A brief history of glory holes.

A brief history of glory holes.

Oct 01, 2020
Raef Harrison

The legacy and resurgence of the notorious hole in the wall.

Along with self-pleasure, sex outdoors, and trying positions that avoid face-to-face contact, health officials have been encouraging sexual alternatives to stem COVID-19. Among the options recommended by the New York Department of Health this summer was this tip: "Make it a little kinky. Be creative with sexual positions and physical barriers, like walls, that allow sexual contact while preventing close face to face contact." 

That's right, NYC wants to bring back the glory hole. 

But while this announcement titillated plenty, the concept of anonymous sex through a whole has been a staple of the gay community for decades. If walls could talk..

So, what is a glory hole?
The concept of a glory hole is pretty straight forward. Potentially one of the weirder Wikipedia searches you’ll do will result in this definition: "a hole in a wall or other partition, often between public lavatory stalls or adult video arcade booths, for people to engage in sexual activity." In addition to the penis, fingers or tongue may also be inserted into the hole.” So really, whatever gets the job done for you.

Where did glory holes come from?
Glory holes were born from necessity. It's believed they came about in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when gay sex was considered illegal in many parts of the world and therefore was carried out in more clandestine settings. According to Queerty, a gay lifestyle website, by the 1950s, gay bathhouses and glory holes were popping up all across the country. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, many had become staple institutions within the gay community.

What's the appeal?
Aside from the obvious perk of getting your rocks off, the joy of the glory hole lies in its anonymity. Glory holes free you from normal social pressures related to sex, or even basic human interaction. You're freed from insecurities about your body, pressure to say the right thing, from even being yourself. Your sole purpose becomes focused on giving or receiving pleasure. In an essay for the Huffington Post, Mark Simpson, who coined the term "metrosexual" in 2002, fondly recalls seeing his first glory hole in Northern England in the 1960s. "The glory hole itself is the ultimate symbol of anonymous 'no-strings' sex...Even bricks and mortar can't hold it back. Nameless, shameless desire." 

While glory holes are a legacy of the quick and dirty hookup culture of the gay community, their appeal has branched out to a broader audience over the decades.

A quick guide to finding one:
Pre-internet, it used to take a little hunting and know-how to find the best spot. Gay bars and bathhouses were always a safe bet, and for a time, adult bookstores would circulate a monthly printed guide to glory holes in certain areas, mainly major cities. But like most things today, a quick Google search can point you in the right direction to your nearest glory hole. Depending on where you live, there's even a Yelp list

A brief history of glory holes.

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