An Inclusive Litany

2/4/03

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that efforts by campus police at various universities to crack down on non-students who use public restrooms for random gay sex encounters is being called homophobic by members of the "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (GLBTQ)" community.

"Heterosexual couples exploring sex on lovers' lane is romanticized, but same-sex sex is treated differently," says Luke Jensen of the University of Maryland. "The question of public versus private can be a shifting paradigm. Why is a bathroom stall considered a private space except when it comes to sex?"

Some say bathroom sex is an integral part of gay identity and the coming-out process. "For some men, their whole connection with gay life stemmed from their experiences in bathrooms," says William L. Leap, American University anthropology professor and editor of Public Sex/Gay Space. "Tearooms became the basis for social interactions, a way of getting into a friendship network."

The California Patriot reports that the university-sponsored website of the UC Berkeley Queer Alliance/Queer Resource Center publishes the best locations for anonymous bathroom sex. One solicitation reads, "Find that special someone (or three)!" along with a picture of three naked men embracing. Many partitions between stalls are vandalized with "glory holes" that are used "to peer into the stall next door to see if it is occupied by a man interested in sex. If it is, the student will cross into the stall and engage with him sexually, usually without any mutual acquaintance." Indeed, the holes themselves often figure into the sex act.

[Ed.: A UC police spokesman commented that they usually respond to reported glory holes by "trying to deconstruct" them, apparently unaware of what that word has come to mean.

Some years back I went into Harvard's science building to go to the bathroom, and noticed that all the stall doors had been removed, unfortunately eliminating any hope of privacy. Upon leaving, I complained to a staff member, who replied that the doors had been removed as an "AIDS-prevention" measure. I must have had a puzzled look on my face, because he simply repeated what he had just told me—no doubt what he was told to pass along to anyone who asked—with no elaboration possible. There was a weariness in his voice.]

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