend. So through me, in a sense, they've kind of made out, too." The longer you live here, the smaller Madison gets. If you've hooked up with someone, you've definitely already peripherally hooked up with them already. What is that called — Eskimo siblings?

Despite this theory, have you ever met someone randomly?
Not really. No one wanted to go out on my twenty-first birthday because it was the night before classes started, so the night after my birthday this guy I sort of knew asked to hang out. He is hands down the most attractive guy I've ever met. In the words of my roommate, "He looks like a skinny John Mayer." In my opinion, John Mayer is sort of good looking. This guy? Really good looking. So he texted me that it was his birthday party and that I should come because he knew it had been my birthday the day before. And we were not the kind of friends where you call them on your birthday. So I show up at a bar and this group takes up the entire top floor. I drank two things called fish bowls — about sixteen mixed drinks of fruit juice and vodka served in an actual fish bowl — with some frat guys, and proceeded to make out with the birthday boy. I had just watched him make out with another girl, and I'm pretty sure after I left he made out with someone else. So that semester I also met this girl in my journalism class. She's really nice. We had a lot of classes together, and ended spending a lot of time together. And she told me at the end of the semester, "I knew who you were before we met in class. I recognized you on the first day of class because I'd just seen you make out with my friend the night before." Is there something more Madison than that? A girl watching you make out with a guy at a bar and then recognizing you in class? So gross. People become so familiar that they know the people who ride their bus each morning. Like this guy we call the "Beats by Dre" dude. He's so hot. [laughs] And I'm sure if you ask other people, they'd probably know exactly who I'm talking about.

What's the strangest thing anyone's ever tried with you, sexually?
I've had a lot of suggestions that were not even from the realm of people who I would hook up with under normal circumstances. Once, when I was still in high school, someone told me he wanted to do me from behind in the library of his college. That totally freaked me out and I've been avoiding him for about five years now.

Is there something crazy that you're waiting for someone to ask to do?
The whole "library thing" is such a big deal here in Madison for UW students that part of me wants to give it a try, even though I graduated. I kind of regret not ever getting frisky in the library stacks. But I don't regret turning down the first offer for a library hookup I had, especially because that wasn't in Madison and that's the whole cachet of it. But I guess if you believed everyone who said they've hooked up in the library here, you would be constantly finding people having sex in the stacks, which you don't. So I think it's mostly a myth. I do think the way to do it would be in one of the carrels in Memorial Library. Really quietly. On the desk.

Sam, 22

What are your feelings about hooking up outdoors?
In the Midwest? I'd say it's more of a summer thing. It gets pretty dicey in the winter. A lot of hookups happen when you're drunk. It can get pretty dangerous during the winter. Bring parkas.

What's the difference between the summer fling and the winter fling?
People feel a little less guilt when a summer fling ends. In the winter you're already feeling down. By the end of the summer you're sort of coasting out of something, while during the winter you're already in this funk, and you're like, "Oh shit, everything around me is dead and I'm alone." By the end of the summer you're like, "Oh, school! I can hook up with so many more people!" or whatever.

Where do you meet ladies during the summer?
I met one while working at a summer camp. It was with a girl I'd known since high school and things kind of bubbled over.

Describe the bubbling.
Well, she was always hot in high school, and we'd hang out during the summer. It was me and our third friend, so there was this subconscious buffer in between us and saying we were a date. Then we phased out the third friend and started making out on a beach and hooking up. It was a nice, organic bubbling up. It was all very wholesome.

What is your opinion on summer grooming?
Are we talking pubic-hair grooming?

All kinds of hair.
Well, fortunately for me, I don't get hair on my chest. Maybe thirty years from now, I'll be a grizzly man. But pubes? I get kind of lazy during the summer. A little lethargic. You stay in bed until three in the afternoon. You don't have time to sit on the pot and do that.

What about with the ladies?
I think you're always going to need a little bit of grooming for my flavor. Maybe more than a little, depending on your philosophy. But I keep up appearances, too.

Have you ever hooked up with a lady who proposed something completely unacceptable to your standards?
Not yet. I look forward to that day.

