ii. cruising

Long a hallmark of queer sex, public cruising for many has been sidelined with the rise of technology

Artist Statement

By Nicholas Pfosi

Anyone familiar with the cliches of American high school would be familiar with the car-hook-up. Your parents won’t let you have your date over so you find a secluded place to experiment out in the world. However, for queer people, hooking up in nontraditional settings plays a less nostalgic role. Whether it’s a park in town, the city’s gay-friendly bathhouse, or the darkest corner available in the New York City nightclub, before the internet, before Grindr, known cruisy spots around town were a primary vehicle for single or closeted gay men to find sex. It was arguably even a political act - a kind of fuck you to mainstream society's villainizing of queer love; an act of necessity as much as daring. After all, it’s not so long ago that being caught with another man by a roommate arriving home earlier than expected could spell professional or social disaster.

‘cruising’ concentrates on these sites of passion. Photographed on medium format film, in the tradition of landscape photography, these seemingly banal locations are identified for the sexual significance they hold for the minority who experienced release at them. Whether it’s the parking lot where I had my first gay hook-up of college, or the hotel bathroom  frequented on someone’s commute home from work there is something undoubtedly private and personal about these abundantly public scenes.

The juxtaposition between the banality or normalcy of the places and the subsequent story told through the caption is deliberate. The secret of these sites is fading into history as more and more attitudes around queerness improve and as apps like Grindr eliminate the need for cruising. No longer does the questioning teen need to hang around the public bathroom downtown known by gay men to take the next step for himself - he can create an anonymous profile online.

While people have always cruised for all sorts of reasons, not only because it was the safest or only option available to them, as a member of a generation who has only known the internet and the aspects of fledgling queer life it facilitates, this work is my way of making a document of this history. Of making an homage to these places and sites, and asking the viewer to do the same. Who were we as a society that relegated our sexual liberation to parking lots, bathhouses and motel rooms, and who are we now that it’s relegated to the app we bury in a folder on our phone, or the incognito browser we double-check we closed.

The Images

When I turned to Craigslist

The Tufts gym parking lot in Medford, Massachusetts, USA

"I was nervous because we had met on Craigslist. You weren’t my type but I was desperate and unwilling to risk using Grindr and outing myself to the campus, so I went farther afield. I must have chosen the spot we’d blow each other in your sedan. It wasn’t far from my dorm and I distinctly remember telling my roommate I was going to get dinner from the dining hall not meet a random guy in the gym parking lot.

You were nice. More comfortable in your own body than I was. Not necessarily looking for a relationship, but tolerant of at least some sort of friendship. I, on the other hand, resented seeing your name pop up on my phone unless I was horny. Shame clung to our fleeting meetups like humidity hanging in the air.

To this day I still feel bitter and angry at myself, at you, at every aspect of those circumstances because of what they represented. My homophobia, my shallowness, my wasted time being in the closet. I black those encounters out of my memory like a government agent redacting a document. Remembering that time only reminds me of the pain obscured by those heavy black marks."

A personal story of mine

A rendezvous in a church parking lot

A park near the First Church in Ludlow, Massachusetts, USA

"I met this guy through Grindr. We were like 19 years old. Both of us still lived at home. I was home for the summer from school, and his mom didn't work and my mom’s a school teacher so they both had summer’s off. Neither of us were out to our parents, or ever communicated ever being in a relationship with a guy. It would have been completely questionable, so I don’t think either of us were comfortable going to the other’s house.

At that time, neither of us had a profile picture on Grindr either. I had a torso pic, he had one that just kind of showed his jaw line but nothing else. He hit me up and sent some pictures.

We’d send photos and sext, and kind of get off at the same time. Eventually we exchanged cell phone numbers and then we arranged to meet up in person.

At this point he asked if I knew anywhere, and I said I didn’t know anywhere that was remotely discreet, or wasn’t a cop cruising location and he said “well I know a park in Ludlow that will be closed so why don’t you meet me at this church parking lot, I drive a silver Mustang so you’ll know its me when I come by and you can hop in and I’ll drive us over there.”

