Earlier this month two men were arrested for alleged public indecency in a gay-populated London gym. The arrest highlights a larger issue that has existed in tandem with queer culture for eons: public sex.
The two men indicted in London with outraging public decency were reportedly caught in the sauna of the Virgin Active gym in the Barbican area of London. The gym used the opportunity to remind the public of its standard no-sex policy:
“The clubs have a responsibility to report any suspicion of illegal activity such as serious consensual activity or outraging public decency to the police. Any suspected cases of such activity occurring in clubs would always be dealt with sensitively and seriously.”
However, going forward the City Police have instructed gyms in the area to enforce similar rules themselves (rather than involving the department) because of the sensitivity surrounding the issue. “Responding to concern over public acts of consensual sex is a sensitive area of policing and police LGBT Liaison officers provide advice in this area," said a spokeswoman for the London Police. "Officers are working closely with gyms in the City to encourage management to enforce their rules around gym behaviour amongst all members regardless of their sexuality."
The case brings up a larger phenomenon in the gay community: public sex. As a New Yorker who goes to a Midtown gym that's more nightclub than fitness center, it's not uncommon for me to walk in on two or more men engaging in dirty times. But rather than alerting gym staff or throwing a hissy fit, I simply turn around, walk out and carry on with my day.
The phenomenon certainly isn't limited to the sauna at the gym during the day: bars, clubs, bathrooms, alleyways, trash areas, hell, even the sidewalk of 9th Avenue are all venues I've stumbled onto consenting adults having sexytime.
When I hear of the London arrest it jogs my St. Patrick's Day hangover-addled mind to remember that these acts are illegal and might offend some members of the public, which begs me to know what you think, Instincters: when encountering public sex, how do you react? Does underlying homophobia inflict a double-standard when it comes to reporting or prosecuting public sex (the Warm Sands scandal comes to mind)?