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Friday, April 20, 2012

Student paper features 'cruising spot' at Oregon State University

Front page headline 'storied cruising spot at OSU' Barometer 4/19/12 p. 1

PHOTO: Oregon State University student newspaper front page story by Don Iler, "Trysting Tree a history of Love: Storied cruising spot for young lovers at OSU honored as state heritage tree during ceremony," OSU Barometer, Apr. 9, 2012, p. 1,3.

I'm old enough to recall the original century-old Trysting Tree that was replaced decades ago and so I appreciate that it is still stimulating students at OSU today. However, I had to laugh at the apparently unintentional double meaning of the headline calling this tree a "cruising spot for young lovers at OSU" because historically there have been many guide books to "gay cruising spots" to seek out quick and anonymous gay sex in a public setting, such as a park, under a tree, or other wooded area.

In the 1970s the favorite gay cruising area in Corvallis was along the Willamette River banks, which at the time were unimproved and overgrown with bushes, which made it a good spot to cruise for sex, hook up and leave without anybody noticing.

Seeking anonymous sex in a cruising spot was an idea that was roundly rejected by younger gay activists who at the time felt this was only done by closeted gay men who were ashamed of being publically out. Later, gay AIDS activists justifiably denounced cruising for anonymous sex as a public health hazard.

In bad weather, the type of men who cruised for sex in public parks would go indoors to one of the notorious "tearooms," which were typically out-of-the-way public restrooms that had a reputation for getting a quick blow job from the anonymous guy in the adjacent stall. OSU had active tearooms in the top floors of the library and the upper floors of the MU.

Of course, the Trysting Tree had a nobler Victorian-Era romantic notion associated with it than the homosexual's idea of seeking quickie anonymous sex. Perhaps, modern day gay marriage activists could use the Trysting Tree to demonstrate that gays can fall in love too and marry too just like heterosexual college students have been doing for ever.