Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: Portland, OR

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.



Patricia, 25

What's the dating scene like in Portland?
I'm used to living in a small fishing town, and it seems that guys are less aggressive here and less forward than I'm used to. There's a lot more unspoken.

Can you give an example of the forwardness that you're used to?
A lot less of the "We're not going to define this now, blah, blah, blah" and a lot more of the "I'm interested in you! We should date!" You have to be careful because in a small town, if you spend a lot of time with someone, people will just define the two of you as "together." Also, you might turn into someone's ex and have to run into them. That doesn't happen so much here. Here, people experiment more. 

Have you done things here that you wouldn't have done in a small town?
How in depth do you want me to go? 

I like depth.
My first experience with Portland was having a random couple ask me to be the third person in their relationship. I tested the waters with it and at first I thought it was a little weird. 

Did they want to just have a threesome with you or did they want you to join their relationship?
Both. It wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be, which was a shame. It was good, but mostly it was too drunken and awkward. 

Who was more into you, the guy or the girl?
Oh, definitely the guy. The vibe I got from the girl was "I'm cool with this because I'm in this relationship and I want to support my boyfriend, but I'm not going to say anything about how awkward it is or how really mad I am about it." I'll occasionally run into them and awkwardly say, "Hi, we should hang out!" Then we never do. 



Dennis, 38

What do you do?
I'm a writer. I wrote Big Game and Other Stories

Has being a writer helped you meet girls?
Not as such, no. I'm not in it for that. As far as meeting girls goes, I say: socialize. Make yourself a part of interesting organizations. Getting out is important. 

Do you have any good hookup stories?
I don't want to mention her by name, but to quote Tom Waits: "You don't meet nice girls at coffee shops."

Care to elaborate?
No, I'd probably be leaving myself open to charges of slander. She was fun, but she stole from me, which was not cool. 

How would you describe Portland girls?
Hyper-intellectual. Generally non-monogamous. It's a mad scene. Some of us are looking for her, you know, and there are a lot of girls who really aren't looking for a long-term thing. I don't think that's just a Portland thing. Maybe it's a world thing. The whole scene is obviously changing, but I'm old-school, and I'm good with that. 

What advice would you have for people looking for a long-term monogamous relationship in a city like Portland?
Keep looking. She's out there. He's out there. Keep looking. 



Charise, 38

What do you do?
I am a middle-school teacher. Special-ed.

What do you think of the dating scene in Portland?
I'm in an open relationship, with a very nice man whom I love, but when I dated, I was afraid to be myself.

What's your philosophy on open relationships?
I want to be able to fuck whoever I want. And, I want my partner to do that too, and I never want it to come between us. If you want to fuck someone else, fuck someone else. 

If your partner wanted to be monogamous, what would you say?
Well, I've tried it before. It's not like every weekend I go out and find someone to fuck. But, if I'm hanging out with someone and it's going in that direction, I want to go there. It makes me whole, it makes me a more bold person. 

Do you have any good hookup stories?
I was at an event, and I had a bit too much to drink, and I decided to put my gorilla suit on.

You have a gorilla suit?
Yeah! I took all of my clothes off, even my underwear, and I put my gorilla suit on and put my sneakers on and started walking by myself. Then I decided to go swimming. There was this guy walking behind me, and I was really hot in the gorilla suit, so I took it off and put it on the side of the path, and we swam naked. Afterward, I couldn't find my shoes, so I was walking on this gravel path barefoot, but I found my gorilla suit, put it on, walked back to his van, and had sex with him. In the morning, I did the walk of shame in a gorilla suit. 

You did the walk of shame in a gorilla suit?

Did anyone see you?
Oh yeah. Dogs chased me. 



Ryan, 27

What do you do?
I sell wine. 

Is that a good way to meet girls?
It's actually all right. I'm actually attached right now, so I can't elaborate too much, but let me tell you, I find more opportunities at this job than most. People here are pretty free-thinking, so you can hook up without trying too hard. No one's really trying to get married.

