Stefano Ramello

The rules of the game. The park and the sauna: the structure of casual encounters between men

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In modern western societies it is not uncommon for men to have casual same-sex intercourses with varying frequency depending on their biographical history. In this paper two very different cruising places are compared: a pu¬blic park in a small town and a gay sauna in a bigger city. Two phases of research were conducted: an initial phase to observe sex-negotiation strategies and different ways of sexual intercourse; the second phase was dedicated to semi-structured interviews with some frequenters. This study shows a close interaction between environment, erotic practices, gender and sexual identity. Quite surprisingly sexual intercourses are generally non-protected. The pattern of collective action has the body as a means of communication, because of the silence that is required of all participants as the condition to fulfill their fantasies. The urban environment allows a specialization unknown in the small town: in bigger cities the growing number of saunas seems to be linked to the process of privatization of public spaces. At last, none of the interviewees said that they frequent cruising places looking for a long lasting relationship; nevertheless, all the interviewed homosexual men declared that at least once they found a longtime companion at the park or in the sauna.


  • gay cruising
  • homosexuality
  • sexual identity
  • sexual behaviour
  • social structure


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