In the late 90s and early 00s, whilst studying at the University of Massachusetts Amerherst Campus, he discovered a fun past-time to while away the hours between classes! We discuss the art of cruising, angry Pennsylvanians, and good ol’ fashioned gloryholes.
Conner Habib 00:00
It’s not as much about your preferences. Right. It’s more about meeting somebody who has also divested some of their preferences to choose sex and desire itself.
K Anderson 00:19
Hello, I am K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces, a podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories they created there and the people that they used to know. And this week, we are going to do something a little bit different. Rather than visit our last bar or club, we are going to get down on our knees and reminisce about a lost cruising space. My guest this week is Connor Habib, author, lecturer and sex workers rights advocate in the late 90s, and the early noughties, he was studying at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus, where he discovered a fun pastime to wile away the time between classes.
Conner Habib 01:33
Amherst was like very politically left of where I grew up. And where I went to school first for two years. So you know, even though people don’t think of Amherst is like, you know, San Francisco or New York or LA or whatever it still, the conversations that people were having were on a regular basis were very different, you know, the kinds of restaurants that were there, and, you know, the what was in the bookstores and all that kind of stuff, was a completely different place. So that was, you know, very exciting for me,
K Anderson 02:07
and how big a town is it?
Conner Habib 02:09
I mean, it’s really small, but the but, you know, you must have, like 30,000 students, and then there’s Hampshire College, Smith College, Amherst College and Mount Holyoke. And so that, you know, it’s just five colleges in this one area, and so just tonnes of kids and professors and, you know, so there’s a lot of sort of cultural events and stuff, too.
K Anderson 02:35
And that’s, like, yeah, there’s professors with leather patches on their tweed jackets, with scarves, I’m assuming.
Conner Habib 02:41
Yeah, and Hampshire is like, you know, I mean, all those were liberal arts schools, except for UMass, which is a state school and, you know, you must have like, a, basically a Marxist major, you know, so it was like, it was pretty, you know, cultural shock for me. And like, how
K Anderson 02:59
So, like, how did that make you feel?
Conner Habib 03:02
Oh, well, I mean, great. You know, it’s like, I even though, you still had to sort of search and find the people that you were, you had a lot in common with, you still didn’t have to search as hard or feel quite as isolated as you would in Pennsylvania where I grew up or where I went to school for my first two years of college, you know, so yeah,
K Anderson 03:27
it’s just different baseline isn’t there? There’s that? Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And so lots of students, but it was the 90s. So no, Grindr No, scruff, no anything else. How did you meet people?
Conner Habib 03:43
Yeah. 1999 was the room over there? Yeah, I mean, at first, there was even How did I meet gay people?
K Anderson 03:53
Yeah, well, yeah.
Conner Habib 03:54
Yeah. I mean, so first, there was like the vegetarian food Hall. And that brought in all the kinds of, you know, lefty, vegetarian, vegan, punk rock kids. And so I would go there. And, you know, just check out people there. I mean, not that they’re not that that was where they are right next to that there was a, there was a dorm called Mary Lyon. And that had a, that had like a gay, I think, maybe two or three gay floors on it, or, you know, you wouldn’t say LGBT at the time, really, but, you know, you would say gay and lesbian floors. And that was right, by the vegetarian food, as well. So, you know, a lot of people from that would go there. And then, you know, that was basically it. You know, initially, I also think maybe, you know, I mean, obviously, AOL like America Online and America, you know, aim instant messenger were around and so you could use those to me People but it was hard to find people in the area and I think right around then gay.com it was probably maybe not that first year, but definitely like the second or third year I live there. Gate comm was around so you could use that and, and netmeeting I don’t know if you remember that. But basically, it was basically like a cam site where you would meet people with your cameras on very early and it got pretty quickly, you know, and of course, the images were so good,
K Anderson 05:34
I’ll say just like this pixelated person taking Oh, totally. Amazing. So
Conner Habib 05:42
yeah, that that was how I think and I mean, probably Craigslist was around them too, but I don’t remember, but those would be the ways and there was also a bar called the Grotto, which later closed and then there was a bar called divas. But the Grotto you know, you couldn’t, I guess I was 21. Like, right after I moved there. Yeah, because I’d waited a year after high school to go to college. Then I was in college for two years. And then I moved to Amherst. So I think I could probably go to the Grotto shortly after I moved. And so you could meet people there too. But the Grotto was in Northampton, so it was a little bit of a pain in the ass to get there. And you wouldn’t want to go to the gay bar by yourself when you’re 21. You know, so yeah, that was I didn’t go there that much. But that was another way to meet people for sure.
