public sex

A Nova Scotia Mayor Wants to Close a Public Park to Cruising. Here’s Why That’s a Terrible Idea

Citing his Christian beliefs, and the worry that a pedophile-rights group might one day want to fly a flag of their own, Nova Scotia’s Bill Mills, the mayor of Truro, refused to fly a rainbow flag at city hall during pride week in 2007. His latest foray shutting out the gays? Closing off vehicle access to certain area of of Victoria Park — which local gays, and Mills, know to be a cruising hot spot. The Dutch city Slotervaart, southwest of Amsterdam, faced the same issue and opted to post signs in De Oeverlanden Park warning visitors of gay cruising areas so man- and dog-lovers could avoid one another. Two reasonable different solutions to the same problem of people having sex in public areas ostensibly nearby families and children. But should Truro tolerate public sex (as some horny man-lovers in the area prefer) or zone it out of existence? And is wanting rid an area of illegal public sex in and of itself homophobic? You may imagine gay cruising areas as seedy spaces filled with closeted, sex-addicted men grabbing their crotches and blowing each other in the nearest bush or bathroom stall. Will your five-minute lover be a meth-head, your married boss, a cop, or a gay-basher? You don’t know! But they’re not always so fraught with horrors. Some of these spots are just meeting places for gay men to consensually get their rocks off, not much worse than the backrooms of bars you may attend (sometimes without knowing it, as we had the unfortunate experience of realizing once). But while it makes better sense to fight for gay cruising areas in areas without other meet-n-greet options, upholding them as “a gay right” is untenable. Nevermind that park cruising, despite being one of George Michael‘s pastimes, exists in an era pre-Manhunt and Grindr. It’s also illegal. And should be. No one wants to sit in spunk or accidentally pick up a Santorum-covered condom. And parents should not have to worry about their children, toddlers or teens, being exposed to public sex, homo or otherwise.
But proponents of cruising areas aren’t looking to repeal sex laws so much as suggest better ways to expend public resources. Take Victoria Park for example. According to one report, there have been 45 complaints in the park in the past four years—only one has been of an indecent act and two of public nudity. That’s hardly worth spending thousands of Canadian dollars to reconstruct one of its entrances. In contrast, the signs warning people of gay sex areas in De Oeverlanden Park seem not only a permissive, but pragmatic alternative. Keep in mind, rezoning to ban vehicles is not a politically neutral act. It’s never just about increasing property values through gentrification. Behind it lays a desire to segregate and control physical and psychological space. Consider the scouring of Times Square in 1993 by then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He’s credited with driving out the prostitutes and porn cinemas that gave Times Square its sleazy, blighted, and crime-ridden reputation, and transforming the area into a world-class tourist destination where AMC, Disney, and Viacom could take their places. (That there’s also a giant Hershey’s store is not, the NYC tourism board assures us, a nod to the gays.) On one hand, Times Square before its transformation was a hell hole. There were 2,300 crimes on the block in 1984 alone, 20 percent of them serious felonies such as murder or rape. Let William J. Stern, head of the Mayor Cuomo’s Urban Development Corporation, take you on a quick tour through the sleaze:
“No legitimate business—indeed, scarcely a normal person—would willingly visit so blighted and threatening an area. As head of the UDC during the mid-eighties, I would walk through Times Square at night, a state trooper by my side, and feel revulsion. We’d hurry past prostitute-filled single-room-occupancy hotels and massage parlors, greasy spoons and pornographic bookstores; past X-rated movie houses and peep shows and a pathetic assortment of junkies and pushers and johns and hookers and pimps—the whole panorama of big-city low life. Everywhere I’d look, I’d see—except for female prostitutes—only men. A UDC study later verified my impression empirically: 90 percent of those who walked Times Square’s streets were adult males. Times Square was haunted with them, like a circle of lost souls in Dante.”
But in scrubbing that hell to a heavenly shine, gay sci-fi writer Samuel Delaney argues that the city had to wage an ideological battle against part of its cultural population. He details this struggle in his book on the area’s transformation, “Times Square Red, Times Square Blue”:
“In order to bring about this redevelopment, the city has instituted not only a violent reconfiguration of its own landscape but also a legal and moral revamping of its own discursive structures, changing laws about sex, health, and zoning, in the course of which it has been willing even anxious to exploit everything from homophobia and AIDS to family values and fear of drugs… The idea that all that is going was ugly and awful is as absurd as it would be to propose that what was there was only of any one moral color. What was there was a complex of interlocking systems and subsystems…some of those subsystems were surprisingly beneficent—beneficent in ways that will be lost permanently unless people report on their own contact and experience with those subsystems.”
One need only consider the closing of The Gaiety Theater, Manhattan’s last male strip club, to get a sense of lost counter-cultural world that once thrived there: “Andy Warhol, John Waters, and Divine were all patrons back in the day but the theatre attracted legions more…In 1992 Madonna published her Sex book and shined a spotlight on the theatre, employing some of its dancers, along with porn star Joey Stefano and German cult movie actor Udo Kier in her erotic adventure.” Such exceptional spaces have been sterilized and wiped away without a transplant. When we lose those spaces, we also lose an creative link to gay culture. That’s not to say that Victoria Park’s gay cruising area would become a gay cultural mecca if only Mayor Mills would let it be!


