Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: San Francisco

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Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.


Charlie, 27

You just moved to San Francisco?
A little more than a month ago. 

Have you been on any good dates here?
Oh yeah. This British girl has been amazing. I met her through a friend of a friend, at a bar down on Haight Street. We were just hanging out and she showed up, because she was in town from San Rafael. 

So what was the first thing that you connected over with her?
It's funny actually — it's kind of random. We both wanted to go to a strip club. I was new to the city, and she was just here on weekends. She had heard about San Francisco's underground sex scene, and what she really wanted to see was a live sex show. I'd never really thought about that possibility, but I figured if this British chick wanted to see a live sex show, I should go with her.

Where did you go?
It turned out that my best friend was in town that day, and he was not feeling the whole thing. I wanted to go with her — I really did. But I couldn't turn my back on my boy. 

That's respectable. So have you two fulfilled your fantasy of seeing a live sex show together?
Not yet, but we still plan on it. Because later that night, when she was done with what she was doing and I was done with what I was doing, we met back up at this hotel, and we really hit it off. We've been hanging out since then.

Did she seem inspired by the show?
I think so! I mean, that's the only explanation I can give for it, because I didn't know what was going on. I was just along for the ride… Hey, do you want a toke? I should have offered.

No, thank you.
This whole time I'm smoking and I didn't even offer, but I assumed you would have asked. Somehow I knew you didn't want any.

So is the weed better out here? It's got to be.
Oh my God! I got my medical-marijuana card, I'm set.

Day one?
As soon as I got an address and Cali ID.

How would you say the dating scene back home compares with out here?
Well, in Florida, there were a lot of strong lines drawn, as far as social status and that type of thing. Blue-collar people mixed in with old money. You just knew that if a girl was getting with you and you were at this certain level of economic status, she was just doing it to piss off her parents. It was like a stupid movie. Kids wrecking their cars and getting new ones the next day — and we're talking high-end, $60,000 to $70,000 cars.

Have you ever been scared by something a girl wanted to do in bed?
Uh, no. Let's just say I'm kind of a freak. Like this British girl, she was giving me head and she decided to stick her finger up my ass. And I was like, "Oh!" I mean, that's not normal for me. That's outside of my normal comfort zone, but I just went with it. It was cool.

Try anything once.

And if it works, try it twice. You're broadening your horizons.
Yeah, I'm on a roll. I mean I figured some crazy shit was going to happen to me when I got here. She didn't think anything of it, obviously, so I wasn't going to make it a big deal. I was cool with it.

She had nice short fingernails?
[laughs] It was very comfortable.



Angela, 23

Where are you from?
Anchorage, Alaska.

Where men outnumber women by… how much?
Three to one, or something. That's true for the rest of Alaska, but Anchorage is the biggest city. It's more like Seattle.

You didn't have the tremendous advantage in the dating pool that the rest of us imagine?

How do you find the love scene in San Francisco?
I like the love scene here. I use online dating pretty often.

How has that worked out for you?
Great! I've gone on like seven or eight dates and had sex with like six people or something. It's wonderful. That's how I consider it a successful date, by the way.

So you're clearly a first-date kind of girl, when possible.

What are your turn-offs? What might derail first-date sex?
I'd say that if men are overly shy, if they don't make the first move or are not comfortable with their sexuality, I feel like I'm wasting my time. 

What are huge turn-ons?
I like funny, clever men. I love if we can talk about politics and books. And it always helps if they're very, very pretty.

Doesn't hurt. So why is online dating easier than meeting people in person?
You can snoop on them. Okay, what do they believe? You can look at all their answers to the questions, and you can rule out certain things that are important to you. If you think the earth is bigger than the sun, or if you don't believe in polyamory, I think I'm going to steer away from you.

Have you explored some of the "sex positive" scenes in town?
I have been to Twist and Club Kiss. I'm actually going there tonight. It's an event at Mission Control, which is actually where they do Kinky Salon. It's only for couples and single women.

Have you ever met anybody at a sex club with whom you pursued a relationship after the fact?
Not yet. I will probably pursue a connection in the future. The last time I went, I met a very cute couple. I might hook up with them again.

Are you interested in a relationship right now?
I'm open to the possibility, but I'm not actively looking. If one comes along, I might go with it. 

Sounds like you're in a freaky free phase. Has anyone ever done anything in bed that shocked you, or made you not want to continue?
Premature ejaculators made me not want to continue. But having been scared? That's never happened to me. I'm pretty open about my limitations. The people I date tend to be pretty open to asking explicitly about things. Like, "Will you burn me with a blowtorch?" No, I don't want to burn you with a blowtorch. I really don't.

Has somebody you were sleeping with pulled out a tremendous surprise that you will forever remember?
No, most people are the same, I think. There were two guys who said they wanted to be fucked with a strap-on, which was kind of a surprise because they were big manly men, but I was only slightly surprised.

Did you comply?

