Tales of the Tearoom Trade
In Vice we read: “I went into the cubicle to take a piss; lingered a bit before leaving. As I washed my hands, I had that impression you get of being watched so turned my head slightly to see a man standing in the cubicle doorway, looking at me. He had his cock out. As he looked, he rubbed it. My first reaction was the thought that I had never seen one so big; my second was of slight discomfort at the intensity of his gaze. My third was an erection.
It seemed like an eternity but eventually I followed him into the cubicle. He closed the door.
A gentleman never tells: suffice to say when I left I wasn’t a virgin. I then walked to school to pick up my GCSE results.
The spring in my step as I walked home wasn’t because of academic success.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t know these things happened: I’d loitered looking at the graffiti and explicit scrawlings. This was my first experience of cottaging – in the States they call it the “tearoom trade” – the act of procuring or having sex in a public toilet.
From then on, I looked for sex in toilets whenever I could. In the mid-90s it was easy and cock available pretty much whenever.
Not all sex happened in the cottage itself. Toilet walls were messaging boards of interests, times and phone numbers. Sometimes you’d find a secluded spot elsewhere with a guy you’d met in a cottage. But for me nothing beat sex in the cottage itself. Risky – the local bus drivers patrolled the toilets – but I wasn’t exactly thinking with my head. Who wouldn’t take a few risks for an easy fuck? That was its appeal: the lack of emotional involvement, of ulterior motivation: its honesty. Sex for sex’s sake. Nothing else.
I soon became adept at spotting cottaging “rituals” – the sideways glance from the guy at the urinal as you walked in, how he felt his cock as you stood next to him, that he wasn’t even pissing. The tapping of a foot under the cubicle door was a known sign. I could devote a whole article to glory holes. Some people say they used to take a shopping bag for a second pair of feet to stand in to avoid detection by police looking under cubicle doors. I never saw that but I did pass messages written on toilet roll between cubicles. But mostly it was that look held for just a few seconds too long. Then you knew.
It gained me my best friend at university. His first words to me were, “I have a place.” That afternoon I rimmed him for hours in his room, only stopping when his girlfriend knocked on the door.”
Walt Cessna and Natasha Gornik are New York based photographers, writers, bloggers, visual & experience addicts. Sharp Objects is a duo photography exhibition, showing their provocative works which are heavily focused on personal visual experiences, sexuality, people in their lives, and the male gaze. Cessna and Gornik have collaborated often over the past 3 years and this is their first show together. The best way to view their work is on their blogs.
Friday July 25th 6pm-9pm @ Leslie+Lohman Prince Street Project
127-B Prince Street, New York, New York
Hosted by the brilliant MachineDazzle Flower
Special performance by Paul Leopold aka BOY WOLF
Music courtesy of our favorite Brooklyn DJ David John Sokolowski
Drinks served up by super muse Chad Ferro
For more info/RSVP https://www.facebook.com/events/913846328629315/
Interview of Walt in the Examiner.com: “Walt Cessna has become a big internet personality. As an already popular queer photographer with an expansive back catalogue, Cessna took over [[Facebook]] and [[Tumblr(NSFW)]] where his images have been shared and re-posted thousands of times. He has joined the ranks of the artists who flaunt their creative process through social media. Outside of finished photographic projects, and the book [[Fukt 2 Start With: Short Stories & Broken Werd]] ([[Amazon]]), his social space includes trips, his relationships, his collaborators, and the sordid energy which encompasses his erotic and substance tendencies.
Fukt was published two years ago, and brings Walt back to his origins. He told Queerty when the book was published ‘That’s what I started out doing. I was writing before I was taking pictures. I started writing professionally when I was 17. I was writing for the original Details, for Annie Flanders and Stephen Saban. I had a column. I started working for The East Village Eye and I was working for another free publication, New York Talk. Then I became an editor at The Village Voice when I turned 18. I was working for Interview. I mean, I had a really major publishing career at an extremely young age. Working with major editors. I was writing for Vanity Fair before I was 25’.
Cessna has a mysterious air about him. He is present, his flesh often becomes the spotlight of his sensual and hyper-erotic portraiture, and his online persona is effervescent. But he is not always available. Outside of his stints in rehab and hospitals in the past few years, Cessna does not abide by the rules of communication. Perhaps he is the poster artist of the times, but messages can be idle before he attends them, and he has voiced his disdain for the telephone. In fact, he prefers face to face interactions.
Walt Cessna is abrupt over the telephone. His voice is blank and distant. I found pleasure in having him tell me he prefers to meet in person and retains a certain disgust for the machine. I came up to Manhattan and after having him buzz me, walked up two flights of stairs to his level. He was on the telephone as he stood in the doorway. ‘Okay, I love you…hi, dude!’ He said extending his upper body out of the apartment and kissing me on the cheek with certain comfort. I walked through the sunny kitchen and saw colorful fabrics and angles previously made familiar in his photographs. We walked through a small room which led to another; the bedroom. Eventually we sat and Walter began sharing his world.”