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Perhaps surprisingly, the proud tradition of man-on-man cruising is still going strong. Wherever you are in the world, you’re not going to be too far from a spot where you’ll easily find other men who want to hook up with men. There are plenty of apps and websites dedicated to helping you out if you want to have sex in a public place.

Tom of Finland and the gay culture

As a young gay guy, I learnt pretty much everything I knew about sex from Tom of Finland cartoons. This was a world before the internet.

Tom of Finland created a hyper-masculine world in which sex between men generally seemed to happen spontaneously — at work, in a bar, at a swimming pool, hanging out in a park, or in a public toilet somewhere. These men were constantly hot and horny, constantly on the lookout for sex, constantly cruising.

The sexual landscape drawn by Tom of Finland represented a time not only before location-based dating apps, but also a time when being gay was either illegal or socially unacceptable — a time when there wasn’t ready access to safe spaces for gay men to meet, a time when every sexual encounter had an edge of danger and the thrill of the unknown.

The encounters celebrated by Tom of Finland are still very real for the gay men of today.

Cruising as part of UK’s gay history

In the UK (and many other countries around the world) police used to actively patrol known cruising areas, actively arresting men, even using decoy officers to entrap people. This type of arrest routinely destroyed people’s careers and their lives.

Given the technological and social changes we’ve seen in most Western countries in recent decades, you could imagine that the need for gay men to go cruising for sex has become a bit redundant. If you want a quick, anonymous sexual encounter (or something more) then you can simply put your smart-phone to work, or head to your nearest sauna or sex-on-premises venue. Right?

Contrary to the approach of a few decades ago, police in the UK will generally only turn their attention to guy-on-guy cruising if they receive some sort of formal complaint that needs to be investigated. There is specific legislation that makes it illegal to have sex in a public toilet, but any sort of sex in a public place could be an offence if it’s shown that your actions are likely to cause harassment, alarm, or distress to others.

No matter how discrete you are, having sex in a public place clearly comes with some risks. You’re always pretty vulnerable mid-fuck. Homophobic thugs will often target known cruising spots. There are numerous cases of men being mugged or robbed while cruising. Also, the men who frequent cruising spots may pose a greater sexual health risk — they could be closeted, and possibly less-educated about HIV and other STDs.

But all of those risks somehow add to the thrill of it all. There’s entire websites, Tumblr feeds, and Twitter accounts dedicated to recording the exploits of guys getting it on in places where they probably shouldn’t, places where they could be caught or discovered at any moment, places where other anonymous guys might turn up and who might want to join in the action.

Public toilets, Private affairs

Berlin’s Schwules Museum has hosted an exhibition by photographer Marc Martin. His series titled Public toilets, Private affairs celebrates guy-on-guy cruising in public toilets.

Martin’s photos, staged with models and using disused train station toilets as locations, are beautifully observed, and celebrate the anticipation, the sexual tension, and the fraternity that can be experienced in public toilets around the world.

The proud tradition of cruising lives on.

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Arts & Culture

Giving a voice to gay Arab men

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Samer Bo (image supplied)
Samer Bo (image supplied)

I caught up with author Samer Bo to talk about writing erotic gay fiction in Egypt.

What led you to start writing erotic gay fiction?

I was forgetting what was happening. I noticed that when someone asked me about what happened to me the previous week, I couldn’t remember the details.

I think forgetting was my defence-mechanism for all the pain and trouble.

So, I started by writing my diaries, which ended to be quite erotic sometimes. Then that moved to erotic fiction.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your stories?

Inspiration comes from my personal experiences and sometimes my friends’ experiences. Other times, I just meet a guy or watch a movie, and it inspires me to write a story.

Who are your target audience?

I write for myself before anyone else. I’d love all gay men to read and get aroused by my stories.

But I guess I do write for minorities — people who don’t usually get represented in media, porn, or erotic stories. I want people to see themselves represented in my novels.

What sort of feedback do you get from your readers?

I get a lot of positive feedback from people in the Middle East who finally find a voice speaking to them. Some see me as a role model — a type of Egyptian guy that they never see in the media.

Do your friends and family know that you write erotic gay fiction?

Only some close friends know. I’m not in touch with my family anyway. Samer is my real name, but I changed my last name to Bo.

Have you had any negative reactions to the gay erotic fiction that you write?

I only tell people about my writing if I know that they’re either gay or gay friendly. So I haven’t had negative reactions in that respect.

However, I have had multiple incidents of homophobia. I was arrested once.

Son of the President isn’t an erotic story, how did that story come to you?

That story is based on the real-life story of an older friend that I met a few years ago. I told him about my erotic stories, and he asked me to write an erotic story inspired by his experiences.

However, I felt that if I wrote it as erotica, it would take away from the essence of the story. So I left it as non-erotic story.

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What do you hope that people feel when reading your stories?

First of all, aroused from my erotic stories. Plus, I want people to feel represented.

Gay Arabs are not represented in any kind of media. We’re being suppressed and discriminated against. A lot of gay men in the Middle East feel that being gay is wrong, and that homosexuality is a sin.

This is my small way to help those men feel better about themselves.

What are some of your goals and ambitions for the remainder of 2018?

More stories, maybe some non-erotic ones. I’m also helping a friend of mine to change his non-erotic short story into a play.

Read the novels by Samer Bo

Follow Samer Bo on Twitter

Read more from Gareth Johnson

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