K Anderson 06:30
Yeah. And so what? What was the 21 year old version of you? Like?
Conner Habib 06:39
A total asshole. I was not. I was not very the, you know, like, I was a jerk. I was angry. I mean, lots of I was like a college kid, you know, like, lots of college kids now, who are on, you know, social media, talking about social justice and all that kind of stuff. That was me, but it was 1999 2000 2001. You know, and
K Anderson 07:05
Conner Habib 07:07
Yeah, like, right. I didn’t, I didn’t have social media, obviously. But I was very, like, in, you know, I had a lot of passion and anger and frustration around what was happening in the world. And, you know, that made me really angry all the time. And I think, you know, like, right around my last year of school, my mom died. And that made me a lot nicer. Moving to Amherst, maybe nicer because Pennsylvania is just an angry state to begin with. Like, there’s a T shirt that says, I’m not angry. I’m from Philly, Philadelphia, you know, and so like, people, it’s very hard for people who live in Pennsylvania understand Pennsylvania, and we’re, like, pissed off all the time very direct. And we have like, a kind of, there’s a kind of aggressiveness to the state. But um, Oh, right, sir. I
K Anderson 08:01
mean, I wasn’t aware of this. Is there? Is there like, Is there some kind of backstory? Or is it just the kind of accepted norm?
Conner Habib 08:07
I think it’s just, it’s a blend of, you know, Pennsylvania is not the south, and it’s not New York. So like, there’s the kind of anger that New York used to hold doesn’t hold up quite as much anymore, but used to hold and there’s also the kind of like, passive aggressive stuff from the south, and it all kind of blends together in Pennsylvania. I mean, that will be my best sort of guests. But there’s also a lot of German people in Pennsylvania. You know, the reputation of the direct people, you know, and so I think, yeah,
K Anderson 08:35
but direct is different, depict stuff, right?
Conner Habib 08:37
No, no, I know. But I’m saying it’s like a combination of the mannerisms and being direct as a communicator, and all that kind of stuff. And so moving to Amherst, everybody was a lot nicer. I mean, there was still a lot of like, impassioned arguments and frustration with the world and all that kind of stuff. But it did mellow me out a bit to move there. You know, I became a nicer person, just by virtue of moving and then my mom died that just kind of knocked me on my ass. And I was like, What the fuck am I doing? You know, with my life? Why am I Why would I be mean to anybody? And so, you know, it’s interesting, like, when I see people now, getting lambasted on social media or whatever for being jerks, I’m just like, everybody’s a jerk when they’re, like, What? How could anybody be held accountable for being, you know, a jerk? I mean, you know, obviously, you know, when people do truly horrible things, that’s one other. That’s another thing altogether, but, you know,
K Anderson 09:30
yeah, just being like a cocky upstart.
Conner Habib 09:33
Yeah, exactly. That’s what I mean, that’s part of what college is for is to help you find the contours of your own individuality and your own. You know, the things that you really care about, and that mean a lot to you and to hold them with a kind of emotional intensity, you know, huh.
K Anderson 09:52
Yeah, yeah. But that’s what you’ve learned along the way as well as how not to alienate people when trying to bring them on your journey.
