How about we skip the small talk?
Your responses are anonymous and not associated with your Grindr account
Choose as many as you like
Choose as many as you like
Finding others who fit your search, hang tight...
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form

Gay Sex Ed: Glory Hole Etiquette & History

Class is back in session and it’s time we discussed some holes in your education.
Bobby Box
&
Sex Columnist
July 18, 2021
June 22, 2024
9
min. read
Gay Sex Ed: Glory Holes
Table of Contents

Art by Zach Brunner

Among glass blowers, a glory hole is a high-powered furnace that burns at over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. Its purpose is to reshape or polish unfinished glass. Among most of society, however, glory holes are recognized as fist-sized holes that folks (gay, curious, or otherwise) shove their cocks through to fuck or get sucked.

While largely considered an artifact of queer culture, glory holes have recently re-entered the zeitgeist when both New York City health officials and the BC Center for Disease Control suggested glory holes were a safer way to have sex during the pandemic since they prevent face-to-face contact.

Given its cultural renaissance, now seems as good a time as any for a modern education on glory holes. From its political past and relevance today, to proper etiquette and tips for making one in your own home, let’s pay homage to the iconic hole that’s served more men than the hungriest of power bottoms.

Bedsheets: The modern glory hole

Glory holes can still be found in most gay-friendly neighborhoods across the world, though I was surprised to find out how few people actually use them. I recently shared a poll on Instagram and found that only 15 percent of the 300 people who voted have used a glory hole in the last two years. This is especially surprising since my audience is mostly queer and sex-positive.

The majority of those who voted yes mentioned that the glory holes they used were made from bedsheets hung in people’s apartments. The remaining percentage used them in adult video stores during various stages of re-opening.

“One time I stopped by the bookstore around 2 a.m. not expecting much action,” Louie, 30, says of a recent and exhilarating experience. “I was waiting in a booth when a guy came into the adjacent one, so I looked through the hole and made eye contact. He put his cock through the hole and I started doing my thing.”

Art by Zach Brunner
Art by Zach Brunner

During this particular visit, Louie forgot to lock his door, and while he was busy servicing one patron, another entered his stall. “I ended up sucking them both together and rubbing their cock heads against each other,” he describes. “Eventually they both came and I swallowed their massive loads. It was one of the hottest times I've had at that bookstore and I hope it happens again.”

Prompted by glory hole porn, Olly, 23, installed one in his home a few months prior to the pandemic using a bed sheet and command strips. “I really enjoy servicing at a glory hole because I find my attraction (or repulsion) in men no longer matters,” he explains. “At a glory hole, I can concentrate on two things: milking a dude for all he’s worth and blowing my load.”

Olly appreciates that, with glory holes, he doesn’t have to worry about his appearance and whatever else might distract him from enjoying the experience. He’s also drawn to its no-frills nature. “Seeing a guy unzip and slide his semi-hard tool through the glory hole makes me salivate,” he says. “I love knowing that the person on the other side is only there for my throat.”

Building on this testimony, a study published in the Journal of Homosexuality in 2001 found that the anonymity of glory holes help men overcome insecurities, whereas others were just exhibitionists who liked showing off for other men.

While no longer a necessity to skirt legal prosecution (remember: being gay was a crime), people still use glory holes because the anonymity of the act is, and will always be, hot as all hell.  

A glory hole etiquette lesson

If you’re using a glory hole in a public bathroom, etiquette is especially important since you don’t want to expose yourself to somebody who is using the stall for its intended purpose. That’s why it’s important you “signal” first.

Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Spaces (which was originally published in 1970) says visitors should signal interest in one of three ways: (1) by peaking through the hole, (2) by wiggling their fingers through the hole, and (3) by sticking their tongue through the hole.

Art by Zach Brunner
Art by Zach Brunner

If you’re not interested in servicing the individual, the universal signal is to block the hole using your elbow or palm, or simply don’t interact.

It’s rarely a good idea to verbally proposition your neighbor, since someone could overhear, but these rules can be relaxed in a sexual environment like an erotic book or video store.

Some men have no qualms (and actually prefer) seeing the person they’re engaging with. In this instance, protocol is to enter the stall at the farthest end of the bathroom, close the door and, when someone enters the neighboring stall, tap your foot (which is also a popular signal for understall sex). If your neighbor recognizes the signal, they will join you in (or under) your stall.

If you want to switch from mouth-hole to asshole, the initial decision is often made by the bottom, who might present their ass at the glory hole, which their neighbor can oblige or refuse. Whatever you do, don’t force or coerce anyone into doing something they’re not interested in. As Glen, 38, expresses: “If a guy pulls back when I offer my ass, I honor that and resume sucking.”

Of course, if you plan to engage in any anal or oral activity, it’s your responsibility to bring condoms, lube, and whatever other pleasure products you may require.

Forums and websites like Grindr, Squirt, Reddit, Hole Hunter, etc. feature exhaustive descriptions on glory holes, including: the location, the best time to visit, the type of men they typically attract, and general rules for safety and discretion.

