Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: New York, NY

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we've just met.

Piper, 25

So you're a bartender — has that ever gotten you laid?
It could have gotten me laid a million times over, but unfortunately and fortunately, I've had a boyfriend for the whole time I've been a bartender. So, being the good girl that I am, I've had to shut down those options.

Have there been times that you've wanted to sleep with a customer?
Yes! A lot of hot customers. Plus, you work at a bar and everyone's liquored up, I'm usually liquored up, so there's a lot of alcohol consumption and conversation…

So as a female bartender, what are the things that win you over? What stands out?
You see so many douchebags. You see guys who come in with girls, but then they're talking to you, I mean, you've almost got to not notice me for me to notice you. There are so many people who want a free drink or are a bartender or have worked in a bar or know how bars work, and they think they know just what to say to you. It has to be the end of the night and this last, lone handsome guy comes in saying he's had a horrible night or something.

Have you ever had sex in a place you work?
No. But the first guy I was ever involved with, I met at the restaurant we worked in. The walk-in is a magical place. Restaurant owners haven't figured this out yet — they have cameras everywhere except the walk-in. That's where the shots go down, that's where you sneak your food, that's where you eat all the ice cream, and that's where you make out with the hot chef you're in love with.

You dated a chef?
I would like to say we dated, but I don't think he would call it that.

So how long have you and your boyfriend been involved?
My boyfriend, who I met when we were bartending together, has been with me for three years.

How's the sex?
The first year was amazing. The second year was mediocre. The third year… it's a little nonexistent right now.

Why do you think that is?
I guess when you work with somebody, because it's off-limits and you see each other with customers, it's a turn-on. Making people jealous is fun and a turn-on. And now we don't work together. We're doing our own thing, and it's a relationship now. We're worried about more things than just sex. We're worried about rent and the cat box and food, and sex has become not a top priority. It's monthly. Twice a month.

How do you feel about that? How many times a week would you like to be having sex?
If he could take the initiative and make it so things were like they used to be, it would be sex every time we saw each other. I could have sex every day. I might not enjoy it every day, but I could fake it a few times. I would like to have sex at least once a week. No. At least two to three times a week.

You never initiate sex?
No, I do.

Has it become only you initiating?
It's become way too big of a deal. It's become me initiating it. It's become me getting frustrated that I'm initiating it. I mean it's on the table; it's an open thing. We know we're not having sex, and we're trying to figure out why that is.

Do you think sex is a barometer for the relationship?
I never thought it would be, because my relationships are never based on a physical thing. It's never been, oh, that guy is fucking hot, I want to date him. It's come about because I met somebody, I liked him, we became friends, and he's funny. Humor is my thing, so I never thought sex would define my relationship. But at this point, I've come to realize sex is a very, very, very important thing, and when it's not there, you don't want to feel like you're not sexy. You don't want to feel like your boyfriend doesn't want to throw you down and have sex with you every chance he gets. So yes, it's a defining factor.

What you wish he would do to you?
I like, "I will not take no for an answer. I'm gonna take you, I'm going to bend you over this table, I'm going to rip your fucking panties off, and I don't care if you don't like it, I'm gonna stick it in you." I want a throwdown. I want him to take initiative and just be like, "Shut the fuck up, bitch." And if there's a slap involved, I'm okay with that.


Michael, 27

What do you do?
I'm a musician.

Has that ever gotten you laid?
Yes, it has.

Oh, of course it has. Any good stories? A particularly ballsy chick, perhaps?
Well, this has accelerated very quickly.

Sorry. We like to jump right in. Has a girl ever thrown her panties at you?
I'm immediately embarrassed.

Okay, let's take it in a different direction. Are you in a relationship?
No. I've been single for the past two years. I travel around a lot. Makes it difficult.

So where are the most attractive girls out there?
To be patriotic, I'll say Ireland.

What kind of girls do you like? Do you like lasses with red hair and green eyes?
I've never been with a lass from red hair and green eyes. I like normal, nice, funny girls.

Tell us about your last relationship. Did you write a song about it?
Actually, I did. "I'm A Prick," is the song.

What did you do?
I didn't do anything wrong — I just left. I wanted to do music.

Do you find that being in a relationship as a musician is hard?
I do. I write songs, and if I'm in a relationship, I'm happy and I don't write anything. The creativity just stops.

As a musician you must meet a lot of girls. Is that hard when you're in a relationship?
Yes. But I've never cheated.

What's the most incredible thing you've done to win a woman back?
I sent my ex a necklace. She moved to London after we broke up and I had a jeweler make a necklace of a matchstick that says 'perfect' on it. So, you know. Perfect match. But alas, we were not a perfect match.

