Cottaging

Reprinted, with thanks, from Gay Arrow, Reading Gay Alliance’s Newssheet.

Bernard Greaves of Gay Cambridge made something of a name for himself when he took on both the police and the town council in the local paper, exposing their dubious attempts to catch homosexuals ‘at it’ in the cottages (public conveniences).

Since his campaign, council workers have filled in police spy holes.

The incident has given Bernard a greater understanding of ‘cottaging’ as a phenomenon. Now he writes controversially on his findings in a special article for Gay Arrow.

Police harrassment and entrapment of homosexuals in public lavatories appears to be getting more frequent. Or it may be that as the gay community becomes more organised through bodies such as CHE and GLF, and as communications improve, we are merely becoming more aware of it.

When I encountered this kind of police activity in Cambridge about eighteen months ago I was so outraged by the blatant intrusion into the privacy of people, all people not just gay people, using the toilets that I felt compelled to expose the methods of the police, and bring their activities in this field to an end.

It was only later, particularly when I began to be accused of “defending cottaging” that I began to appreciate some of the more general issues raised.

People cottage for a variety of different reasons. The most obvious is that it is the only means they have of meeting other men for sex. So long as homosexuals are oppressed by society and remain hidden this will continue. It is also anonymous and therefore, in spite of the risks, is regarded as safe. Unlike a gay club or bar there is always a perfectly legitimate excuse for one’s presence to satisfy acquaintances met by chance. Some men travel 30 or more miles by car to cottage to increase their feeling of safety and in the hope that if they are arrested the case will not be reported in their local papers. These people are often utterly respectable with good jobs, wives and children. They have a lot to lose, and this seems to them the safest way of satisfying their homosexual desires.


Other Reasons

But there are other reasons for cottaging too. For some the risk, the dangers, and the semi-public setting enhance their sexual excitement. For some cottaging has become an engrained behaviour pattern in which the ritual behaviour routines and the stench of stale urine have by long association become a trigger to sexual arousal. Many of these people are regular cottagers turning up night after night and whose consequent knowledge of one another has led to the development of a friendly social atmosphere.

No Commitment

In sexual terms these variations have one thing in common. The encounters are casual, anonymous and involve no emotional commitment. It is sex without affection, and without the responsibilities of a lasting relationship. On these grounds it is often condemned, in my view quite wrongly. For it fulfills deep-seated needs that are not going to be eradicated by the emancipation of homosexuals. Cottaging is too complex to be dismissed with simplistic moral judgements.

It needs a deeper understanding as a phenomenon and a more humble sympathy with those who practice it. Whatever the homosexual’s role in society, it will not disappear. Some men will always find the sight of another’s penis arousing.

Gay News case delayed

19720901-03On Tuesday, 22nd August, 1972, Denis Lemon, a member of the Editorial collective of Gay News, appeared at Great Marlborough Street Magistrate’s Court to answer a charge of “wilfully obstructing the passage of the footway of Wharfdale Street, SW10″. (see Gay News No. 5).

Denis was appearing after being remanded from an initial court appearance on 14th August.

Unfortunately the case was not heard until the end of the morning and after the reading of the charge, only the evidence of PC David Ford (480) of the Chelsea Division of the Metropolitan Police Force, was heard.

Denis was further remanded until Wednesday 13th September, where provision will be made for the length of time the case is likely to take. A number of witnesses for the defence will be called to give evidence.

Anthony Burton, the solicitor acting on Denis’s behalf, protested to the Magistrate, Mr John Hooper, at the further delay in hearing the case.

Denis is again remanded on £10 bail.

A full report of the outcome of the case will be in the next edition of Gay News.


The editorial collective of Gay News would like to further remind customers of The Colherne that they will only be taking photographs of the police and the surrounding area, and will try not to take recognisable shots of the pub patrons. Any photo that clearly shows the identity of either customers or the general public will have the faces blanked out if these pictures are used in Gay News or any other publication.

Who Was Obstructing Who?

No Photographs ~ No Evidence

05-197208XX 2At approximately 11.20 pm on Saturday 12th August, 1972, Denis Lemon, a member of the editorial collective of Gay News, was arrested for allegedly ‘wilfully obstructing the passage of the footway of Wharfdale Street, London SW10’. He was released on £10 bail later that night, and appeared at Great Marlborough Street Magistrate’s Court on the morning of Monday 14th August. After pleading Not Guilty to the charge. Denis was remanded until Tuesday 22nd August. He applied for legal aid and was remanded on bail.

It is understood that Denis will be represented by a solicitor and will be calling a number of witnesses in his defence.

Wharfdale Street, SW10, is directly behind The Colherne public house in Old Brompton Road. After ‘closing time’ on the Saturday evening Denis had been acting in his official capacity as a Gay News reporter and had been taking a number of photographs of police action outside and in the nearby vicinity of the pub. After taking a number of photographs of the police directly outside The Colherne, he crossed to the opposite side of the road where he took a few more pictures, then moved to Wharfdale Street where he was arrested whilst trying to take a shot of a number of police officers ‘moving on’ a small group of people chatting in the im street.

Denis was active that evening as he was attempting to gather documented evidence of alleged ‘police harassment’ by members of the constabulary from the Chelsea Division of the Metropolitan Police Force.

Over the past few months it has become apparent to the Gay News editorial staff, from either information received at the paper’s office or personally witnessed by the members of the collective, that the level of police action outside The Colherne has been increasing. A number of people have been arrested on various occasions.

