CONCLUSIONS from Bapst, Don (2001) 'Glory Holes and the Men who use Them', Journal of Homosexuality, 41: 1, 89 — 102
Short of taking a systematic survey containing standardized questions, it
would be impossible to generalize why glory holes appeal to the majority of
men who use them. And were such a survey to be carried out, it would be
unrealistic to think that those willing to participate in answering specific
questions (even if the survey were conducted anonymously) were representative of the entire group of men using them. Nevertheless, by speaking to men who are willing to be candid about their experiences with glory holes, some common threads become apparent.
Many of the men I spoke with who use glory holes (whether actively or
passively, whether out of excitement or routine) associate them with early
sexual experiences. Many return to glory holes to relive the thrill of early
sexual experiences. Some return because glory holes are simply synonymous with sex as they know it.
Every man interviewed said something about the ‘‘thrill of the unknown’’
being a pleasurable and/or attractive factor of glory holes. Total anonymity
was also cited as an attraction, though most men cited an increased comfort
within their public role as a homosexual as a reason for their decreasing lack
of interest in completely anonymous, ‘‘faceless’’ sex. Those men who had
been ‘‘out’’ since a much earlier age and for whom glory holes were a recent
discovery, said that glory hole sex represented a secondary or tertiary sexual outlet and was engaged in predominantly for experimentation. All informants seemed to enjoy the ‘‘permission’’ that was afforded to them by an almost totally anonymous experience to fully express an otherwise ‘‘taboo’’ aspect of their sexuality. For some, homosexual sex itself had been taboo and was permissible only through the disguise of a partition. For others, taboos such as ‘‘phallus worship’’ or exhibitionism were not accepted within homosexual acts between mutually identifiable partners and could be comfortably explored only within the context of the glory hole setting.
Another common thread among informants’ testimonies involved the perception of their bodies. Some felt that other men desired exclusively genital/oral interaction, so they were prepared to provide this type of interaction even if they preferred doing ‘‘more.’’ Some felt that they could ‘‘get’’ someone whom they wouldn’t otherwise be able to ‘‘possess’’ sexually, be he a heterosexual man or simply an attractive man with an attractive penis. For some men, becoming more comfortable with being homosexual over the course of their lives meant they lost interest in ‘‘possessing’’ others sexually under less than optimal conditions. Still other men were excited by glory holes because it allowed them to temporarily escape from the role they played in society, even if that role was that of an attractive out man in gay society. For at least one man, glory holes offered an opportunity to hide his attractiveness so that sex became centered around the act itself and not around associations made with his appearance.
There seemed to be little agreement over what constituted a successful
glory hole encounter. Some enjoyed the purely physical, sensory aspect of the experience while for others it involved a great deal of fantasy and role-playing. Among those who cited fantasy and gender roles, there was little agreement about roles that one must take in order to participate in the glory hole ‘‘action.’’ For some, being active meant being subordinate. For others, sucking a man’s penis was merely an expected, perfunctory part of the interaction. For some, inserting their penises into glory holes gave a feeling of masculine power. For others, it was a completely physical, emotionally neutral action. Most men seemed to alternate between activities during the course of a glory hole session, many alternating between active and passive participant whether out of desire to do so or out of perceived expectations from other participants.
There was certainly a complex system of communication involving the
gestures and reactions of participants as well as their utilization of the limited ‘‘appliances’’ and ‘‘supplies’’ of the glory hole establishments (i.e., the holes themselves, the doors to cubicles, dark vs. light areas of clubs, condoms, lubricants, etc.).
Glory holes are relatively basic objects. Yet upon conversing with the men
who use these objects, it becomes apparent that ‘‘glory hole sex’’ is no less
complicated than sex without partitions. There is a range of motivations and
experiences associated with glory hole sex as large as the number of people
who use them.