The night comes and he arrives, I get in his car. We go to the park. There’s no cars around so it’s completely empty. We walked in for a bit to an open field with a couple of picnic tables. The grass was kind of wet cause it had just rained, so we just went to one of the picnic tables and started making out. He kind of suggested I start blowing him by pushing me down on him and it was kind of now or never so I gave him one of those no reciprocation blow jobs, where I get him off, and then we hear some noise in the background and he jumps up and says we should get me back to my car so I can get home. That was it."

A personal account told to me

A cruisy health club

Locker rooms at Bally Total Fitness in Woburn, Massachusetts, USA

Submitted by anon on Nov 22, 2008:

“Bally is a shitty gym and their company is run by a bunch of crooks, but there is a group of guys here who go every night looking for sex. Some of the most amazing steamroom and shower room sex I've ever seen was in this gym. The guys do not seem to care if they get caught by staff or other patrons. There are also some aggressive trolls who do not take no for an answer.”

Reviews from www.CruisingForSex.com, a website similar to Yelp for reviewing cruising locations.

Ending his dry spell

A large parking lot near Jose’s Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

"It was right here, in this car, right against the passenger window that I got railed for the first time in fifteen years.

It wasn’t even a Grindr hook-up. We had met on Grindr awhile before  and we started talking but by that point we were texting and chatting on Facebook Messenger. we were friends friends. I forget what we even started talking about. I think we smoked the first time actually, and didn’t even do anything. But yeah, normally it would have been me fucking him but I was stressed out cause I was working on a major project and he ended up fucking me.

These lights were never on back then. These LED lights are new, it use to be the old orange ones, and they’d click out every so often so it was good and dark in this corner. And he had a roommate that he hated cause otherwise we totally would have gone to his house, cause that’s easier than a car. I pulled so many muscles fucking in the car.

I suppose some people would feel dirty, I suppose that’s a normal way to feel.

I didn’t. I was a little proud of myself. He was big as fuck."

A personal account told to me

Finally without shame

The Tufts public relations department parking lot in Medford, Massachusetts, USA

“At this point I'm not sure I remember what college house basement the party was at when we first started texting. I was scared as hell of outing myself and wasn't sure I could trust the random hook-up who said you and him and swapped blowjobs at some other point. We text back and forth in the same room, phones lighting up across the party before eventually one of us suggested we go for a drive - whether it was you or me, I’m not sure. That was one of the few times I have got in a car with a drunk driver but it was you and you were hot and apparently gay, or bi as we both were then, so I let it go. We didn't drive far.

Pulling into the parking lot you had evidently determined to be as secluded as anywhere else on campus (neither of us were out to our roommates), the sexual tension broke when you shifted into Park.

I remember thinking like some stereotypical college girl studying abroad how hot it was you were French and how in that moment I felt more seen than I had in the handful of queer encounters I'd had prior. For once, finally, after years of doubt and regret, it felt consensual.”

A personal story of mine

A cruisy park, especially after dark

Around the Fresh Pond Parkway in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Submitted by anon on July 17, 2008:

I've been many times and found no action. It's a huge park and would help to know where specifically is best.

Submitted by anon  on April 12, 2006:

There are lots of hot college guys and younger men who like to take a 'rest' from their jogging around the pond. I've given and received great blowjobs here after dark.

Reviews from www.CruisingForSex.com, a website similar to Yelp for reviewing cruising locations.

The motel-in-your-own-town Grindr date

A Motel-6 in Chicopee, Massachusetts, USA

"This was an older guy I met on Grindr... late 30s, early 40s... he was a lawyer in the town over and I knew he didn't want any strings attached which was nice honestly. We would chat on Grindr a lot and for awhile he would try and convince me to hook up with him at his law office, but I felt kind of uncomfortable with it. It was near where I worked and lived and felt like it would be hard to explain if anyone I knew saw me. So we kept talking and eventually he offered to pay for a motel room so we can hook up.

I said okay, I have a car so let’s avoid my hometown, and where you and I work, so we ended up settling on this Motel 6.

The day came and he sent me a Grindr message saying that he got a room for that afternoon, that he could take a break from work, around sunset and we drove out over here. He told me what room number it was, and that he had already gotten the key when I got there.

When I ended up going in the room he had already stripped down to only a jockstrap. We tried to have sex which ended up not working out. I did end up blowing him to get him off, but I think I was doing it more out of a feeling of obligation.

