Hustle and trick: the cruise pose

(Note the title. Stud hustling and men tricking with men, so not for kids or the sexually modest.)

The Daily Jocks ad in my e-mail on 2/7 reproduces the archetypical cruise pose, deployed in both hustling (for sale) and tricking, or hooking up (for play), by men for men:

(#1) [ad copy:]
Everyday practicality with weekend style, your new favourite shorts have arrived at DailyJocks.

These are Utility 7ʺ shorts from Helsinki Athletica. Features listed in the ad copy:

Secure zip pocket – Hardwearing stretch fabric – Available in Black, Sand & Grey

Utility 7ʺ is the big, hard-working, tough guy in HA’s lines of shorts: Utility 7ʺ, Core 7ʺ, Sport Training 4.5ʺ, Kasper 3.5ʺ, Mika 3ʺ Run. The other lines come in more interesting colors, but Utility 7ʺ is available only in three high-macho neutral colors.

Utility 7ʺ in black is obviously the way to go if you’re selling your body — your pornstar 7 inches — on the street, as the model I’ll call Bo is depicted as doing in #1.

I’ll get to the cruise pose, in its various manifestations, in a moment. But first, a bit of free verse; and also Bo presented as a serious ordinary guy in a pink shirt, rather than as a hustler offering his BBC.

How to utilize those 7-inch shorts. A poem:


Bo, handsome in pink. A follow-up ad from Daily Jocks yesterday, with a very different presentation of Bo, as just an earnest guy who happens to be a rugged hunk (note broad shoulders and muscular chest) who’s comfortable wearing a pale pink (but also rugged) t-shirt out on the street. No crotch focus or offer of sex, just the guy:

(#3) [ad copy:]
The ultimate all rounder – As comfortable around the house as it is on a rugged hike, the new Utility T-shirt from Helsinki Athletica will go anywhere you take it – Available in Grey, Pink & Black

High-macho rugged shorts and t-shirts for men customarily come in neutral colors (black, brown, off-white, gray, sand, etc.), so pale pink is something of a surprise. Presumably it’s offered for the sexually confident straight guy who wants some pizzazz in his clothes or for the guy who wants to project butch fagginess. (It’s just a color; it’s capable of bearing many meanings.)

The cruise pose. Men cruise in public for sex with other men in two contexts, for different purposes: hustling (for money) and hooking up / tricking (for play). Gaze and facial expressions play a central role in these negotiations for sex (as detailed in my postings on cruising for sex), but there are also stances, postures, or poses conveying a man’s offer of his dick for sex with other men.

Cruise faces and cruise poses cannot, by themselves, distinguish the two purposes. Bo in #1 is performing the classic cruise pose — leaning against a support, one leg up against that support, crotch thrust out, displaying his basket — with an accompanying cruise face — an intense gaze, in this case averted to one side, while nevertheless scanning for takers (men who might take up his offer). But is he hustling men or just looking to hook up with a partner?

The hustler pose. Almost surely he’s a hustler, I say. Doing an excellent performance of a classic hustler pose. Compare the Tom of Finland hyper-hustler portrayal on the cover of the “Phil Andros” collection of gay porn stories Below the Belt (about the stud hustler character Phil Andros):

(#4) The pseudonym of the prolific writer (and astonishing character) Samuel Steward; see my 1/6/11 posting “Pseudonyms 2: Samuel Steward”

Then in real life, a photo of a tough street boy cruising, from my 8/31/21 posting “A stone solid pro”:

(#5) An attenuated version of the archetype, merely approximating it: his left leg is bent at the knee, but not up against the wall; but then, his jacket is open to display his torso

#1, #4, and #5 show hustling cruises, all in a standard setting for hustling in public: on a city street, posed against a wall. Or, in other cases, against a pole or a street tree. When a john connects with a hustler, they arrange to seal the deal with sex elsewhere, in a nearby sex hotel, mensroom, backroom of a bar, deserted alley, or similar spot; or if the john is hunting for sex in a car, they take the car to a sheltered spot to have sex in it there, or use it for transport to some sheltered place.

