Basically, if someone else can see you getting busy, it's against the law. For your best bet, own a private beach (or get permission to boink on one). "Intercourse on a private beach could be legal depending on who can see you," says Michael Helfand, attorney-at-law. "For example, you can have sex in a hot tub on your property, but if it's in view of others, then you could get hit with a public indecency charge. Same for the beach, if you own a large strip of it and it's away from the easy view of others, then frolic away."
While you have the usual risks of sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy if you don't use protection and contraception, having sex on a beach may be hazardous for other reasons, as Wendie A. Howland of Howland Health Consulting explains. "The major hazards involved with sex on a beach are: the very real problem of sand in eyes or other normally moist and tender parts causing painful abrasions, and sunburn if in the daytime."
If you decide to try doing it in the water, you'll have another thing to worry about. "Intercourse in the water, fresh or salt, tends to wash away normal or applied lubrication, and this can result in discomfort," says Howland. I think discomfort may be too mild of a word here — imagine no lubrication combined with sand in the vagina and you have probably everyone's definition of hell on earth.
Depending on where you are on a beach, you may be at risk of getting a little too close to a critter with uncool results. For example, sand flea bites can itch and swell, and they can also transmit viruses and protozoa — not sexy. Also watch out for yellow jackets and other stinging insects, and if you're close to or in the water, some marine animals may get up in your business, like jellyfish — which can injure or even kill you.
Gross, right? Studies have shown that beach sand can contain tons of poop, which can make you sick. Of course, if you're not digging a hole, you may not be at a huge risk, but how much of a chance do you really want to take? Chances are some disgusting bacteria can and will find its way into your body somehow.
...but the risk is all on you and your partner, says attorney Jonathan G. Stein. "There aren’t any places where you can be safe knowing it is legal," he muses, but he notes that there are spots where people do routinely get away with it. "When I was in San Diego, there was a beach called Black’s Beach. It’s a nude beach. People had sex on it all the time. I never recall hearing of anyone getting arrested. Similarly, there are two beaches in Humboldt County (also in California) where people have sex on the beach. I haven’t heard of any prosecutions there either."
Bottom line? Follow your local laws, watch out for bugs and jellyfish, wear sunscreen, and keep sand out of your body parts — and it may be a great experience.
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