But Mills’ desire to close it is certainly a form of sexual control, if not homophobic censorship. Fucking in public is the most counter-cultural act there is. It’s an expression of sexual liberation and cums in the face of any moral and social constraint. Mills would rather do away with it than ask why Truro’s men are going there in the first place.

Looking at the Rainbow Proud organizational website, one gets the sense that Nova Scotia’s Truro is no Times Square. It’s entirely possible that Victoria Park has remained an important outlet for gay sexual behavior because the conservative city has few venues to express that desire elsewhere. Undoubtedly, any attempts to curb gay hookups in Victoria Park could ensure that humping homos pop up in less savory places, putting the city’s gay population and its municipal powers even moreso at odds. (Glory holes inside the City Hall loos, anyone?)

In the meantime, Mills is under investigation for hate crimes for singling out gay sex as the reason behind his Victoria Park zoning proposal. Meanwhile, the city council is searching for other, non-sexual reasons to reduce vehicle access to the park (pedestrian safety, anyone?). But they’ve delayed a vote, possibly with an eye towards letting the issue die a quiet death.

To envision the end game of Mill’s proposal, one need only consider that that the “complete and literal” Disneyfication of Time Square that’s upon us. In Fall 2010, Disney will open up a princess castle store featuring theme park attractions, children’s exhibits, and an animation/storytelling theater. The space, which was once a nightclub, is now family-friendly, scrubbed of all character, and entirely infantilized through a desire to make it profitable, tourist-friendly place (though one hardly wholesome).

That’s not to say that Disney inevitably pops up in any place we scrub clean of sex. People may well start rebelliously fucking in Disney’s bathrooms as a way to reclaim the space. But perhaps Disney is the best antithesis to public sex areas imaginable. Hell, they even scrubbed the adultery out of Hercules, though they still managed to slip a cock into the poster of The Little Mermaid.

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  • David Ehrenstein

    Back in the day I loved The Ramble in Central Park. Never saw any kids or families in there during peak hours. Just hot guys.

  • dontblamemeivotedforhillary

    The problems with cruising areas is that men seeking men need to keep it on the down low. When The Ramble was cleared by a well-funded Central Park Conservancy, men still would be pulling out their business too close to families which have, admittedly encroached on Historic Gay Cruising areas, that the smarter and more subtle Amsterdam solution will never fly in a place where an angry post-Stonewall generation of crystal-methed queers want to set up the Rainbow Flag and wonder why they draw attention to the Rock at the end of the well-worn trail. The same happened in Buena Vista Park in San Francisco where dog-walkers and iPod joggers drowned out a few sexually frustrated, lonely men almost as fast as Breeder Gentrification. Perhaps, we should be seeking funding cuts in the over-bloated city agencies (which Gays are taxed at a higher rate!) including the NYC Parks Commission that is busy putting prison-like bars around parks and shuttering amenities like a restroom for everyone.