These transactions often take place in busy public spaces, where they get folded into the general hubbub of street life and can easily escape the notice of others.

Car connections with hustlers can be made on busy city streets; stud hustlers on the boulevards of Los Angeles have a certain fame. But smaller cities have their hustler zones too. Many years ago, in Columbus OH, the east side of High St. just north of Ohio State had a stretch of a low wall along the sidewalk where hustlers posed as in #1 at night, for pick-up by car. (Not far away there was a trick cruising area in a wooded parkland, where guys posed as in #1, but against trees, and they were offering the sex for free. See the section below on trick posing.)

Quiet residential streets in cities can serve as hustler cruising zones at night, so long as they’re close to high-action zones. Some 50 years ago, on foot in Hollywood, I turned off Sunset Boulevard to gawk at Hollywood High School, on North Highland Avenue (seen here in the bright California sunlight):


And found that nearly every palm tree there, and for a stretch up North Highland (in front of big expensive houses set back from the street; you could see the flicker of tv sets through their windows), had a guy leaning against it in the hustler pose, facing the street. Every so often a car would glide very slowly by as its driver checked out the meat for sale.

The tricking pose. The same pose, now used for hooking up rather than hustling.

Famously seen as performed by Al Pacino, in character as an undercover cop on the prowl in the Ramble in NYC’s Central Park, in the 1980 movie Cruising:

(#7) Against a wall; as in #5, an attenuated version of the archetype

The natural home of the tricking pose is an urban park or woodland, or on a public beach; such venues for man-on-man liaisons are found all over the world. (There are guides to them). They should probably be viewed as a valuable cultural resource, to be treasured and protected (as in fact they are in some places).

Then, from the TRVBE site (“News & entertainment for the LBGTQ+”), “LNC [Late Night Cruisin’] Down Low Cruising Guide” by Rick Easley on 4/16/20, tricking in the urban woods:

(#8) The classic pose, which seems to have found up-take here

Now the complexities. First point: though the classic cruise pose — call it foot-against-wall — is typically used for hustling on city streets and for tricking in urban parks, in woodland, and on beaches, those associations largely reflect the constraints on hustling, which needs to be done in a place that’s sufficiently dense with potential johns but allows for both participants in the exchange to conceal their sex-seeking motives from other people there.

But in areas where openly gay men congregate — for example, in gayborhoods in cities and at gay resorts — men can freely advertise for hook-ups, alongside whatever else is going on; there’s no particular need for concealment. So we get cruising for tricks even on city streets, as in this cartoon, from from Ortleb & Fiala’s 1978 book of gay cartoons, Relax! This book is only a phase you’re going through:

(#9) The cartoon is about the cruise face, but it also illustrates the cruise pose (in its attenuated version, and, somewhat surprisingly, without the bulging package); Ortleb & Fiala’s characters are openly gay men living mostly in urban gayborhoods, so of course guys cruise for tricks on street corners

In fact, high-gay locales tend to be uncongenial to hustlers, for obvious reasons: why would I pay for sex in a place where it’s so easily available for free?

Second point: the foot-against-wall pose is just a bit of behavior — as I’m fond of saying, about linguistic features, facial expressions, and much more, it’s just stuff — so it can serve any number of functions besides advertising availability for sex. In particular, it can serve as a fashion pose, as in this photo from the Wallpaper Flare site, illustrating men’s fashion:

(#10) A stance / posture / pose used for body display, but not for sexual purposes

Third point: the foot-against wall pose is one stance or posture used for sexual advertisement, and one especially associated with this function in American culture (and more widely — though how widely, I don’t know), but it’s scarcely the only one available.  A legs-apart pose (which generally serves as a signal of masculinity and masculine dominance) also works, and can be performed either standing (as in the examples below) or sitting (sitting with legs apart on a park bench is a trick cruising technique used in countries around the world).

Tom of Finland’s characters are pretty much always looking to have sex, so we get the full range of trick-cruising poses from them. The legs-against-wall pose in #4 (where it was re-framed as a hustler-cruising pose). And lots of legs-apart. Two examples:

(#11a, b)

Legs-apart poses, with right knee raised in #11b. Also take note of the gazes, facial expressions, and hand positions.

