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Originally published August 30, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 30, 2007 at 2:08 AM



Experts: For many gays, public sex means privacy

Many men who solicit sex in public places often are conflicted sexually and seek sex in those locations to maintain anonymity, psychiatric...

The Idaho Statesman

BOISE — Many men who solicit sex in public places often are conflicted sexually and seek sex in those locations to maintain anonymity, psychiatric experts say.

Dr. Fred Berlin, an associate professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, compared homosexual sex at public places with heterosexual men who go to secret parts of town to solicit prostitutes and to drug addicts who find dealers on street corners away from their neighborhoods.

"This is not as complicated as people think," Berlin said. "It is often a case of people with very strong sexual cravings that are difficult to resist, people who are very conflicted and struggling" with their feelings and the stigma of embarrassment of having family members or the community find out.

A place such as a public restroom often is the only place these men feel they can risk such an encounter safely, he said.

"I think the main goal is for those people to meet like-minded people," Nevada psychiatrist Sally Skewis said.

Several adult Web sites have lists of public bathrooms and other places where men can seek each other for sex. Included is the Minneapolis airport restroom where Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, was arrested after an undercover officer said the senator tapped his foot and made finger motions that were recognizable signals for men attempting to solicit sex from each other.

Keith Griffith, owner of one such Web site for homosexuals, said foot tapping and finger motions are standard communication by men seeking sex in public places in the United States.

"That is the reason this sounds so new to people when it has been going on for years," he said. "This is a code that is supposed to lead to discretion. That is what it is for."

Both Berlin and Skewis said men who frequent such places are not trying to target or approach men using the restroom for its intended purpose.

"They are not looking to force people who are uninterested," Berlin said.

That would lead to increased scrutiny and public complaints and could lead to a physical assault — which would wreck the anonymity the men want.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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