Why did you send it to her after you were already broken up?
Because I was lonely and sad. I was writing a lot of good songs, actually.

How long can you go without sex?
I don't have a limit.

Oh, come on.
Well what can you do about it? Even when I really want it, I invariably fail at trying to get it.

Really? No pick up lines?
No, I'm useless at talking to women. I've always been shy.

Would you say you're a hopeless romantic?
To a degree. When I was thirteen I was going out with a girl I was in love with; I thought she was amazing. There's this tree called a Dutch elm that's black on the outside and white on the inside, and I was into carving. So for Valentine's Day I carved a heart in the Dutch elm and made a "M" and a "C" inside of it. The "M" was black and the "C" was white. She thought it was the corniest thing she'd ever seen in her life. She broke up with me two days later.


Kenisha, 31

What do you do?
I'm a makeup artist.

Has that ever gotten you laid?
Oh yes, it's gotten me laid plenty of times. I went to a friend's house to do her makeup and I ended up getting laid.

Who initiated it?
She initiated it. I went to do makeup; I was doing my job. Getting paid and getting laid!

So how was it?
It was awkward, but it was great. It was awkward because it was unexpected. But I think it was bound to happen.

Did you stay friends?
Yes. We're actually married.

Aw! Congratulations.
Thank you very much.

Would you say she's the more aggressive one in the relationship?
No, I would say I am.

How did you meet?
We met in a dance class. That was in 2003. Hip hop, street jazz, break dancing. Movement is very important. If you can move it proves that you can move in bed.

Your boobs are amazing. Are they real?
They are totally real. One-hundred percent. Thanks for noticing!

How do you keep sex interesting in married life?
Well, you have to keep it spontaneous. It can't just be "Let's have sex," it has to be "I'm going to sleep; it's three o'clock in the morni… ohhhhh." To me, sex is the best when you're not expecting it.

How often would you say you have sex?
Not often enough! Not to say it doesn't happen all the time. I'm just very, you know… frisky.

Ideally, how many times a week would you like to have sex?
Every day, actually. But we usually have sex three or four times a week.

What's your move? I know you have one.
I get very smooth. Very touchy-feely. I'm not really a verbal person, so I'm not going to come out and say "Hey, I want to have sex."

Do you talk in bed?
I do. I'm a dirty talker. I like call and response, like, "Do you like that? Oh, you want that harder — how much harder to do you want it? Do you like it when I give it to you this way? How about when I give it to you this way? Whose is it?"

What are some things you find undeniably sexy in a person?
Confidence says a whole lot. You can be unattractive, but if you're confident, it can do a lot for you. It just opens a whole new door for yourself. There is such a thing as being sexy without being attractive. If you don't think you're sexy, who else will?

Jen, 23

Are you single right now?
No, I'm currently dating someone. We've been on and off for three years. We actually went to college together in Virginia. I was his boss at the radio station that we both worked at. He moved up here awhile ago, and long distance sucks, which is the reason for the on and off. 

So when he did move up here, did you guys just get back together instantly?
It was shaky. Both of us just wanted to be friends, but then he asked me to go dinner one night and told me he was still in love with me. So that's how that happened. 

During the off phase of your relationship, did you hook up with other people?
We were both dating other people when we weren't together. We just decided it was best to move on in the interim if we were going to be 300 miles away. 

So now that you're back together, how is the relationship going?
It's good! It's different because we hadn't been dating in the same area code for awhile. It's awesome in some ways but challenging in others because I see him a lot more than I did when I was in Virginia and he was up here. It's great because we spend a lot of time together, but like in any relationship, friendship or otherwise, if you spend a lot of time together when you're not used to it there's a little bit of conflict that can come along with it. Arguing and what have you. We both work nine to five, we both do improv, and we have our friends. There's rarely a night where we don't have anything to do, so just making sure the other person is included and invited to do whatever is good. Since we came from long-distance, I can live without seeing him for a few days. 

So you're in the same social circle with improv. Is it weird having the same group of friends?
Most of the people I know, I do know through him. So when I got up here and we weren't together, it was interesting. Nobody had any beef with me, I was still welcome in the circle and it was great, but it's been interesting because I starting seeing someone else when I first moved up here, someone who knew my current boyfriend. There was a little bit of tension with that. 

How did you keep it hot when it was long distance?
I was not so much into phone sex. I think we did it once and I was drunk. I just felt cheesy about it. And this is something we face as a challenge in our relationship in the same area code. When we missed each other, we had that physical connection, I'd come up here for three days and we'd have a lot of sex for three days. And that was great! But sometimes… women get sore, okay? Like don't touch me, I'm done. But I think the cliche that distance makes the heart grows fonder has some truth to it. When you're with someone for so long but can still look at them with that passion and say,  "I want to tear your clothes off right now."