Then from real life, or at least real life in the photography of Minor White:

(#12) Minor White (American, 1908–1976), Arches of the Dodd Building (Southwest Front Avenue and Ankeny Street) [in Portland OR], 1938

Extract from Kevin Moore. “Cruising and Transcendence in the Photographs of Minor White,” on the Aperture website:

In 1939 White was living at the Portland YMCA, where he had organised a camera club and had built a darkroom and modest gallery for exhibiting pictures. White’s photographs from this period concentrate on the environs of Portland, particularly the area of the commercial waterfront, which was undergoing demolition for redevelopment. Hired by the Oregon Art Project, an arm of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), White trawled the city’s Front Avenue neighbourhood, documenting the nineteenth-century buildings with cast-iron façades that were about to be torn down. White’s photographs are anything but clinical. His street views, many taken at night, have a ghostlike quality, with the occasional lone figure haunting the wet pavement; boarded-up doorways are cast in deep shadow; and mercantile objects, heaped onto the sidewalk before emptied warehouses, take on a forlorn anthropological character.

Among these pictures is a group … depicting a handsome young man leaning in a doorway on Front Avenue. He is dressed like a labourer in jeans, work shirt, and boots, but there is something of the dandy in the raffish positioning of the man’s newsie cap, the tight cut of his trousers, pulled high and cinched at the waist, and the studied nonchalance of his pose. In one image, [he is standing, legs apart;] his hand is shoved into a pocket, leaving the index finger exposed and pointing downward toward a prominent bulge. Most importantly, he gazes – not at the photographer but down the street – intently and expectantly, as if anticipating something that has not yet come into view.

…The scene is both explicit and coded, even to contemporary eyes. This handsome loitering man might have been taken by certain passersby for an ordinary labourer, on break or looking for work. Others might have recognised him as a man looking for sex (or for another kind of work) with other men. White’s sexual interest in men and his approach to looking at things “for what else they are” stratify the two narratives, establishing layers of meaning on parallel planes. This man is both a labourer and a cruising homosexual. He is, then, just what the photographic image in general would come to signify for White: a common trace from the visible world, transformed into another set of charged meanings.

Here ends the tale of the Utility 7ʺ shorts from Helsinki Athletica. And negotiations in public places for male-male sex: guys selling their bodies on the street to other men for sex, and other guys hooking up with each other in places like parks and woods for sex.

In the real world (look again at #5) — not the world of sexual fantasy and fiction (look again at #4) — those street hustlers are the desperate low end of the (already deeply disreputable) world of male prostitution, and down there, far (even) from the bedrooms of high-end rent boys things are fuckin’ bleak. This is not the place to explore the condition of street hustlers, but here’s a declaration that I intend to post about the topic. However, since I no longer believe I can promise anything for the future (only express hopes), what I can offer, right now, is a recommendation of two documentary films:

— one I have posted about briefly a couple of times: 101 Rent Boys Uncut, a 2000 documentary film that explores the West Hollywood hustler scene, along Santa Monica Blvd.; the film is, by turns, thought-provoking, funny, bleak, moving, and disturbing:

(#13) The documentary’s DVD cover

— a 2011 German documentary. From Wikipedia:

Rent Boys (German: Die Jungs vom Bahnhof Zoo, lit. ’The guys from Bahnof Zoo’) is a 2011 German documentary film directed, written and produced by Rosa von Praunheim.

The film focuses on male prostitution oriented to gay men in and around Bahnhof Zoo train station, a central transport facility in Berlin that has been a meeting place between gay men and male prostitutes for more than forty years.

The film consists of interviews with current and former hustlers (mostly immigrants from Eastern Europe), their male customers, and the social workers who try to help them.

(#14) DVD cover for the version edited for the American market

The documentary works hard to treat the street hustlers with empathy, understanding of their complexity, and even dignity. Often gripping, sometimes heart-breaking.

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