Shock! Horror! Gay Man Goes Cruising!
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George Michael’s recent encounters with the media promted this history of British cruising:
These encounters are embedded in our cultural history. In one of the cruising poems I like best, Thomas Gilbert’s A View of the Town from the 18th century, a man leaves his wife in their bridal bed, sneaks off to St James’s Park, ‘roams in search of some vile ingle prize’ and ‘courts the foul pathick in the fair one’s place’. Gilbert condemns this behaviour - ‘for hanging is too mild a punishment’ - but such queer encounters in parks, on embankments, in toilets, streets and back alleys are an integral part of the way our cities - and sexualities - express themselves. Where there is public space, there will be diverse appropriations of it, and so it should be.