Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: Portland, OR

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Talking to Strangers
Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.


Natalie, 26

What do you do?
I work for a nonprofit that does HIV prevention and community outreach, and my main passion in life is women's sexual health and wellness, so a lot of my time is spent reading books about women and sex and feminism. Non-professionally, I do rollerderby.

How do guys react to that?
It definitely inspires mixed reactions. There still are a lot of misconceptions about rollerderby girls, so I sometimes have to explain about what derby is and isn't. Most guys, though, are kind of intrigued and think, "Oh, this girl does something different."

What do you have to explain to them?
I have to explain that it's real. It's a real, athletic, competitive sport. It's full contact, and yeah, there's a level of sexiness to it because we've got strong women in tight clothes beating each other up, but a lot of guys think that we just play around. Like it's a pillow fight or something. That's not what it is. It's not fake like it used to be.

It used to be fake?
Well, back in the '70s and '80s, it was more like pro wrestling — hitting people with chairs, putting them in headlocks, punching them repeatedly.

What's your proudest accomplishment?
I'm pretty proud of myself in general. A lot of my friends tell me I'm ballsy because I hit on guys instead of just letting them come to me. I've realized that guys are pretty shy. If they think a girl's attractive, they're going to be really nervous about rejection and stuff, so if I think a guy's cute, I should make the first move. Whenever I've made the first move and it's been successful, I've always been proud about that.

I think my proudest moment was with this one guy who was working at a record store. He was so gorgeous — covered in tattoos, really hot. I went up to him and said, "Are you an artist or just a canvas?" It was really cheesy, but I was proud that I came up with it on the spot. It led to a longer conversation, and he was actually a tattoo artist.

Did it lead to anything besides conversation?
Yeah, we started dating a little bit and having sex for a while until he moved away. It was all very successful.

Any nightmare stories?
I have an embarrassing one, but I don't really get embarrassed, so it's more just funny. I hooked up with this guy. It was a one-night-stand kind of thing. I really like guys with chest hair and beards — that's a turn-on for me. He had a lot of body hair, and I was going down on him, and I got a pubic hair in the back of my throat. Obviously, that's not comfortable, so I started choking a little bit. I was still going down on him and trying to play it cool, but I eventually had to say, "Hold on." So I stopped and was reaching my finger back in my throat trying to get his pube out of my throat. I thought it was really funny. I think he was kind of turned off, though, because it didn't go anywhere after that.

What is the weirdest thing anyone has ever asked you to do in the bedroom?
I don't know. I guess I'm so open-minded sexually that I don't really think of things as weird. I'm actually disappointed that people haven't asked me to do more.

Is there anything you've wanted them to do?
I do have a pretty elaborate schoolgirl-spanking fantasy. I've always wanted to live that out, but I've never had a partner who's been able to commit enough to the perverted-teacher role and really get into it. You know, I've been naughty and I haven't been doing my homework, so I get a spanking and all that. It's pretty elaborate in my head, but I just haven't met someone who could get into that meaty teacher role.


Arthur, 25

What do you do?
I'm currently an accountant at a medical-consulting firm.

Does that ever impress the ladies?
No, not usually.

Really? They never think, oh, he's an accountant, he must be rollin' in it?
No, I don't think they think that. I think they think it's a boring office job done by a boring but mathematically talented man.

Well, is that what it's like?
It is pretty boring, yeah.

So, if you're out at a bar or a club how do you get people to notice you?
I guess I just wait. I'm very patient. A very patient man when it comes to things like that.

Let's say you're out drinking, or at a party — do you have that one story you use?
Well, in high school, I'd been going out with this girl for a while and we decided that we wanted to have sex in the woods. So, we go and do it. It was this park that was semi-close to where we lived, and we went out into this spot that we thought was really secluded, and we laid a blanket down. We're going at it and business is happening, when suddenly she gets this look on her face. Like, a bad look. Not the kind of look you want someone you're having sex with to have. Then I hear people laughing right behind me. I turn around, and a couple of joggers have stopped. It was an immediate softie. It was embarrassing on many levels, and I wondered how long those joggers had been there watching a pair of high schoolers fuck.

What happened? Did they just stand there watching you?
Yeah. They just stood there watching and laughing at us until finally they went off on their own. They could have been there for five minutes, twenty, who knows.

What do you look for in the ladies?
Nice facial features, of course. That's what's going to attract me first and foremost, the visual appeal. After that, someone who's pretty smart and with it and laughs at my jokes, and tells a ton of her own. I don't really have a preference, but I do like redheads. I haven't been able to get with one yet, but it's a goal.

Well, good luck.
Thank you!


Casey, 22

Autumn, 21

What do you do?
Casey: I go to school and I'm a musician.

What kind of music do you play?
Casey: Indie rock, mostly.

Has that ever gotten you laid?
Casey: Yes.
Autumn: No, I met you before…
Casey: Well, after the shows…

Do elaborate!
Autumn: I get horny for him when I see him play the keys.

So you play the piano?
Casey: I play the piano and some guitar in the band I'm in right now.

What's the name of your band?
Casey: On The Tundra.

How long have you known this guy, Autumn?
Autumn: Almost a year. In two weeks, it'll be a year.

