How should we react to people having sex in public spaces?

Urinal

I was desperate to go to the bathroom. So my friend and I, who were enjoying an afternoon of shopping, detoured into a major department store. The male restroom was on the third floor, so we climbed the escalators and headed upstairs.

While I went into the toilet, my friend wandered the Manchester section of the store. I walked into the bathroom, it quite small, I passed the two sinks and walked around a wall to where the stalls and urinals were. The two bathroom stalls were occupied and there were three guys at the urinal trough.

I took a step back and waited by the basins for one of them to finish. I was desperate to go. I waited and waited. Another man entered the bathroom, walking past me, round the wall where he encountered the full house. He too stepped back and waited next to me.

A few minutes passed, the pressure on my bladder building. Why were these guys taking so long? I stepped forward to the other side of the partition, there was some shuffling among the guys at the urinal, the three men were standing very close together but moved apart as I walked around the corner.

Suddenly it dawned on me…. I’m in a beat.

I walked outside and found my friend. “We’ll have to find somewhere else, that bathroom is really busy.” I said. My mate said he didn’t mind waiting. I revealed the reason I’d abandoned the bathroom.

“Surely not!” my friend exclaimed, “Not in David Jones.”

Since then I’ve always wondered if he was more shocked that people were having sex in a public restroom, or it was the shock that it was in his favourite department store.

I understand why beats existed in the past. In times when being gay was illegal, and society punished people who were discovered having homosexual encounters, it makes sense that people met in dark alley ways, public parks, beaches and toilets.

In decades gone by a landlord would have looked suspiciously at two guys sharing an apartment. The neighbours would have been peering through the curtains if a man brought another man home.

But those days are long gone. In a world that has dating apps, increased acceptance, and legal protection – is there still a reason to be cruising?

Last week a Perth mother Rebecca Britten published a Facebook post sharing her alarm when she stumbled over a web forum that had posts from people looking to meet other people for sex in public toilets, including her local shopping centre.

Britten also noted that some of the people posting on the forum were describing themselves as being only fifteen years old. She wrote about her concern about children being exposed inadvertently to sexual activity. Her worries are valid.

Her concerns were soon shared across many local media outlets, which highlighted that gay sexual activity was happening in public toilets. The Shopping Centre promised to beef up security and the WA Police said they were looking into the matter.

While the newspaper articles focused on the homosexual nature of the posts, Britten noted on her own social media that the online forum she came across also has posts from heterosexual people looking to have hook-ups in public spaces too. It’s not only same sex attracted people who have sex in spaces outside of their bedrooms.

Three years ago Warren Bachelor was beaten to death in a public toilet in Middle Swan after two men confronted him when he was engaging in a sexual act inside a locked cubicle.

At the time OUTinPerth published some information on safety at beats. The information was taken from a resource at the WA AIDS Council.

The feedback from our readership was mixed, some people felt that by publishing the information we were endorsing the behaviour. Other wrote to us describing how public hookups were in their opinion ‘just part of the queer scene’, some readers questioned why anyone would want to have sex anywhere but a luscious bedroom?

As the topic of beats has entered the public discourse again, we’d like to hear your thoughts on the topic.

How should we as a the LGBTIQ community respond to people having sex in bathrooms, at beats and on beaches? 

Add your comments and we’ll publish them in our next edition of OUTinPerth.

Graeme Watson

 

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