The Freddie Guide to: Cruising

2.4.2024
4 min read
Freddie Team

Bars, gyms, bathhouses, parks… the possibilities are endless with cruising! Whether you’re a seasoned cruiser or just curious, here’s our guide to getting it on outside the bedroom.

What is gay cruising?

Straight cruising is a vacay on a boat. Gay cruising is the art of hooking up in public.

Cruising is almost always anonymous, and can be one-on-one, in groups, or with others watching. It’s done by using non-verbal cues to show you’re both interested – think of it like a secret, horny code. Some people will have sex right there, while some may take their partner to a more discreet location. 

Where did cruising come from?

Cruising has a long history in the queer community. There are recorded cruising spots in cities like Toronto, London and New York dating back over a hundred years. In the time before gay bars, when homosexuality was illegal, public places were often the only option for queer people to meet each other. 

Evidence for this often comes from prosecution records – we know where people were cruising based on arrests for “sodomy” or “gross indecency”. These were historic offences made to criminalize gay sex, and were almost always applied to queer men. Sodomy and indecency laws were common throughout the British Empire, but have been repealed in most countries. 

In the US, anti-sodomy laws were ruled invalid by a 2003 Supreme Court decision but some states still technically have them (even though they are unenforceable).

Why do people cruise?

There can be different reasons people cruise. Here’s a few of the most common:

Safety

Cruising spots in public can be safer than a stranger’s apartment. It can be easier to make a quick exit if you need to, and if it’s a busy cruising spot there will be other people around should you need help. However, there can sometimes be other safety risks – see our final section for more on these.

Discretion

Cruising is anonymous and often silent (after all, talking could attract attention). This makes it a discreet alternative to using apps or going to gay bars. This can be appealing for people who aren’t out or comfortable in queer spaces.


Lack of alternatives

Bathhouses and other sex venues offer spaces for queer people to cruise and hook up, but these have been in decline since the 1980s. They are tightly monitored and have often been targets for police harassment, most famously with the Toronto bathhouse raids in 1981. In fact, Canadian authorities did 38 raids between 1968 and 2003.


It’s a turn-on!

Cruising is hot for a number of reasons. It’s anonymous, there’ll be others to watch or watch you and there’s the chance of getting caught. These can all be turn-ons for some people.

Is cruising legal?

Cruising for sex in licensed sex venues is legal. In other situations, it’s complicated. 

You’re technically allowed to flirt or meet up with strangers in public – if that’s all you’re doing. However, authorities will often use non-sexual charges to try and “clean up” cruising spots. So if you’re in a park that’s technically closed at night, you could be charged with trespassing. 

When it comes to nudity or sex in public, these can range from a bylaw infraction to a criminal offense (this will vary depending on where you live). It also doesn’t always have to be witnessed by others to come under these laws. In Ontario, for example, public sexual activity is not allowed in view of other people or where it could be in view of other people. So even if you hooked up in an empty public washroom, this counts because someone could walk in.

The enforcement of these laws is not always even. Due to structural racism in law enforcement, cruising can be riskier for Black and Indigenous people.

Cruising tips

If you’re going to cruise, here are a few tips to make things safer. 

Do your research

Websites like Squirt and Sniffies have guides to gay cruising spots near you. Check the comments for any recent updates or safety information.

Know your surroundings

No hookup is worth your safety, so look around to make an exit plan. Some environments, like remote areas at night, can be riskier. Try taking a friend or arranging a time to check in with someone afterwards.

Be discreet

Cruising for sex carries a risk – for some people, that makes it hot. But remember that in many cases, public hookups are against the law. Bathhouses and dark rooms are legal alternatives for this.

Clean up after yourself!

Nobody likes a litterbug. Take any trash (like lube packets, wipes or condom wrappers) with you. 

Remember: Have fun, be safe and look out for each other. Happy cruising!

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