In almost every town and city in the western world there are cruising areas. They can be well-known public landmarks or parks, or unobtrusive locations such as public toilets (AKA t-rooms). Cruising and cruising grounds came about as a way for queer men to meet other men in public settings—for predominately sexual purposes—without arousing too much suspicion or ire. It was often done covertly through various signals: a glance, a smile, a pause. What looked like a simple courtesy to the untrained (and hetero) eye could be a mating dance.
Today, in the age of online personal ads and chat rooms, the cruising dance has changed its form. In light of this, I thought it would be good to refresh our collective queer memories and educate a few ingénues into the fine art that is cruising.
Cruising is pretty much a queer phenomenon. And when I say cruising I’m not talking about checking someone out. Yes, straight boys check out straight girls and vice versa. And yes, it can develop into flirtation, conversation and if you’re at The Palace and it’s last call, copulation.
But even then, you’re not really cruising. You’re just picking someone up. There is something inherently primal about cruising. It ignores the artifices of flirting and conversation. Cruising is also done predominantly by gay males. Some queer women cruise—some more fiercely than their male counterparts—but these are few and far between in comparison to the amount of men who do it.
When people in this town think of gay men cruising for sex, they often think of Citadel Hill. The Hill fascinates us all, old and young, queer and straight. Since Halifax’s beginnings, men have been having sex with men on The Hill. There are recorded military accounts of two soldiers being penalized, having been found in flagrante delicto on said hill in the late 1700s. As a horny 13-year-old, I wondered what all those men in skimpy bathing suits were doing on the hill. “Just a bunch of fruits,” my uncle told me. I wanted to walk around with them, learn their secrets.
So as a favour to my past self and to future curious generations, here are a few scenarios to give you an idea of what cruising can be all about.
Cruising scenario #1The streets
You’re walking down the street.
You see someone walking towards you and immediately, you’re taken over by a gut reaction, a desire. You look them straight in the eye and smile. As soon as they pass, you turn around, look at them again and smile.
If they’ve turned and returned the smile, you can now dance a little tango with them. Pace yourself. You don’t want to seem too desperate. Walk slowly and deliberately, always looking back to see what they’re doing. If they have begun to follow you, they’re interested. You can now turn back and allow yourself to say those three magic words that will make you the man of someone’s wet dreams: “Hi. Wanna fuck?”
Cruising scenario #2The public toilet
Enter public washroom. While walking towards your cubicle, briefly glance (without arousing suspicion) at the bottom of the cubicles to see if anyone is seated. If not, simply wait and follow instructions. Sit in stall. Wait for the person in the cubicle next to you to cough or tap their foot. If you’re feeling adventurous, be the first to tap.
Interest is indicated (by you or the other party) by repeating the cough or tapping of foot. It is sometimes advisable to repeat this step to avoid any unnecessary confusion. Once communication has been established, you may either speak softly (e.g. open your mouth and say, “Ah”) or display your big stick.
This is done in a variety of fashions. You can squat and stick your groin under the partition, but this gets tiring fast. Some prefer to go into the other person’s stall. If you’re worried about people seeing an extra set of feet, one person can stand on the toilet, or they can put their feet into large paper shopping bags (large GAP or American Eagle bags work well for this). Or, if you’re in a really cruisy t-room, chances are there will be a glory hole. This usually consists of a small hole drilled between the partitions, allowing easy access and entry for both mouth and penis. This provides the easiest access as well the most discretion.
Finish your business, wipe down any mess you’ve made, zip up and go home, relieved, relaxed and replenished. Wash, rinse and repeat if desired.
Warning: t-rooms are often monitored by security guards and undercover police officers. The worst part of it all isn’t getting arrested. It’s finishing up and having the guy tell you he’s arresting you.
Cruising scenario #3The computer
IB6UB9: Hey2QT2BSTR8: HeyIB6UB9: You lookin’?2QT2BSTR8: Sure. Stats? I’m 6’2”, 185 lbs, 8.5 u/c. You?IB6UB9: 5’10”, 165 lbs, 8 cut.2QT2BSTR8: Sounds good. Got a pic? email it to email@example.comIB6UB9: Sent.2QT2BSTR8: Hot pics. Where do you wanna meet?IB6UB9: Corner of Barrington and Sackville. I’ll be wearing a blue Nike b-ball cap and shorts.2QT2B2STR8: Cool. cya.IB6UB9: cya.
This scenario is a little more verbose than our first two, but very a propos. The internet is teeming with online chat rooms, bulletin and message boards, personal ads and websites (cruisingforsex.com) dedicated to the act of finding sex. Cruising has become a virtual activity. It has even been argued that, as such, perhaps we are losing sight of the original form of cruising. I have to admit, I do somewhat agree with this point of view.
Cruising was a way for gay men to find each other. It begat codes, expressions, but all of these began to fall by the wayside during the sexual (and political) revolution that hit its peak in the post-Stonewall (a three day riot after the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York, was raided by police in 1969; because it was the first time on record that homosexuals fought back during one of these raids, it was credited with starting the gay rights movement) and pre-AIDS years. With homosexuality becoming overt instead of covert, the need for sexual discretion has begun to lose its place in queer society. With today’s internet savvy queers, the experience of cruising has changed. You don’t even need to smile. You can fake it by typing it out or sending an image of your Photoshopped perfect teeth.
Having said that, I don’t believe that cruising will ever go away. The excitement, the thrill of knowing that in just a few moments, you could be having sex is too good to be replaced by electronic artifices. No lengthy conversations and exchanged email addresses. All you have to do is smile, open your mouth and say, “Wanna fuck?”
Nothing, not even the internet can take that away.