Conner Habib 09:59
Total Totally, and, you know, and also like when you’re, you know, so I grew up in a small town in a conservative state and so and, you know, being gay and being, you know, and having a dad from Syria and being smart, you know, like, all those things, were very alienating, where I grew up very isolating. So I grew up, you know, with a sense of intense isolation, which it really makes you angry. Because when people don’t get you, you know, like, you feel isolated. And that makes you an angry person. And so when I moved to Amherst, I felt a little less isolated, because it was, you know, there was still stigma around all those things, but not as much. And you could find more spaces where there was not stigma, and you could find conversations where, you know, and you could find other Arab people, you could find other gay people, not a lot. But you could still and you could, there were a lot, I think, you know, a Northampton, which is right across the bridge from amorous was and may still be the highest concentration of lesbians in the States. So even though there weren’t as many gay men, there was still a welcome then to you. Different people, you know,
K Anderson 11:16
yeah. And, and then, so where were you at in terms of your queerness? At 21?
Conner Habib 11:24
Yeah, um, I just, you know, I should say, I don’t really use the word queer. I mean, I feel like it’s become so commodified at this point, that it’s almost worthless, but I think that, you know, then I probably did identify as queer because, you know, historically, politically queer was a term that was, you know, at least gone through some iterations where what it was meant to oppose was, you know, a kind of conservative, Neo liberal, gay, you know, we’re just everybody else, we just happen to be gay, like, kind of thing. So your sexuality was, you know, not straight. And, and, you know, gone through the kind of AI of being gay and then super politicised. So I would probably have said, queer then. And I think that, whereas now I feel like it’s been really turned into a kind of consumer, materialistic, capitalist commodified term in a way that’s really frustrating. Unfortunately, that disregards its history. But I but I think, you know, I mean, that’s not to say it’s not worthwhile, I mean, people that need to use that term to understand themselves or, or, or that it helps give them a sense of understanding, that’s awesome. And I and I hope people, you know, flourish within that term for themselves. But I also think we need to be wary of how it’s being applied. Now, in a lot of ways, but then,
K Anderson 12:52
but but so let’s just stay on this, because I think it’s really interesting that do not feel that the same type of thing has happened with the word gay in like, you know, 20 years ago.
Conner Habib 13:03
Of course, yeah, it has, I mean, none of it. It’s also not a useful term. But, um, but now, it’s almost like, in a weird way, like saying gay is almost like a reclamation of queerness in its own bizarre way. Because it least re centres on sex and desire rather than a kind of. I don’t know. I mean, I realise some people will be listening to this and object to what I’m saying. But I just want to say like, I understand that gay has come to represent a kind of white cisgender privileged like homogenised, a thing where those who forgot hairless, hairless. But But what I would say is, as that happened to gay that’s also occurring and happening with queer right now that queer is becoming an aesthetic, rather than something that’s tied into history in in a deeply radical and political way. So you can have people that are for, you know, you know, people, people that are pro military, Pro, police, Pro, marriage, Pro, whatever, claiming to be queer, and those are not queer agenda items. As far as I’m concerned, you are queer, because you would resist the imperialistic, capitalist commodification of gay. But if you don’t apply that same thing to queer, then you’re in trouble. So I think, um, you know, I, you know, so there are plenty of people that say they’re queer, that have no class consciousness that have no critique of colonialism that have no critique of gay marriage that have no critique of, you know, you know, the those they’ll say, they’re queer, but then they’ll be you know, like anti so sex work or even anti sex, expression of sexuality, especially, you know anti libidinal economy. And so I think that this kind of that kind of positioning is is troublesome. So you’re right, that that happened with gay. So when I say it’s a kind of Reclamation when you say you’re gay, I mean, like, first of all, I don’t even really say I’m gay except a shorthand, I try to say I’m attracted to men, which has its own baggage as well, especially now as we understand the different values and meanings of the word men. But I, at least that’s, at least that has some truth to it, you know, like, at least at least that’s an emotion, at least that’s like something, you know, that’s an adjective, rather than a fixed or ossified like identity. So that’s, I think, a little more accurate, you know. And it also doesn’t exclude any other options for me, like, if tomorrow I’m attracted to women of any sort, you know, I might, I would be able to say that without having to get rid of saying I’m attracted to men, you know, or without having to label myself something that has all kinds of political problems historically, or whatever, if they,
K Anderson 16:20
yeah, yeah, absolutely. But I guess it also depends on whether you think that once you’ve labelled yourself one thing, you’re not able to take away that label will move will have some fluidity and flexibility?
