The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we have sex, at least for this period of time. There was a time during the pandemic when being indoors with a stranger didn’t happen (or shouldn’t have happened), which also meant fewer people hooking up. Being outdoors was a slightly different story.

People are cruising for sex more than ever: some for the first time, some have returned to it, while others have always loved the thrill of the outdoors. Or the public toilet. Or the gym. (We’ll go into a more detailed breakdown of where people are cruising below).

What do we need to know about cruising in 2021? What should we be wary of? How can we have the best time possible? And how can we stay safe?


We spoke to a small sample size of 72 cruising enthusiasts and supporters to give us the lowdown on the out-of-home experience. WE ASKED: When was the last time you went cruising for sex? 

  • In the last week – 29%
  • Over a year ago – 20%
  • Over two years ago – 18%
  • In the last six months – 16%
  • In the last month – 14%
  • In the last year – 4%

Where have you cruised for sex?

  • In a park – 69%
  • In a public toilet – 63%
  • In the woods – 61%
  • Saunas and spas – 61%
  • Bars and clubs – 55%
  • Arrange to meet someone outside via a dating/sex app – 55%
  • Specific cruise bars and venues – 49%
  • In the gym – 41%
  • In a shopping centre/retail outlet – 39%
  • Beaches – 37%
  • Airport – 33%
  • Country roadside/roadside - 33%
  • Dunes – 27%
  • In a cemetery – 23%

What’s clear is that people tend to cruise fairly regularly, with 43% of respondents having gone cruising for sex within the last month, 29% of those within the last week. This could be because of an upturn in the weather, as dry, warm conditions do help when having sex in areas like parks and woods. It could also be because of the ease and accessibility of cruising, with a variety and volume of sexual partners which are harder to cultivate in one-to-one conversations on dating apps. The majority of sex venues have also yet to reopen, which means cruising may be the only outlet for some people.

When it comes to where people are cruising for sex, the ‘cruising staples’ of parks, public toilets (also called cottaging), and woods take the lead, with 69%, 63% and 61% respectively. Cruise bars (49%) and beaches (37%) were further down the list, but this could be due to the pandemic restrictions resulting in closed venues and fewer holidays.

Ian Howley, Chief Executive of LGBT HERO, the national health and wellbeing charity for LGBTQ+ people said, “I don’t think anyone at LGBT HERO thought there would ever be a day where we were telling people not to hook up as we just didn’t know how bad COVID-19 would turn out to be. And during those initial months, most people followed our advice. But we knew that it was never going to last, and it shouldn’t. Also, we know that many people use sex as a way to connect and meet people. This is why saunas are very popular, lots of men who go regularly will tell you they’ve met some great friends through them. It was no surprise to me than that in a pandemic, when lots of sex-on-premises venues are closed, that people would return to the “old school” method of hooking up. Gay men still want to hook-up, as they should, and sex outdoors is probably the safest way of hooking up in a pandemic.”


Why What do people get up to when they go cruising? WE ASKED: What type of sex do you have when cruising?

  • Blow jobs – 98%
  • Wanking - 82%
  • Fucking (give and receive) – 74%
  • Kissing – 70%
  • Threesomes – 54%
  • Group sex – 48%
  • Fingering – 40%
  • Rimming – 36%
  • Watersports – 18%
  • Fisting – 2%
  • Chemsex -2%
  • Other fetish – 2%

Ian Howley of LGBT HERO told us the importance of testing for HIV and STIs regularly. He said, “So during the last year we’ve heard form lots of men who didn’t test for STIs because they weren’t having sex, only to discover that they had an STI after the symptoms set in over a long period of time. It’s important that all sexually active men test for HIV and STIs at least every six months and more if you’re having lots of partners. Most STIs show up in tests 10 days after infection and it can take up for four weeks for HIV to show up in a test. So, no matter what type of sex you are having, and how frequent or infrequent it is during a pandemic, test regularly.”


While there are concerns to be had around cruising (which we’ll go into further detail on later), people cruise because it’s fun, horny and ultimately a good time. We asked some of the respondents to our cruising survey about their favourite moments.

“I was reading a book on a bench,” Mike tells us, “and a man walked by and asked how the book was. We ended up walking to a nearby park and fucking.”

J says, “I had sweaty group sex on a hot day and I bumped into hot guy from work in a cruising area and I swallowed his load.”

