That’ll get the search engines going. Since Jemima wrote about public sex, in the aftermath of #Slanegirl, and in the best traditions of dogging, I thought I’d join in.
Anyway, dogging. For those who have been in a nunnery for the last fifteen years, dogging involves men going out at night to see if they can observe, or even join in with, couples having sex in public places like car parks, usually in or around their car. Its name comes from the idea that married men would tell their wife they were walking the dog when in fact they were having a stroll along the local lovers lane to see what they could see. So it has quite a relationship with voyeurism, and also a relationship with cruising, since many of the men involved in dogging won’t say no to a helping hand (or mouth) from the voyeur next to them.
It’s become a classic topic on internet chat forums frequented by swingers. Someone, usually a single male, will come along and ask if anyone knows of any good dogging sites in <insert location here>. At that point someone else, who describes themself as an experienced dogger, will charge in and tell the poor fool that they must be a fool because only fools ask others to publish dogging locations on the internet. That, apparently, is why dogging is ‘dying’ as a hobby, or a lifestyle, or whatever else people choose to call it this week.
It’s true there has been a police reaction to dogging, as well as an unwillingness on the part of the police to distinguish between dogging and other behaviours that might be going on in the same locations. To doggers, dogging and cruising are entirely different behaviours; to the police, and the outraged Daily Mail readers, they’re the same thing. Some dogging locations, too, have other crime issues. If they’re out of the way, they’ll often suffer from fly-tipping. If they’re near a major town or city they’ll often be popular with boy racers or young people looking for the next big thing to happen. Add in that some of the people you find hanging round in late night car parks might have some illegal drugs on them, and you can see an unimaginative plod putting two and two together and making six.
So there have been actions taken to cut down on dogging. Sites get locked at night. Actually, they might get locked to stop fly tipping, or travellers taking up residence, or a hundred other things, but of course, it’s always about the doggers. And it’s always that somebody has ruined it for them. One of my favourite dogging sites was blocked off with earthworks and rocks to force day trippers to use the expensive council car park two miles up the road – there was still enough space for a photo session recently, just not for dogging in the old style. The physical changes though were nothing to do with dogging, just council revenues.
Want an example of how doggers don’t always help themselves? There used to be dogging regularly at St Mary’s Lighthouse, in Whitley Bay. These days police are all over the place like a rash, but once upon a time it wasn’t uncommon for some people to turn up and have sex, and for lots of men to turn up and sit around and hope to see someone have sex. Incidentally, I’m told that dogging at St Marys post dated the former use of the coastal path between St Marys and Seaton Sluice for late night ultra risky cruising.
So what’s the problem?
Now, I had the good fortune to be around dogging before it was dogging, in a sense. Men have been hanging round locations where they might get a glimpse of sex probably for as long as there has been sex. Dogging became a phenomenon in the late twentieth, early twenty first century because of the way the press used it as a tool to arouse and outrage their readers in a peculiarly English paroxysm of hypocrisy.
That article from the local paper about St Marys is a perfect example. No evidence that anyone has complained about dogging at St Marys, just evidence that a journalist has been trawling swingers websites for something to be outraged about.
However, St Marys is a singularly daft place to go dogging. The car park is also the access road to the lighthouse, across a causeway, and there’s also a private house on the island. So in effect, dogging in the car park at St Marys is like having a shag on a strangers front drive. You can understand if they’re offended. The car park in this news story is along the coast from St Marys; you can bet lots of people looking for dogging at St Marys will have been there as well. It’s also nearly as daft as St Marys; you can see from the car park straight across to people’s houses, just across the road.
The problem is that once dogging became well known, everyone wanted to join in. Never mind the reality, the shortage of sensible places to go, the shortage of women who wanted to, the inevitable problems around whether she really fancies all the men…
Dogging was doomed to be insustainable from the very start. If everybody had sex in car parks late at night there’d be nothing perverse, or wicked, or rare about it. Like many other minority tastes, from Northern Soul to trainspotting, it attracts enthusiasts keen to argue that they are the keepers of the sacred flame, defenders of traditions and sacred practices that only exist in their heads, or which only reflect what they think the sacred practice is. The last thing they want isfor it tobe genuinely popular.
Do I still go dogging?
I have been known to park my car by the side of the road, encourage a good looking woman to pose for photos and engage in sexual activity, yes. I tend to avoid ‘dogging’ sites though. Not just because I don’t want to have a producer for the company car, or one of those letters the police send occasionally to the registered keepers of cars seen at ‘crime prone locations’, (Although they’re getting better on this one, allegedly). In some ways, the better known dogging sites have become a bit like having sex in the back of a car inside a swingers club; they’re artificial, and almost staged. That will make some people smile, and aroused, and turned on, but for me the thrill of dogging is that it can be something more than a slightly uncomfortable greedy girls scene. Once dogging becomes just a way for single men to get a quick wank, well, if that’s what you want to facilitate, there are easier ways of doing it. So whatever I do, I don’t call it dogging. And if you should wander past, while we’re on one of our adventures, you just might get lucky. But not if you place an advert on a swingers website asking where to go dogging.