{{video-inline-cta}}

How to make a homemade glory hole

If you’re not comfortable frequenting a public glory hole or you just can’t find one, the experience can easily be recreated at home.

Forums tend to agree that bedsheets in a doorway is the easiest way to create a glory hole. If you don’t want to damage your linens by cutting a hole, hang two sheets adjacent to one another and use the opening between them as the access point. You can use clothespins to keep the sheets together in key areas and duct tape to secure them to the doorway.

Cardboard is another popular option since it’s easily obtained and can be folded up when it’s not in use. Plywood works as well, though you’d need power tools to make the hole and a larger space or garage to store it. If you’re using a stiffer material, use duct tape to create a smooth rim around the hole and cushion the sharp edges since you don’t want to get castrated, presumably.

In my opinion, the best, most cost-efficient way to create a glory hole is using a curtain and tension rod. Here’s how:

  1. Purchase a tension rod and a curtain that has holes or tabs at the top.
  2. Hang the curtain in the doorway using the tension rod and mark where your penis would meet the curtain. (With a tension rod, you adjust how high or low the hole is by placing the tension rod higher or lower in the doorway, making it accessible to people of different heights).
  3. Trace a hole around the previously marked area using a wide cup or glass and cut. The hole should be about the size of a fist.
  4. Hang the curtain, find a cock you want to suck and have some fun!

A little glory hole history

In 1707, glory holes as gay slang made its first recorded debut in the court document case: “Tryals of Thomas Vaughan and Thomas Davis.” As it’s written in the original text: “a Boy in the adjoining vault put his Privy-member through a Hole.”

The case ultimately exposes a notorious blackmail ring in 18th century England, but also gives us a general timeline of the glory hole’s origin, though they weren’t recognized as “glory holes” until 1949, in the anonymously published pamphlet: Swasarnt Nerf’s Gay Girl’s Guide.

Queer author and playwright Felice Picano, who updated the third edition of the renowned gay guide The Joy of Gay Sex, tells Grindr that the term “glory hole” is derived from the plumbing and oil drilling industries.

An article published by Slate says the term described “large cavernous openings” (insert joke here). Picano suspects the correlation began as a joke that caught on as coded language among gay and closeted  men.

As bathroom stalls became more common in society, glory holes did as well, reaching their apex during the sexual revolution of the 1970s. Since homosexuality was criminal and the advent of the internet was still decades away, location details were primarily spread by word of mouth and other crafty means.

“In NYC, for example, there was a system of men's rooms all over the subway line system,” Picano says. “Friends had maps of the entire system, along with notations like times of day they were most active.

Restrooms were ideal for anonymous sex because they were divided by gender and offered anonymity as no physical features could be identified. It was one of the few spaces queer and questioning men could explore their authentic desires without fear of being caught by the law.

Eventually, the gradual decriminalization of homosexuality, the onset of the HIV/AIDS crisis as well as the introduction of harder, impenetrable stall walls, collectively prompted the decline of glory holes, and by the late 90s, they were comparatively scarce. Most existed in bathhouses and gay bars, where their usage was (and is) still quite popular.

No gays allowed

Glory holes would eventually find their home in adult cinema and book stores since bathhouses were subject to regular and well-documented raids, while strip clubs, which offered similar services for straight men, were able to operate without interference.

These new spaces became the birthplace of “buddy booths,” which were similar to glory holes, except you could see the other person if you chose to. When a button was pressed on either side of the closet-sized booth, a curtain blocking the view of your neighbour would lift. If both buttons were pressed by neighbouring patrons, both curtains would lift and they’d be able to watch each other through a clear partition. Some booths were modified with glory holes so individuals could see and touch each other.

Art by Zach Brunner
Art by Zach Brunner

However, the regulars in these stores were straight men, and they weren’t fond of gay people frequenting their spaces, so they decided to make buddy booths and glory holes their culture.

Notably, a line of adult magazines, videos and DVDs titled GLORYHOLE put a decidedly heterosexual spin on the queer tradition, depicting women servicing large, disembodied cocks through glory holes and buddy booths.

With supposed press kits advertising that glory holes are “not just for fags anymore,” queer folks felt less safe in these spaces and many abandoned the tradition they helped create.

Despite these efforts, glory holes have and always will be remembered as a queer invention of necessity at a time that our existence was considered an abomination. Albeit a simple concept, glory holes have and will always be a symbol of sexual revolution among the queer community. A physical barrier that managed to bring people closer together.

Share this article

Find & Meet Yours

Get 0 feet away from the queer world around you.
Thank you! Your phone number has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
We’ll text you a link to download the app for free.
Table of Contents
Share this article
“A great way to meet up and make new friends.”
- Google Play Store review
Thank you! Your phone number has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
We’ll text you a link to download the app for free.
“A great way to meet up and make new friends.”
- Google Play Store review
Discover, navigate, and get zero feet away from the queer world around you.
Already have an account? Login

Browse bigger, chat faster.

Find friends, dates, hookups, and more

Featured articles

Related articles

Find & Meet Yours

4.6 · 259.4k Raiting