Troll and trolling are slang terms used amongst gay men to characterize gay, bisexual and questioning or bi-curious men who cruise or “wander about looking” for sex or potential sex partners or experiences “in a notably wanton manner and with lessened standards of what one will accept in a partner.” The term can be used positively or negatively depending on the speaker, usage and intent and can describe the person or the activity. Although often referring to “an unattractive older gay man” the phrases can be used for anyone who is trolling regardless of age or perceived beauty and troll as a slur “is primarily a visual, not a behavioral” judgment.
Origin and historical usage
Troll as gay slang is amongst the lexicon used in the gay subculture in Britain which has become more mainstream with transcontinental travel and online communication.
The term troll probably became equated with cruising because a troll is a “creature of Scandinavian folklore depicted as a devilish imp who lives in dark places and “patrols” in an endless search.” “The word trolla in Swedish means ‘to charm or bewitch'.”
“As a Polari word, troll can mean ‘to walk effeminately', or ‘to walk, seeking sex'.” Trolling can be used almost interchangeably with cruising and like much of Polari usage was probably meant to disguise what was being talked about because being gay was and still is taboo and discussing gay sex in any public area can be risky.
Much like usage throughout time many gay men, even in Britain had never heard or used the term or needed to. Regular customers in the same gay bar might have different takes on the usage – one simply referring to cruising, another referring to a negative version of a troll as a someone who “will have your skin crawling in seconds with his lascivious looks and raunchy repartee,” another meaning older gays who prefer to troll for younger guys.
Depending on the culture the men are in, the setting, time of day (or evening), how comfortable they are about their sexuality and their intentions will all affect the trolling experience. Some men are still coming out or even a virgin to same-sex experiences; some societies punish gays with prison, public humiliation and even death. So having the appearance of just walking through the area or using a restroom comes in handy until those there for sexual fulfillment can let their guard down as it becomes obvious everyone is there with like-minded goals. For regular areas or “troll haunts” that are frequented by a recurring group of trolls there is a general rule that “as in most gay male settings, the young, the muscular, and the unfamiliar are more sought.”
A troll’s intention will also influence actions and outcomes ranging from casual sex in a more private area to exhibitionism like masturbating to group sex, fulfilling a sexual fantasy or even the voyeuristic thrill of watching someone else have public sex. Some are looking to: get a blow-job either directly or through a glory hole, give one or switch roles; fuck someone or get fucked; some are looking for group sex or a BDSM experience even including gang bangs, and still others just want to watch.
A regular public bathroom at a college, public library, shopping mall, train station or even a public park could be a higher risk trolling venue while more private venues like nightclubs, bars, offices and even churches add to the sexual excitement for some escalating the experience with more taboo environments. For some potentially getting caught is almost better than the sex itself. For many gay men, public sex and trolling are seen as a rite of passage and a part of the gay culture which, like many aspects of gay life, has been used to demonize and cause shame but now is often a source of liberation.
Legal and health concerns
Public sex is often illegal and entrapment cases, although rare, still occur. Potential surveillance and public humiliation (if your name appears in a local newspaper or in legal documents) is a small price to pay compared to gay bashing, mugging or bodily injury.
In addition to safety risks from being attacked, motivated by homophobia or otherwise, all sex with others has inherent risks and catching or spreading sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS which is a serious, (and possibly deadly) risk which can be minimized with planning to ensure safe sex supplies including condoms are ready when needed.
The term "trolley-dolly" may be “derived perhaps from a combination of lalies and troll. A trolley-dolly (contemporary gay slang) is a gay flight attendant.” Some assert, however, that the phrase references the duty-free and drinks trolleys pushed by flight attendants; many people also use the phrase to refer to female flight attendants.
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- Polari British gay slang
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- The Little Black Book: This one can keep you out of trouble, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund; also available here. Additionally published as "Little Black Book: This one will keep you out of trouble" in PDF format; also available here. An article that gives legal advice on cruising for sex. Note that if one actually carries this article on one while cruising it could possibly be used as evidence of intent.
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