Even though gay men euphorically referred to public lavatories that they frequented for clandestine sex as ‘tearooms’ the practice of ‘cottaging’ was, and still is, considered a shameful act by most gay men. It was often a last resort for men who could not express their sexuality …..think George Michael caught in a Police sting in an LA toilet ….. it was also the practice for men who got off on the whole idea of having sex in public, tinged with a sense of danger.
For years police would act as agent provocateurs to trap unsuspecting men in public toilets that were known to be frequented by gay men. As most of the people who were caught were too ashamed to challenge the charges for fear of more public humiliation, it was an easy way for officers to rack up their arrest records. It is also a subject that most gay men would prefer not to acknowledge or even talk about.
Now French artist Marc Martin has brought the topic right out into the open with a new photography series, book and exhibition that is almost like a celebration of this illicit activity. Martin staged some encounters with models in public toilets around Europe. the results of which are now being shown in ‘Public Toilets, Private Affairs’ his Exhibition which opened at Berlin’s LGBT Schwules Museum last month.
Martin explained his idea behind the project as ” The reproach of cowardice was often leveled at men who enjoyed cruising in public toilets, whose practices were considered squalid. Yet, have they not in their own way braved taboos? Have they not for well over a century dared experience forbidden pleasures? I wanted these men’s bravery to be acknowledged, and the heady sensuality of places that generated so much excitement to get due recognition.”
Schwules Museum, Lützowstraße 73, 10785 Berlin, Germany 17 November 2017 - 05 February 2018 http://www.schwulesmuseum.de/en/