What do you want her to ask you?
What do I want her to ask me? I want her to ask me to put it in her ass. What do I not want her to ask me? Maybe to shove my fist into my own asshole? I don't know. But really, the sky's the limit. I can think of an infinite amount of things I wouldn't do. A lot of them involve mutilation.

If you were to describe your style in bed as an animal, what would you be?
Probably a bonobo or something. It could be from any angle, like from a tree. And female bonobos are really into oral sex and anal. 

There was no hesitation in your answer.
What can I say? They like it like we do.

How would you describe your orgasm in one word?
"Fickle?" Sometimes something incredible will happen, and then sometimes… there's a muscle that I have that women don't that attaches my testicles to my pelvis. For some guys, it's a lot stronger and more tense than for other guys. So if you ejaculate and your muscle is very excitable and tight (like some people), your balls may occasionally ascend above your penis, which is awkward and uncomfortable.

"Fickle" is such a sad word.
Well, fickle in the "ascending balls" way, but "awesome" I guess in the general sense. Even if that happened every time, I still wouldn't turn down sex. I'd be like, "Okay, let's take a break," and then, "Okay, let's do this again." I don't think any amount of pain would prevent me from staying the way I am. How do other people describe their orgasms?

Maybe some word in Latin.
Oh, that's so lame!

I'm assuming. You're the first person I've asked this.
How would you describe yours? Like a waterfall? But maybe I shouldn't say "awesome," because I'd like to assume that as I get older I'm going to get better at it. So hopefully these skills aren't stagnating. 

Paul, 39

How long have you been in Madison?
I've been in the Madison area all my life.

Where do you go to meet ladies during the summer?
Bars, usually. It depends on what you're looking for.

Do you currently have a summer fling?
Well, maybe I should come out and say that I'm married. I don't know if that changes this interview or not.

Not at all. Have you been together a long time?
We've known each other for quite awhile. We met in the summer, actually. I met her in high school. She's in my younger brother's grade. We started dating when I was working as a lifeguard in the summer. That's pretty much the summer romance that turned into the relationship.
She just spent a lot of time at the pool, and I was always there working.

When you were a lifeguard, would people come up to you and flirt with you often?
I wouldn't say there were a lot of offers, but there were other summer romances that came about because of the position. I had a summer romance with another one of the lifeguards the year before I met my wife.

Has anyone ever asked you to do something completely unacceptable in bed, be it your wife or someone else?
No, but I'd like to meet that person.

That seems to be a common answer with men of all ages. Are you looking to find your sexual limit?
Absolutely. I mean, I want to try everything. We can take that beyond the bedroom.

Is your wife open and accepting of this?
Yes, we have been with other people, both together and apart.


You've had four threesomes?
Foursomes. And a few threesomes.

Please explain.
Well, I'll talk about the foursome, I guess. It was with friends of ours, and it started with someone just saying, "Wouldn't it be crazy if?" And then you talk a little more about it, and it becomes more and more real. So you plan for something to happen, and it eventually does. It was kind of awkward, but still exciting and fun. For both my wife and I, we think that it almost might be better if they were strangers in the future. To me, that eliminates any awkwardness afterwards, because if you do it with friends of yours that you've been hanging out with for years and years, all it takes is for one person to be a little bit uncomfortable afterwards, and it kind of ruins the relationship.

So trying it again is definitely on the horizon?
We are both interested in trying it again. You start looking towards other people to accept you sexually. Which is a whole lot different than looking to other people to accept you socially. So there's a little bit of anxiety there, where you put yourself out there to pursue something like that, but you need to be ready to be rejected.

Would you consider yourselves "swingers?"
Well, "swingers" has a negative connotation to it. I'd say more that we have an "open relationship." Basically, the difference is that we aren't out actively seeking relationships outside of us. If an opportunity presents itself, we're both free to take it, should we decide that's what we want to do. There have been a lot of times where we've been able to tell each other before something was going to happen. Generally, though, you don't bring it up if you've just met someone. You only bring it up if it becomes a real possibility. To us, it's not the affair that causes problems, it's the cover-ups. So we've eliminated that. It's human nature to want to try something different. So you try it, it's exciting, and it's nice to be wanted by someone else. But at the end of it, we're coming back together.