A glory hole (also spelled gloryhole and glory-hole)[1] is a hole in a wall, or other partition, often between public lavatory stalls or video booths for people to engage in sexual activity or observe the person in the next cubicle while one or both parties masturbate.[2] The partition maintains anonymity.[3][4][5][6] Body parts including fingers and one's tongue can touch the other person if the hole is large enough and intercourse with anonymity intact is possible. Erotic literature and pornographic films have been devoted to the sexual uses of gloryholes.[7][8]


My cherry lips have often kiss'd thy stones... I kiss the wall's hole, not your lips at all.(Exeunt omnes.)
-- Thisbe, "played by a boy in a wig", in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (Vi 192-205)[9]

The origin of the term is unknown. It may have come from the mining industry, where the opening to a mineshaft containing the "mother lode" would be considered to be the "glory hole".[10] It may be in reference to the always open mouth or "glory hole" of a kiln used in glass blowing.[11] It could be a reference to glory holes in civil engineering, where water from a reservoir is quickly "sucked" through a glory hole and out of a dam. It could also have its roots in one of several meanings from seamen and shipbuilding.[12]

There are many theories regarding the origins of the earliest glory hole. One common idea is that it originated in ancient days as a spy or peep hole, and grew larger as men sought more contact, but only enough contact as to perform sex acts upon the genitals of another man. The theory of use was that, although heterosexual men would seek the relief to be found on the other side of a glory hole, they did not wish to lose their anonymity, or to engage in any other physical contact with another man.[4]

From the mid-to-late 20th century glory holes could be found in many public men's room in the United States including adult bookstores,[13] gay bars,[14] department stores,[15] jailhouses,[9] bus and train stations,[16] office buildings, military bases,[16] and other public buildings like departments stores[16], park rest stops and gay beats.[17] Glory holes were once extremely common in public men's toilets.[9] Whereas women's bathrooms would be targeted for "peep" holes for spying, glory holes were much larger and therefore more obvious.[18] When an institution (school, governmental or business) would replace bathroom stalls they often would upgrade to stainless steel to discourage creating holes as well as other forms of vandalism as wood walls were an easy target for such activities.[18] Sometimes men who enjoy the erotic aspects of the activity will even create one for private use in their homes.[19]

Method of use

To use a glory hole a man puts his penis through the hole to in most cases receive oral sex, and to a lesser extent anal intercourse, a handjob,[20] or vaginal intercourse. Glory holes are today most commonly found in established adult video/bookstore arcades, sex clubs, gay bathhouses, and adult theaters.[21]

If a glory hole is to be found between two booths in a video booth at an adult bookstore, [5] the person who wishes to perform oral sex will normally be seated in his booth. Although not a hard and fast rule, that seated (and sometimes kneeling) position commonly signals to others that he is there in order to perform oral sex - which allows those who wish to receive oral sex to take the adjoining booth. That second person, who wishes to have oral sex performed on him will take the adjoining booth and normally remain standing.[22]


Numerous motivations can be ascribed to the use and eroticism of glory holes. For some, it can be seen as a way to have intimacy without a prolonged relationship or to ensure sexual compatibility before further advancing a relationship.[20] Utilizing a gloryhole is also an easy way to mitigate any perceived physical shortcomings like being overweight or somehow less physically attractive[22] or even being considered too old.[15]

In light of the ongoing AIDS pandemic, many gay men have re-evaluated their sexual and erotic desires.[23] Glory holes allow for a physical barrier which may be an extension of psychological ones where internalized homophobia as a result of society's negative reaction to LGBT people and gay sexual practices can be resolved, even if only temporarily.[23] For some gay men a glory hole can be used to depersonalize their partner altogether as simply an object sticking through the hole.[23] These motivations could be ascribed as male motivations and not just as gay and bisexual men's motives.[24]

Legal and health concerns

Public sex is illegal in many parts of the world and entrapment cases occur.[25][26] and several other public buildings like department stores[16][27][28] Potential surveillance and public humiliation (if a participant's name appears in a local newspaper or in legal documents) as well as gay bashing, mugging or bodily injury are further risks.[28] Due to the fear of arrest or assault, or for reasons of etiquette, it is rare for a male to insert his penis in a glory hole without invitation from the person on the other side of the partition[citation needed]. A common signal by a willing participant is to insert one or more fingers in the hole, often accompanied by a beckoning motion and an audible invitation such as a purr or whistle.

In addition to safety risks from being attacked, there is also the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. This can be reduced through the use of condoms when needed.

