At the t-room urinals

About t-room mansex rituals performed at or around urinals: a chapter in the organization of social practices, but also about men’s bodies and sex between men, in very plain language, so very much not for kids or the sexually modest.

Inspiration for this posting: an exhibition Fenster Zum Klo [literally ‘window to the toilet’, an allusion to the film Taxi Zum Klo ‘taxi to the toilet’, about a gay man’s obsession with t-room sex]: Public Toilets, Private Affairs at Berlin’s Schwules Museum (der Schwule ‘queer’) last fall, closing February 5th. As reported in the Gay Star News on 11/29/17, in “Museum holds exhibition dedicated to gay sex in public toilets: The show is now running at Berlin’s Schwules Museum – and was sponsored by city’s official public transport service”.


Background, from my 2/7/17 posting “Saint George, patron saint of parks at night” — mostly about George Michael and his career of mansex in public places, but with this section on the social world of t-room sex:

Sex in public. Well, in what are legally public spaces. Nevertheless, it’s a set of social practices, regulated informally. The aim of this regulation is to provide men with locales — mens rooms, parks, back alleys, whatever — for cruising (finding sexual partners) and engaging in mansex, while concealing all of these transactions from those who would use these places for more conventional purposes and would be offended by the activities of the t-room men. The goal is to protect both the conventional world and also the subterranean world of mansex.

The regulation involves a system of signalling availability for sex and for specific sexual acts, a system for keeping the sexual negotiations subterranean, a system of maintaining anonymity (if that’s what you want), and norms for interaction (notably, maintaining consensuality and avoiding imposition by force, but also little conversational routines for expressing thanks).

Yes, what happens in the subterranean world is illegal in most jurisdictions, but then there are lots of illegal activities that are tolerated because they are mostly harmless but have benefits for those who engage in them; these activities are typically informally regulated; and some of them are quite widespread. Jaywalking, for example. (I believe that subterranean mansex is less common in the age of Grindr and other forms of hooking up, but there are still reasons for some men to engage in it — for the anonymity it can provide, for instance, and the place away from home that it can make available for the mansex — and some men simply have a taste for it, as GM apparently did, and as does the protagonist of the German film Taxi zum Klo [starring and directed by Frank Ripploh].)


However, even modest types of illegal activities will attract the attention of law enforcement, which is not above using the activities to harass and demonize those who engage in this activity. Laws against jaywalking are rarely enforced, but when they are, they tend to be used against specific groups, as a form of social control. Some years ago, when Columbus OH went on an enforcement campaign against jaywalking, it was selectively enforced in only three places: on the streets surrounding Ohio State University, outside gay bars, and in the black areas of the city.)

Selective enforcement, but also, not infrequently, entrapment (as in GM’s case). In the case of t-room sex, entrapment (and outright fabrication) by the police is common.

The Gay Star News on Fenster Zum Klo.

It features photographs taken by Marc Martin. The French photographer has embarked on a project of taking photos in public toilets. His work, which often includes models, broadly explores male fantasies.

In an introduction to the show, Martin writes that some of his earliest sexual encounters were in public lavatories.

‘And I’m proud of them! … These places, where men were constantly coming and going, were instrumental in my sexuality, aroused my desires and quenched my curiosity.

‘In there, I also had the most unlikely, unexpected encounters. “Cottages” (or “Tearooms”) were no heaven, granted. But they were no hell either.’

He says among many members of the gay community, public toilets ‘remain more a source of shame than pride.’

However, he believes public toilets have offered, ‘sites of unbridled freedom. Differences were blurred and otherwise separated cultures briefly mixed. Despite being disparaged as sleazy and dirty, they allowed for immediate, anonymous sexual contacts. They were a godsend to those who could not entertain at home and expose their sexual proclivities to the outside world.’

The exhibition of Martin’s photos is accompanied by quotes about urinals from the likes of Jean Genet and Rimbaud. There will also be accompanying talks and film screenings.

These will include a talk from film historian and journalist Marc Siegel on ‘Tearooms, Cinema and Desire’.

Siegel, who is based at the University of Hildesheim, tells GSN he thinks the exhibition is, ‘an overdue exploration of an important part of queer culture and the culture of homosexual sex more broadly.’

He says that although times have moved on, and many men now meet for sex via hook-up apps, sex in public toilets offered some advantages.

‘One of the great things about sex in public toilets is that it’s free, it allows for encounters with people across boundaries of class and race, and you don’t have to sign on to a sexual identity before engaging in it.’

He says the exhibition raises questions about the changing nature of urban spaces.

‘Exploring the culture of sex in public toilets is also a means of thinking about the damages urban development, gentrification, privatization and surveillance have wrought on the existence and use of public space.

‘That said, we shouldn’t think sex in public toilets is completely relegated to the past. Thankfully, men still meet up for sex with strangers in toilets in universities, hotels, train stations and other public and semi-public locations. And of course there’s still park sex – at least in Berlin, where I live.

‘As a result of the replacement of historical pissoirs and public toilets with those ugly sanitized pay toilets, the number of possible locations for sex connections in public has decreased. But those of us interested in pursuing sexual pleasure in the toilet won’t allow those deodorized spaces to stand in our way; we tread on.’