Anything you want to achieve, sex-wise, sometime in your life?
I've done a lot of crazy shit in my life. I dated a couple of couples at the same time. Had a few girlfriends who were all aware of each other, no problem there. I jumped off a freight train at sixty miles per hour and lived to tell about it. No broken bones. I'm generally an adrenaline junkie, and God likes me so I haven't died. I should be dead quite a few times over. 

Tell me about dating couples.
Generally, it's all about communication. If everyone's open and actually talks to each other, says what they're looking for and what they want, then good. If not, you end up being in the middle of some shit where maybe one person's trying to break out and one's not.

Were you just involved with the girls in these couples?
Yeah, I had one couple where the guy liked to watch, and another one where the other guy liked to participate on her end of things. 

So, you were like an opposite of a cuckold.
A cuckler, I guess. I'm kind of a voyeur, so I don't mind being watched. I like it. 

Would you ever do it the other way?
The other way? No. I'm not a big sharer. 

What if she was with another girl?
Even then, no. I've had girlfriends who've tried to bring that shit into the bedroom, but it's not my thing. If I wanted to fuck two girls, I'd do it. But I'd just as soon walk out.



Heidi, 23

What do you think of the dating scene in Portland?
A lot of men are very preoccupied with not coming on too strong. They've decided that appearing interested in a girl is somehow rude. So, they won't ask for your number, even if they've spent the last half-hour flirting with you. My current boyfriend waited a month to ask me for my number, even though it was clear that we both really liked each other. For a few weeks I thought that he must have been gay or have a girlfriend or something, because I could think of no other explanation for his behavior. I'm very much a feminist and I'm supportive of that kind of attitude in men, but it does become problematic when women are into rough play and attitude. I mean, if it's not your thing it's not your thing, but I will try anything twice. 

Is there anything in particular you want to try?
I've done quite a bit. I've done groups. I've done bondage — that's really fun. Polyamory, which didn't work out so well. It's difficult when you get feelings mixed up with sex.

Are you a top or a bottom?
It depends on how drunk I am, but usually I'm a sub. It's kind of nice not being responsible for the situation at hand. In this culture, women are supposed to have such control over everything concerning their sexual lives. I'm totally thrilled with that, but occasionally it's nice to just relinquish control and just go with what feels good. If that's at the hands of someone that you know and trust and love, awesome! That's great. 

How about group sex?
It has to be over four people. If it's just four people, it's basically just two couples having sex in front of one another, which is just kind of boring. Five or more is okay, but I still prefer just one-on-one. I have to be in a really specific mood for it, and even then I don't always indulge. To be perfectly honest, it's sort of hard to actually find five people who are totally willing and in the same place.



Xander, 25

What do you do?
I'm a student, a journalist, and I work for a band. 

What do you think of the dating scene in Portland?
I've had a lot of bad luck in this town, and it took getting with somebody who's not really from Portland to really find some true happiness. I'd meet girls who looked really awesome, and then they'd say "I'm totally into polyamory and I'm not looking for anything serious."

You're not a fan of polyamory?
No sir. Monogamy is the way to go. I'm all about devoting all of one's self to one person. That's much more fulfilling. I once dated three or so girls at the same time, and it was lame, time-consuming, and very expensive. 

Well, because I'm a gentleman, I insist on, for example, buying girls drinks. That's where the expense comes in.

Do you have any good hookup stories?
The first time I met the wonderful woman I'm with, I was at a band meeting, with the lead singer. I'd just gotten out of a relationship. I thought, "Man, that woman's incredibly beautiful. That's amazing." But I didn't know that she was the new female singer. I found out when we were going on tour. For a long time I thought this girl was very much out of my league, because she was a professional musician and I'm whatever the fuck I am. I was very nervous about showing any interest whatsoever. Little did I know, she was interested in me the whole time. I was too nervous to make the first move, she was too nervous to make the first move, and it took quite a few beers to change my mind. 

Do you have a sexual to-do list?
I am so completely in all ways satisfied with the woman that I'm with right now, that I can't think of anything all that enticing. If I do want to do something, I'd want to do it with her. 

That's a rare thing. Congratulations.
Yeah. And she's making tamales for me as we speak. So, I should probably go eat dinner with her.

Interviews and photography by Joe Streckert.