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By Andrea Nemerson

Get real

DEAR ANDREA: I've been hearing about "house humping" from friends who have been in the thick of the housing market. If you haven't heard of it, Wikipedia defines it as "a couple going to a real estate open house, finding a semiprivate part of the house, and having some form of sexual encounter." My boyfriend and I are just starting to look for a house – should we try it before we buy it?

Love,

Humper

Dear Hump: Oh, for God's sake. It's not that I can't see the appeal of semipublic sex – almost getting caught is an obvious turn-on, plus there's the fact that if you do buy, that butler's pantry or airing cupboard will be forever consecrated to (I hesitate to say "anointed by") your special, special luv ... I get it. It's not like there aren't certain forest glades or desert oases, not to mention a used-condom-strewn doorway or two and a certain hipster-biker biergarten in my past that will remain forever imbued with a certain glamour, but while those episodes might be considered somewhat indecorous, they weren't technically impolite. Nobody was inconvenienced or even offended. The same cannot be said for this.

I'm all for hedonistic high jinks, but it's easy to forget that your right to be an unfettered free spirit stops where it infringes upon less-unfettered parties. I'd file "house humping" somewhere between the completely unacceptable (wanking in front of a ground-floor window) and the essentially inoffensive (parking on lovers' lane). It reminds me of nothing so much as the mile-high club, that retro-racy holdover from the days when square-jawed pilots were able to score at the drop of a gold-braided hat, and "stewardess" was code for "fast blond in a miniskirt." While the mile-high concept may have originated with flight crews and was thus exclusive enough not to bother anybody, wannabes have for decades been sneaking off to couple awkwardly in economy-section bathrooms and claim membership for themselves. (I can't imagine any other reason – it stinks in there, and one person has to straddle the cesspit while the other parks her ass in what you hope is a sink bespattered with nothing more than toothpaste, a trickle of nonpotable water, and wet wads of used Kleenex. Fun!) While this may be diverting for the parties behind the little folding door, it's a giant pain for the people lined up in the aisle just trying to pee, and especially for any flight attendant who must stand scratching at the door: "Sir? Ma'am? Everything all right in there? Ma'am? Sir? Do you need some help?" No way do they get paid enough for that. I sent your question on to a Realtor of my acquaintance. She's as southern and genteel as can be and has delighted me the few times we've talked on the phone by calling me "baby girl" in a voice full of sugah, but she's way tougher than she looks and can curse like the prettiest, blondest little stevedore you ever did see. Here's her response, which began with "Lord have mercy!":

You get to have sex at the open house, but only if you do the following:

1. Tell the Realtor what you want to do and allow her the chance to have sex wherever it is you earn the money that puts a roof over your head. It's only fair, after all, since the fulfillment of your fantasy could have a direct impact on the paycheck the Realtor receives. Upside: Realtors may join in! Wheee! Downside: Realtor may call the cops. Them's the breaks.

2. You reimburse the Realtor for any costs incurred by having the open house: advertising, catering, flowers, babysitting, cleaning service, flyers, what have you, as you have astronomically increased the odds of the potential home-buyers losing interest in the property.

3. Sign a waiver releasing Realtor and homeowner from any claim of responsibility for anything that goes wrong on the property while you have the hot-monkey open-house sex. (In my state, I can be held liable for events that occur during an open house.)

That last point raises another question: If you pay the Realtor for the chance to disport yourselves on her turf, could she end up being charged with running some sort of disorderly house? It's not that I think it's particularly likely or anything, but you never know what those DAs might get up to around election time. Leave my friend alone. Go do it in a barn or something. Thank you.

And here's a bizarre little side-tidbit I picked up somewhere, and who knows where else I'd ever have a chance to drop it in, so here goes: '70s pop idol Rex Smith, whom I cannot picture without recalling Lisa Simpson's Non-Threatening Boys magazine, has gone into the realty business. Why I find this fact so delightful, I really couldn't tell you.

Love,

Andrea