    A case in point where same-gender seeking men’s cruising spots still thrive is the Flatbush Avenue portion of Prospect Park in Brooklyn which is sustained by a poor, immigrant population of mostly minorities, and sometimes those seeking minorities. While it has a dangerous element of hustlers and gay-baiters, the under-funded Prospect Park is not about to rehabilitate that part of the park until rich white straight people move in (like the other sides of Prospect Park) We must ask ourselves that while Gay Rights have seen some mediocre steps forward where we are relatively free to meet in bars, restaurants and even in gayborhoods, we have had our sexuality ground into a pestle. AIDS will thrive because our Freedoms are being taken away in the name of Public Health but we see how that vicious cycle plays out, for nearly 4 decades now!

  • Rodrigo

    I think what people want to do in the privacy of their homes or.. hotel rooms is totally up to them. I think a line is crossed when these things are done in public places. I wouldn’t want my little sister walking her dog to have to see gay men (or a straight couple) having sex just because she didn’t stay away from a zone of a public park.

  • dontblamemeivotedforhillary

    That’s why the Dutch erect Warning signs! Americans prefer online serial killers and un-punished child molesters!

  • jason

    Cruising is tacky and gross. It harks back to an era where homosexuality was illegal and men needed to meet in the dark to escape the clutches of the law.

  • FakeName

    Jason sez: It harks back to an era where homosexuality was illegal


  • ossurworld

    Read PARK DWELLERS: an insider study of a typical park filled with 50 regular cruisers, all profiled anonymously. Fascinating and even amusing. I found it on amazon.

  • Andrew

    I agree that cruising in an urban public space/park is not particularly socially acceptable. I cannot think of anything more tacky than if one is going for a walk/jog/pcinic and beging interuppted by the site of people having sex, or standing on a used condom. There are bathhouses that provide safe, clean, comfortable environment that provides opportunities for cruising and letting out the slut within.

  • onCloud9

    people still cruise in parks?

  • MajorCockWhore

    i love to fuck in public, in any bush i can get.

  • Lukas P.

    Honest question: Do heterosexuals cruise in parks? I haven’t witnessed it, but I haven’t been looking for it, either!

  • alan brickman

    hets do cruise in parks…..assiniboine park on friday nights….arrest them all…

  • terrwill

    Haven’t these guys heard of something called the internets if you are looking to hook? You know where you post an ad on CL and within like 10 minutes you have ten responses, and then usually within 30 mins you can have a hot guy delivered right to your door. Better than Dominos ’cause you don’t have to tip (although you can get the tip and the rest if you want)……… : P

  • Payback

    “hets do cruise in parks…..assiniboine park on friday nights….arrest them all…”

    GLBTQ people in the U.S. and Canada should seek out and report any and all instances of heterosexual “cruising” and public sex, including the local “make out point” used by teens.

    Since it is not unusual for hets to complain about same-sex pda’s as well, in public places like bars and movie theatre and restaurants, we should make a fuss about all heterosexual pda’s in the same situations.

    Publicly imposed morality works both ways – so if the goose cannot, neither should the gander be free get goosed or gandered in public.

  • Markie-Mark

    Do haterosexuals do it in public? Yes, and their cruising areas are called “lovers’ lane.”

  • schlukitz

    This insane preoccupation of hets with gay cruising and sex is so over the top.

    One would think that we gays who are having “so much public sex” are also responsible for the some 6 billion plus population explosion on the planet.

    Oh wait….you mean we are???

  • Michael W.

    I can’t find the book Park Dwellers anywhere. Motherfucker recommended it, got me interested and now I can’t find it. Thanks a lot, pal.

  • DustinLanceBlacksBarebackBuddy

    Do gays bareback while cruising?

  • schlukitz

    No. 17 · Michael W.

    The book Park Dwellers is available from Amazon for $21.00.

  • jason

    Look, I believe that heterosexual behavior should be held to the same standard as homosexual behavior. Lover’s lane, my foot.