Afterwards he took a shower and we talked a bit.

That’s when he told me he was in what’s what he called a triad, married to two other men. He told me that I was the only guy he had ever hooked up with outside of the relationship, so the reason we did the motel is because they all lived together and even though they were okay with me hooking up with him, they didn’t want it to happen in the house. By this point the conversation was feeling forced, so he said he was going to check out, and I said I had a work shift, which was a lie, but I just wanted to go home at that point."

A personal account told to me

Cruisy toilet which was eventually discovered and restricted

A bathroom in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Woburn, Massachusetts, USA

Submitted by TroomDaddy on December 20, 2011:

Was here today and there was no action at all. This is a shame since the layout is perfect. There are stalls on both sides and a second set of urinals all the way in the back.

Submitted by anon on January 28, 2005:

Men's room was closed, several arrests, now there is a security guard that patrols. No action at all.**

Submitted by anon on January 18, 2005:

Heads Up!

It used to be a fantastic place, but now the staff has security people standing in the hall outside the restroom. It was great while it lasted!

Submitted by anon on December 08, 2004:

“Staff is catching on. I would always come here and get lots of hot action, but the last time I was there one of the hotel staff came in and asked me while I was at the urinal if I was a hotel guest. When I told him 'no', he escorted me out. As I pulled away in the parking lot, I noticed him standing out there with a clipboard taking down my license plate number! Too bad, it was a lot of fun.”

Submitted by anon on March 24, 2004:

“This place is full of suburban daddies looking to play with the boys before heading home to the wife. They either want what she won't give them or more often what she hasn't got; in that case they chow down on you like there's no tomorrow. Sometimes there’s action at lunchtime with guys out on the road for business but the evening commute is best. More often than not it's group stuff, with lots of guys watching, stroking or joining in the fun.”

Reviews from www.CruisingForSex.com, a website similar to Yelp for reviewing cruising locations.

The virginity story behind a regular hook-up spot

A parking garage in Burlington, Massachusetts, USA

“My first time here it was actually one of my ‘first times’ with a guy actually. The way it happened was... I was with my friend named Mikey and I was in high school and was driving around... I guess we were hanging out at the mall, if I remember right, and he was one of the first gay people I knew outside of my high school or maybe the only one I really knew.

He was my first introduction to a completely gay dude, compared to the bi curious or straight dudes I had been hanging out with before this. I think he might have been drunk cause he had a drinking problem back then but he was 16 and I was too and we kind of happened on this place. We parked in this spot and I didn’t know we were going to hook up cause he had a boyfriend except he kind of made some moves. We folded down the seats and did that whole situation and it was rather innocent cause this was my first, kind of, gay experience, in the sense that we only made out and stuff.

It was very heated though. Windows got steamy and all that. I don’t know if we finished or not, but the way I remember it ending is it kind of just did. I’m pretty sure I didn’t cum cause I wasn’t quite sure what was happening. I didn’t have a condom and was kind of stressing out. I was in my head for sure, being young and after that I remember driving him home, but that made me find this place again because I was like oh I use to do that in high school so I’ve brought regulars here consistently to this day.

A personal account told to me

A well-known park for walking dogs or cruising, depending on who you ask

Sheepfold Park in Stoneham, Massachusetts, USA

A cruisy park and fields in the Fells reservation

Submitted by bisunbather on April 16, 2012:

Was at Sheepfold this past Thursday and two rangers were on foot, searching the area, both the front hill and the area out back on the rocks where guys sometimes sunbath. I'm not sure if they're allowed to write tickets, but they were acting very aggressively.

Submitted by Old Timer on September 18, 2011:

Guys go to the right of the old rail bed trail as you walk into the woods to the north, and the further you go, the more private, and the fewer guys. Just before the end of the rail trail there is action on both sides, up on the hills. During the week the average age is 60+, but on weekends, you get a real mix of ages. A few psycho's, too. My favorite is the 40+ guy who lies out naked and JO's his sizable dick, and if you watch it, and are not hot enough for him, accuses you of stalking him, and threatens to report you to the cops.

