What does cottaging mean?

Cottaging is a slang term for sex between, usually, two men in a public space, typically a public toilet. Before same-sex sexual relationships became legal men, who were bisexual or gay had few options on where to have sexual liaisons so would have sex in discreet places, where they wouldn’t be caught. The term dates back to Victorian times when “cottage” referred to a small house or public house.

In the 20th century, public toilets in the UK sometimes took the look of a small cottage, sometimes with a thatched roof.

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.

Before the rise of gay bars and before homosexuality was legal in the UK, cottages were a way for gay and bisexual men to meet other men.

There are thousands of gay cruising grounds and cottages across the UK and still remain popular to this day.

Cottaging, the act of having sex in a public toilet, is illegal in the United Kingdom under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, and applies to both heterosexual and homosexual acts.

Is cottaging or gay cruising illegal?

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.

What is cottaging?
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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.

A caution or conviction will result in a criminal record for a sexual offence which you will have to disclose in any criminal record checks.

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Check out more definitions in our Big Gay Glossary

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