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Tapping Into The Secrets Of the Stall

Sen. Larry Craig at a news conference Tuesday, where he said he pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge
Sen. Larry Craig at a news conference Tuesday, where he said he pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge "in hope of making it go away." (By Mike Vogt -- Idaho Press-tribune Via Associated Press)

"Some people are really compulsively driven to seek sex frequently, anonymously," says Eli Coleman, director of the human sexuality program at the University of Minnesota Medical School. They are often driven by the need to reduce anxiety and regulate their mood, to feel good temporarily, Coleman says.

"But oftentimes the behavior only gives short-term relief, and because of its furtive nature, they feel guilty and shameful and [tell themselves] they're not going to do it ever again, and then they're back out there."

Craig's arrest occurred a month after the Idaho Statesman newspaper played him an audiotape of a man who claims he had had sex with the senator in Union Station. Craig has denied the claim.

Neither Union Station management nor Amtrak Police would comment on their law enforcement activities. Although Meridian Hill Park in Northwest, also called Malcolm X Park, is known as a sexual cruising spot, U.S. Park Police spokesman Robert Lachance would not discuss enforcement activities there.

Across the country, official attempts to crack down on public sex have stirred controversy. Jim Naugle, mayor of Fort Lauderdale, recently drew criticism from gay activists when he suggested that single-occupancy bathrooms on the beach would inhibit "homosexual activity." Rather than "gay," he said, homosexual people were "unhappy." In Rehoboth Beach, Del., a string of arrests in July on public sex charges prompted some gay residents to complain about entrapment.

A distinction must be drawn, say some, between public sex and anonymous sex.

"I know of plenty of people who have anonymous sex, but not public, meaning in their own homes," says Shawn Henderson, moderator for D.C. Young Poz Socials, a support group for HIV-positive men.

"I know people who are determined to hook up to someone online on Craigslist. They will list a scenario in which a person is blindfolded. The person they invite comes over to their home and has sex and leaves." Public means "in malls, restaurants, airport restrooms -- obviously -- and public parks," he said.

He says he has heard of a number of ways men indicate they want to have "public" sex.

"From what I've heard, foot-tapping. Online [dating and chats] is another blatant way. As far as the other ways, if you are walking through the mall, someone might make eye contact. If you walk down the street and you see someone you are interested in, you lock eye contact."

Then you apply the three-second rule.

"Once you pass that person, you wait three seconds and turn. If they turn, you follow that person or you keep going your separate ways. Or you exchange numbers and make plans to meet later."

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