Sunday, June 12, 2011

Beat It

Long before GRINDR, manhunt, gaydar or even gay bars...gay men used to frequent beats (public places - toilets and parks) to socialise and meet other gay men to have sex with... many men continue to use beats - maybe they are not out or maybe they enjoy the thrill of outdoor sex.

My friend Jim frequents beats. I was really curious as to how they work...what prompts guys to go to beats. “Isn’t it just easy to use GRINDR?” I asked Jim. The thing with beats is that they are very sexual - everyone is there for the same purpose. There are no games no waiting around for messages. Just go up to someone and start fooling around.

Jim agreed to take me on a tour of London’s biggest outdoor beat - out in Hampstead Heath. I figured this trip was all about trying new things - I was curious to see an outdoor beat in action. I have to admit I was a bit freaked out about the whole thing  - seemed like a lot of work to just get laid.

The beat was in a park in the middle of nowhere in north London and it was bloody cold and dark. I realised that I’m actually blind in total darkness - even though the moon shed some light I could not see much.

We arrived around 10 pm (sun in London is still out until 8 pm in summer). The whole place was a scene out of the Sleepy Hollow movie. I was waiting for some guy on a horse with a head to come out of the bushes. As we walked into the park, I thought...this is a bad idea. What if we get killed...chopped up by homophobes...what will our parents think?

Jim is experienced with beats. He first discovered toilets back in Sydney and enjoys checking out outdoor beats. He’s been doing it for a while so at least I was with someone experienced.

All I could see where shapes and shadows but I was surprised by how many men there were...20 or more...all walking around this big park at night There were lots of trails. We even bumped into the police and this gay organisation who were patrolling for safety (talk about progressive London). They were giving out info and condoms - clearly this is a famous beat.

The romantic in me was not sexually aroused one bit. It was cold, dark..scary. I could hardly see the guys....the though of sex in the bushes was freaking me out. I just wanted to run away back into the light. But we walked...and walked. Jim figures it is good exercise. There are no lights...you just have to feel your way through. Guys stand at areas...waiting for you to touch them. A few guys chat - but it all seems so normal...it is like being a bar except it is in the park...in the middle of nowhere and it is pitch black.

For many gay men, the thrill of outdoor sex is what keeps them coming back. Many are maybe married. To me, the beats take gay sex back to when it was dirty - had to be hidden..in the dark...anonymous. But the concept of beats is interesting from a research perspective - this is the beginning of gay relationships and contacts. In many countries or regional areas, beats are still the way gay men socialise.

I wanted Jim to hook up, but then again I was freaked out about being left alone. I was really scared. The dark freaks me out....must check my eye sight. But it was a different type of gay London - an attraction I had not seen on previous trips. And after all, I think those men at the beat were after things we all seek - a connection...just one in the dark.

1 comment:

  1. I like Hampstead Heath. I tend to go only on sunny warm weekends to relax though. With a picnic blanket, a book and some nibbles.
    'Gardening' is not for me. It excites the 'voyeur' in me but I'd never do it. It would totally put me off. At least you tried...

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