Some people dislike cottaging and crusing, saying it paints a negative picture of the gay lifestyle. But for years, when homosexuality was illegal, it was almost the only way gay man could meet each other.
Even in more recent times, cruising and cottaging have continued as playgrounds for both the sexually-liberated and sexually-repressed alike, both looking for an anonymous outlet to express their desires.
As we explore the reasons
so many men continue to flout the law in the pursuit of public hook-ups, here are six influential figures who've famously enjoyed cruising for sex...
His letters reveal that actor Sir John was a devotee of men in corduroy, porn — and cottaging. In 1953 he was arrested after soliciting an undercover policeman in a toilet in London’s Chelsea. He was fined £10 and wrote to Noël Coward: “I suppose it might have been worse.”
In the 1960s, while he was being fêted as the most exciting young playwright of his generation, Joe Orton was cruising for sex, often in a toilet in the Holloway Road. The same one was used by record producer Joe Meek; he was nicked but Orton never was.
The prominent Young Liberal was arrested for cruising on London’s Highbury Fields in 1970. A protest, held on 27 November that year by 150 members of the fledgling Gay Liberation Front was, according to Peter Tatchell, “a milestone in gay history”.
Fashion designer Clark, who was killed by former lover Diego Cogolato in 1996, couldn’t keep away from Hampstead Heath in the 1980s. “Later went to the Heath,” reads an entry in his diary. “Met a wonderfully muscular guy in ripped vest and peaked cap cap, a banker from Victoria.”
Radio presenter Nigel Wrench was diagnosed with HIV in 1993, probably being infected on Hampstead Heath. In 2000, he caused a scandal by writing: “Barebacking can be warm, exciting and involving. We need to debate it.”
Eight years after his celebrated arrest in a Los Angeles toilet in 1998, the late George Michael made frontpage news again when he was discovered cruising on Hampstead Heath. “Are you gay? No? Then fuck off!” he screamed at a News of the World reporter in 2006. “This is my culture!”
Why do so many gay men go cruising for sex?
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