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Introduction to the world of the glory hole
Glory hole literally translates to "glory hole. It is a hole in the partition between the stalls of public toilets, adult arcades, restrooms, bathhouses, and sex clubs. Such rooms are sometimes referred to as "tea rooms" or "teahouses."
Glory holes are for anonymous sex, including oral and anal sex, or for watching a person's sexual activities in a nearby stall.
They used to be closely associated with gay culture, their emergence due to the social persecution of sexual minorities. Such openings provided gay men with anonymity, privacy for their activities, and a sense of security that they would not be subjected to public condemnation. However, Glory holes are not only enjoyed by gay men. They have become more widely used by heterosexual and bisexual men and women.
What is a glory hole?
The first mention of the glory hole dates back to the early 18th century. At that time, same-sex sex was a cause for arrest. Some swindlers used them for blackmail and extortion of money from people who had accidentally found glory holes in the toilet stalls.
Thus, in 1707, the trial of two swindlers was recorded. Their victim, Mr. Gillam, visited a public toilet and saw someone sticking his genitals through a hole in his stall. Mr. Gillam hurriedly left the restroom, but the scammer's accomplice began yelling at him that he wanted to have sex with him. The crook, knowing Gillam was innocent, blackmailed him, demanded money, and threatened to turn him in to the vice squad.
In the twentieth century, the vice police used to trap gay men in order to record their sexual encounters as evidence of wrongdoing and then prosecute them. In the 1950s and 1960s similar incidents were reported in Ohio and California.
Glory holes have been mentioned in print and in the media since 1949. The Swasarnth Nerf published a "Lesbian Handbook," which talked about holes in the partition between stalls in public toilets, and these holes were the same diameter as a phallus, sometimes used as a common peephole.
Sociologist Lod Humphries published a book in 1970, The Tea Room Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places, which also described "tea rooms" and stalls in toilets where men met and had sex with each other.
The Museum of Western Australia added a "historic glory hole" to its exhibit collection in 2018. It was located in a restroom at Gosnell Station. The toilet was demolished, but the wall with the hole was saved and then donated to the museum.
Do Glory holes still exist?
Over the past few years, the popularity of public glory holes has decreased in some countries. This is due to the fact that same-sex sex is no longer illegal. Also due to the rise of HIV epidemics and other STD's gay men have changed their attitude towards safe sex.
But gay men still exist, and you can read the list here. They are popular "because they are convenient and interesting," as respondents to the Journal of Homosexuality survey put it.
Today, glory holes can be used in designated places, such as gay bathhouses, sex clubs and other adult rooms. In addition, some glory hole enthusiasts admit to installing glory hole walls in their private homes, bathhouses or garages.
Who uses glory holes and why?
Glory holes are mostly used by people who are interested in anonymous, noncommittal sex. In general, people's motives vary, as do their experiences and values. For example, for many gay men, sex through walls and partitions in locations with glory holes is considered a special fetish. A 2020 BuzzFeed article collected anecdotes from gay, straight, and bisexual readers who talk about their own experiences with glory holes at swingers' parties.
Bodily contact is extremely limited: two people are separated by a wall, they can only touch each other with their genitals, mouths or fingers.
For many glory seekers the physical barrier helps to compensate for the psychological barrier. Inner homophobia is most often the result of society's disapproval of LGBT culture. Holes allow one to depersonalize his partner completely, to imagine him as an incorporeal object of sexual gratification.
Tina Horn, producer and host of the podcast "Why Are People In It?" explains, "Glory holes are objectification in the truest sense: If you stick your genitals in a glory hole, the rest of your humanity is erased. Sure, it can be humiliating, but it can also be exhilarating because of the intensity of the emotions. Adult entertainment exists to create new erotic scenarios and fantasies that are difficult or dangerous to fulfill in real life.
About safe sex before you start
In some countries, sex in public places is still illegal. Such activities can have unfortunate consequences: increased police attention, public condemnation in the media, damage to family well-being, and dishonorable dismissal from work. Potential risks include gay beatings and robbery.
Therefore, personal safety precautions and etiquette should be taken before enjoying yourself. Participants in sexual entertainment usually wait for the other partner to give the signal and allow the activity to begin - inserting genitals or some other part of their body into the glory hole.
In 2020, the New York City Department of Health presented a bulletin on COVID-19, which suggested having sex through physical barriers as a countermeasure to the spread of the infection. Specifically, glory holes are not mentioned.
However, a month later, the BC Centre for Disease Control recommended physical barriers, such as walls with glory holes that allow sexual contact but prevent face-to-face contact, as one way to reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus.