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The Sex Diaries

Six real New Yorkers, seven days of longing glances on the subway, text-message hookups, and hot marital romps.


Reputedly, New York is the sexiest city on earth, a place of beautiful women, powerful men, and lots of hotels. Whole industries are predicated on this state of affairs: Real estate is the ultimate aphrodisiac, the nightlife never stops pumping, and fashion is, after all, a technology of seduction. Everyone looks great, but is anyone really getting laid around here?

We asked six New Yorkers—from a recent college grad to a sexually frustrated father of three—to track every sexual encounter, thought, and arousal for a week. Here’s what their examples showed us: exactly how gay cruising works, that white-collar professionals do indeed masturbate in the office bathroom, and that subway rides are primarily spent fantasizing about co-riders. The young’uns are far more insecure about being single than are thirtysomethings, and it seems that the urbanites with kids are having more sex than singles. Yes, you read that correctly: Shacking up, even with little devils, greatly increases your action. Because even the sluttiest young single spends the majority of his or her nights alone. Here’s how the city that never sleeps, sleeps around.

Illustrations by Omnivore  

Female, 23, publishing assistant, straight and single.

7:30 P.M. Best friend calls and recounts the “out-of-body experience” of her wedding-dress fitting. I am simultaneously jealous and totally grossed out.
7:50 Sister calls and makes excuses for her husband’s weirdness at dinner last night. I don’t want to have to make excuses for anyone else.
10:58 Roommate finally comes home from last night’s date. Hate her. Can’t even look at her.
11:20 Roommate catalogues every second in hot and heavy detail. Hate her more. Go to my room.
11:45 Details of roommate’s date find their way into my fantasy. Is stealing other people’s sex lives wrong? Decide it’s no worse than porn. Proceed.

7:15 A.M. Wonder if roommate can hear vibrator through thin wall. I can’t hear hers. Guess not.
7:35 Shower, dress. Party tonight after work. Woke up too late for cuteness.
10:08 Sister calls, gushes about some new guy to set me up with. Experience with sister tells me that a ton of compliments equals ugly.
6:00 P.M. Babysitting. Seven-year-old: “Are you married?” Jesus Christ.
7:45 Meet friend and brother. Cute brother.
8:15 I have this problem: I meet a guy and instantly gauge our potential sex life. All signs with cute brother point to a decidedly vanilla future.
9:02 Begin to drink too much.

7:15 A.M. Am an ass. Had far too much wine and got blackout-drunk. Can’t remember anything. Thankfully am in own bed. Alone. Inventory: Phone? Check. iPod? Check. Keys? Check. Wallet? Wallet? No wallet.
9:05 Meet friend in front of work. She went home with an older man. She also lost her wallet. Maybe I am not the only idiot in the world.
10:30 E-mail cute brother. Admit defeat, apologize for behavior. Am told I kept touching his face while talking to him. Like, a lot. Cute brother uses the word eccentric to describe me. Am mortified.
11:00 A.M.–4:59 P.M. Mortification.
5:01 Flashback: I made out with a stranger. Perhaps he stole my wallet? He did not give me his number. Not surprised.

9:00 A.M. Decide not to e-mail cute brother anymore.
1:15 P.M. Lunch with engaged best friend. Friend, 23. Fiancé, 38. Resolve never to marry for money.
5:30 L train. Pregnant girl: “Eric and I are too in love to have a plan right now, y’know?” You’re pregnant! You need to have a plan!
5:45 C train. Pretty blonde: “I lovelovelove not working. Being married is the best.” Friend, “I know. You want to go to yoga tomorrow around eleven?”
10:45 P.M. Text old boyfriend comment about Lost. “Worst episode ever!” No response.
11:10 Still no response. Spiraling into freak-out of new girlfriends, reasons he hates me, me being lame and desperate. Give up. Bed.

7:35 A.M. Text from ex: “Seriously. What a waste of an hour!” Maybe am not the biggest loser on the planet.
5:58 P.M. Straight home after work; have grounded myself after Monday’s debacle. Fix drink, snack; put in movie.
6:15 Friend calls. “Can I come over? I’ll bring beers.”
6:40 Let friend in. Cute friend. Used to sleep with friend. Friend holds my hand up six flights to my door. Realize any attraction is long gone.
8:00 Friend out the door.

12:30 P.M. E-mail from cute brother.
7:00 Dinner with roommate and friend. All tables are filled with couples holding hands and kissing.
7:40 I notice the couple to my left has not finished one round of drinks in 40 minutes. It’s true—couples don’t drink as much as singles! If I had a boyfriend, I wouldn’t have blacked out and lost my wallet!

2:45 P.M. Brunch. Meet friend-of-friend publicist who has been touted as “perfect for me.” He’s a name-dropping, social-climbing ass.
3:45 P.M. He goes to the bathroom. I give his business card to the waitress, who’s been eyeing him.
5:00 Drunkenness ensues.

Total: Two acts of masturbation, one makeout session.


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