Submitted by anon on March 01, 2009:

I'm looking forward to the cruisy season. It usually starts in May (I know, a couple of months) but as soon as there are warm days in March the cocks will start flying.

Submitted by anon on November 23: 2008:

The dog park people know full well that guys cruise in the back of the Sheepfold park. I met a couple who were trying to organize hikes through that area to try to 'take back the park.' Expect more foot traffic from straights. Be discreet and keep off the trails and out of sight if you're hooking up. I've seen guys whip it out in plain sight on main trails and also the trash up on the hilltops is horrible -- coffee cups, used rubbers and paper napkins everywhere. It would be sad to see a great place like this ruined by a few idiots.

Submitted by anon on August 09, 2008:

This place is dead because everyone is in Provincetown this summer.

Submitted by anon on April 14, 2005:

Heads Up!

I was here today. The State Police were checking the ID's of most of the cars when they were leaving lot. Guys leaving woods in droves indicated a couple of cops spotted a couple of guys, and that they were blocking the exit to catch them. Be careful.

Reviews from www.CruisingForSex.com, a website similar to Yelp for reviewing cruising locations.

The time when a cop interrupted his hook-up

Behind the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Woburn, Massachusetts, USA

"I believe I was 21, but I don’t remember my age exactly. This dude and I met on Craigslist so we had our emails back and forth, figuring out what we were gonna do. Long story short it was for me to pick him up and hang out in my car.

We ended up smoking weed, and talking a bit. He had never hooked up with a dude before so this was all new for him. He was 18, a young twinkie-looking dude. We kind of hung out, smoked more, drove around. Chilled. I didn’t know where we could go. I didn’t know where he felt comfortable being. Yet we kind of landed here on a snowy night, the parking lot was packed actually. Even I was nervous cause it was Thursday night and my dad was in the Lion’s Club right here. So I was asking myself “why am I here,” but here I was regardless so we were kind of hanging out and I think we started making out a bit. My plan was not to stay here and ask him where he wanted to go cause we’re near the highway, and cause it’s Woburn so I know the area but he kind of got frisky and wanted to suck me off and I figured, “Why not? This is working well, let’s stay here for a little bit.” So he started blowing me and he liked to be a bit of a sub so he called me sir and stuff.

I don’t know how much time has past maybe forty minutes not even and my chair is reclined a bit. He’s doing his thing and I kind of open my eyes and I see this lovely cop with his flashlight walking in front of my car. The guy was was like literally sucking me off, and I was like dude get up, and he was like what, and I was like get up there’s a cop! I was nervous cause we had smoked and the cop walks over and I roll down the window and I was all like, “Hi officer how are you?” And he was by my window and like, “Hi, what’s going on…” only adding “if you’re gonna do that, maybe you should turn your lights off next time,” before walking away, letting us go.

So I turn to the guy I’m with and we’re both mouth agape and are like wow that was the chillest cop. I was in shock. He was in shock. I had never been caught so we were both thinking “holy shit”. And then, my hook up just said, we should go. And I was like, umm.. yeah!"

A personal account told to me

Video store caught looking the other way

Fifth Wheel Adult Video Store viewing booths in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA

Submitted by anon on April 03 2008:

Yes, this place is done. The booths are gone.

Submitted by anon on February 19, 2008:

No more booths as of February 17th.

Submitted by anon on November 26, 2007:

Well, guys, no more play at all. Don't waste your money there. The blond watches you and time. It's now $3 for fifteen minutes and after that you need to buy more.

Submitted by anon on May 28, 2007:

No more action there since the Craigslist posting. the staff keeps an eye on the back room at all times. The place has become boring.

Submitted by anon on Oct 15, 2005:

my last few times here have been great. I've had plenty of one-on-one man action and even three-ways. It's great. Just wave off those you don't want and be direct.

Submitted by anon on August 28, 2005:

Was ready to leave when a hot guy came in. We played a bit but he was turned off by some of the old uglies. We met outside and took our play someplace else. Guys, don't be rude if you're not invited. Remember, no means no.

Submitted by anon on June 17, 2005:

Every time I befriend a cool, hot guy and get something going they get scared away by the rude trolls that walk in on you.

