Opinion
6 min

The joys of park sex — and a few hints on discretion, cleanup and consent

Toronto police could learn a few lessons from Vancouver’s take on cruising

Marie Curtis Park in Etobicoke, where 75 men and two women were charged in an undercover sting targeting public sex.  Credit: Gary J Wood/Flickr/Creative Commons

It was the middle of summer and my friend Nathan wanted to get some sunshine, hang out with friends, and maybe get some dick. Good thing he was in Vancouver, where he could get all three in one spot.

I picked him up at his apartment in Chinatown and we drove to the UBC Endowment Lands, then walked down the hundreds of steep stairs to Wreck Beach, Vancouver’s beloved nude beach.

We hit the main beach, hung a left and walked along a narrow, uneven dirt path along the river for about 15 minutes, passing pairs of nude men lounging amongst the logs and trees. Finally, we hit the Oasis, a small sandy beach perched alongside the rising tide of the river.

We found a spot up near the treeline and I laid a towel down and immediately stripped naked. There was a group of guys wearing skimpy swimsuits, two twinks lying facedown with their naked butts sweating in the sun, a few guys I recognized from the scene — in all about 50 guys in various states of undress. Nathan didn’t go nude but instead wore little short shorts and a small shoulder bag which he carried around for such occasions.

Nathan soon decided to go for a smoke in a dirt area just behind the beach, so I tagged along. It didn’t take long for someone to notice him.

A tall slender guy walked around eyeing Nathan up. He had a shaved head, a toned body and a gigantic penis that flopped around. And this guy was serious about Nathan — he didn’t play coy at all. He stared right at Nathan and grinned without taking his eyes off him. Nathan kept glancing at him bashfully.

“Oh, fuck it,” Nathan said. He stood up, put his cigarette into the ashtray, and smiled at the guy. The tall slender guy walked toward Nathan.

Nathan moved slowly towards a path that led into the bushes, allowing the guy to catch up to him. As soon as he did, the guy stuck his hand down the back of Nathan’s shorts and slipped his fingers into his crack.

They walked along the path deeper into the bushes — Nathan was leading him right towards his favourite spot to get fucked. I decided to follow so I could watch.

There was a tree stump that is slightly higher than knee level. Nathan stood facing it, dropped his shorts, raised his right knee onto it, then grabbed a bottle of lube from his little shoulder bag. He handed lube to the guy, who immediately poured some on his cock.

The tall guy began fucking Nathan with his enormous cock. This, naturally, attracted an audience. Other guys wandering around in the bushes stopped to watch — some just observing, others jerking off. A few guys obviously wanted to get in on the action, so they got closer and gathered in behind Nathan.

After a few minutes, the tall guy pulled out of Nathan to let someone else have a turn. Nathan knew what was going on so he kept his knee raised and handed the next guy the lube.

Nathan didn’t even turn around to look at the next guy — he so enjoyed the attention he was getting that it didn’t matter who was fucking him at this point. One after another, the guys in behind him took their turn — all five of them.

Eventually, the tall slender guy went back to fucking Nathan and orgasmed. Nathan’s eyes lit up in joy.

That was enough for him for now. Nathan lowered his knee down to signal that his ass had had enough. He grabbed his lube and put it back in his little shoulder bag. He then brought out his tissues, used one to wipe the lube off his ass, and stuck it back in his bag. He yanked up his shorts, came towards me with an ecstatic smile, and we made our way back towards the beach. 

This is what Nathan adores about summer in Vancouver. Public sex, in nature, in the warm weather, with lots and lots of men.

It seems rather harmless, and like a lot of fun. That’s why I was shocked to hear of the Toronto police crackdown on public cruising in an Etobicoke park that saw 75 men and two women charged. The police strategy involved methods I thought were long past, including entrapment.