Conner Habib 16:34
Well, yeah, I mean, the label is to communicate to others. Yeah. So it’s not, it’s not that I wouldn’t. It’s not even just to communicate to others, it’s communicate to yourself, but it’s to stand in relation to, to certain kinds of conversations to certain kinds of people. And the problem with having the label is not that you can’t just change it the next day, you could, but then it requires an, like, a massive undoing. When you’re then communicating with more people about the labels that you use before. Yeah. And I think so what I think is these these, you know, these terms, they’re really useful for understanding they’re really useful for kinds of communication, they’re useful shorthand. They’re useful as a kind of exploration and discovery of self. And when, but there is a way in which they contribute to a fixed sense of self that lends itself to consumerism, like, I gather these labels, I turn them into objects in my life that become displayed. I be no, I attained something. I algorithms.
K Anderson 17:46
It could be all sorts of things,
Conner Habib 17:49
you know, and so that’s, I, I don’t have a perfect way of dealing with that. But I tried to contend with it somehow,
K Anderson 17:56
you know, yeah. Okay. So that was, like a little bit of a detour. Back to my question. So you’re like, yeah, where were you on? Like, you’re coming out? Or you’re kind of understanding your attraction to men? Yeah, what’s the right term?
Conner Habib 18:14
I was I was, uh, yeah. Well, like I said, I would have said, queer that time and understood myself, as, you know, I mean, certain in my life, like, trans men certainly weren’t in the picture, you know, at that, at that point of time in like, 1999 2000. Not because there weren’t any, but just that I hadn’t entered my conception of the world. Exactly, you know, or if it had, I wouldn’t have understood it properly. But, um, so I was attracted to a certain idea of what men were at the time. And I I definitely was very vocal about it. And, and also, and also kind of, kind of afraid. I was still getting rid of some of my sexual shame, but I understood it, it seemed better than a lot of people around me. I understood the potential of cruising and why that was important and why sex was important in the public conversation, you know, and so, you know, so I was, I was pretty, I would say, I was pretty out, but I’m still struggling with my own shit. I mean, I still am, you know?
K Anderson 19:32
Yeah. Well, yeah. I mean, when you’re talking about own learning, there’s all of that unlearning of Yeah. What you internalise as a child about? Yeah, non heterosexuals. So I want to just explore something that you said before. You You said you were very vocal about the type of men that you were attracted to.
Conner Habib 19:53
Another type of men that I was trying to do, but I was vocal about, I was vocal about sex and sexuality like I would I would talk about it. You know,
K Anderson 20:00
I’m like, No, with a megaphone going down the Main Street.
Conner Habib 20:05
Oh, no, I wasn’t, I wasn’t like a carnival barker. But, um, you know, I mean, I definitely thought that sex and sexual attraction deserve to be part of conversation and not quarantined off in or severed from the rest of life. And, you know, at that time, they probably gave me a bit more like, of the kind of shocking the bourgeoisie kind of feeling of, well, I’ll be the one that talks about fucking, you know. Because, you know, the people people had a certain way of talking about it back then. That’s, that’s different than now I would actually say things are much worse, sexually now than they were then. But people had a different way of talking about it then that, like, it became a jolt, you know, to hear someone talk about talking back then, openly, especially if you were, you know, a dude attracted to dudes, you know.
K Anderson 21:14
So you’re just so you’re just talking generally, then just generally society? were marked. I know.
Conner Habib 21:22
Yeah, yeah. I wouldn’t say they were more uptight. I would just say it was different. It was in a different way. You know, like I said, I think things are worse now than they were then. But
K Anderson 21:31
yeah. Can you expand on that?
