(Re)regulating Gay Sex in Viral Times: COVID-19 and the Impersonal Intimacy of the Glory Hole

Chris Ashford, Gareth Longstaff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

COVID-19 has transformed the way we live our lives, and sex has been a significant element of that transformation. Gay male sex in the UK has faced the most significant (re)criminalisation and (re)regulation in living memory with intimacy outside of the heteronormative framework of domestic coupledom at best discouraged, and at worst, made into a criminal offence. This criminalisation provides a temporal praxis in which gay men experience sex in the shadows once more, an echo of a historic legal and cultural regulation of desire. This history also provides a space for experiencing forms of impersonal intimacy and queer desire in a way that is arguably well-suited for the viral times, namely the glory hole. These historic partitions and apertures – connecting gay men across legal and cultural boundaries of desire and affirmed through modes of anonymous and promiscuous sex – may once again provide a queer way to experience intimacy as impersonal. This article explores this potential and situates the glory hole as a cultural and legal site of this tension between the intimate and the impersonal as well as considering how it is being recast as commercial artefact and performance space during these viral times.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 May 2021

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