A Toronto police car parked at Etobicoke’s Marie Curtis Park on Nov 19, 2016, after the news of the sting broke.
Nick Lachance/Daily Xtra

As a west coaster, I don’t know Toronto very well, but between this sting, the “militaristic” new police cars, and the crackdown on marijuana dispensaries, I’d say we’re witnessing a very wide divergence in the attitudes of law enforcement in Toronto compared to Vancouver.

Not only has Vancouver led the way on harm reduction (from opening safe injection sites to regulating weed dispensaries), but our police force hasn’t wasted resources on a park sex crackdown in more than a decade. In fact, in a 2003 interview with Xtra West, Inspector Dave Jones from the Vancouver Police Department said police would not interfere with or launch a sting into park sex as long as the men are discreet.

I think Nathan sets a fine example of how to cruise discreetly and consensually for maximum enjoyment with minimal impact on other members of the community.

Cruising and sex don’t happen just anywhere at Wreck Beach (or in the trails of Stanley Park for that matter);  they take place in carefully defined locations that unsuspecting families are unlikely to stumble upon.

Wreck Beach may be a bit exceptional since it’s clothing-optional, so a bunch of men hanging around naked is not unusual, even for non-sexual purposes. But even here, the sex itself is discreet.

The main sex area is in the bushes behind the Oasis, a small riverside beach midway between Trails 6 and 7. Men can fuck in these bushes, while hikers on the east-west trail won’t see a thing. Another spot east of Trail 7 isn’t a hiking route, so the only people along the beaches there are gay men.

Having discreet locations, away from public view, can strike a balance to  make space for public cruising without offending the sensibilities of other members of the public.

Wreck Beach is a popular cruising spot with discreet trails into the bushes off the beach.
Guilhem Vellut/Flickr/Creative Commons

Another way to minimize the impact on the larger community is by taking care of the park after using it for cruising. Nathan could’ve thrown his tissue on the ground after wiping his ass but he didn’t. He put it away in his little sex purse until he could throw it away in a garbage can.

I don’t think the general public should have to deal with large amounts of trash, such as tissues, lube, condoms, as the by-product of sexual encounters. Cruising rules should match camping rules: bring out what you bring in.

Consent is another way to minimize harm, both for cruisers and others in the park. Let’s be honest: consent in the context of gay sex has always been a bit different. Rather than “yes means yes,” the traditional rule has always been “no means no.” Nathan didn’t verbally consent, particularly to the other four men that fucked him. But he used his body to indicate yes or no. He kept his knee raised, waiting for the next cock. He handed the second guy lube (though not the other guys as his ass was wet enough after the first two guys). And when he’d had enough? He put his knee down and pulled his shorts up. All the guys there understood those cues perfectly, and respected them.

Watching Nathan, I saw just how public cruising can be done — joyfully and safely.

I think Toronto police should ask some gay community organizations for lessons in public cruising etiquette, to minimize harm. If police are unsure how cruising works, we can offer them a ride along to introduce them to the ins and outs.

If Toronto police could agree to a few rules on when they’ll leave men seeking sex alone and when to potentially intervene, our gay community organizations could distribute and post guidelines in cruising areas to note which locations are considered safe and discreet,  how to dispose of waste, and, most importantly, how to seek consent in the context of cruising.

Toronto activists probably have their work cut out for them. It seems the Toronto approach to any illegal activity is to crack down hard. It’s part of their police history, one they ironically just apologized for.

Still, I hope LGBT and other civil rights groups can work with police there — and I hope police will sincerely listen and implement their suggestions on how to approach law enforcement when it comes to cruising. Otherwise, these types of issues will continue to crop up, wasting public resources and needlessly ruining people’s lives.

In the meantime, I wish more guys were like Nathan and the guys he played with in the bushes. They were discreet, he tidied up his garbage and they all knew how to interpret consent in an unusual but very gay context.

As for Nathan, he’s an avid traveller, but I notice he always seems to stay put in Vancouver in the summer. I think he relishes more than just the warm weather.