Jump to navigation Jump tearoom sex search This article is about the sexual behavior. The appearance of public lavatories, like this one in Pond Square, Camden, London, is the origin of the term cottaging.
The word “cottage”, usually meaning a small, cosy, countryside home, is documented as having been in use during the Victorian era to refer to a public toilet and by the 1960s its use in this sense had become an exclusively homosexual slang term. Cottages were and are located in places heavily used by many people such as bus stations, railway stations, airports and university campuses. Since the 1980s, more individuals in authority have become more aware of the existence of cottages in places under their jurisdiction and have reduced the height of or even removed doors from the cubicles of popular cottages, or extended the walls between the cubicles to the floor to prevent foot signalling. Before the gay liberation movement, many, if not most, gay and bisexual men at the time were closeted and there were almost no public gay social groups for those under legal drinking age. The internet brought significant changes to cottaging, which was previously an activity engaged in by men with other men, often in silence with no communication beyond the markings of a cubicle wall.
Sexual acts in public lavatories are outlawed by many jurisdictions. It is likely that the element of risk involved in cottaging makes it an attractive activity to some. Historically in the United Kingdom, public gay sex often resulted in a charge and conviction of gross indecency, an offence only pertaining to sexual acts committed by males and particularly applied to homosexual activity. In many of the cases where people are brought to court for cottaging, the issue of entrapment arises. Sir George Robert Mowbray, 5th Baronet Mowbray, was fined for importuning men at Piccadilly Circus Underground station. Tom Driberg was charged with indecent assault after two men shared his bed in the 1940s and used his position as a journalist several times to get off later charges when caught soliciting in public toilets by the police.
Field was arrested for persistently importuning in a public toilet. Field appealed against the conviction twice but failed on both occasions. American mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr. Sir David Milne-Watson was fined for importuning at South Kensington railway station. On 6 November 1962, actor Wilfrid Brambell was arrested in a toilet in Shepherd’s Bush for persistently importuning. In 1962, the Mansfield, Ohio Police Department conducted a sting operation in which they covertly filmed men having sex in the public restroom underneath Central Park. Thirty eight men were convicted and jailed for sodomy.
After the arrest, the city closed the restrooms and backfilled the site. The police later made a training film of the footage. It was rereleased in 2007 as “Tearoom”. Johnson’s aide Walter Jenkins was arrested in a YMCA in Washington, D. Michael Turnbull was arrested in Hull for cottaging in a public toilet, before he became Bishop of Durham. Major General Edwin Walker made sexual advances to an undercover police officer in a restroom at a park in Dallas, Texas on June 23, 1976, and was arrested for public lewdness.