Public sexual cultures: a systematic review of qualitative research investigating men’s sexual behaviors with men in public spaces

Jamie Frankis, Paul Flowers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Resurgent HIV and sexually transmitted infection incidence among men who have sex with men (MSM) requires an urgent re-examination of sexual transmission sites. To these ends, we systematically review qualitative literature concerning men's sexual behaviors within public sex environments (PSEs). Sex, therein, is negotiated by the highly codified, largely nonverbal practice of “cruising.” A generic, shared PSE sexual culture emerges from the literature—across locations, countries, and decades—because of the importance of concealment and common structural constraints on sexual encounters in PSEs. However, differences in local geography and facilities may transform key features of this, resulting in specific, local sexual cultures emerging for each locale. We argue that, although sexual cultures developed to minimize nonsexual cruising risks, they may be exploited to improve contemporary in situ outreach work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861-893
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Homosexuality
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009



  • sexual health
  • sexual behavior
  • sexual cultures
  • gay men
  • public sex environments
  • outreach work

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