Anthony Carter

Should Cruising Be Considered an Unacceptable Risk?

Filed By Anthony Carter | February 25, 2011 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, The Movement
Tags: cruising for sex, relationships, sex

I was 36 the first time I had sex in public.

I had no idea this was an option. I kept hearing Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong in my head, "How long has this been going on". I truly thought people went to the park to read, the restrooms to pee and the malls to shop.

Who knew.

Coming out of a long term relationship at 36, I was angry, hurt, suicidal and just plain done. It was one more disappointment that seemed too much to bear. Like a number of men, once the relationship that you have spent so much time putting together disintegrates, there is a faulty understanding of whether or not you are still attractive.

Cruising takes care of that.

Nothing like a romp in the great outdoors to set your heart a thumping, your mind to shutting down and the belief that you have thumbed your nose at the man, polite society, and have truly gotten away with something dastardly. Oh yes, online or in person, the concept of free, noncommittal sex (hookups if you're 30 or under) serves a number of functions.

The connection can be explosive, entertaining, instantaneous and most importantly if the person is a pain in the ass you never have to see them again.

You don't have to argue about the same thing for the millionth time.

It's free and always available. Nobody is at these spots not wanting to be sexual. A bit of negotiation and you're off and running. Is this enough? What happens when this carnival of manly delights ceases to thrill?

What do I when I'd rather sit home and the thought of getting up and getting dressed to go to the man buffet causes me to yawn?

The concept of cruising fascinates me on some severe levels. One of the things that I find so telling about it is the concept of the risks we are all willing to take when it comes down to this business of getting "done."

Often, we are led to believe that our actions have no consequences, that we can do whatever we like, whenever we like and if it ain't hurting nobody who gives a shit. This is a very wrong, upside down way of handling our decisions and consequently our lives.

Everything we do has consequences.

Some are immediate others take time and work on us slowly and deliberately. What we really mean is this decision has a certain set of results that I am comfortable with. I can live with the fallout of such and such decision.

This is truly the case for cruising.

Yes, I could go to jail. Yes I could contract an STD or possibly HIV. Yes, I might have to register as a sex offender. I could be bashed or have my throat cut but I am willing to take these chances. Fascinating, right?

Yet, when it comes down to the serious work of truly listening, knowing that the person you love more than life is not hearing you, can't and won't get it, we run for the hills. That seems to be too much work.

We will fuck strangers (he's really hot) in dark alleys and trust that the person is somewhat sane or at least hasn't murdered anyone this week.

Yet won't tell the person we live with and lay beside nightly when we are afraid.

Gentlemen, we, I have all got to do so much better. Will cruising/public sex ever go away or stop, who knows?

Can we make decisions that are truly risky and could possibly change the course of our lives and the context of our relationships?

You bet.

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I've never had sex in public, even though I write a lot about cruising here. NSA sex, yes, but in a park? I don't do well standing, much less when there could be someone walking by.

There are risks, and lots of people don't take the time to think through them before they go through with something risky, and until we can have honest conversations about this, e're not going to find ways that satisfy people's needs while reducing risk.

Your article is so typically American. In Berlin for example, public sex is a given and a protected activity. The police are in the parks not to entrap gay men, but to protect them from gay bashing. it's really incredible how different Americans view sex. How uptight, so to speak.

JonathonEdwards | February 25, 2011 11:57 AM

There are plenty of reasons not to have sex in public, but there should be absolutely no legal risk in doing so. At least not the "lover's lane" variety. Sex at the mall in the food court, of course. Sex in a park where other people go to have sex? No. The fact that straight kids can have sex in a notorious "sex in public" space without legal repercussions and gay men wind up in jail and labelled as sex offenders is wrong. And no one in this community should be suggesting that the solution is for gay men to "behave" and toe the line. Yes, personal safety. Yes, stds. Yes, perhaps, moral considerations. But we should be actively resisting the illegalization of our sexual expression in whatever form it takes.

It bothers me that you seem to be arguing two things. 1) Folks engaging in public and/or anonymous sex are incapable of commitment. 2) Due to the risks it is better to simply abstain from it.

For #1, giving up public and/or anonymous sex will not automatically make someone capable of commitment. And engaging in public and/or anonymous sex does not even necessarily mean that someone is not in a loving committed relationship (ever heard of couples who cruise together?). If the problem is actually a fear of significant relationships and someone is using public/anonymous sex as a crutch, taking it away won't automatically help. Focus on the actual problem instead of condemning a sexual practice across the board including those who have strong relationships themselves.

For #2, it reminds me of abstinence only education. There are a dozen ways to reduce or even eliminate these risks, but instead of advocating that folks change their cruising habits to be safer, you simply suggest the practice is abandoned completely.

