Bijou Blog - GLORIOUS GLORYHOLES, OR NOT? PART THREE

GLORY HOLES, THE LAW, AND POLITICS

Yet again, despite attempts to investigate and analyze the behavior from a psychosocial perspective, the issue is also a legal one that that straddles the issues of private and public social norms. The book Glory Hole also contains an article, "Public Homosexual Activity and the Law," which ends up being a critique of the sodomy laws, which outlaw private homosexual sex and ironically force gays in to the public bathrooms, during the period and also the methods of enforcing public decency. This article really attacks the use of the police officer decoy (still a threatening presence today), claiming the practice is hypocritical:

This "decoy" method of law enforcement has lately come under a lot of scrutiny by the courts which would violate the individual's constitutional rights. It would seem that society's interest in protecting the public against lewd solicitation is endangered just as much if the solicitation is made by a private citizen or a vice squad cop.

The article also describes a scenario which could resemble the Senator Larry Craig bathroom scandal that took place several years ago, except the "closet queen" Craig was doing the foot tapping:

The undercover police officer seeks to provide an opportunity for a homosexual to either commit a lewd act or to make a solicitation for such act. In order to invite such solicitation, the undercover cop may sometimes spend lengthy periods of time at the urinals or sinks of a public toilet; he may sit in a stall and tap his foot or clear his throat to attract the unsuspecting homosexual's attention.

Congressperson Larry Craig is definitely a throwback to this era, a conservative married guy whose only outlet for his sexuality was the bathroom. In Craig's case, the hypocrisy (given his public persona and anti-gay voting record) was obviously more on his part rather than on the part of the arresting officer.
 

Larry Craig mugshot
Larry Craig

GLORY HOLES: OUT OF THE CLOSET AND INTO GAY PORN

One wonders if the sexual revolution of the 1960s and post-Stonewall 1970s, and the ensuing AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, really made any change in the  glory hole dynamic describe above. Gay bathhouses (and bookstores today) in the 1970s often contained glory holes, but they were more a sexual fetish tool, for those who are turned on by  that type of sex, located in an environment that was not really public like an actual bathroom.

What the 1970s and 1980s did contribute to the now-iconic glory hole was a slew of porn movies that showed really hot, enticing glory sex. Yes, the sex in these films was obviously staged and thus lacked the danger and anonymity of the real event, but art can often improve on its imitation of life.
 

Roger
Jim Rogers & Michael Braun in Dangerous (1983)
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Glorious Glory Holes, Or Note? Part Two

Roger

BRIEF HISTORY OF GLORY HOLES

Whatever the psychological and social ramifications, as well as possible etymologies and connotations of the glory hole, it can be still found in public bathrooms throughout the United States located in movie theaters, truck stops, adult bookstores, gay bars, and as I stated in the introduction, university rest rooms. Glory holes are most often located in Tea Rooms or T-Rooms, which evolved from the nickname "toilet room." These tea rooms were public toilet areas where secretive homosexual activity occurred, as early as the eighteenth century. Of course getting caught (as is still the case) would mean some form of criminal punishment, which in the past included the pillory and the gallows.
 

Article headline that says Raid Nets 8 Arrests on Sex Charges at I-95 Md. Rest Stop, Police Say Laurel Site Known Nationally as Homosexual Spot

In the repressive environment of the 1950s, the T-room with its omnipresent glory hole was a significant place where gay men could at least obtain some sexual, if not interpersonal, contact. Before Newton Arvin, the famous "scarlet professor," was arrested in 1960 for possession of obscene materials (those vintage physique magazines and 16mm movies) and "lewd" behavior, he used to routinely cruise public bathrooms and bus stations. He had been married, but much later in life he admitted to himself and a few select others his homosexuality and began to act on it in the only possible situations available to gays during this period.

