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The Hidden History of Glory Holes

Glory holes have always struck me as absurd.

You’re saying I just stuff my dick through this unmarked crevice in the wall of a public restroom and wait for impending orgasmic bliss courtesy of a frisky passer by?

That sounded… implausible.

So I spent the last 48 hours looking into their legitimacy, beginning with a simple query directed to my 1,536 Facebook friends.

Within hours I had three male friends, all gay Gen-Xers, eager to evangelize. One guy I went to college with — who now goes by “Beastly Bottom,” a self-described “Nom de Slut” — tells me he has a private glory hole in his home. “My husband, who is fully supportive of my life as a slut, built it for me in the garage,” he explains in an email.

The glory hole lives in the wall separating two carports. Beastly Bottom waits on one side and uses the remote to open the opposite garage door to let his “feeder” in. The glory hole is hard wood, collapsible like an accordion and has cushion all the way around for padding.

“It’s used by a bunch of gays in the neighborhood who want ‘fast-food sex,’” Beastly explains, “and more than a couple of non-gay-identified guys who get off on the anonymity.”

My other two Facebook friends had similarly harrowing tales.

Those, combined with a deep dive into the internet’s seedy underbelly, left me knowing more than I ever wanted to — and plenty I definitely did not — about the allure of this decidedly inglorious passage.

Take a dip…

1. A glory hole, according to Wikipedia, is “a hole in a wall, or other partition, often between public lavatory stalls or adult video arcade booths, for people to engage in sexual activity or observe the person in the next cubicle while one or both parties masturbate.” In addition to the penis, fingers or the tongue may be inserted into the hole — whatever suits your fancy.

2. As Urban Dictionary explains, in higher-class establishments like Beastly Bottom’s garage, “this hole will be fabricated with duct tape to prevent genital chaffing.”

3. This begs the question: What’s the width of the typical glory hole? According to the experts at GloryHoleToGo.com, “The standard size is cut to 3.5 inches by 10 inches, then we edge trim it.”

4. “Before the days of the internet,” explains notoneofyourfans in the Sex subreddit, “there used to be a guide that was sold on a monthly basis at adult bookstores that enumerated and gave the addresses of every known glory hole in America. I thought they were an urban myth — surely no one would blindly stick one of their most prized possessions through a hole where the person on the other side might be a sadistic razor-wielder or have steel teeth like that Bond villain. But when I got to the one address I scoped in my area, there it was…”

5. “I stumbled on it by accident when I was a teenager,” my Facebook friend J.J. recalls of his maiden voyage to a glory hole. “My parents used to take me to an old-fashioned department store restaurant, and when I went to the bathroom one day, I saw the hole. I had no idea what it was, but a guy stuck his finger through it and that made me look. It was impossible not to know what it was for when he stuck his dick through. It was infinitely fascinating — and arousing — to see and feel a hard dick. After that, I would go check out the bathroom whenever my mom or dad took me shopping.”

6. J.J. says he learned about glory-hole etiquette from a book called The Joy of Gay Sex, written by Dr. Charles Silverstein and Edmund White (revised by Silverstein and Felice Picano.) “I would read it at the bookstore every chance I got. There was a section on ‘Glory Holes and Tea Rooms,’ which gave explicit instructions for how these worked.”

7. From the chapter of The Joy of Gay Sex “Glory Holes and Tea Rooms,” p. 271: “Cruising from one toilet stall to another has its own rituals. In some cases, small holes have been pierced through the partitions. Such ‘glory holes’ are used for masturbation, giving and receiving blow jobs, even rimming and fucking. If there are no holes in the partition, the men may instead begin to ‘tap-dance.’ Jack taps with his shoe. Bill taps back. Jack inches his shoe toward Bill’s; then Bill’s shoe moves in Jack’s direction. Eventually shoes touch. Bill reaches under the partition, and Jack squats so Bill can grab his cock. Bill feels Jack up. Finally Jack shoves as far as possible under the partition and Bill sucks him off, or vice versa.”

8. Speaking of which, June 11th marked the 10th anniversary of former Sen. Larry Craig’s arrest for seeking some male companionship inside a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. He was collared by an plain-clothes cop, who alleged Craig used under-the-divider hand motions and played footsie in an attempt to arrange a sexual encounter. In his defense, the three-term Republican Senator from Idaho claimed he adopted “a wide stance when going to the bathroom,” adding that he may have inadvertently touched the foot of the arresting officer.

9. As Tina Horn, producer and host of the podcast Why Are People Into That?! explains, “Glory holes represent objectification in the truest sense: If you stick your junk through a glory hole, the rest of your humanity is erased. You’re just a cock. That’s all you’re good for. That could be humiliating, of course, which is a very common turn-on because of the intensity of that emotion.” This could be relevant to any gender, Horn adds — i.e., she doesn’t think there’s any difference in the basics of the desire for glory holes. “Adult entertainment exists to create novel erotic scenarios that are harder or more dangerous to pull off IRL.”

10. Or as Tim Dean, a professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign puts it, “For some gay men, a glory hole serves to depersonalize their partner altogether as a disembodied object of sexual desire, either sticking through or on the other side of the hole.”