Have you ever stalked anyone?
No. Well, this one time maybe could be considered stalking. I was texting with a friend of mine, back and forth. And I thought, ooh, he's texting with me right now, so he must be free. I'm going to pop into his house. So I did. And he got really uncomfortable and weirded-out by me just showing up.

Have you ever been in love?
Yes, with a few people.

Do you fall in love quickly?
Oh yes, very fast.

Are you sure it's love?
If it feels like love at the time, it is.



Engelbert, 30

You work in technology?
I work in software engineering, basically.

How long have you been in the city?
Five years. I'm originally from Michigan, and San Diego before here.

How are the ladies treating you?
It's always been hard — dudes, by the way.

Pardon me, I should never assume. So, I've always felt, as a woman in San Francisco, that the gay guys have it made, and the straight girls are losing out. Like a gay man has his pick of ten fine boys on any block.
The hot ones do.

But you're a good-looking gentleman. It must be a matter of your high standards.
Please repeat that into the mic very clearly.

You are an attractive man!
I just want that on the record. More than anything, I really don't like the Castro. I don't like the average gay bars, so it's harder. According to statistics, ten percent of the population is people that I could date, and then I don't like ninety percent of that population. So it's decimated.

So where do you find what appeals to you? Where do you look?
There are dating sites. I don't mean to spin this like I go to Craigslist and troll for booty. I did that when I was younger. But basically, unless they bump into me, it's probably not going to happen. 

What was your weirdest dating experience? 
I went out with somebody for about a month. We hung out — everything was going really well. He had a really big beard, which I wasn't really into. And then, after we had probably gone out for like a month, we went home to watch a movie, which is pretty much gay code for "fool around." And it turns out, without any warning, he had a vagina.

It was kind of terrifying.

And you'd been dating for a month?
I mean, isn't that something you would mention — if not on the first date then perhaps on the second or third?

I've never heard of it going that way. Isn't it usually you take a fine woman home and then find out that dude looks like a lady?
Nor had I, and I wish I wasn't here to tell the tale. Lady was a very convincing dude, that's for sure.

So what happened?
I freaked! I opened the door and was like, "No. Out. Leave." And it wasn't so much the fact that I had touched a vagina. But how do you go out with somebody for that long? If you don't mention that you have a vagina, and it's assumed that you don't, what other secrets do you have? It was the whole thing.

Adrian, 30

What do you do for work?
I'm a marine biologist.

Fabulous! Does that get you laid?
I find a lot of people are interested, initially, with the whole idea of marine biology. It's kind of wet, it's kind of squishy.

I knew a biologist once — this lanky, sexy French guy. One day, I asked him exactly what he did in his lab and it turned out that he made extremely thin slices of sheep vaginas. So what do you handle on a daily basis?
I reach my arms into fish bins and pull out random samples and measure them. I take their parameters, if you will.

Would you say that's a little bit like dating?
You know, it is a little bit like dating, because you never know what you're going to get and it's usually slimy.

Do you apply some of the same analytical skills to dating?
I would say that there is definitely a parameter that I'm interested in.

Are you talking about measurements?
I am definitely into measurements, I have to say. And you have to be willing to dive in.

Well put. Have you ever met a sample whose measurements exceeded your capacity?
Well, I thought that for a while, but it worked out okay. You know, you realize when you're thirty, the parameters kind of change a little bit. And things that used to fit don't fit anymore, and things that you think maybe didn't fit in your life all of a sudden do.

Like what?
Well, I've exceeded my normal parameter of dating somebody older than me. When I was young… er, eleven years was way too much older. When you're sixteen, you would never date anybody who's twenty-seven. But now that I'm thirty, I'm dating somebody who's forty-one. And that exceeds my equation. My equation is whatever your age is, divided by two, plus seven. That's your age range.

And now that you have exceeded your pre-established parameters, what has been the reward? 
I'll tell you something in secret. I haven't told anyone this before.

I won't tell anyone besides our readers.
I had my first orgasm.

Congratulations! At thirty!
I know.

That's a long time coming. Pardon the pun.
Yes, yes, it has been. And it's been a new parameter that I just had never experienced before, that's for sure.



Sean, 32

What do you do?
I'm a comedian.

How does that go for your sex life?
You know, the number of comedy groupies is somewhat exaggerated by the media. All those images of comedians scoring all the time — that's not always reality.

I assumed that was mostly rumors spread by comedians themselves.
The degree of success I've enjoyed in comedy, limited as it is, was its peak while I was in a two-year relationship. So I had to turn down a lot of groupies. Okay, I didn't really have to turn down a lot of groupies.

Has it comedy ever gotten you laid?
Comedy? I think it's maybe gotten me to third base before.

Was there a particular joke that did it?
I think it's more my face — the fact that I have kind of childish features and I always look like I'm mildly ashamed of myself. I think it's the vulnerability more than the material.

You look a little like Paul McCartney.
Oh, thank you, that's very flattering. Yeah, so any woman who particularly enjoys the early Beatles — say if Paul McCartney had never grown a beard, and was never able to grow a beard — that's the kind of woman who would like me.

