The art of the gay cruise

PacinoCruising

Al Pacino in the film “Cruising.”

We received a booklet produced by a man named Robert Brandon Sandor, who runs a website called Poz4Poz.com, which supports a new “age of enlightenment” in HIV prevention. The self-published booklet, called The Essential Sex Venue Etiquette and Resource Guide, is basically a primer for conduct at bath houses. I imagine the pamphlet could be useful for you men entering the sex scene, but I was most drawn to a category called “Cruising Techniques.” It’s interesting to see the gay mating ritual deconstructed the way Sandor does it. Here is an edited version of his techniques (check out especially his last bit of advice):

The Look — Simply make and maintain eye contact for a longer period than usual.

The Brush Past — If someone you are interested in is standing in the hall or other public area, you could walk past and lightly brush your hand against [his] upper leg, arm or chest. If he follows — enjoy!

1, 2, 3, Turn — This is pretty much the same as cruising in the bars or on the street. As you walk [past the man you are interested in] count to three and turn to look back over your shoulder. Is he looking back at you? If he is, you can do a number of things: Stop and lean against the wall, signal for him to follow you, change direction and follow him or go into a room and have fun. Word of caution: As you are looking back, be careful not to walk into a wall or trip down a flight of stairs.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The lost art of cruising

‘Electro-tricks’ may be quicker and easier, but half the fun of the hook-up was working at it

Hardy Haberman | Flagging Left

I don’t get out much — at least to the bars. First of all I don’t drink anymore, and second, I am not really looking to hook up with anyone since I am in a very nice relationship.

I do, however, occasionally meet friends out for the evening or for a special event.

When I do go out, it is most often to our local leather bar, the Dallas Eagle, and I often indulge in a little people watching. I like to watch the crowd, the way people interact with one another, the ebb and flow of what was once a favorite past time of gay men: cruising.

What surprised me was the lack of that particular gay art going on.

First, let me say this is not a reflection on the Eagle; it’s a fine, first-class leather bar. What I noticed is something I have seen in other cities as well, and it bothers me a bit.

Now for those who might not know, cruising is a delicate dance men used to perform when looking for a partner, playmate or just trick du jour. It usually began with some long, slow looks, occasional subtle signals like a nod, the touch of the brim of a cap, a purposeful second glance or even just a slight change in body language.

If two people read the signals, and actually respond, it might proceed to sending over a drink — or a more direct approach. Often before actually making contact, you would ask a few friends if they knew the man in question, and for the leather scene that would also entail asking if anyone knew more intimate details: Was he a safe player? What was he into?

Of course, we also had the hanky code. It was a more direct and cut to the chase way to let folks know what you were seeking.

I won’t go into the details here, but the basics were: Hanky in the left pocket meant you were a top, and hanky in the right pocket meant you were a bottom.

Still, even with outward signs, there was an art to the whole endeavor. If done correctly, it had an element of seduction in it and all the sexual energy that went with it.

Sadly, I don’t see much of that going on anymore.

What I do see is guys checking their smart phones. Looking a little closer, I see them using Grindr, checking Recon and texting.

That’s when I realized what happened to cruising: It has gone the way of the dodo.

What was once a face-to-face encounter that actually took some time and energy is now a fast, down-and-dirty, “check a few profiles and text enough contacts until you pull a winning number” routine.

The whole cruising experience has become an electronic booty call with no mystery, no romance and no effort.

Oh yes, it is much more efficient. You can select from the variety of “neck-down pictures” and body statistics, like you were choosing a download on Amazon.

Find Mr. Right or at least Mr. Right Enough for Now, text a few lines, set a time and bingo! Insta-trick!

All very high tech and painless. No face-to-face rejections, no appallingly awkward moments. Just on-line chat and, essentially, “booking.”

It would seem to me that applications like Grindr and sites like Recon and CraigsList have replaced the whole cruising experience, and though it might be much more efficient, it really changes to atmosphere in the bars.

The heady sexual tension that used to permeate gay bars has given way to guys and gals on their smart phones texting or cruising — the web. One bar in Florida even has a screen where patrons can text directly to the screen, sort of a visual “shout out” for all to see.

Inevitably, the whole electro-trick phenomenon has spawned something totally unexpected. My partner commented on the subject of this column and suggested there should be an Angie’s List for Grindr.

I was surprised this morning when, while researching this piece, I found something very much like that.

Douchebagsofgrindr.com may just be a parody, but if not it offers some insight into the whole process. Personally, I find it kind of crass, but then I find the whole “electro-trick-speed-dating-booty-call” app thing crass.

It makes me long for the days of actually having to spend a little time to pursue and attract and seduce someone you were interested in. Try that now and I suspect you’d just get accused of being a stalker.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.Blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Beijing Police Raid Gay Cruising Park Ahead of National Holiday

The Haidian district park in Beijing, which I suspect is the Mu Dan Yuan park described by the AP as "a popular outdoor hangout for gay men" (heh), was raided on Saturday and Sunday nights by officials who removed some 80 men and detained dozens for questioning — and even blood tests. The cruising crackdown comes ahead of China's National Day, on Oct. 1. Naturally gay and AIDS activists there are furious, and Beijing's Public Security Bureau isn't saying what laws the men are suspected of breaking.

CONTINUED »


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—  John Wright