Cruising is an activity where men meet to have sex with each other. A cruising ground is usually a secluded wooded area and may have a public toilet nearby. Cottaging is an activity where men will meet and have sex in public toilets (sex in public toilets is illegal). A gay sauna or bathhouse is a venue where gay or bisexual men go to meet other men to relax and have sex. In all these scenarios, there are certain behaviours that take place. For example, men may not even speak to each other, communicating with just body language or eye contact. While using these venues/locations, they may have sex with more than one person, which means there is more potential to come into contact with sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Each particular site may have a different behaviour pattern as to how the men meet and interact with each other.
Whilst cruising is not actually illegal, a sexual act taking place in a public toilet is illegal. Sex at a cruising ground, provided those taking part have taken every precaution to conceal themselves, is not illegal.
Local outreach workers go to the local cruising sites. When the workers are on these sites, they wish to interact with those using the site and to distribute condoms and lubricants and safer sex information to the men. Conversations can focus around sexual health and personal safety, but also issues that are pertinent to those using the site, including the various pubs that they can use or the support groups that they may be interested in. The main thing that is on the minds of the cruisers though is sex and they very rarely think of their own safety while using the sites, especially when it is dark.
Cruising Hate Crimes – Please do report it
People have been attacked whilst using these sites and they have not reported the crime/incident to the police because they are afraid that they would be prosecuted even though they won’t be. Surrey police will take seriously any reports that are made to them. You can report hate crime online www.surrey.police.uk/advice/protect-yourself-and-others/hate-crime/ Surrey Police LGBT+ Liaison offers ( firstname.lastname@example.org and https://twitter.com/SurreyBeatLGBT ) also do outreach work at various cruising sites to offer support to site users.
Safety Tips if you are cruising
If you can, it is advisable to tell somebody that you are going cruising, the place you are going and what time you are expected back, so that if you are not they can phone the police.
It is advisable to take some condoms and lube with you and, if you use them, dispose of them appropriately. Remember that other members of the public use the sites and do not want to be confronted with the litter left behind. Responsible behaviour by all concerned contributes to the invisibility of cruising; the more litter or lack of respect shown to other site users draws attention to the behaviour and is likely to cause problems such as police interest, which, in turn, has an impact on activity.
Points to remember:
- Be aware of your safety
- Go prepared (take condoms, lube, a bag to put your litter in)
- Try to tell somebody where you will be and for how long
- Have consideration for other site users (not leaving litter and being discrete)
- Report any crimes committed against you
More information on cruising and safer sex information can be obtained from the CNWL sexual health services Health Promotion Specialist on 07801 629972.
The information on this website should not be taken as a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have any concerns regarding your own health or that of any other individual you should contact your GP or a GUM clinic as soon as possible.