  • terrwill

    @DustinLanceBlacksBarebackBuddy: Ask Dustin! : P

  • jonny

    I don’t want to see anybody having sex in public, gay or straight… any notion that this is a part of gay life in 2010 (hear me George Michaels!) is trapped in a long ago past.

  • George

    Anonymous sex is not particularly healthy, especially if barebacking is involved. As a community, shouldn’t we be distancing ourselves from that practice? Most of us do not do strangers in a park, and if we take positions like “How dare you challenge our right to public sex” we are only giving conservative bigots more ammo for their fear-mongering. I’m disappointed that Queerty took this angle on this issue.

  • Jadis

    I grew up in Nova Scotia, and I can say with some authority that Truro is an absolute shithole. At least it used to be. Nothing but fast food and gas stations for people on their way to Québec.

    Not that I don’t think cruising is tacky, as Jason said.

  • Jadis

    Plus, being gay has been legal in Canada since like 1969, two years before I was born…

  • Yuki

    So, I’m confused. Posting signs that say, “WARNING, GAY CRUISING AREA. GAY SEX MAY BE SEEN” is an acceptable alternative to cracking down on cruising in a place where [i]cruising and public sex are illegal[/i]? What?

  • Jadis

    Yuki- in The Netherlands, people tend not to take laws quite so seriously as in the English-speaking world. Laws that people consider stupid are routinely ignored.

    I found it rather refreshing, actually. We’re so repressed here.

  • The Artist

    Relax people! It’s just sex! Let the married men get away from their wives and gett off.

  • Jason(Florida)

    If you want to hook up do it in private or an appropriate place designated for such behavior go for it. Public parks do not constitute an appropriate place. I am in favor of extreme enforcement and extreme penalties for anyone(gay or straight) having sex in public places that children frequent; time of day is irrelevant. If you can’t find a better place than a public park you have a problem and labeling you a sex offender might be appropriate.

  • Kurt

    The puritan opinions of some people expressed here prove, unsurprisingly, that the gays are a diverse lot. Cruising exists still, not just as a holdover from darker “tackier” days, but because outdoor sex is normal – be you straight or gay. Humans since prehistoric times have always had sex “in the bushes”, so it shouldn’t be surprising that people still seek each other out in natural outdoor spaces or go there to enjoy the beauty of fresh air, trees, stars… There’s something much healthier about it than hiding away in a bedroom or getting inebriated in a bar, I think (as long as you play safe, of course). And it’s free – unlike a bathhouse! For urban folk, the local park is usually the only green space available which will satisfy our primeval desires. Why else have we set aside parks if not to protect some small bits of nature from the sprawl of human-impacted landscapes? Just as you can’t keep the birds and bees from seeking out these last refuges, you can’t blame people for also seeking out a little bit of nature to do what they naturally will. Stop being such prudes, people.

    Just like the bars or online hookups, there are positive and negative aspects to outdoor cruising. There usually isn’t enough respect, in my opinion, just for keeping the areas clean. But I think these seedy aspects are due more to the impact of a negative cultural mindset than anything else. For example, it wouldn’t be difficult to add a few garbage cans or some public emergency phones nearby. Those public washrooms that still exist could easily have free condom and lube dispensers to maintain public health. But no, we’re still ruled by the Pilgrims.

    Most people engaged in public sex really don’t want to be observed by children and families, and take care to avoid them. In fairness, the public would avoid these areas in return. Most action happens after dark anyway when kids shouldn’t be around. The hets usually know where the local “Lovers Lane” is, and the cops usually respect it; the gay haunts of parks should be similar public knowledge and in an ideal world would be respected as such. No one’s being harmed by the existence of cruising in Truro. Decisions like that of the Truro mayor are just blatant homophobia – only equaled by the sentiment expressed by some gay anti-cruisers here.

    The rise of internet cruising has definitely impacted the outdoor scene; but I think some people are returning to outdoor cruising because the internet doesn’t satisfy their natural needs. Unless you’re talking about Grindr, of course, which makes the whole world your public park – for those with smart phones anyway (and if you happen to live in a area populated by gays). Still, you can’t read body language online or catch a whiff of pheromones, or assess all the other hidden or misrepresented aspects of connecting with someone online. So you take your chances wherever you decide to cruise.