 

Newton Arvin

 

Newton Arvin

 Professor Arvin's, and others like him, position was given a particularly impersonal ambience, bleak as a typical bus station during that period, by David Reuben in his 1970s book Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex - But Were Afraid to Ask:  

 

Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask cover

Most homosexuals will quickly tell you that they cruise public restrooms because they are there, because certain of such places are well known for such activity, because there are few other places a person can go in the daytime for sex, and a myriad of other reasons. For some, a t-room is quick and convenient. These are the people who dig impersonal sex, people who live with their families and can't bring a trick home, or people fearing to get involved.

GLORY HOLES AND THE GAY CLOSET

The book Glory Hole: A Study of Homosexual Activity in Public Places (no date, no publication information; looks to be early 1970s), a pornographic book touted as educational material with some interesting articles (including the one cited above defending glory holes), uses the above book as a source and corroborates this rather bleak view to some extent. Yet this view, as the text says, of the "sordid squalor of the nation's public toilets" seems to fight against the graphic pictures and jerk-off stories of glory hole sex in the book. Or is there really a conflict there?

 This text quotes from a source called Psychopathia Sexualis, which connects glory hole behavior with masochism, the thrill of getting caught and the public humiliation that ensues (different from the consensual BDSM which often involves public humiliation in a space with other BDSM participants and in the context of a scene). Perhaps this supposed masochism is also linked to the thrill of breaking a taboo ... even the thrill of looking at pictures (as in the book Glory Hole) and viewing movies of glory hole sex when one knows the actual situation could be fraught with danger.  

 

Psychopathia Sexualis cover

Glory Hole also attempts to formulate a solution for its time period, claiming that such sex can be addictive and also implying that such sex is ultimately harmful. Yet, the article argues, if the states eliminated laws against sodomy in private, perhaps homosexuals wouldn't be forced to have sex in bathrooms. Obviously the situation isn't that simple, but it does connect on a deeper level to the whole issue of being in the closet.

The closet connection is something of a knotty contradiction. If a guy is prohibited from having sex in his own home across the board, legally forcing him to live in the closet, why does having public sex (the bathroom) constitute a release from that closet? And practically speaking in this situation, wouldn't it be safer to do it in your own home rather than risk arrest by doing it in public, even it is illegal to do it anywhere? Yet, if he can do it legally in the bedroom of one's own home, then perhaps, just perhaps, he wouldn't indulge in sexually addictive bathroom behavior. Unless, as is often the case, he finds “toilet sex” to be a big turn on, closet or no closet.

One other source the book uses, at that time the most detailed study of glory holes, Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex In Public Places by Laud Humphreys, pretty much assumes the situation is hopeless for those who do glory hole sex. The 1960s and 70s were a time when "interpersonal" relations that built self-esteem and self-actualization were emphasized, as in the psychology of Abraham Maslow; perhaps Humphreys is working in this context, finding the impersonality of tearoom sex (such as no conversation between the participants) to be psychologically damaging.
 

Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places book

Humphreys does give some interesting detail on the actual physical dynamic going in the T-room, using anecdotal evidence and perhaps making some stereotypical assumptions about glory hole patrons, argues that the "patrons" are mostly "closet queens:"

The so-called "closet queens" are the persons most attracted to tearoom sex. Tearooms are popular not because they serve as gathering places for homosexuals, but because they attract a variety of men, a minority of whom are active in the homosexual subculture and a large group of whom have homosexual self-identity.

In addition to the closet queen participants, Humphreys notes, some act as voyeurs, and also serve as a lookout for the police, a "watch queen." The situation Humphreys describes may stem from a closeted gay subculture, but even in that specific situation, many devotees of glory hole sex may have indulged in bathroom sex for many other reasons, such as raw sexual excitement, the anonymity (as mentioned above), or a fetish for the ubiquitous hole, and they may have come from a variety of social situations, not just the gay closet.

Part Three to follow next week. In the meantime, check out the Sex Toilets DVD series, full of more glory hole and “toilet” sex.

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