Usages in popular culture

Popular culture references within both the gay and LGBT communities as well as the mainstream culture have become more common. The 1982 teen comedy film Porky's, about the escapades of teenagers at the fictional Angel Beach high school in Florida in 1954, featured a glory hole scene in a shower room where the boys were able to view teen girls in the shower. In John Waters's fictional 1994 dark comedy film Serial Mom, starring Kathleen Turner as the title character, a glory hole is used as a plot device when an eyewitness sees her through the hole hiding in the neighboring stall prior to a murder at the nearby urinals. An earlier film by Waters, Desperate Living (1977), contained a scene in a women's lavatory depicting a chest-high double glory hole—for breasts.[29] The opening stunt in Jackass 2 features a man inserting his penis into a glory hole that opens up into the cage of a hungry snake, which proceeded to violently bite his penis. In the 2002 chickflick The Sweetest Thing, Cameron Diaz gets injured in the eye when she unknowingly peers through a gloryhole in men's restroom. In the 2000 comedy Scary Movie, which spoofs popular horror films, Shawn Wayans' character Ray - who shows signs of being gay throughout the movie - goes to the bathroom in a theater. Upon seeing a glory hole and hearing sexual noises, he proceeds to listen with his ear pressed to the hole and is suddenly impaled through his head by a penis.

See also


  1. O'Hara, Scott (1999, page 24;). Rarely Pure and Never Simple: Selected Essays of Scott O'Hara. Haworth Press; ISBN 0789005735. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  2. Murphy, Timothy F. (1994). Gay Ethics: Controversies in Outing, Civil Rights, and Sexual Science 237. Haworth Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  3. Sexual Dictionary "Glory Hole"
  4. 4.0 4.1 Aaron's Dictionary of Gay Terms
  5. 5.0 5.1 The Gloryhole FAQ by Lilfuzzyg (1999) *Caution, explicit images
  6. Glossary of Gay Slang Terms "Glory Hole"
  7. Burger, John Robert (1995). One-Handed Histories: The Eroto-Politics of Gay Male Video. Haworth Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  8. "Glory hole" Erotic Online Archives (2007). Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Randolph, Vance (1992). Unprintable Ozark Folksongs and Folklore 537. University of Arkansas Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  10. Jenkins, Olaf Pitt (1948). Geologic Guidebook Along Highway 49, Sierran Gold Belt: The Mother Lode Country 7, 13, 19. Division of Mines. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  11. Cummings, Keith (2002). A History of Glassforming. University of Pennsylvania Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  12. Eddington, Walter J. (1943). Glossary of Shipbuilding and Outfitting Terms 127. Cornell Maritime Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  13. Woods, William J.; Diane Binson (2003). Gay Bathhouses and Public Health Policy. Haworth Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  14. O'Hara, Scott (1999). Rarely Pure and Never Simple: Selected Essays of Scott O'Hara 195. Haworth Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  15. 15.0 15.1 O'Hara, Scott (1999). Rarely Pure and Never Simple: Selected Essays of Scott O'Hara 165. Haworth Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Rarely Pure and Sears" defined multiple times with different content
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Sarkodie-Mensah, Kwasi (2002). Helping the Difficult Library Patron: New Approaches to Examining and Resolving a Long-Standing and Ongoing Problem 92. Haworth Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  17. Humphreys, Laud (1975). Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places. Aldine de Gruyter. ISBN 0-202-30282-2. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 Valdés, Zoé; Translated by Andrew Hurley (2002). Dear First Love: A Novel 163-169. HarperCollins; 0060959096. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  19. O'Hara, Scott (1997). Autopornography: A Memoir of Life in the Lust Lane. Haworth Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Adams, Nicholas (2004). My Black Book 124-130. iUniverse. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  21. O'Hara, Scott (1999). Rarely Pure and Never Simple: Selected Essays of Scott O'Hara 45-49. Haworth Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Adams, Nicholas (2004). My Black Book 116-117. iUniverse. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Dean, Tim (2000). Beyond Sexuality. University of Chicago Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  24. Grant, Linda (1994). Sexing the Millennium: Women and the Sexual Revolution. Grove Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  25. Califia-Rice, Patrick (2000). Public Sex: The Culture of Radical Sex. Cleis Press Inc. Retrieved on 2008-06-30.
  26. Sarkodie-Mensah, Kwasi (2002). Helping the Difficult Library Patron: New Approaches to Examining and Resolving a Long-Standing and Ongoing Problem 94. Haworth Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  27. Jaffe, Harold (2005,). Terror-Dot-Gov 28. Raw Dog Screaming Press. Retrieved on 2007-12-31.
  28. 28.0 28.1 Otton, Garry. " Cruising: A Private Inconvenience by Garry Otton, ScotsGay Magazine, January 1995" Retrieved on 2007-06-06.
  29. There is at least one example of the use of a second hole being for the hand of the man to guide the head of the fellatrix.["" "Glory Hole"]. Retrieved on 2008-07-14.

Further reading

External links


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