Granted there may not be a lot of folks in loving committed relationships who take responsibility to minimize their risks in the public sex venues you're familiar with. But keep in mind that gay men aren't the only ones who engage in public/anonymous sex. Queer women do it as well, although differently. Same for trans folks, kinky folks, even straight folks and so on. Each with their own systems, standards, and expectations which might be very different from what you're expecting.

You seem to be having an argument with yourself about whether you want to go cruising, or whether the desire to do so represents some sort of personal or relationship failure. And I would say you are engaging in a certain amount of hyperbole on both sides of this internal argument, trying to scare or shame yourself out of doing it, while also romanticizing the excitement of transgression. OK, that's your reality today.

But I would take issue with your statement that 'we have all got to do so much better' Please try to work out your own stuff without fulminating publicly against others. Not everyone frames these issues in the same way you seem to. Some people have a less charged , more realistic acceptance of the fact that men have always had public sex ( although not all men choose to) ; it's part of life on this planet. I find it dismaying and sad when public commentary, especially by a gay-identified person, reflects such a lack of acceptance of the realities of human sexuality, and an apparent belief that those realities can or should be exhorted away.

And I also take issue with your title "Should cruising be considered an unacceptable risk?' "Considered" by whom? Powers authorized to determine what others' sexuality should or shouldn't be? And if it is "unacceptable," then what? It should be eliminated? How's that gonna work exactly?

Again, I would urge you to distinguish between working out your personal issues, versus framing those issues as an implicit public policy question, that is ethically, philosophically, and practically extremely problematic in its' implications.

Anthony, I'm a "late in lifer" lezzie. I spent 10yrs in Alaska before I ever KNEW about the "froot loop" in Da Burgh, PA!

I remember specifically it was the 2000 Pride Parade in Da Burgh [Pittsburgh], PA. Driving around looking around for a parking space w/five philistines [kids, all under the age of 5th grade] not knowing my around in the LEAST bit of what or where???


An amazing parking loop of available spaces near the parade!! How did anyone here not SPOT these spaces so late in the hour till me?!?!?

I parked my red Milkwagon and unbuckled a few car seats... beebooped my way down to the parade w/the five duckies in line.

It wasn't till later, leaving the festivities, that I told my friends where I had parked.
"The cops here take pix of license plates here!! You will be TAGGED!"
I then began to doubt that the FROOT LOOP, Pride Parade served cold cereal w/milk by my friends reaction.

When they informed me what was what... I laughed.
It was the Philistines very 1st actual Pride Parade after all those years in Alaska... how FABULOUS to possibly have your mother arrested for public sex by gay sex association.

Whatever... there are worst things to be arrested for.

Keep it safe and keep consensual .

Homo brothers my friends... if some greenhorn dyke from Alaska stumbles on your gay territory... smile, wave and she will most likely give you a thumbs up, walk away w/a chuckle.

I guess I really AM old school. When I was young, all we had were a few bars (they kept the doors locked and you had to pass a quick eye inspection to even be allowed in side) and public cruising sites. It was against the law for three or more homos to congregate and being gay was sufficient for you to be arrested. Getting caught in a public park or toilet in a compromising position carried the exact same penalty as being alive.

The entire world is a cruising site for heterosexuals. Don;t kid yourself. They pick each other up everywhere. Holding us gays to some "higher" standard is ludicrous.

Mind you, I did all of my public cruising in my twenties. The danger was part of the thrill at that age. My sexuality has evolved and I only pursue intimacy with men I actually know in my old age--because that is what works for me.

What is so depressing about the triumph of gay assimilation is the enforcement of "heterosexual values" on us. If you believe in monogamy, practice it in your own life. If you don;t approve of public cruising, then don't do it. But don't be one of those people who practice the policy of "Do as I say, not as I do." As for the rest of us adults, allow us to make our own decisions.

Someone is missing the main point here.

Thirty-six? Damn! I didn't look THAT good at 26.

Healthy livin, Anthony. The world's treatin' you real good.

Mac 'n cheese, dude. Having a big party over Memorial Day. You're invited. In addition to partying, it's the largest single-day sporting event in the world, a little race called the 500.
The town is rockin. We'll take you to Mississippi Belle, one of the best down-home dives in North America. Cash only, no credit cards, rolling carts with food refills from no-frills black women who cook with lard, not that sissie "vegetable shortnin'". The fried chicken will make you weep. My mac 'n cheese is better, but there's is damned good.

Thirty-six? Really? Be still my heart.

Anthony Carter | February 26, 2011 3:23 PM


Thanks for the compliments. I was actually 40 the day I took this photo on my birthday.

Bring me the mac n cheese and no one gets hurt!!!!

My mac 'n cheese doesn't leave my presence.

I had no idea that you guys in the US can get arrested for cruising. I'm shocked. Has it always been that way?