Conner Habib 21:34
Yeah, I mean, I think that there’s this kind of veiled sexual conservatism that’s permeated the left in a way that you would not have expected that, that it’s that it’s moved around, and that it’s become more difficult in a lot of ways to understand the promise of sexual liberation now, as someone who’s, you know, interested in leftist, anti capitalist, you know, whatever, other anti blah, blah, blah, arguments, and that a lot of it’s been overtaken by a kind of, unfortunately, class reductionist Marxism or, or a kind of fearful liberal feminism, which really mirrors second wave feminism and a lot of ways. And so I think there are some issues there, even though we see much more availability of sexual imagery, I think a lot of the attitudes towards sex, combined with politics have gotten worse.
K Anderson 22:53
Okay. And, and that differs from at that time,
Conner Habib 23:00
I think people understood, you know, it’s like, so I can compare it to Ireland, where I live now, to some extent, Ireland’s actually better I think about sexual liberate this might surprise people, but it’s better about sexual liberation than the US. And what I mean by that is, Ireland, because it’s coming out of, or maybe it’s not coming out, it’s engaging with fighting against theocratic, shitty religious fundamentalist apparatus. People are very deeply aware of how precarious a sexual situation is at any moment. Right. Whereas I think that in the 90s, in the late 90s, and certainly in the mid and early 90s, people understood that religious fundamentalism could find a foothold in any space that it wanted, like a kind of religious fundamentalist thinking could find a foothold in progressive politics, it could find a foothold in censorship, just outright religious bigotry, it could find a foothold in the conformism of certain economic systems. And so when people were fighting against those things, they understood that sexual liberation was itself important to leftist struggles. But I think that’s been masked and lost in certain ways. Whereas here, although the struggle for sexual liberation is really just in its infancy, you know, people are very attuned to the importance of it and the need for it to fight against certain enemies. And I think that that’s lost in a lot of other places. A lot of leftist discourse. Now, okay.
K Anderson 24:40
Okay. And, yeah, I think I get where you’re getting where you’re coming from. And so, shall we talk about Student Union Building. So it’s kind of it’s in lots of these conversations. I’m having people go Like, oh yeah, at that time, we didn’t have the internet and we didn’t have phones. And we didn’t have this. And we didn’t have this and it kind of like, I was there, but it kind of blows my mind. And so now, if I was like, Oh, I want to find a cruising place, I could go online. But then you couldn’t. So how did you find out about the Student Union Building?
Conner Habib 25:24
I mean, I didn’t really find out about it. I just went to the Student Union Building. And then in the bathrooms, there was a hole cut between the stalls and you knew you knew there was a hole cut in the stone wall. So you knew or there was writing, you know, so on the wall, so you knew what was going on there? Yeah, it wasn’t. It wasn’t. If you’re, if you were straight, he might not have noticed. Or you might have noticed and been like, haha, that’s stupid and weird and not thought of it again. But if you are gay, you know, it tied into
K Anderson 25:58
alarm bells ringing Yeah, yeah. Is that but so? Okay, so that’s just just, you know, let’s just assume some of our listeners don’t know what that hole is. And can you can you explain to me what Yeah, yeah. When when there’s a hole between bathrooms, those what that means? Yeah. Imagine the most amazing thing. Yeah,
Conner Habib 26:22
I mean, it’s so basically, it’s just, it’s a glory hole, you stick your dick through it. Sometimes your balls too. And then somebody on the other side sex your dick or maybe you end up fucking them. And that’s it. You very often don’t ever see the other person. You don’t know what they look like. If you are sticking your dick through, and if you are the one sucking or getting fucked, you just know what their dick and balls look like. And that’s basically it. Yeah. And so you can put your butt up to it too, just to just to, you know, or if you have if you’re in the men’s bathroom now and you have a con you can put that up to it as well.
K Anderson 27:04
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Just imagine any whole RFS type thing on your body. And I’m actually just looking at, like, the origin of the word right now. But can you see like, do you actually knew what that was at? 21?
Conner Habib 27:21
Oh, yeah, totally. At that point. I mean, I had been in cruisy bathrooms before at that point, but I don’t think I’d ever been to one that was easy to go back to.