11. The Gloryholes, formed in the spring of 2011, are “the first all gay punk rock in Memphis.” Their debut album includes tracks entitled “Size Queen,” “Just Go” and “P.H.A.G.,” the chorus of which goes like this: You got it going on in every way / Green eyes, muscles, pretty hot and gay!

12. “At times in my life I’ve definitely been compulsive about it,” admits Jimmy, another Facebook friend/glory-hole aficionado. “It’s a stress relief (and being drug and alcohol free, it’s been my one thing that gives me that rush). When I first moved to L.A. about 20 years ago, there was a guy who had a hole set up at the back of his house. He’d turn on a certain light, and if you wanted head, you’d ring a doorbell in this little alcove off of the back of the house, the glory hole would be opened, and off you go!”

13. “It’s liberating!” Horn continues. “You’re freed from insecurities about your body, pressure to say, do or move in any way, from even being yourself. Your sole purpose is your genitally-focused, anonymous pleasure and/or ability to provide genitally-based pleasure to whomever is on the other side of the glory hole. For the person interacting with the disembodied junk, isn’t the appeal obvious? They don’t have to worry about the other person’s whole humanity; they can just enjoy the fully-functioning flesh and blood sex toy!”

14. Here’s a lo-fi glory hole, aka the “Homeless Glory Hole.”

15. Mark Simpson, who coined the term “metrosexual” in the U.K. and introduced it to the U.S. in a Salon essay in 2002, fondly recalls seeing his first glory hole in Northern England in the 1960s. “The glory hole itself is the ultimate symbol of anonymous ‘no-strings’ sex: an erect, disembodied cock sticking through a wall. Even bricks and mortar can’t hold it back. Nameless, shameless desire. As a horny teenager in the early 1980s, when sex with another male was still completely illegal for me — not being over 21, and not in a position to have sex ‘in private’ — I was very, very interested in what went on in public toilets.”

16. Glory holes are predominantly considered to be a gay endeavor because they came about, as Simpson alludes to, when gay sex had to be furtive and anonymous. The gay lifestyle website Queerty explains in “Bathhouses and Beyond: A Brief History of Gay Cruising” that bathhouses and glory holes became popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when homosexual acts were illegal. “By the 1950s, gay bathhouses were popping up all across the country, and by the late 1960s and early 1970s, many had become staple institutions within the gay community.” Until the AIDS epidemic changed everything. In 1984, the Adult Entertainment Association was formed in San Francisco, aimed at reducing high-risk sex on their premises, which included boarding up glory holes. Likewise, in 1985, the New York City Health Department ordered that all of the city’s gay bathhouses be closed.

17. That said, anonymous blowjobs administered through a sketchy hole have now become a straight porn trope. To wit: gloryholeswallow.com, pornhub/gloryholes, womenatgloryholes.tumblr.com, etc.

18. Women are also occasionally on the receiving end of glory holes IRL. Like this self-described “nice girl from Canada,” a student who confessed to “sucking dick for money in a north London flat” when her stint as a librarian came to an abrupt end. “I found myself meeting with the ‘maid,’ an older lady who couldn’t pronounce her Rs and had clearly seen it all. She advised me to work in my underwear (‘because of the fluids’) and asked if I could start on Thursday evening.” Everything worked according to a set routine, she explained. The maid answered the door, collected the money and walked the man to the top of the stairs where there was a door with a hole in it. “The guy put his dick through and I’d suck him till he came. Some guys couldn’t come. Some couldn’t even get hard. Others would explode in moments.”

19. Then there are the straight guys who tell themselves there’s absolutely nothing gay about getting sucked off by a dude — so long as it happens via the glory hole. Like sursumdeorsum in the bodybuilding.com forum, who writes: “I am straight and have a girlfriend, but I came across an ad on Craigslist one day in the m4w section that advertised a private gloryhole where you can watch straight porn while this dude sucks you off on the other side. I figured what the hell and gave it a shot. It turns out I got the best BJ of my life that day, and I go back like every 2 or 3 days because it feels so damn good. I can’t help myself. I don’t consider it gay because I never see the guy, and I’m focused on porn the entire time I’m getting my cock sucked.”

20. Beastly Bottom says he can always tell when a guy is ‘straight’ because they’ll often text him afterward wanting to know how their cock compares in size to others, how it tastes, was it a big load, etc. “Guys who want a lot of feedback on how their dick was — in my experience — correlates to a guy who behaves and presents as straight but is exploring curiosity. It’s the equivalent of peeking over the urinal next to you to see if he’s bigger than you to see how you measure up. A guy who wants to know how he measures up doesn’t have a lot of comparable data points. Gays know how they measure up.”

21. Granted, the pre-AIDS heydey of gloryholes — and the need for them — is happily behind us. But that doesn’t mean the wide stances are gone as well, says Jimmy. “I think glory holes will always be around, but it’s almost become ‘Disney-fied’ now. (Or Yelp-ified.) They’re in sex clubs and bathhouses, but they’ll never be quite the same as coming across them in dirty bookstores or bathrooms.”