Dr Kevin Clarke, spokesperson for Schwules Museum, told GSN: ‘The necessity of gay men to “hide” and meet in “secret” places such as parks and public toilets is an important aspect of gay history.

‘So it’s important for us, as a museum, to present this topic with as much background as possible, for a younger generation accustomed to Grindr and other apps to understand how homosexual men organized their sex life decades ago, but also to make clear the incredible dangers they faced from police, criminals and blackmailers.

‘All of these elements are part of Marc Martin’s exhibition; which is why we chose to include it in our program.’

It may surprise some that exhibition has been sponsored by Berlin’s public transport service BVG (Berliner Verkehrs-Gesellschaft). Dr Clarke is particularly pleased with BVG’s support of the show.

‘Obviously, they have various public toilets in their subway stations, most of them have been closed since 1990. Since many were once famous, even notorious, cruising places, Marc Martin wanted to use them for his photo shoots.

‘The BVG gave him the keys and allowed Marc Martin to work there. The photos are a part of the exhibition and book. Since these images represent part of the company’s own (hidden) history, they decided to ‘go public’ with this and add their logo to the posters, flyers and book.

‘Which is highly unusual for a public transport service company and shows that Berlin is more advanced than other places, at least were the BVG is concerned.’

The components of t-room sex:

(in principle) anonymous sex between stalls: subpartition sex (sexual slang sticking it under); glory hole sex (both primarily involving cocksucking)

stall sex: any sexual act that can be performed in the space available (the participants see each other’s faces, so these acts aren’t fully anonymous, but the men can, and usually do, conceal their identities as much as possible)

urinal sex: out in the open (and therefore the trickiest from the point of view of concealment, and consequently the riskiest with respect to law enforcement)

Here my focus is on urinal sex. Martin’s photo in the publicity for the exhibition, #1a above, shows an initial stage in t-room urinal action: scoping out. There, of one man by another. Two more from Martin, of mutual scoping out:



Earlier on this blog, in my 4/9/18 posting “The gay world of [Montreal artist] Yvon Goulet”, “a work that’s far from X-rated (no sexual bits at all) but is nevertheless steeped in a ritual of mansex, t-room cruising, in this case at the urinals”:


And in my 4/21/17 posting “rest stop”, #8 (the source of Goulet’s #5):


[From gay porn set in a park restroom] When Dustin sees Owen going into the public restroom he follows him in hoping for a quick blowjob.  As the guys stand at the urinal pissing, they sneak a [peek] and check out each other’s cocks.

Somewhat more direct is the urinal eye lock, the direct gaze of gay cruising, here in a t-room context:


And the urinal butt display, in which a man displays his body (and its availability):

(#8) Who pulls his pants down that far just to take a piss?

Then even more direct action, which can be a verbal offer —  insertive (“Suck my dick, boy!”, as in #1 in the AZBlogX posting of 4/25/18, “Urinal sex X”) or receptive  (“Can I help you with that?” or something of the sort, not illustrated here) — or non-verbal, via reaching out, as here:

(#9) From my 2/5/11 posting “T-room action”

or in this Sanitol Ad:


Or in the mutual reaching out in #3 in the AZBlogX posting, at a trough urinal (as also in #9), which lends itself easily to the activity. A reaching out can be the beginning of a handjob at the urinal, or an initial move communicating desire for more serious action, a blowjob or a fuck.

Rather than reaching out, t-room queens can jack off at urinals (until one man takes up the other’s offer and services his dick, by hand, mouth, or asshole), as in the Yvon Goulet painting in #2 in the AZBlogX posting.

Which brings us to the urinal blowjob, as in #4 in the AZBlogX posting, and the urinal fuck, as in #5 there.

Or, since the men are using urinals, the encounter can turn into a watersports event, with one man taking the other’s piss, in his mouth or on his body. See my earlier postings on piss as a fetish, and this entertaining ad, involving what amounts to inadvertent watersports (really bad aim):


From my 1/2/16 posting “The news for urinals”:

I’ve come across two ad campaigns that joke outrageously with urinal lore. One, from the Canadian ad agency Enterprise Creative Selling, for Tattoo Music, was released in 2004: “Geniuses at music. Idiots at everything else.”

The other, from the New Delhi agency McCann Worldgroup, for the antibiotic hand sanitzer (or sanitiser) Sanitol (made by the Whiteley Corp.), was released in 2010: “Touch him. And you touch everything he’s touched.” [#10 above]

There is, of course, a ton of gay porn set in t-rooms, with urinal action of all the sorts above. The masterwork of the genre is set in a Barstow CA bus station; see my 1/24/17 posting “A day with Danny Vox in the ultimate fantasy t-toom”.


2 Responses to “At the t-room urinals”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From the DeviantArt gallery of v94070 — my friend Vadim Temkin — this scoping-out photo “A Glance”

  2. snailsnail Says:

    There’s a really interesting video game about this:
    The Tearoom (a historical public bathroom simulator), by Robert Yang – who has made a number of interesting games about sex and queerness

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