K Anderson 27:34
And that, like, because of where you lived and stuff. Exactly, yeah,
Conner Habib 27:38
I was on campus every day, you know? Or, and that was accessible. That was populated, you know, a lot. You know. So that’s not entirely true. There was one at my old school, there was a cruisey bathroom there, but there was no glory hole. So the glory hole was the new in a, you know, technological innovation. Is the Student Union. magical
K Anderson 28:04
world. Yeah. beside their religious idea. Okay, sorry, I’m, I am picking up the origin of the word. And I might get distracted while some asking questions. So then explain to me what you do. What explained to me when you say what’s my question? My question is, like, what, yeah, what is the what’s the ceremony?
Conner Habib 28:29
ritual, um, you know, like, some, it changed from time to time, you know, because you wouldn’t always know that the other person on the side of the, the other side of the wall wanted to have sex. So you would wait for some kind of signal, you know, they would tap their foot, or they would just be in there for a long time. And so would you, you know, and you’d kind of get the hint. Or they would, you know, you’d see them kind of leaning over to look through or in. If they’re a little more blatant, they would put their finger through the hole that that required, you know, kind of courage that the other person wasn’t just in there using the bathroom. Sometimes, if it was a straight person next to you, they would just stick toilet paper in the hole to you know, block it up.
K Anderson 29:17
And which is their their way of saying? Definitely no,
Conner Habib 29:20
yeah. Oh, yeah. It’s just like, I mean, you know, it’s like closing the door, like, he didn’t want people to see, you know, you’re in there. Um, but usually, you know, the thing that would cue you in was that it was the person was in there for a long time. And so were you. I think that, you know, that’s not how it is at every sort of gloryhole place, but that was how you would kind of know, and it was it and so there were 1234 stalls. So there were the three stalls lined up and then there was the stall for people with disabilities at the end, you know, and that was bigger. So there was the, the first stall and the second stall had like a little kind of people where you could like look in. And then the third, and the second and third one had a big glory hole. And then the third and the, the stall and the end, and that was for people with disabilities would have another kind of like people in it. So, you know, it was the third and the fourth one, you know, like, you would go on those, but always the other ones were filled with people, too, that were looking in, some of the guys would go sort of under the stall, you know, sometimes in the other ones. But that was a little riskier, because you didn’t want people to sort of walk in and see you there. But if you were just in the one with the glory hole, nobody could see you, you know, it was essentially a private space in a public space to have sex, you know, so imagine, you know, you’re in a, you’re in a building that has a room for, you know, a bedroom, but the rest of the room, the rest of the building is private, it ended up sort of being like that, where you would have this private enclosed space, and nobody would even really know what you were doing, they might look if they want to look under the stall and see that you’re you were standing the wrong way that your feet were the wrong way they could do that, I suppose. But even then nothing’s really being revealed to them. So you have this kind of private, sexual experience that’s blocked off from the, you know, public eye, and some people could look in on you from those peoples, but then they’d have to want to look in on you, you know,
K Anderson 31:28
yeah, so they become part of the Act. Exactly. And so, like, how long was the longest time that you waited there?
Conner Habib 31:41
Gosh, I don’t know why, but that’s a great question. I like how dedicated was I? Um,
K Anderson 31:46
well, yeah. Cuz like, you know, sometimes when you’re like, in the zone, and you have you’re on a mission, you know, what you want? That’s the place to get it. How dedicated were you basically, is what I’m asking?
Conner Habib 32:00
Oh, I mean, you know, it’s, that’s a complicated question, because usually, I would go there between classes. So I only had a limited Okay,
K Anderson 32:10
so how many classes Did you skip?
Conner Habib 32:13
No, I never class to go there. Because I knew I could go there before and, or after, you know, and that I could go again, some other day or whatever. And, you know, um, I think that I think that I would go Yeah, I don’t I don’t know how long. I mean. I could wait a long time, you know, but I always had a class to go to was always in the interim, you know. So that was there was always a sort of limited window of time. I don’t remember exactly how long. But one of the other things was, you could, there was a bathroom upstairs that sometimes you would, if you some people would cruise the urinals where you just kind of like, look over and you’d see something’s going on. And then you go upstairs because upstairs bathroom was very small, but it had two doors to entry. So you could hear someone coming in before they went through the second door, and then you’d be like, Okay, well, we can stop doing this before someone comes in, you know, but but,
K Anderson 33:18
okay, all right way. So I’m upstairs. And, but like, Am I just like out? Or am I in a cubicle? When I’m doing stops with them?
