Cottaging is perhaps as much a part of gay male culture as Judy Garland and Joan Crawford – but like the latter two, is it a relic from a closeted past? Fuck.com speaks to some self-confessed cottagers who suggest otherwise.

 

What does cottaging mean?

There are some terms which are unique to gay people and no, it’s nothing to do with a dream house with roses round the door in the country – though cottages can indeed be the stuff of fantasy – and, on a good day, full of pulsating pricks bursting through glory holes. Cottaging refers to the act of having sex in a public lavatory (the cottage) or hanging around such an amenity, picking up a shag, and then taking him off elsewhere for a full service.
 

“He came all over his shopping bag.”

Hugh Ross, now in his fifties, hasn’t been cottaging in decades as is now in a monogamous relationship. During the mid-1980s, however, he was something of a legend in the local cottages. “The city I had just moved to only had two gay pubs and one club, so chances to meet people were rather restricted,” he explains. “I heard acquaintances talking about which lavatories were worth visiting, and also toilet graffiti can be a surprisingly useful source of information.”

“I recall a very attractive skinhead who'd just been shopping; he came all over his shopping carrier bags. One young man I met that way used to visit me every week for a few months, while his girlfriend was working at the King's Lynn council offices.”

But, Hugh – largely daytime cottager – also recalls a darker side to his frolics. “Cottaging at night seemed more dangerous. On one of my few nights cottaging, I was attacked and almost strangled by a man who had issues with his sexuality and decided that throttling me was one way of dealing with them.  Luckily we were interrupted, and I managed to get away.”

Gay cottaging in public restrooms UK
'it’s the anonymity which appeals'
 

“It was full of hot guys.”

Paulo grew up in a small town in Colombia and began cottaging when he was 22 and moved to the capital. His first experiences were in the toilets of a shopping centre. He then moved to London and has plenty of cottaging stories. Like Hugh Ross, however, not all of them are good. “In April 2014, I was unemployed and depressed. I was hunting for a job, and I ended up in the toilets in Soho,” he tells me. “I was playing with a blonde guy next to me. There was also a black guy who was cruising. He said something to me that I didn’t understand, so I asked him to repeat it. He got mad and grabbed my head and smashed it against to the wall until I was bleeding. Someone else there told him to stop. Otherwise, I think he could have killed me.”

For the most part, though, Paulo recalls great experiences gay cottaging in the UK. The risk and adrenaline are, he believes, what makes cottaging so addictive. “My best experiences have been in London where every public toilet in the city is a cruising place.

Carnaby Street was my favourite one. Five years ago, it was full of hot guys. I played there in the morning, afternoon and night. These days, though, it’s a smelly place with not many good-looking guys.”
 

“My boyfriend fucked me against a tree.”

Peter has been cottaging since he was 17. “For me, it’s the anonymity which appeals,” he explains. “You don't even need to speak or know each other's’ names. It is two people engaging in the most carnal act with no other information required, necessary or wanted. It’s like a drug.”

“My best experience was going to a cottaging area with my boyfriend in south London’s Clapham Common. We circled the area like prey, picking up four guys that resulted in a circle jerk while my boyfriend fucked me up against a tree. Things progressed, and then they all wanted a go at me. We both obliged. We then took one of them to a sauna and continued the evening. We finally went back home and fucked all night thinking about what we had done.”

Gay cottaging holds a much greater allure for Peter than other forms of anonymous sex in saunas and off hook up apps. “There are many time wasters online. Everyone likes the idea of an anonymous hookup but if you wait too long to engage, the fear sets in and ‘fight or flight’ kicks in and people back out. If you are there in real life one-on-one - or more - then it is more instantaneous, and the scenario takes over.”


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