During my sophomore year of college, I was enjoying a very PG-13 make-out sesh with my then-boyfriend when I realized I’d left a bunch of laundry in my washing machine. The cycle had finished running hours ago, and I’d fully forgotten about it—until then. I could feel our hook-up progressing into R-rated (and then, NC-17-rated) territory, but I couldn’t stop thinking about my laundry. It had already been hours since I put it in the machine—how long would it take the mildew process to begin? What if it already had?
And then, I started laughing. As I imagined the stale stench that, at this point, was almost definitely pervading my once-clean laundry, I couldn’t help but smile—and then giggle, and then full-on guffaw. I don’t know if it was my incredulity or the visual of a mildew monster ravaging my would-be clean clothes that got me (let’s be real—it was probably the imagined mildew monster), but I couldn’t stop laughing.
My boyfriend, annoyed, asked me what the hell was going on. And I explained: I just couldn’t stop thinking about the laundry I’d left in the machine. I kept trying to reorient myself, to get myself back in the zone, to focus on the task at hand—which, of course, was sex. But a girl has needs, and sometimes those needs manifest in the desire to have clean laundry without having to run the cycle twice because you forgot about your clothes the first time. (He invited me to go handle my laundry situation and was thoroughly “out of the mood” by the time I got back—lame.)
Mine is probably among the most mundane sex-fail stories you’ve ever heard, but it represents a theme that goes all too often undiscussed in sex discourse: A bunch of us aren’t actually thinking about sex during sex.
The laundry story might’ve been my first transgression in this arena, but it certainly wasn’t my last. I’ve thought about my to-do list during oral. I’ve thought about the groceries I needed to pick up later that day during an early morning masturbation sesh. And I’m only slightly ashamed to admit that I got totally side-tracked thinking about Chef’s last episode in South Park during sex one time. These mental digressions aren’t indications that the sex—penetrative, oral or solo—I’m experiencing is sub-par (it’s usually far from it). Sometimes, I just get distracted.
And I figured I wasn’t the only human who’s mind seriously wandered while getting it on. So I threw a question out into the ether: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve thought about during sex, or any kind of hook-up? And the responses were honestly pretty incredible. (They definitely top my oh-so banal thinking-about-laundry-during-sex tale, I’ll tell ya that.)
“My boyfriend and I had seen a terrible stand-up comedy show with some of our friends one evening. Later that night, we were hooking up, and neither of us were into it—like, at all. I asked him if something was wrong, and he said no—he could just tell I wasn’t into it. He asked me what was on my mind, and I told him I couldn’t stop thinking about the terrible, terrible stand-up comic we’d seen a few hours earlier. I just kept thinking about how hard he probably works, and how much he probably loves comedy, and how he’s just not good at it. (I’m a stand-up comic myself, so it probably gets me more than others.)”
“One time, my boyfriend and I were hooking up, and I kept thinking about wanting to light a candle because I loved the smell. We literally paused so I could light the candle, and then continued hooking up.”
“It was the first time I hooked up with this guy and the first thing I thought was, Oh my god, I’m fucking Jesus Christ. He had the long hair, Christian, beard thing going on, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it!”
“On Saturday night, we were going to sleep around 1:30 a.m. I knew I had to wake up for church by 8 a.m. the next day. One thing led to another, and we had sex for a while in a few positions. At one point, I got paranoid that I would look tired at church and people would know it was because we had sex.”
“My very first boyfriend’s parents left him alone for a bit and told him to take care of the house, the garden and the chickens they owned. We spent the whole day together, and later that evening, we started making out. Then, I suddenly remembered we’d never fed the chickens, and I just couldn’t stop myself from pausing, mid-make-out, to say, ‘You forgot to feed the hens!!’ of course, it was difficult to go back to making out after that. So he got dressed and did what he needed to do—feed the hens.”
“Bob’s Burgers was on the TV, so I just kept thinking about the Belcher family. (Which, if you don’t know the show, was a super weird experience because they’re all cartoons.)”
“My current boyfriend (of seven years!) and I had just begun seeing each other, and I stopped by his house around lunch time—planning to drop by for a bit and then grab some food on the way home. Before I knew it, it was 6 p.m., and the shop I was planning to swing by had already closed. I oh-so subtly tried to remember what food I had left at home that I could cook up—but clearly it wasn’t as subtle as I thought, because my boyfriend pulled back and shot me a really confused looked. Apparently, I’d gotten lost in my thoughts and had stopped kissing him completely without realizing. Embarrassed, I explained what I’d been thinking about and why. We ordered takeout shortly thereafter—it was delicious.”
“I came up with the perfect hook to a cover letter I had been fussing over all day. It was so satisfying! Double satisfying—if you’re counting the sex.”
“While having sex in a hot spring at night, I got paranoid that a fish would bite my genitalia.”
“My boo and I were going at it once, and I was struck by a brilliant idea for an Apple product—a rainbow keyboard that projects images as holograms instead of displaying them on a tangible screen. Honestly, could not stop thinking about my brand new (obviously incredible) invention the entire time. (Tim Cook, hit me up!)”
“One time, I was hooking up with this girl, and my nose started bleeding. And not the slow, oozing kid—the water-coming-out-of-a-faucet kind. Fortunately, I realized it wasn’t snot pretty quickly, turned on the lights and grabbed some tissues from my night-stand. But, it turned out I still got some on her face. The thought that went through my head? Holy shit, did it get in her mouth? Wait—does that make her a vampire?”
“Weirdest thought I’ve had during sex? My parents in the next room—I did not orgasm that time.”
*Some names have been changed.
**Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.