Submitted on February 17, 2002:

This place is great. I was there last night any didn't want to leave. A great assortment of hot men of all ages, with bears and jocks. i got my fill of deep throating and assplay. he guy behind the counter is cool, so buy a lot of tokens.

Read more on how they were found out here.

Reviews from www.CruisingForSex.com, a website similar to Yelp for reviewing cruising locations.

Regretting going on a date first

The Pondicherry Trailhead in Whitefield, New Hampshire, USA

“We actually went on a date. His name was Joe.

Years earlier, he had been one of the first gay guys I had ever met in my entire life. I was 13. It was outside of Cumberland Farms and it was after youth group. He was there with his boyfriend at the time, and knew my sister-in-law so he came up to us. He found out we were all part of a church group and proceeded to very defiantly kiss his boyfriend in front of all of us. I think he was like drunk or high at the time but it stuck out in my head as... it was very scarring for my 13 year old self.

So last February I ended up reconnecting with him through one of my friends Reena, and we decided to go out on a date together. We got Chinese food actually - which is relevant to the story. I ended up deciding that neither of us were interested in a relationship with each other but we thought it would be fun to have sex cause I still liked him but I knew we wouldn’t be compatible. So this place was actually on our way home, and we came over here, and I can’t remember what happened first, but all I remember is giving him a blowjob and deepthroating him and puking and having fried rice come up on his dick.”

A personal account told to me

A basement university toilet

The basement bathroom in the Harvard University Science Building

Submitted by grecoroman, a Super Reviewer, on January 29, 2017:

Directions: Located across the yard, near the Museum of Natural History. Enter through the front entrance or side entrances. Security desk is right in front of the main elevators and stairs to the basement.

Basement toilets in the Science Building have a perfect setup since four stalls are lined up directly behind the urinals. Student ID not required to enter building, but don't make sure you pass as either student, faculty, or tourist (i.e., don't look like a creepy stalker or homeless person).

Place gets extremely busy when the auditorium clears out and students taking their piss breaks in between. If you want to cruise at the urinals, use the ones all the way in. Usually plenty of warning since the door is loud and squeaky when it opens. Cleaning people come in frequently to give all the stall toilets a cleaning, so don't hang around too long in a stall if you want them to go away.

Frequent cruisers are basically horny gay students looking for some action. Although there are lots of construction workers and straight guys, don't bother them or they'll report you. Some old guys who can't get a hint if you're interested, but head out if they're lingering and attracting unwanted attention.

Reviews from www.CruisingForSex.com, a website similar to Yelp for reviewing cruising locations.

Quick stop while you shop

The bathroom of the Walmart Supercenter in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA

Submitted by anon on September 18, 2008:

I go there at least two times per week and there is never anyone around. It's a ghost town.

Submitted by anon on July 30, 2008:

I have been in there many times during the day, mid-morning to mid-afternoon, and no one is ever at the bathroom at the very back.

Submitted by anon on June 04, 2007:

Great place to meet. Hang out around the back bathroom. A lot of nice young guys looking there.

Reviews from www.CruisingForSex.com, a website similar to Yelp for reviewing cruising locations.

Last minute coffee stop

At the end of Elm St in Lancaster, New Hampshire, USA

“I came here with - oh shit what was his name - oh yeah, Connor. That was his name. We had ... we didn’t really do anything other than hook up. It was agreed upon before that I was looking for a friends with benefits at that point so I just wanted some cute guy to hook up with and he seemed to fit the bill. It was kind of late one night when we came out here. And I got about half way down Elm St and I felt almost badly cause we hadn’t talked at all and I felt like I wasn’t able to connect with him in anyway - to have some sort of emotional connection - and I wanted to have one so I ended up turning around and got us both a hot chocolate and we talked to each other and talked about each other’s lives.

And I put my seats down in the back and we went into the back together. We undressed each other and I think we actually lay cuddled naked for a little bit, just to feel each other's bodies. I ended up giving him a blowjob then he fucked me, essentially. And it actually was really fast, like he could not handle himself all that well. It was probably less than 30 seconds that he was inside me. He was just excited I think.

I decided I didn’t want to keep anything going cause it wasn’t really a relationship I wanted and he was really emotional so I felt like it was better to cut if off than try to keep going.”

A personal account told to me