Did you meet him at a show?
Autumn: No, I met him at Starbucks. He was in line behind me, I didn't have enough money to buy coffee, and he paid for it.
Casey: She didn't know I was a musician for a long time.

That's gallant.
Casey: I try!
Autumn: It was fifty cents.

So what do you do to fend off the other girls at the show?
Autumn: I punch them in the tits, really hard!

Autumn: No. I give mad stink-eye. And I grab him and put my panties on his hair.
Casey: I deflect some of them to the other band members that don't have girlfriends. I take them aside and say, "Here, meet the bassist." That usually works pretty well.

You help out the bassist a lot?
Casey: I try! I've found him a lot. I say to him, "You've got to take one for the team, talk to all these girls after the show, because I'm not allowed."

That's what friends are for! Do you have any crazy backstage stories for us?
Casey: She's sitting right there!

How do you feel about having a musician boyfriend?
Autumn: It's sexy. You know, girls who used to get all the guys in like, seventh and eighth grade will contact me on Facebook and I'll say, "Oh, not much is new with me these days, I'm going to school and I date a musician…"

Casey, how does it feel being her arm candy?
Casey: Pretty good. It actually makes talking to girls after shows a lot easier. I don't have to do much. She can give them the stink-eye and we're good.


Jimmy, 24

What kind of job do you have?
I'm unemployed.

I'm sorry.
It's okay.

So if you're out, trying to chat up girls and they ask you that question, what do you say?
I tell them that I'm an artist. I'm really into photography and visual arts, printmaking and design and all that kind of stuff, which is true.

Has being an artist gotten you laid?
I wish. I haven't gotten laid since I've been unemployed.

I am so sorry. What did you do before?
I used to help design skate-parks.

So that got you laid?
Yeah. And, you know, I totally get a boner for skater girls. If a girl can skate, if she can really rock that look, I go for that. I love, love, love skater girls. Really love them.

What did you think of the derby girls earlier tonight?
I liked what I saw. Really liked it.

So, back before this horrible unemployment drought of yours, did you have any moments of triumph?
Well, I used to live in a fraternity, and I brought this girl home one night and she was loud. Really loud. Like, I was shocked how much noise she made — it was cool. Of course, all the other guys were able to hear her, so when I came out later they started doing this pirate chant thing. They were all raising their fists in the air and going, "Uh! Uh! Uh! Uh!" I was pretty proud of myself, all the guys cheering me on.

What about her?
I dunno. I think she was kind of embarrassed.


Linda, 27

So, what do you look for in guys?
People who are nice. I think that's really important — being genuinely nice. And, you know, being attractive is always good.

What if you just want to have sex with them?
Then clearly just looks!

Any triumphant hookups?
I don't have any hookups I feel really triumphant about, but I do have a good strip-club story. For my ex-boyfriend's birthday, we went to a strip club. It was wintertime and it was chilly so I was wearing a sweater. We sat up in the front row, because it was his birthday. The stripper was up there doing her thing, and then she gets off the stage and she gestures to me to stand up. I stood up, and she started taking off my sweater… except that she grabbed my shirt, too. I wasn't wearing a bra, and I wound up being stripped at a strip club.

That is awesome. What's the strangest thing anyone's ever asked you to do in the bedroom?
Well, I haven't done it, but someone said it would be really hot if I dressed up in a boy-scout uniform.

A boy-scout uniform?
Yeah, but I haven't done it yet.

Penises: sexy or hilarious?
Some of them are really hilarious. But, if it's a normal-looking one, it's usually pretty sexy.


Nathanael, 30

What do you do?
I'm something of a software person, and I live in Portland so I'm a writer.

What kind of things do you write?
I wrote and published a tabletop-roleplaying beer-and-pretzels game called Cannibal Contagion.

So has being a writer ever gotten you laid?
I've considered this, but, again, this is Portland. Pretty much every person you walk up to and say, "Hello, I'm a writer," will say, "I'm a writer, as well! Let me show you my…" Okay. End of conversation.

What do you do to get people to notice you, in a bar or at a party or something like that?
To notice me? Good looks. Dress nice. Charisma. That Southern charm!

Where are you from?
Mobile, Alabama.

What's the dating scene like in Mobile, Alabama?
Well, in high school, it was pretty awesome! The first time that I hung out with a certain group of friends that defined my senior year of high school, we rode in the back of a Chevy S-10 pickup truck which then exploded halfway through the Mobile tunnel. The cops came, and a friend of mine and I hopped out of the back and ran. We ended up in the back of a police cruiser with a cop who was like, "I'm from L.A. They ain't got shit here! We got violence in L.A.!" They told us all these drug stories. It was really surreal.

Do you have any hookup stories you like to brag about?
Lost my virginity in the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese. I was wearing my girlfriend's clothing at the time, and on substances I won't really go into detail about right now. It was awesome. We were bounced out of there, and for a year I was no longer welcome at the place where a kid can be… a man! I'm not lying.

How did they catch you?
They found this other goth girl bouncing her head on a guy's cock in the ball pit.

Was the person who caught you in costume?
I was found out by one of their cheerful uniformed employees. But part of the escort out did include a man in a mouse costume.

Interviews and photography by Joe Streckert.