Law and Sexuality

A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests

The Right to Public Sex

I’m just about to put together my response to the Law Commission consultation on ‘Simplification of Criminal Law: Public Nuisance and Outraging Public Decency’. The consultation document can be viewed here. I’ll put my response up on the blog at a later date once done. I’ll be arguing for reform of the law on public sex as those of you have followed my work and ideas, would expect.

Yet, this morning Paul Burston, the writer, regular gay talking head and a member of what I would call ‘the gay metropolitan elite’ has posted a blog post under the title ‘OH, PUT IT AWAY!’. His Facebook link to the post was a clearer statement of his position ‘Embarrassed by ‘The Gays”. He begins by noting that ‘a report in the Islington Gazette says that ‘the steam room at a family swimming pool has become a popular “cruising” area where gay men meet for “action”.’

Those of you who read my blog regularly will know my immediate reaction – “here we go again”. The local press regularly turns to these stories. Reporter looks on cruising site and shock horror, public sex is apparently occurring and we never knew. Yes -WE NEVER KNEW!!! It was going on and nobody noticed! This is not a report of parents complaining on mass, kids traumatised by men unable to stop fucking in the deep end or an OAP swimming to help their arthritis accidentally finding themselves in the midst of a changing room orgy.

So – first off, until a reporter went poking around the Internet, we didn’t know. It includes a quote: ‘Adrian Kelly, a regular user of Cally Pool, said: “I have no problem with gay people at all but it’s a family pool and you don’t know who might go in there and see something they shouldn’t.”‘

A regular user – so Mr Kelly – you – as a regular pool user – were totally unaware of this until we – the local rag – asked you?

Burston goes on to paste in a piece he wrote for Attitude in which he talks about his days at GALOP – the Police monitoring group. I recently looked through the GALOP archives and found that they did indeed receive many complaints as Burston outlines and did offer some helpful advice – although they were comparatively timid on the issue compared with the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) -and much later – Outrage.

Burston comments that:

‘It used to be argued that having sex in parks and public toilets was a symptom of gay men’s oppression. Now it’s simply a symptom of our self indulgence. Of course there are some people who are determined to cling onto their ‘outsider’ status, rather like those pre-Liberation types who go all misty-eyed as they tell you how much more exciting it was back in the old days, when you could be banged up for having sex with a guardsman in St James Park. These are often the same people who regard gay marriage as ‘undignified’ and spend their weekends on their knees in public lavatories being ‘radical’.’

I don’t spend my weekends (or indeed weekdays) on my knees in public lavatories although I do like the notion of saying to a police officer, when asked “what are you doing”, replying “being radical”. “And you do that sir whilst fellating this other gentleman?”

Why must we all assimilate into a “play nice” whole? It’s not just “The Gays”. The straights are embracing public sex through dogging, people in civil partnerships and happy relationships also go cruising and cottaging – people of all ages, people who are out ad well as those still exploring their sexuality. Although it can very much be a political concept – and I theorise it as such – it’s ultimately about people feeling horny and expressing those sexual urges.

You will not stop public sex – the debate is simply about whether we accept it as a reality or continue to hide it away, and live the heteronormative dream.

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6 comments on “The Right to Public Sex

  1. Sean Hennelly
    June 29, 2010

    It all sounds very 'Pleasantville' doesn't it…I don't understand this strange obsession the media in particular have with public sex. As you correctly highlight- largely people aren't aware of its existence!! Why it needs to be constructed as some sort of gay problem that is sweeping our nation I don't understand. As I explored in my article- the newspapers appear to be taking a similar line to opposite sex sexual activity in public as well. I think we have a really unhealthy built-in fear of sexuality in England, and it's fired up by the media. We should have nice sex to have children, and we shouldn't talk about it. Bollocks.I felt thrilled yesterday to flick through my copy of 'Sex' by Madonna. Let's put our cards on the table- public sex exists. Who does it affect? Harriet Harman?!

  2. davidhenry.org
    June 29, 2010

    Shimmering example of how the upper-class Paul Burston types of this world (and his sour tongued buddy Julie Bindel) are so far detatched from the reality of most LGBT people. Telling us all how we should or shouldn't behave for the sakes of "the image of the gays" is a prime example of their holier-than-thou privileged, ultra-conforming right-wing attitudes. David HenryOutRage!

  3. Paul Rathbone
    July 15, 2010

    Instead of dancing to the Daily Mail's tune, I hope Mr Burston supports positive initiatives such as dedicated cruising areas. It would be nice to know I can go somewhere public for a fuck without ending up robbed or raped or dead like Jody Dobrowski.

  4. Mark
    July 15, 2010

    I'm very fond of Paul, but he knows I have to disagree with him on this one – as I do with his enthusiasm for gay marriage.But I'm grateful to him for linking gay marriage and distaste for public sex (though of course, as you suggest, what we actually mean by 'public' is key). Part of the reason why I'm dubious about the gay marriage project is because it necessarily stigmatises the 'wrong' kinds of sex and relating and looks down on the people who don't sign up to the respectability of marriage. Sluts who can't put it away. In other words, you get a repetition of what was (and often still is) society's attitude towards queerness – this time by queers.Gay marriage advocates talk a lot about 'equality', but of course marriage has never been about equality, neither for those who are in a marriage – nor those 'sluts' who are outside marriage.

  5. Elly
    June 30, 2011

    Great post just seen it Chris. I might of known I'd be one step behind Mr Simpson.I agree with everything everyone has said.I wish I could see more 'action' in local swimming pools and gyms. I find them sadly sterile.Imagine if sex just wasn't a big deal.

  6. Anonymous
    January 19, 2013

    As you say pal… its not a big deal.but if you go to have relax in the steam and you get touched at that place it is VERY embarrassing.So try to join a mixed session in the sauna and steam (Cally pool)It is not cool to know these kind of situations. Im sure not all gay men are bad but it was way too much for me.So be aware all time guys these freaks will use their chance 😦

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This entry was posted on June 28, 2010 by in dogging, Media, PSEs, public sex, queer, Sex, theory.

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