An urban planner in Toronto says the city needs to be more accommodating when it comes to creating public places where gay men can hook up.
Cruising is a “long standing tradition in urban centers,” Jen Roberton, who specializes in public safety planning for LGBTQ communities, says in a new interview. “I feel as though in many cities, sex is already happening. You know, if we already have public sex taking place, why not acknowledge that as a fact and kind of plan for that?”
Roberton’s call for designated public cruising areas comes in the wake of a police sting operation in Toronto that involved 65 men being arrested.
“Heterosexual couples do have sex in parks as well, but more often than not, they’re asked to move along,” she explains. “I would be very surprised if this amount of costly undercover policing was put into a sting operation against heterosexuals. This seems very much a targeting of gay men having sex.”
Believe it or not, Roberton’s proposal isn’t totally unprecedented either. She points to Vondelpark in Amsterdam as an example, which allows public sex as “long as patrons do not litter, do not engage in sexual activities near the playground, and limit public sex to evenings and nighttime.”
“When considering seemingly conflictual use of parks, the problem is not public sex, and it certainly isn’t cruising,” she says. “An effective way forward involves planning that balances the needs of park users who do not wish to see explicit sexual acts, with the equally essential needs of queer people to have spaces to express their sexuality, in which they will not be traumatized and violated.”