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Sex in public places: How big a problem?

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@miamiherald.com

24bathroomhphighlightprod_affiliateWhen Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle linked the purchase of new toilets for beach parks to gay sex in public places, he uncorked a torrent of protest. But just how prevalent is public sex?

No one keeps detailed statistics on sex in public restrooms and parks. South Florida law enforcement agencies say they receive occasional complaints and make a few arrests, but they don't spend much time cracking down on it. Since 2005, Fort Lauderdale has reported two arrests for sexual activity in a public restroom.

''I don't know whether it's the perception or the reality, but it doesn't seem like it's that much of a problem,'' Broward Sheriff's Office spokesman Jim Leljedal said.

Miami-Dade Police cracked down on public sex at Tropical Park, 7900 SW 40th St., in August 2001 and made 17 arrests. Police spokesman Juan Villalba said he knows of no current sting operations.

American University anthropology Professor William Leap has spent more than a decade researching male sex in public places. In 1999, he edited an academic compilation called Public Sex/Gay Space. His conclusion is that up to half of the men who seek this kind of sex are not gay.

''We are talking about a recreational, erotic activity that involves all different kinds of men,'' he said. ``That fact has got to get burned into public consciousness. If we are going to demonize individuals, then we need to be looking at a broad category of men. That includes ministers and city officials, all kind of respectable, upscale people.''

State Rep. Bob Allen, R-Merritt Island, was charged in July with solicitation for prostitution after allegedly offering to perform oral sex for $20 on an undercover male police officer in a park restroom in Titusville. A member of the Florida House since 2000 and a married father of one, Allen has said he is not guilty.

Norman Kent, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer who has specialized in defending people in these cases over the last 20 years, says half the men arrested on public sex charges are not gay.

''The percentage of people I represent on the charges, the vast number of them turn out to be very straight and very married,'' said Kent, publisher of the website NationalGayNews.com. ``They're looking for moments of instant gratification.''

Before the modern gay-rights movement, many closeted men resorted to meeting in restrooms for sex. In these times of more acceptance of gay relationships, why do some younger gay men still go to restrooms for sex? ''This is a lot more efficient use of time then going online, going into a chat room or going into a bar,'' Leap said.

``Secondly, there are gay men who prefer the ambience of the public toilet. There is nostalgia for that, for the old days. It's an alternative to what they have at home with the boyfriend or their conventional way of dating.''

Gay activists have reacted with outrage to Naugle's call to ''responsible members of the homosexual community'' to stop the public sex. While they don't deny that some men, both gay and straight, use public parks and public restrooms to meet, they object to Naugle linking an entire community to something that they say only a small percentage engages in.

''It does happen. It's headlines in the news. But we're going to pigeonhole one group that they're responsible for this? That's not the case,'' said Jeff Black, a businessman who in the aftermath of the Naugle comments helped organize a protest group, UNITE Fort Lauderdale.

Black says that ``no one in our group promotes public illicit sex in any manner.''

Anthony Verdugo, executive director of the Christian Family Coalition in South Florida, said the problem is real, and Naugle ''should be applauded, not condemned'' for bringing it up.

''The majority of homosexuals and heterosexuals don't engage in public sex, and if you poll them they would say it's wrong,'' Verdugo said. ``But the issue is a valid issue that the mayor brought up in terms of public sex and listings on the website.''

Some gay-rights activists have been hesitant to talk about the mayor's comments, not wanting to draw attention to the small number of men who do engage in public sex.

''They don't want the gay community to appear on Page 1. People would think that is nasty,'' said Francis Gonzalez, a gay man in Fort Lauderdale who says he has been solicited a few times in men's rooms.

Gonzalez is critical of his mayor's comments. ''It's denigrating,'' he said. ``It makes it appear the gay community is all doing that.''


