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File:A man racking himself in The Meatrack on Fire Island.jpg

In the notorious 'meatrack' on Fire Island Pines, New York, a man cruises for sex.

Cruising for sex, or cruising, is walking or driving about a locality, called a cruising ground, in search of a sex partner, usually of the anonymous, casual, one-time variety.[1][2] The term is also used when technology is used to find casual sex, such as using an Internet site or a telephone service.[3][4]

Origin and historical usage[]

According to historian and author Tim Blanning, the term cruising originates from the Dutch equivalent kruisen.[5]

In a specifically sexual context, the term "cruising" originally emerged as an argot "code word" in gay slang, by which those "in the know" would understand the speaker's unstated sexual intent, whereas most heterosexuals, on hearing the same word in the same context, would normally misread the speaker's intended meaning in the word's more common nonsexual sense. This served (and in some contexts, still serves) as a protective sociolinguistic mechanism for gay men to recognize each other, and avoid being recognized by those who may wish to do them harm in broader societies noted for their homophobia.

In the latter half of the twentieth century, decriminalization of homosexual behaviour increasingly became the norm in English-speaking countries. The protective barrier once provided by the term "cruising" as a "code word" has therefore largely broken down and, arguably, become increasingly irrelevant. Thus the specifically sexual meaning of the term has passed into common usage to include the sexual behavior of heterosexual persons, as well.

Public health officials have noted that cruising locations are frequented by men who have sex with men, but do not identify with being homosexual or bisexual, who are closeted, married, or in relationships with women, do not date men or frequent gay bars, clubs or websites, or have otherwise no other way of meeting men for sex.[6]

The cruising places are often considered meeting places for men who are otherwise living more conventional lifestyles. For instance, it was noted in Laud Humphreys' 1970 study about anonymous gay sex meeting places that most men who visited those places were at least seemingly heterosexuals who had families.[7]

Regional usage variants[]

In the United States, the term "cruising" was used predominantly to denote exclusively homosexual behavior, but in Australia and the United Kingdom it is used by both homosexuals and heterosexuals to describe their own behavior, as witnessed in the common male heterosexual derivative phrase "cruising for chicks".[8][9][10]

In the United States, cruising often takes place in gay bars, adult video arcades often through gloryholes, adult movie theaters, public toilets, parks, saunas, gyms or gay bathhouses. Engaging in such activities in public places like parks has led to participants being charged with indecent exposure.

Historic examples of usage[]

Template:Unsourced-section The term has been enshrined since at least the mid-1970s in the name of the gay bar Foxes Booze 'n' Cruise, located on Historic US Highway 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Before closing, the business came under criticism for allegedly encouraging drunk driving by some who did not understand the term's historic usage, but the name and the sign remain a conscious reminder of gay history.

The term has also been adopted, in an altered form, by the website, an online LGBT community based in Sweden. This is a tongue in cheek reference, however, as the community functions as a forum for social interaction for the Scandinavian region, rather than focusing on exclusively sexual encounters. The website has attracted many heterosexual members as well.

In popular culture[]

Template:Unsourced-section Cruising for sex is alluded to in songs such as "Cruisin' the Streets" by the Boys Town Gang as well as "I'm a Cruiser" by the Village People, on the album titled Cruisin'.

In 1980, director William Friedkin made the film Cruising, starring Al Pacino. The film introduced many audiences to homosexual activities and the linguistic codes used for them, but gay rights groups perceived a negative depiction of the gay community in the film and protested its production.[11]

The opening scene of the first episode of the HBO series Looking involves the main character Patrick (Jonathan Groff) cruising in a park, mainly out of curiosity of whether the activity is still in practice or not.[12]

Cruising for sex was explored in Cruising Pavilion, a 2018 art installation associated with the Venice Biennale of Architecture.[13]

See also[]


  • Cottaging
  • Cruisin' (album)
  • Dogging (sexual slang)
  • Gay bathhouse
  • Gay beat
  • Gay cruising in the United Kingdom
  • Glory hole (sexual slang)
  • Homosocialization
  • Nudity and sexuality
  • Sexuality and space
  • Troll (gay)


  1. Template:Cite web Published: 11-14-2007
  2. Template:Cite news Published: 9-21-2005 Article from NYT about a cruising area in New York City
  3. Template:Cite web
  4. Template:Cite news
  5. Tim Blanning. The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815. p 81. Template:ISBN.
  6. Tradition of sex cruising at Aquatic Park to end. John Geluardi. Berkeley Daily Planet. 19-12-2001. Retrieved 17-01-2011.
  7. Newman, David: Sociology 7; Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life. Pine Forge Press (2008)
  8. Template:Cite journal
  9. Template:Cite journal
  10. Template:Cite book
  11. Template:Cite web
  12. "Looking for Now". Looking. Season 1. Episode 1. HBO.
  13. Template:Cite web

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