Cruising the University

Men looking to have sex with other men have often found each other in public places. There has been a "cruising" culture in and around the University of Chicago as early as the 1940s—when Paul Goodman used to cruise Jackson Park—through today, when similar encounters might be facilitated through Grindr.

Illinois was the first state to decriminalize sodomy by consenting adults in private. Frank Allen, then a professor at the Law School, chaired the Joint Committee to Revise the Illinois Criminal Code, which repealed the law in 1961. Allen was persuaded by the argument that sodomy laws led to police corruption and blackmail, later speculating that if gay people had tried to claim that they were "normal" in 1961, sodomy reform would have been a nonstarter.

David Goldman (AB 1972) mentioned the repeal of the sodomy law as a factor in his choice to leave New York and attend the University of Chicago. But even after the repeal of the law, soliciting sex in public was illegal, and vice cops like the notorious John Manley continued to try to entrap men in parks and bathrooms. One of the Gay Liberation Front's first political activities was to protest a talk by Manley. The group also used the money it raised from dances for a bail fund and for funding a booklet by the Gay Legal People's Committee about how to interact with the police as a gay person.

International Guild Guide 1971
Washington D.C.: Guild Press Ltd. 1971
Rare Books Collection

By the 1960s, the Wieboldt Hall men's bathroom was enshrined as a tearoom, a place where men could find sex with other men. The 1971 Gay Guide attests to Wieboldt's international renown, and in the early 1980s, as one narrator recalled, sometimes a line would form down the staircase.

Wieboldt was not the only space that men cruised in Hyde Park. Several narrators mentioned the public bathrooms near the Point, and Robert Devendorf (AB 1985, AM 2004) remembered walking into a bathroom outside of Harper and finding that "the whole thing was covered in this fascinating gay leather sex mural."

Dena van der Wal
Chicago. 1996
Donated by Dena van der Wal

Closeted/Out on the Quadrangles. Collection