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mayor is right

I'm glad the Mayor has raised this issue. Like it or not, male gay sexualization has been public, prevalent and hands off in Lauderdale for too long. Gay men have sex on the beach, gay men meet pickups at Holiday Park, and gay bathhouses are prevalent (and convenient places for public sex). Yet, noone has had the guts to call it out as illegal. I don't see straight prostitutes on the beach, nor straight johns cruising our parks, and straight bathhouses with public sex would be shut down in an instant. Thank you mayor jim for raising this issue while others, including the police, turn a blind eye.

Merritt Island politico offers to give oral sex to some MALE undercover cop and you use him as an example of a guy who is NOT a homosexual?

The world is going to hell.

Two decades ago gays would have been happy just to have the rights they have now, but they want more now! They want to be the center of attention; you think people are going to think differently about gays if the mayor apologizes?
I don't think so

Nice article on identifying the real bathroom sex culprits - hetero-identifying men who have wives and kids at home who still want man-to-man sex on the side.

Also, Mr. Straight but open minded, Gays are not the only people who have sex in parks and beaches - pretty much all my heterosexual friends have done the bathroom, parked car or beach sex thing with their wives or girlfriends so I have no idea where you self-righteous folks get off on thinking this is some gay thing.

The only reason why I dislike the entire concept of public sex is that it is never the people you want to watch that are doing it and I can do without the visual being burned into my retina.

Public buggery should be a felony. Cheers to Naugle for 1) making a good point and 2) standing up to the buggers

First of all, most of the public sex seems to be closeted gay men who are married but need some on the down low. Self-loathing closet cases (former mayor of Spokane, WA; former governor of NJ) have done no end of harm to the LGBT community in their sad attempts to hide their homosexuality.

Second, I did post thoughts about the tourism boards' responses to this on Pam's House Blend:


Oh, please! Our sex-negative society is thrilled when such items hit the news, which is only focused on sensationalism, not the real issues of the day: rampant hunger, poverty, homelessness, not to mention a hideous war in Iraq under the guise of fighting terrorism that is threatening the very foundations of American democracy!

So WHAT if people have sex - leave 'em alone! If they are not frightening the horses or bothering people who truly do not want to be bothered, WHY ON EARTH is this NEWS??????????????????

Wow, most of us in NY agree that Florida is backwards, but reading these comments is truly frightening. What a hellhole of ignorance and religion-inspired bigotry. Good thing the sun shines a lot, cause your intellects can use any enlightenment they can get. I'll be taking my vacation in California next winter!

Public sex happens everyday, everywhere, worldwide. Men are going to be Men. They are opportunistic creatures, straight or gay, and they are always "up" for an easy release, especially if they aren't getting that action at home. Let's not paint the human race as some elevated species. We are animals, first and foremost, and many times the animal-sexual instinct takes over the mind and sex happens. Let's worry more about the radical religious nuts in the world who want us all to be as intolerantly frustrated as they are. Perhaps they are just jealous because they aren't getting any action.

People act as though only gay people do this sort of thing. Funny I must have dreamed all those heterosexual men picking up prostitutes and slipping down the nearest alley with their FEMALE purchases for a quickie day after day. Talk about hypocrisy. The simple fact is their are 10000 times more heterosexuals arrested for lewd conduct than homosexuals everyday. Yet that fact seems lost on the posters here. So spare us all your phony feigned shock and clean up your own house.

I found Sex in public place video | http://c-hunt.com/view.php?vid=Sex_in_public_place

I dont understand why the article paints public sex as wrong. Its part of Gay culture and there should be a place for it. People who have sex in public are not bad people - they are just more open minded and adventurous about their sexuality. Monogamy is a straight construct, i hate when gay people try to adopt it which just seems so brainwashy.

First of all the police catch far more heterosexual sex acts in public probably 10 to 1 then they do male on male. Which by the way brings me to the main issue. Until we stop stereotyping people by the sex they have. we will continue to be a backward nation of people who remain closeted in their own bigatry.These are simply people acting out sexually no different then dashboard light sex

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