I was out downtown with friends one night this past November when I stumbled upon a secret meeting spot with a glory hole carved into a bathroom stall. After asking them to understand what it was, my friends laughed. Who was I to know that when you plug in the underground, sexual subculture of anonymity and hand signals, the experience becomes more than just your everyday dick-in-a-hole?

We were dining outdoors on a crowded block when I excused myself to find the "ladies" room where it all happened. Generally speaking, one doesn’t follow the signs that say “Restrooms this Way” and openly assume “restrooms” are slang for “secret portal created as a passageway for one to safely insert one’s penis.”

The secret hook-up spot was inside the scummy backdoor entrance that led into an iconic, erotic oasis where obscure lighting and stark unkemptness invited sexual anonymity and experimentation. To my untrained eye, the public restroom looked uninhabited and dysfunctional. Why are there holes in these bathroom stalls? Someone should fix this.

I chalked it up to a bathroom that had been overused and slightly forgotten. I went on to do my biological business and no sooner than I hovered over the toilet did a finger inch through the hole. With a gentle tap of fingertips on the partition, I realized that this public bathroom was not like the rest, and freaked out a little because it’s never been par for the course for me to see a strange hand summoning your “company” through a hole in the public bathroom stall.

Nonetheless, I had stumbled upon what some may argue is the altar by which “you worship the dick and not the man” — and that’s precisely the way it was explained to me by, Teddy* (alias used for anonymity), an avid member of the gay community in Denver.

Although traditionally taboo in subject matter, glory holes continue to stand erect in both world history and present-day subcultures. Glory holes gained notoriety throughout the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s in the underground gay culture, explains Teddy, primarily among men.

It was the perfect solution for men who presented as straight to explore their homosexual urges. In addition, glory holes became a sexual haven of safety for Americans who wanted to avoid criminal prosecution for homosexual and deviant sexual acts in accordance with laws in the Moral Penal Code (MPC), prior to 1962.

“Public hook-up spots and glory holes really became a founding pillar in allowing people who are either afraid of being seen, or simply looking for a totally anonymous hook-up,” explains Stephen Beardslee, a comrade of the gay community near Houston, Texas.

Prior to 1962, individuals could be prosecuted for deviant sexual acts or charged with actual felonies for sodomy — often punishable by jail time and social ostracism (many even lost their lives). Laws have since changed, slowly, yet glory holes continue to remain alive and well in adult stores, sex-clubs, and everyday public restrooms like where I found one.

A quick search on Craigslist.com in the Denver “personals” section revealed numerous opportunities for both homosexual and heterosexual requests for strictly anonymous glory hole encounters. Words like “cum bucket, worship, blow jobs, physically in-shape” and “poppers” saturate the search results.  

Beardslee further illustrates the underground network of glory holes as they are commonly sought out through word of mouth. “There’s a network and a specific way to handle the transaction,” he says. “If you’re looking for it, you can find it, and you can also be instructed how to participate. It’s not just for blowjobs either. You can get straight fucked if you want to.”

In a search to uncover another’s personal experience of the glory hole, I spoke with Randy* (another alias used for anonymity), from Spring, Texas. Randy, a straight male, divulged that his first time using one was at a swinger’s club for a friend’s birthday. His initiation was as casual as picking names out of a hat; just like that, he knew which stall he was going to.  

Like many, Randy’s experience was sexually charged by the aspect of anonymity and the explicit intent of penis worshipping satisfaction by the woman on the other side of the wall.

“It was a huge turn-on,” he says. “The anticipation while you’re waiting there vulnerable for something to happen, not knowing if they’re even on the other side yet, or if they’re there just looking and examining before deciding to make a move and whatnot. It never left my mind wondering if she was a master of fellatio.”  

“The moment contact was made — instant arousal. No hesitation,” he adds. Glory holes embody the sexual fantasy of anonymity as a nameless, shameless desire. The participation revels in mystery but the action itself remains the same.

“Basically, unzip, shut up and enjoy,” says Beardslee.    

[originally published December 13, 2017]