Conner Habib 33:29
upstairs? Yeah, yeah. Um, I mean, I, a lot happened at the urinals upstairs, you know, but it wasn’t okay. But it wasn’t like, but again, it. You know, I mean, I suppose some people got caught doing that, you know, most people do anywhere when they have sex in a public place. But, you know, it was very hard to be in
K Anderson 33:55
the end, say, when you’re cruising at the urinal? Is there different types of sexual acts than you would have through the glory hall?
Conner Habib 34:07
Um, I mean, there are different cues, you know, like you would again, but a lot of it was just time, like, you would just notice someone was standing there too long. And so were you,
K Anderson 34:18
you know, and they were just shaking a penis that had no pace coming out of it.
Conner Habib 34:22
Yeah. Or they would just look over at you, or, you know what I mean, like, and, and so you would know, I mean, the real problem, you know, like, was, yeah, I don’t know, I was gonna say like the mom. Now, I don’t really have any problem to say. I just, I was gonna say you would know they would tap their feet or they would go after they pissed. They would go to the sink and they would wash their hand like three times, you know, to see if you were sticking around that kind of stuff. You know,
K Anderson 34:52
going in a post COVID world, you’re just not going to know. Right? Everybody. Um, and so like a UV you more they’re like initiator or you the follower.
Conner Habib 35:12
Um, well, when I was in, when I was an undergrad, I was much more the follower.
Conner Habib 35:20
a lot of times it was some older guys in there, you know, guys that lived in town that wants a couple of college students, you know?
Conner Habib 35:29
well, that’s it. Well, that doesn’t explain my behaviour. I’m just saying, like, I would have been, for the most part, a little afraid to initiate unless I saw someone in there that I had seen go in before, you know, or I had gone upstairs with before, and then I’d feel a little more comfortable initiating at that point. But I was, I think out of the hundreds of times, I’ve had sex in the in that building. I probably I probably slept like three decks, like it was always me getting, you know, so I was always the oral top, really. I thought there were probably a few times that there are probably a few times that people like that I fucked people without knowing it, too. I think, like, they just sort of turned around. And I didn’t know because I remember there were times when like, I would feel something banging against the wall. And I was like, what’s going on? You know,
K Anderson 36:27
that person’s gonna get concussed. Or, like, you
Conner Habib 36:33
know, they would put a condom on me, you know? And yeah, and then I would know, but there’s some guys like sup to you with condoms on back then, too. So, yeah, that still happens sometimes. But very rarely. Now. Isn’t that weird to think that, like, you can’t tell the difference? Sometimes? Well, I think back then, especially I didn’t really have a lot of experience fucking. Like, I think that that’s something that people should talk about a little bit more. It’s very interesting. Is that, like, anal sex while it was popular for a long time? You know? If not, there’s like, a long period of time where people just really it was not a primary sexual activity for a lot of gay men. And oh, yeah, I don’t Yeah, I don’t think that’s just because of HIV. I don’t know if it was a primary activity for a lot of gay men, even before. Exactly. I think a lot of people. You know, I think anal sex has become much more popular in the past, like 10 or 10 or 15 years Really? Well, and do you think that it’s like tied up into the stigma of being the receptive partner? Yeah, that’s it. I think that’s a good point. I think that’s part of it, you know, the way that people identify, and I think that all the politics around that are really fascinating. Yeah, there. Yeah. Really
K Anderson 38:00
incredible. Like, yeah, let’s maybe knockout into that. But yeah, I agree. But but so you were saying so you were only ever the dig through the hole and bolts it
Conner Habib 38:15
had Oh, no, it didn’t happen for your balls. No, that one did not. It actually did not have inferior balls. So that was a whole other thing, man. No, it was it was actually really cool. Because it created a very different sensation, like to only have that it was a very different sensation. Yeah.
