Gloryholes are the ultimate expression of near-anonymous, faceless sex. In the stereotypically physical beauty-obsessed world of gay eroticism, gloryholes are bastions of non-judgmental, appearance-irrelevant intercourse; they allow for a man to negate or mask his perceived physical inadequacies, or to separate his sexual persona from his social one. For some men, it is the sheer randomness of the gloryhole that makes for its appeal; while for other men, it is the juxtaposing of distance and intimacy that they find especially alluring.

A gloryhole is a makeshift or purposefully constructed hole in a wall or partition–usually between public toilet stalls, the booths of adult video arcades, or in designated areas within gay men’s bathhouses, for example–that enables people on both sides of the wall or partition to engage in sex with each other or observe each other as one or both engage in masturbation. The holes, typically with a diameter of three to six inches, are strategically positioned such that a man of average height, while standing, can insert his penis through the hole, or a person sitting on the toilet in one stall can “sit back, relax, and enjoy the show” as he observes the goings-on in the adjacent stall. Besides the penis, the tongue, fingers, or, perhaps, the hand, may be inserted into the hole. But gloryholes are primarily associated with oral or anal sex, the former requiring the fellator to kneel in his stall in order to perform fellatio, and the latter requiring the receiver to align his anus with the gloryhole and place his buttocks flush against the partition.

Public sex—of any kind—is illegal in most jurisdictions around the world. A gentleman would therefore be wise to refrain from using gloryholes in public facilities. In “private men’s clubs,” however, there are usually legal protections. But even in such establishments, health concerns persist. Gloryholes were at their apex during the Sexual Revolution of the 1970s. But with the coming of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, they experienced a rapid decline. (In the ’80s and ’90s, people were cautious about having sex with people whom they knew and could see, let alone with people whom they did not know and could not see!) But gloryholes—to the dismay of many people—are making a comeback in the 21st century, and the modern gentleman who intends to use a gloryhole must be mindful of the health risks as well as of the etiquette associated therewith.

Whenever there is a possibility for body fluids to be exchanged, condoms should be used. No true gentleman would offer his unprotected penis through a gloryhole. And when a gentleman is presented with an unprotected penis, he should, without saying a word, gently tap the presented penis with his fingers, immediately thereafter offering an appropriately sized, individually wrapped condom to his counterpart through the gloryhole. (Yes, a gloryhole enthusiast should always equip himself with condoms of various sizes–just in case). If the condom is refused, the gentleman should decline the offer for sex (oral sex included), moving on to another gloryhole in the hopes of finding a health-conscious partner, or, if none can be found, walking away in all his glory to perhaps return on another occasion to find a suitable partner. Some men regard condoms with fellatio to be counterintuitive–like sucking a latex dildo. But considering the high-risk, Russian roulette nature of unprotected gloryhole sex, a fruit-flavored (un-lubricated) condom might not be that unappetizing after all. Also, fellators should be mindful that the penis is a delicate instrument that must be played-with gently.

A gentleman interested in being penetrated at a gloryhole is expected to provide his preferred lubricant. And as with all acts of intimacy—even at anonymous gloryholes—hygiene before and after engagement is highly recommended.

Rarely are gloryhole areas kept clean. But they should be! Conscientious establishments provide industrial-grade paper towels and sanitizing spray-cleaners so that gloryhole users can wipe clean the partitions, the perimeters of the holes, and the floor areas—before and after use.