Magazine article Out

Risk Stop

Magazine article Out

Risk Stop

Article excerpt

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FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR JAMES MCGREEVEY'S NEW MEMOIR, THE CONFESSION, REVEALS ANONYMOUS GAY TRYSTS AT HIGHWAY REST STOPS. HE'S NOT ALONE. WHY DO SO MANY TAKE SUCH A RISK?

Stereotypes abound about people who seek anonymous sex: They are closet cases, or sexual compulsives, or danger seekers who relish the possibility of getting busted. Anecdotal evidence supports some of these notions in part, but a quick visit to any cruisy bathroom or dirty movie theater or urban park after dark reveals the rest of the story.

True, closet cases abound, but openly gay men just as often outnumber them. Are they all uniquely sexually compulsive? Before you answer, consider the man-hours logged on a daily basis at Manhunt.net or any of the Internet's other semianonymous virtual rest stops.

Perhaps the most pervasive assumption about public-sex devotees is that they enjoy knowing that they might get caught; they get off on the threat of arrest or physical violence or public exposure. Such thrill seekers surely exist, but they are vastly outnumbered by men who enjoy public sex despite the chance of encountering a neighbor or basher or undercover cop; they hope they don't get caught but are willing to tolerate this small risk. Hope, like lust, springs eternal.

Why? What does sex in a roadside restroom offer that could be worth that much? Spontaneity. Variety. Immediacy. Convenience. Simplicity. Pleasure. The venues may not be everyone's cup of tea-they're often uncomfortable, unhygienic places plagued with foul odors and harsh lighting-but the motivations aren't so different from what drives people to cruise bars or surf the Internet. Whether in a bathhouse or a bedroom, with a stranger or a boyfriend, at a urinal or online, every sexual encounter carries risk-physical, emotional, legal, medical. Each of us is willing to tolerate some risks and not others, depending on the situation. …

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