It has also been noticed that police dogs have been frequently used by the police whilst performing their duty outside the pub. This has seriously worried members of the general public as well as customers, and the use of particularly large groups of police, often exceeding 20 in number, has sometimes nearly led to unpleasant situations to say the least. Alleged too, by Colherne customers, is that unnecessary violence has been used by the police whilst performing this almost nightly ‘duty’.

Other, more serious allegations have also been made by people about this regular occurrence. Gay News is at present taking a number of statements from individuals, which in time will be handed over to the correct authorities.

Police officers who have been questioned about these activities at The Colherne have commented that they are in the area because of complaints from local residents and because of obstructions to the highway and footway. Parking on both sides of the busy road outside the pub in fact seems largely responsible for the highway being frequently congested. A report of the outcome of Denis’s hearing at the Magistrate’s Court will be in the next issue of Gay News. There will also be continuing reportage of future developments at The Colherne in Earl’s Court.


The editorial collective of Gay News would like to point out to the customers of The Colherne that they will only be taking photographs of the police and will try not to take recognisable shots of the pub’s patrons. Any photo that clearly shows the identity of either customers or the general public will have the faces blanked out if these pictures are used in Gay News or any other publication.

Police Put~Up Job Collapses in Court

03-197207XX-03On June 21st the five members of CHE arrested for obstruction outside Samantha’s club, Manchester (see Gay News 1.) were acquitted of the charge.

Police evidence stated that the two woman, Glenys Parry and Liz Stanley were standing on either side of the club door trying to prevent two men from entering the club. They also stated that the doorman was present, but neither the doorman nor the two obstructed club members were in court.

The evidence of the accused and an independent witness consistently denied the presence of any men or the doorman; they stated that they had been walking quickly along the street, crossing over and returning on the opposite side, making it impossible for any members to be inconvenienced.

The two police witnesses did not agree between themselves on the nature of the obstruction caused by the three male defendants, The hearing lasted two hours, after which the magistrates dismissed the charge.

Police comment to one of the defendants: “I’ll get you next time.”

Increasing Violence Against Gays

“What Are We Going To Do About It?”

03-197207XX-04Gay Lib hold regular dances in London, and most of them nowadays are at Fulham Town Hall. They are openly advertised and open to all and this combination of factors has led to troubles which may mean the end of dances at Fulham.

The trouble has been caused by local louts who seem to think that queer-bashing and baiting is a fun way to round off an evening out. At the last two dances there have been bunches of them hanging around outside, especially towards the end of the dance and attempts have been made to dissuade them from causing trouble, but without success. In part this would seem to be a result of the tacit support they receive from the local police.

One guy in drag is standing at the entrance to the hall when some of these kids come by and start to make fun of him. “You a fellah? Show us your cock then!” So, entering into the spirit of things, he does. They then try to start a fight because he flashed his cock in front of ‘their’ girls (jealous, perhaps?).

Later on, same evening. Two guys leave hand in hand. From across the road a group jeers and one or two of them throw things. It looks as if they might attack. So our intrepid twosome take the offensive, and chase them off, brandishing milk bottles. As the group disappears, they turn back and head for the station, returning the bottles to their crate. Very shortly after this, they are arrested by the ever-vigilant local constabulary for possessing offensive weapons.

Meanwhile, on the station platform, another guy has been attacked by a different group of boys.

The following week the attitude of the police becomes clearer. Once again there are groups of little ‘toughs’ hanging round outside the hall. With the previous weekly incidents in mind, someone calls the police to move them away. A squad car, complete with uniformed inspector, arrives and shoos them away. They then park discreetly nearby. Three guys leave for the station, and as they cross the road, the gang reappears. Two run, one of them decides to make a stand; he receives one severely blacked eye, and a cut needing four stitches just under the other. One of the gang has a sleeve torn from his coat, another, a lapel. At this late stage, the same squad car reappears, and the gang hastily departs. The police display their usual zeal in pursuing the formalities but do not pursue the gang. “Oh, it’s another gay dance – we always have trouble at these gay dances” . . . . . . and asking the guy who has blood mining down his face “It’ll have to be a clearer description than that!” They are about to leave when the opportunity for the clearest description possible arises – the gang reappears. They are pointed out to the police, who question them, but let them go. “They say they just off a bus.” – in spite of their clearly damaged clothing. The police then leave, and our friend goes to hospital to have his face stitched.

In order to make sure the coast is clear, someone takes a walk to make sure the gang has gone. They haven’t gone very far they – and apparently laughing and joking with the policemen. In anger he shouts out to the effect that ‘these pigs are supposed to protect people, and here they are having a laugh with the ones who caused all the trouble’. In a flash he is surrounded by policemen, and arrested for insulting behaviour and breach of the peace – surrounded by so many policemen that they can’t all fit into the squad car, and some of them are detailed to hoof it back to the station.

So that leads on to a few questions. To the police – “Who’s side are you on?” And to the gay community generally – “What are we going to do about it?”

Gay Unity

02-197206XX 7The Harrow local group of G.L.F. decided on Monday night (26th June) that it no longer wished to have any further ties with G.L.F., and will now go it alone under the name “GAY UNITY”. The group has been stagnating for some time because of the large numbers of members who did not wish to be associated with G.L.F. any longer – but now the decision has finally been made.

And whilst we are in Harrow…… the group often meets for a quiet drink in one of the local pubs, usually on Thursday evenings. After the meeting on Monday, when several members of the group retired to this particular pub, they were approached by the landlord, and informed that a member of the local C.I.D., posing as a genuine enquirer, had telephoned the numbers given in the advertisement in the local press, and had been told that the group could be found in this particular pub on Thursday nights. The landlord strongly requested that the group stopped recommending his pub “Cos it’s causing me aggravation, so you tell ’em to lay off.”

One wonders what was threatened.