Adam, 23

What do you do?
I'm an actor and waiter.

Does your job get you laid?
I'd like to think so, yes. I think I'm a pretty excellent waiter, actually, but I think it's mostly my singing abilities and my acting — that's actually where I met my current boyfriend.

So what's the story there?
I met him at a callback for a show. It's actually only been a month and a half, so it's fairly new.

So you guys are in the honeymoon stage?
It's still really cute, yeah.

So what are the cute things you do that would make everyone groan?
I think the cute kissing, and the hand-holding, and the PDA can be a little much, but I'm not the type to make animal noises with my lover or anything like that… which my roommate used to do. I think that's more embarrassing than hand-holding.

Yes. Do you think that your roommates hear you having sex?
Probably. I've talked to my one roommate — he's kind of farther in the apartment, so he doesn't really hear it. My other roomate, I didn't really talk to her about it, but I don't think she minds if she hears it. She hasn't said anything yet. I mean, she should be able to have time with her boyfriend, and I should be able to have time with my boyfriend. If she's sleeping, I'm not going to have loud raucous sex and rock the walls in between us. It's about being polite. You should be civil as roommates. Put on some music. It's okay when your roommate's out of the house to be a little louder than normal, but when they're sleeping, keep it gentle.

Well, I'm a heterosexual girl, and I've found the guys that I sleep with aren't very loud. In your experience, are men loud?
Maybe you're just not lucky. You're just going after those quiet guys. Actually, you probably go after louder guys, which means they're probably quieter in bed. You should go and find the quiet dorky types and maybe they're crazy in bed.

I know that that's true.
When I'm with quiet people, I'm like, "Excuse me, I don't know if you're enjoying this or not. Can I hear a little bit of a moan, please?" I ask for it, because I want to know if I'm doing it right.

Do you do some dirty talk? Or do you make it sexy?
I try to keep it sexy, but a little dirty talk doesn't hurt. As long as it's not overboard and it doesn't take me out of the moment. I think it all has to be in the moment and not too far-fetched. As long as it's sexy, it works.

Can you tell me about your favorite sexual memory? What's the first thing that comes to mind when I say that?
Actually, I'm thinking of one of the first times I had sex, and it was with a woman. It was in my Ford Bronco on a beach, and that was pretty hot. It was in public, so the excitement factor was raised. We just pulled up, it was an empty street in broad daylight. We just went for it. We were young and took it by the balls.


Whosharel, 30

What do you do?
I'm a data-entry worker.

Has that ever gotten you laid?

Are you in a relationship?
No, right now I'm single and free. You get to look around and see what's out there.

You can do that when you're in a relationship. You just can't do anything about it.
Well, in some relationships you can.

What kind of person would you settle down with?
A woman who's open-minded and liberated in today's modern world.

Does that mean someone who'll sleep with you on the first date?
No. She'll sleep with me if she's in love with me.

Do you think that to have sex you have to be in love?
It's more enjoyable that way.

You've never had a drunken fling with someone you're not in love with?
No, I haven't.

You've never slept with someone you don't love?
No, I have not.

So typically how long do these courtships last before sex enters the picture?
About a week.

You fall in love after a week?
You think it takes longer?

I don't think you can fall in love with someone after a week. I think you can fall in lust with someone after a week and convince yourself it's love so that you can sleep with them. What do you think about that?
To each his own. I don't think it should take too long. I believe in love at first sight. But sometimes it takes a while.

Are you in love with me?
I've looked, and I love you.

So we can have sex tonight?

I'm just trying to play by the rules! Why no sex tonight?
I just met you.

So what are the steps that you take to get to know someone?
I get to know them. Their favorite things, their skills, interests. I wouldn't just say, "I love you," after the first date. I'd look deep within myself and see if it was real.

How many times have you been in love in your life?
Too many times.

Have you ever had your heart broken?
Yes, when I was fifteen. She chose someone else. I was so young and nervous. I fell in love because I was new to the world. I hadn't made love yet. I saw her and she appealed to me and it broke my heart that I couldn't go with her.

What's your best love story?
I met her in the schoolyard and we embraced and made love. I was fifteen.

So this happened shortly after the heartbreak, which was also when you were fifteen?
Yes. Luckily. I think I would have died without her. She saved my life.

How long did it go on for?
Oh, it went on and on. It's still going on. Not too often — just every now and then we celebrate a certain anniversary. That's our way of remembering how we came together and how we grew into the world.

Do you think she's the one?

Do you want to marry her?

Interviews and photography by Lina Canney and Libby Rumelt. Want to talk to strangers in your town? Email