Jake divulges, “I was going to a known area and I just posted online somewhere about when and where I’d be. I just help everyone there out for an hour or so.”

“I was cruising in Heathrow Terminal 5,” Paul says, “while waiting for a connecting flight. We did use Grindr to chat first, then we met in a cubicle.”

David tells us about the multitude of action he has experienced: “There’s too many to shortlist. I had a threesome in a mirrored cube in Chariots (gay sauna) in Waterloo. There was a scally lad in a public toilet whose dick I sucked. A man covered head to toe in tattoos I fucked in a toilet in Croydon. The porn star who fucked me in toilets in Tunbridge Wells. All good times!”

Jeff says, “On the beach in the sun. Lots of guys around and super horny and mixed ages. Or in London parks, often there’s someone around looking for some quick fun.”

Norman gave a more specific example: “It was finding someone pre-lubed for fisting on Hampstead Heath.”


With the good often comes the bad. Not every time cruising is gold, as the respondents to our survey made clear.

Mike finds time wasting frustrating: “It’s using the web or apps to meet guys in parks who don’t show up. It’s easier to just go myself and see who’s around.”

David had as many unfortunate experiences as great ones: “Oh god I have so many. Being shagged a middle-aged man when I was 16, who I then discovered was the manager of the Debenhams where I worked.”

“When the bottom hadn’t douched,” says Sebastian.

“I was in the Gran Canaria dunes,” says Paul. “None of the gentlemen in attendance caught my attention, however, some of them were quite persistent in following me around, even though I studiously ignored their attempts to engage. It became quite unpleasant and I felt uncomfortable so I left.”

Reggie told us, “There was a very pushy and desperate guy in Liverpool Street station toilets. It got aggressive when affection wasn’t reciprocated. I simply left and was glad he didn’t follow.”

J says, “I was pestered then verbally abused by an older guy for not being interested. I also once caught a guy filming.”


What are people most worried about when they go cruising? WE ASKED: What are your biggest concerns when you go cruising?

  • Being caught by the police – 67%
  • Safety – 63%
  • Unwanted attention from other people cruising / consent – 39%
  • STIs – 37%
  • Being caught by the public – 33%
  • Not knowing where to go – 31%
  • The COVID-19 pandemic – 23%
  • Seeing someone you know – 4%
  • Getting lost – 4%

When it comes to the most prevalent concern – being caught by the police – there may be news to assuage that fear. There’s no specific law that prohibits cruising. Sex in public places is not illegal, but only if other members of the public can’t see you having sex and are unlikely to come across you having sex. That means if you’re having sex late at night in the woods, for example, then you should have nothing to fear from the police. Discretion is key.

For cottaging, the act of cruising and having sex in public bathrooms, the rules are a little different. It’s against the law to have sex in a public toilet. You run the risk being arrested for cottaging whether you’re being discreet or not.

10% of respondents to our survey told us they had been caught by the police while cruising before.

Jake confides, “I was just sucking someone off in a car on an industrial estate, they knew what was happening but were more concerned about drugs so told us to move along.”

Stephe told us: “On all occasions, I’ve been in situations where the police have arrived but never caught me in the act so been able to leave unhindered. I’ve once hidden in bushes until the police left and then casually left myself.”

“It was so long ago,” says Norman. “I can’t recall, but fled from Hampstead Heath often.”

Ian Howley of LGBT HERO said, “If you go cruising in open public spaces, such as parks or lay-bys, you need to be aware of the law around sex in these areas. There is no specific law against cruising. Sex in public places is not illegal as long as other people who might be offended cannot see you and are unaware that you are having sex. The police should only respond to complaints from the public and should not go to an area to proactively try to catch people cruising. It is not against the law for people to loiter, engage in conversation or walk around a cruising ground with the purpose of meeting others. In other words, you cannot be arrested simply for going cruising.

“If you engage in sexual activity or behaviour that may cause alarm or distress to others, such as indecent exposure or voyeurism, you could be arrested or prosecuted under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 or the Public Order Act 1986. Therefore, it is advisable to be as discreet as possible to avoid attracting attention. If you feel that you have been unfairly treated by the police (or others) while cruising, you should contact Galop for more advice. You can call their helpline on 020 7704 2040 or report an incident at their website,”


The pandemic saw people dabbling in cruising for the first time, as being outside is considered safer when it comes to the transmission of COVID. Although this didn’t stop people being concerned about the safety of sex outdoors.

