Whether you love or loathe the idea of anonymous outdoor gay sex, it’s hard to escape the fact that gay cruising grounds are all around us.
You probably don’t even know, but from where you’re sitting or standing right now there’s probably a cruising or dogging ground just metres away from you in London, and they’re a hangover from more homophobic times in the UK.
Gay cruising is not a new phenomenon. It dates back to when sex between men was illegal in the UK. Finding a place where two men could be intimate with each other without too many questions being raised was tricky until it was realised that men’s public toilets were a perfect place.
These were named cottages because they actually used to look like quaint little cottages.
The act of finding sex in these public conveniences became known as “cottaging“.
The sex between men who would frequent a cottage would usually be anonymous. Gloryholes, a hole drilled between stalls in public toilets became a way in which this sex could remain faceless.
To this day there are loads of cottages and cruising grounds in Central, North London, East London, South London and West London. One of the most famous of these is Hampstead Heath.
Cottaging and cruising etiquette
Generally speaking, not a lot of talking goes on when cruising. A series of looks and gestures would let others know what you were up to. At urinals, guys would stand, playing with themselves subtly to let others know that they were up for some play. Then if the feeling is mutual the pair could make their way to a cubicle for more privacy.
At cruising grounds, much of the same would happen, except the action took place away from public footpaths.
Is Cottaging Illegal in the UK?
Cottaging is illegal in the United Kingdom under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and applies to both heterosexual and homosexual acts.
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 doesn’t say however that sex in a public place is illegal. Cruising grounds and cottaging are two different spaces. Cruising grounds are defined as open spaces, where men can hook up with men, or straight couples can meet for sex (often referred to as dogging), as long as no members of the public can see you.
You risk being arrested if reported by a member of the public. If this happens you have the right to legal advice from an on-duty solicitor at the police station. If convicted you could be sentenced to 6 months in prison and /or a fine.
Check out our safety tips for hooking up and meeting with new guys.