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. A gay sauna or bathhouse is a venue where gay men go to meet other gay 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 there, they may have sex with more than one person, so there is more potential to come into contact with sexually transmitted infections. Each particular site may have a different behaviour pattern as to how the men meet and interact with each other.
What needs to be remembered is that whilst cruising and cottaging are 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 that they can to conceal themselves, is not illegal.
Local outreach workers go to the cruising sites and cottages, but focus mainly on the cruising sites. When the workers are on these sites, they wish to interact with the guys using the site and to distribute condoms and lubricants to the men. Conversations can focus around sexual health and personal safety, but also issues that are pertinent to the men 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. Men have been attacked whilst using these sites and they have not reported the incident to the police because they are afraid that they would be prosecuted even though they wont be. Surrey police will take seriously any reports that are made to them. You can report a hate crime online on the Surrey police website using their short, secure and confidential form. 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. You should always 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 adds 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 condoms can be obtained from the gay men's development worker on 07801 629972.
Married Men's Group (MMG)
This group runs in Surrey and meets twice a month, once in Redhill and once in Woking. The group was set up because of the amount of men using the cruising sites who were either married or in relationships with women. Their aim is to ensure that safer sex and health promotion messages can be delivered to those men attending the group.
It allows the men to meet others in a similar situation to themselves and helps to dispel the feelings of isolation, as well as providing the opportunity to meet others who understand what they are going through and to be in an environment that is totally non judgmental, as this is very important to men in this situation.
There is a telephone help line for the female partners of men who are having sex with other men, the number is 01737 770011. For men who want to find out more about the group, they can either phone 01932 355533/07801 629972 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org in confidence.
The information on this website should not be taken as a subsitute 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.