Barry tell us, ”I’m in a high risk group, so both myself and my partner agreed to stay monogamous until we had both been vaccinated.”

Richard says, “I held off at the peak of the pandemic for a good few months, but I ultimately went back for the thrill, the release and just the physical contact.”

I only went when it was safer,” says J. “I didn’t go during the national lockdown and only when local rates were lower.”

James explains, “I didn’t go because of safety concerns. Also, all bars and saunas have been closed.”

Ian Howley of LGBT HERO said, “Not only do people have to worry about catching HIV or STIs, we now need to worry about catching or passing on COVID. What a fantastic time to be a sexually active man! First let’s talk about HIV and STIs, the best way to prevent HIV is a combination of using condoms and PrEP. If you decide to only use PrEP then understand that it won’t prevent STIs and most STIs can be passed through oral sex. Make sure you test for HIV and STIs regularly. If you are living with HIV, then becoming or remaining HIV undetectable means you cannot pass on the virus through sex, though you still need to worry about STIs.

“When it comes to COVID, it’s obviously a lot more difficult to prevent catching the virus. This is because during sex we tend to swap bodily fluids such as salvia (spit), sweat and cum. So, kissing and face-to-face activities will increase your risk. What we advise is that if you eligible, get your COVID-19 vaccination as soon as you can. It will give you the best protection as it shows to limit transmission and for those who get it then to get very mild or no symptoms. But if you are planning on hooking up, get yourself a lateral flow test, they are free and give you your results in less than 30 mins. Testing and being vaccinated is your best defence to limiting the impact of COIVID and will allow you to have a happy and healthy sex life.”


What if you have never been cruising before? What sort of information would be useful? WE ASKED: What information do you wish you had when cruising for the first time?

  • Where to safely cruise – 88%
  • Information about cruising and the law – 84%
  • How to stay safe while cruising – 67%
  • Information about consent – 29%
  • Information about HIV and STIs – 27%
  • How to report sexual assault – 25%
  • Information about how to more safely cruise during a pandemic – 21%

We know there’s little or no information about how to cruise safely, so we’ve drawn up a mini guide.

Get to know the area: If you don’t already know the area well, walk around and check it out when you get there – especially if it’s likely to be dark by the time you leave. Find out where the exits are and where any paths lead to. It’s a good idea to stay fairly close to where most guys are concentrated.

Take condoms and lube or look into PrEP on demand: Even if you don’t plan to fuck at the cruising area, you might change your mind in the heat of the moment. If you haven’t got any condoms and lube, other guys may be happy to spare some.

EBP or Event Based PrEP (also known as PrEP on Demand) is when you take PrEP before you have sex, and a day or two after. Studies have shown that event bases PrEP is just as effective as daily dosing. Event based PrEP should be for people who may not engage in lots of sexual activity or plan their sexual encounters in advance. If you know that you might have sex without condoms at least 24 hours in advance:

  • take two pills at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours before sex
  • take one pill 24 hours later
  • take one more pill 24 hours after that

For example, if you are planning on going cruising at 10pm on a Friday, you take TWO pills at 2pm that day. On Saturday you take a pill at 2pm and on Sunday you take a final pill at 2pm.

Leave valuables at home: You won’t need your credit cards or a lot of cash. If you take your phone, put it on silent mode and keep it out of sight. Don’t walk around checking Grindr on your new smartphone. Not only will you be advertising it to potential
pickpockets, but you may not notice if guys are cruising you.

Wear something suitable: Don’t wear expensive gear or a new pair of shoes. The ground may be muddy and if it’s dark you may not be able to see where you’re walking. Put your keys, money and anything else you don’t want to lose in a secure, zipped

Be clear about what you want: Even once you’ve hooked up with someone, there may not be much verbal communication. However, you can’t expect him to read your mind. If you’re confident and make it clear what you want, the chances are he’ll be more relaxed too. If you want to fuck him, tell him – or take out a condom – and see how he reacts. If you want to get fucked, he’ll definitely get the message if you put a condom on him.

Ian Howley of LGBT HERO gives his final thoughts, “After the year we’ve had I think if you are engaging in sex outdoors, you have the right to enjoy it. The best way to do it is to keep safe, stay out of sight, be respectful to the area and do your best to prevent STIs, HIV and COVID transmissions. You are not doing anything illegal so enjoy it. Let’s just hope we get the weather for it.”