Has a joke ever ruined an opportunity to get laid?
I am certain that has happened. You should never invite someone you're interested in sexually to a show, unless you're really sure it's going to go well. 

Do you crack jokes in bed? 
Yes, I do. I feel like it enhances things with the right kind of girl. But definitely, it can make things terrible. Self-deprecating humor is not the way to go in bed.

I think laughter is nice in bed.
Yes, it's nice if people are relaxed. What happens for me is that I try to be legitimately sexy, or aggressive, or commanding, and that provokes more laughs than actual jokes in bed. I don't really sell intense domination very well. I don't know if it's just my eyes or if I'm not committed to it, but if I'm just trying to get real sexy, it just doesn't work.

Have you ever been scared out of bed by the sexual proclivities of a partner?
You know, I haven't been scared out of bed, but I have been scared out of returning to bed. I think I'm too polite to actually flee the premises.

What's the weirdest sex thing your innocent eyes have seen?
It was more like a vocal thing. It was somebody who was intensely into dirty talking. She was really demanding a lot of complicated hypothetical scenarios from me. It wasn't even sex. It was like a complicated masturbation scenario, plus some oral sex, but also telling a story —

What was the story? Give me the dirt.
So the girl was pleasuring herself. It was all masturbation, and my job was to tell an elaborate story, talk really dirty, but also basically, um, have my dick on her face. That was the whole thing. That was what I was supposed to do. 

Did you add scenic details? Did you create a doctor's office or an island?
No, it was basically just right there. Like you and me in the bed having sex, and this is how great it would be if we were actually having sex, but we weren't having sex. It was weird. And the response was that her voice got lower and lower. The more turned on she got, the lower her voice got. To the point where she was saying "Yes" in a way that just made me think "No!" And I was definitely getting freaked out, but I thought I couldn't stop talking, so was just like a weird stream of consciousness thing. I felt like I was being mentally held hostage.

Could she have been a man?
I'm pretty sure that wasn't the case.

But you were thinking it.
You never know in San Francisco, especially with modern medical science.

Have you ever taken a man home by accident? Does that actually happen?
No. I think you have to be willfully ignorant, at least on some level. No one is really trying to fool you. But I'm also very shy. 

Would you say that you're kind of the third-date guy normally?
Yeah, for the most part. It's shyness, and also sexual guilt. And I have to like the person.

That's a nice quality.
It's a weird, civil thing to say. I'm not opposed to casual sex, but I'm not into pushing for it to happen. I prefer to know someone as a person, for the feeling to be right.



Michael, "105"

What do you do for a living?
I'm a member of the Screen Actors' Guild and the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists.

Are you actively on television or radio?
I have been in the past. I've done movies of the week and voiceovers and several shows with the San Francisco Opera.

I'd imagine this career choice would be great for your sex life.
Oh, it's terrible for your sex life.

Well, because you're working all the time. You have long hours and you've got to keep your instrument in top form. You can't be dissipating your energies all over the place. Want to know what was good for my sex life? Working on the railroad. 

What did you do on the railroad?
I was a dining-car steward. Oakland to Chicago, for four years.

Did you have sex on the train?
Absolutely. As often as I could.

Weekly? Monthly?
Whenever I saw a young lady in the dining car, and she kind of glanced at me, and I kind of glanced at her, we'd step back into the Pullmans. And I had a room back there, because I was an important person, you see. So I could entertain after hours. This was a long time ago, before you were born.

Don't assume such things. How long ago?

Damn it, you're right. So I imagine you wore a nice uniform?
It was not a nice uniform at all. It was a red sport coat. Can you imagine anything more unappealing?

Right, it was the '70s. I keep imagining the '40s.

So what would you say to a lady on a dining car to get her to accompany you to your lair?
"How are you, my dear? You look lovely this morning. Did you sleep well?" I only dealt with first-class, only the Pullman passengers. Those are the cars with the sleeping rooms — little hotels on wheels. If you were in coach, you'd be back with the hoi polloi, babies throwing up and all that. I never trucked with them. So if a young lady comes into the Pullman, you seat her — "How are you my dear?" Yadda, yadda, yadda. And then when she comes in for dinner, you say, "I'd like to buy you a glass of wine. Come back after we close." They wouldn't always say yes, but more often than not, they did.

Did you ever get caught?

Amazing. Were the other employees doing it as well?
Well, there's only one steward on a train. I didn't like competition. I left those other guys on the ground.

Did you ever have such great opportunities after you left the railroad?
Well, I think it has a lot to do with your appeal as you get older. 

You're an attractive gentleman.
Thank you. But as you get older, you look for different things in the realm of sex. I look for humor, curiosity, a sense of play, compassion. I look for passion and physical attractiveness. Nice legs and hot shoes are always good.

Do you find your romance here in San Francisco, or are you inclined to look elsewhere?
I would never look elsewhere. One never has to look very far.