I am very grateful to the editor and the four anonymous referees who read this paper and provided insightful comments, observations, and corrections. My colleagues at the University of Surrey were also helpful in discussing the issues raised here and I wish to thank Ann Cronin, Nigel Fielding, Jo Moran-Ellis, and Roger Tarling.
Ordinary Folk and Cottaging: Law, Morality, and Public Sex
Article first published online: 20 NOV 2007
Journal of Law and Society
Volume 34, Issue 4, pages 520–543, December 2007
How to Cite
Johnson, P. (2007), Ordinary Folk and Cottaging: Law, Morality, and Public Sex. Journal of Law and Society, 34: 520–543. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6478.2007.00403.x
- Issue published online: 20 NOV 2007
- Article first published online: 20 NOV 2007
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 introduced a new statutory offence of ‘sexual activity in a public lavatory’ into English law. Although written as a gender-neutral offence, the statute was formulated and enacted on the basis of concerns about male homosexual sexual activity in public lavatories (‘cottaging’). This paper examines the justifications for, and implications of, the legislation. It considers the main arguments made in support of the offence and situates these within established moral, legal, and social debates about homosexuality. The paper considers the relationship between conceptions of public and private morality in relation to the legal regulation of homosexual sex. It goes on to explore the complex nature of regulating public sex in relation to sexual practices which often maintain high degrees of privacy. The final part of the paper argues that the legislation is largely in contradiction with the realities of police work and contemporary law enforcement.