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The thrill of strange cock in a public place

Park sex flourishes as internet's sheen wears thin

WHAT'S THE DRAW? David, Mike and Walter (all not pictured) each like park sex for different reasons. David likes the anonymity. Mike appreciates the easy hook-ups. Walter prefers park cruising because the connections are more personal. Credit: James Loewen photo

“I was a little bit scared, to be honest,” says cruising aficionado Walter Muller. 

Muller is telling me about one of his favourite hook-ups on the Stanley Park trails — one that stands out in his mind from a life of thousands.

“This guy had parked his car and he was Hispanic, I think, I couldn’t tell you exactly what nationality. I was nervous. You have to wonder about what could happen. But he was really hot looking, young and muscular. He wanted to fuck me and I was a bit hesitant because I’m usually a top. But sometimes something a bit rough can be more appealing than someone who’s all neatly pressed.

“I ended up having to hug this tree as he fucked me from behind.

“If I play with myself at home, I don’t even have to watch a porno,” Muller says. “I just think about some of the experiences I’ve had — and that was one of the hotter ones. On the scale of one to 10, most encounters are a five or a six. But that evening it was a nine or a 10.”

Now in his 60s, Muller has been cruising since Weimar Berlin. He still makes regular trips to the Stanley Park trails at least two or three times a week.

He likes to stay active, he says; if nothing else the five-kilometre walk is invigorating.

He also likes to meet new people. “There are six billion people on this planet. There’s always someone new and interesting to talk to. The sex is just an added bonus.”

Which is not to say he doesn’t enjoy the sex. He’s had some great experiences in bathhouses too — including a 200-pound hockey player “with a dick so big I was actually scared off” — but he prefers the trails.

“In a sauna, I feel like I’m in a taxi with the meter running. As soon as you check in you’ve got eight hours and counting. They’ve got their money and it’s still up to you to find someone.”

What about the internet, the supposed New Millennium way of hooking up? Muller doesn’t even own a computer.

“It’s too impersonal,” he explains to me as he takes me on a tour of the trails. “Photos and verbal descriptions don’t ever match up to a real encounter. If you meet live, it tends to be far above and beyond. I don’t want to be looking into a computer. I want to be out there meeting people.”

For a while, the internet did affect cruising traffic, he says. It’s like having pizza delivered to your door instead of having to go out and buy it. But recently Muller says he’s noticed a move back towards real-life encounters.

“Over the last year or so, there has been a backlash,” he says. “I think people are tired of it and they’ve decided to go back to nature, to meeting people face to face.”

Walking with Muller around the trails in Stanley Park — Lees Trail is the hub but there’s a surprisingly large network of surrounding paths — I muse about whether advances in gay rights have also had an effect on cruising traffic.

Does the older generation continue to cruise out of habit from the days when it was as much a necessary means of making gay contact as a vibrant sex scene? Muller agrees that’s an aspect of it, but sees other, more mundane reasons for the trail demographics tending to skew older.

As downtown Vancouver becomes more expensive, many don’t have the means to live in the city. “For a lot of the younger people, Stanley Park is a long way away,” he notes. “They get the bus but then, by a certain time, they have to start heading back.”

So that leaves primarily the older gents who’ve lived in the West End for decades as regular park cruisers, he says.

But you don’t have to be in your 60s to enjoy a bit of public cock. David is 39, single, out and works in the sprawling Vancouver entertainment industry. He’s been cruising since he was 14.

“I was too young to go to regular places to meet guys, so I cruised the parks to hook up,” he explains. “Oddly enough, I found more sex than I could handle.”

Now that he’s an adult, what’s the continued attraction? “Basically, it’s the anonymity of the encounter,” he says — the thrill of strange cock in a public place.

These days, he too uses the internet to find encounters; in fact, I found him on a site devoted to public sex. He was one of only two members willing to break the Fight Club-like mystique and speak to me on the record about park cruising.

“Over the years, I have seen a decline in the number of guys cruising the park,” David admits. “But the types of guys, and the behaviour — that hasn’t changed. Some as young as 16, and some as old as Moses. Gay guys, supposedly straight guys, bi guys, married guys. They’re all there.”

Mike is 41 and has been married for 13 years. His wife knows he’s bisexual, but she doesn’t know that her husband cruises other men when he’s out of town in his job as a travelling salesman.

Mike cruises the trails to get something he can’t get at home, and because it’s easy and complication-free.

Unlike David, Mike says he’s observed an increase in cruising traffic. He credits the internet and the overall increase in access to information that it provides. There are either more guys cruising the trails or “more who know the signs,” he says.

David still cruises for park sex a few times a week and says his best experiences tend to occur in the early mornings. “I always find the most interesting guys to play with in the mornings. There’s less messing about, less games being played. Guys are there for action, not to waste time.”

Muller enjoys mornings too. One of his favourite stories involves a married man in the early hours of New Year’s Day morning.

“He was a very sexy young guy. Had a wife and a business that he didn’t want to lose. He said he wasn’t gay… while he had my dick in his hands,” he chuckles. 

“It’s funny,” Muller smiles, as we crisscross the trails. “You see men going round and round. They jog back and forth over the same area. Some will go to great lengths to pretend they’re just happening to be here. The justifications are fascinating.”

Stanley Park may host the most famous cruising trails in the Lower Mainland, but there are plenty of other places to find a bit of cock in the bushes.

“Almost every city in the Lower Mainland has a cruisey park or area,” David tells me. “Central Park, SFU, UBC, Queen’s Park, Ellwood Park in Abbotsford, Strathcona, Adanac… and never mind the various truck stops and rest areas.”

Mike agrees. “Are you kidding me? Swing a cat, you can find one.”

Muller prefers Stanley Park. In fact, he tells me, if it weren’t for the park and the ocean, he wouldn’t even stay in Vancouver.

“One area that I’m more interested in now is Lovers Trail and Bridal Path,” he says. “There’s a place called Seven Oaks, and you head up to the Equestrian Trail. I find that area can be challenging because you meet different people that you don’t find in the so-called traditional gay trails.

“They’ll stop and chat, they want to be friendly. You know full well your opportunity is there — you just need to make it happen.”

He drifts off with a smile as he wraps up our tour and remembers the old days. “Back in the day, the beach would be cruisey all the way from Sunset Beach and beyond, down to the Aquatic Centre. Next door there was an old boat and people would go in there and oh Jesus!

“I used to be disappointed if I didn’t get anything,” he says. “But it’s not worth getting upset — there’s always another day. It’s like going fishing or hunting: you don’t always come back with the trophy. It takes time and patience. But when you hook the big one, well, that makes it all worth it.”