    Truro is a poor, unremarkable town in a beautiful landscape in a small province you can traverse by car in a day. It markets itself as “The Hub of Nova Scotia” because two main highways meet there. It’s a rest stop for people traveling from different parts of the province, and I guess their park makes a nicer natural alternative to meeting than at a truck stop. And a bonus to locals who want fresh meat! Anyway, Truro would be wise to make their town friendlier to anyone who stops in if they want to improve their economic outlook. Ironically, Truro was known for manufacturing men’s underwear which may have been the initial draw for gay men – unfortunately, Stanfield’s were never too hot (maybe on the right guy). However, Truro is also in the heart of farming/fishing/hunting country, and unfortunately retains that narrow-minded and biblical mindset common to all rural North American settings. The predominant church-going culture in all of Nova Scotia mirrors that of their New England neighbors, which doesn’t bode well for the gays. But times are changing…

    Like most small towns, Truro will never, ever be another Amsterdam. There are no gay bars to meet. There’s no place to be comfortably “out”. I’m surprised they have enough people to celebrate gay pride! The best that decent people can hope for there is a less bible-thumpin’ mayor who will turn a blind eye to public cruising. Ironically, despite the homophobic mayor and lack of places for gays to connect, gay people can get legally married in small-town Truro unlike almost anywhere in the USA!

  • Michael W.

    @schlukitz: Thanks. I must have run into another version of the book on Amazon and it was no longer available.

  • Justin O.

    @Kurt: Great post. We should be more open-minded about sex, not less. And to the people who say we should distance ourselves from public sex because it makes us look better in the eyes of the heteros: is that REALLY the logic we want to use? Hiding our feeling and having heterosexual marriages would make us look really good in the eyes of the heteros, but I don’t see many people arguing that. If you don’t agree with having sex in public, that’s fine, but argue against it based on its merits, not based on what you think will make the heteros like us more.

  • schlukitz

    No. 31 · Michael W.

    You’re very welcome. 🙂

  • Taylor Siluwé

    No. 30 · Kurt — Excellent post!!

    And speaking of Pilgrims, now there’s a example of what sexual repression will do (they either invented sex in the bushes, or they certainly perfected it).

    I just had this battle with someone on FaceBook over Palisades Park NJ and their homophobic crusade in this respect – meaning heteros caught engaging in public lewdness get a slap on the wrist (akin to a parking ticket), whereas gay men get $1000 fines and court supervised counseling!

    Clearly the judge in all these Palisades Park cases is a huge ‘phobe. But the argument always comes back to this: that gay people just want the right to screw in public. At least, that’s what the anti-cruising gays like to say. But its not about that, its about fairness. And as we know, I doubt they’ve ever done a raid of any of the Lover’s Lane in America, and if they had, the punishment would have be minimal to non-existent.

    I don’t cruise in parks. Anymore. There are way too many psychos out there, and at 43, I’m no longer the invincible being I thought I was. But I remember a time…..

    I came of age in the eighties, just in time to catch Time Square at it’s most deliciously seedy, and even got to visit The Gaiety for their legendary stripper palooza. I also strolled through most of the parks in NY, NJ, and even Atlanta. Aaaah, fond memories – some salacious, some terrifying, none of which do I regret for one second.

    There is just something about the call of the wild. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I was 19 all over again (when I was completely lead around by my dick), probably some modern version of the same. But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be telling other people how they should behave, how they should or should not seek sexual release.

    Because no matter how much people don’t want to admit it, whether they are gay or straight, conservative or liberal, the call of the wild is in our DNA, its primeval, so much so that even the Puritans couldn’t help themselves.

  • schlukitz

    Kudos to both No. 30 · Kurt and No. 34 · Taylor Siluwé, both of whom are in touch with their humanness and their natural sexuality. You both put me in touch with my own lost youth. lol

    Thank you both for your honesty…and your candor. If only more people, both gay and straight, could be that real and hones with themselves.

  • schlukitz

    Oops…sorry. Typo. Hones should read honesty.

Comments are closed.