K Anderson 38:34
Conner Habib 38:36
Well, because your balls were being essentially stimulated the entire time, because are pushing up against the wall while you’re getting a blowjob. So, you know, in some ways, you were actually being stimulated in other ways. They weren’t included in the kinds of stimulation you could have. But you know, I’m actually I feel like I’m remembering both so I think
K Anderson 38:58
that one day you came along and you made them No,
Conner Habib 39:00
I think someone made the glory hole bigger. a certain point because I remember in the beginning, it wasn’t as big like that you could fit your whole self through it, and then it got bigger. Yeah.
K Anderson 39:14
Or maybe you got smaller and then so why why were you not ever the receptive partner?
like such a private Christian
Conner Habib 39:25
God as if this is an all yeah. I I mean, I’m mostly a top in my in my life. I it was it’s really interesting because I was mostly a top and then I had this boyfriend who always wanted to be the top and then I was a bottom and then I was in Boston for really, I wasn’t a bottom but I was like, tended towards bottoming more and then when I was in porn, you know, for, like, almost 10 years like, because my dick was not is not huge, you know, they would always cast me for visual purposes. As the bottom I think so, you know, like that really tied into my thoughts about what I was and everything and now that I’m not really doing porn so much anymore. I’m more top leaning, you know, but I don’t I mean, I can do whatever. But at that time, I was really mostly just interested in topping, but I also I guess I thought about sucking guys excellent, but I think I was probably a bit afraid I think I had the internalised homophobia that turn that that masqueraded as disease fear. You know, a lot of people have where your internalised homophobia, just as like jumps from place to place finding whatever it can to excuse it can
K Anderson 40:45
tie down. Yeah, yeah, exactly. If we just like Dart back to the, the signalling and the initiating and all of those things, did you ever get it terribly wrong?
Conner Habib 41:03
Let me think I’m never get a terribly wrong. No, I don’t think so. Um, no.
K Anderson 41:16
So you would never like locked in a store with someone banging on the door threatening to beat you up because you got it so horribly wrong. No, man would have made an interesting anecdote.
Conner Habib 41:27
I’m glad that my husband gave your podcast more interesting. No, I never. I never know. I never got it wrong. No.
K Anderson 41:37
Isn’t that really interesting? Like, sorry, I’ve said that so many so many times. Isn’t that really interesting? Like the just the, the instinct that you’re relying on in those instances, and that negotiation and, and like agreement without having any conversation? or any kind of? Yes, just really, really primitive signalling?
Conner Habib 42:02
Yeah, advanced advanced signalling, I think not primitive, you know, it’s like, it’s something that was, you know, gay cultural inheritance for a really long time where you would walk down the street, and that’s, and you would catch somebody’s eye, or, you know, whatever. And I think that that ties into gay history a lot, you know, before the AIDS epidemic. In US cities, at least, you would have the, you’d have all kinds of subtle cues. And you would also notice, very subtle and nuanced art, art criticism, cultural critique coming from LGBT people, right. And you would notice that in their, their cultural presence in their sexuality, and the way they would meet other people to fuck all this kind of stuff. And then after, or during the AIDS, crisis, visibility became so important. And it became so pronounced. And then, coming out of that, you have a very out proud, huge signalling presence. Without, I mean, it has some subtlety, of course, and nuance, but you’d have a huge, like, big stage, loud, amplified, kind of version of queer aesthetics and politics. So, you know, it’s like, it makes sense that you’d have big stage drag queens with, you know, really? Not, again, not that that didn’t exist before. Of course it did. But that took the sort of centre stage, and it’s a natural extension of people needing to shout, like gay people exist, gay people exist, and they’re dying, pay attention to us exists, and we’re dying, you know, then. And whereas I think, some of that subtlety and nuance in all aspects of gay life, you know, we’re sort of eroded certainly, and destroyed in some cases by the AIDS epidemic.
K Anderson 44:17
And what do you so we’re seeing kind of like cruising grounds and spaces disappear, or just like, people stop using them for that purpose? Because Yeah, a younger generation isn’t isn’t necessarily kind of just doesn’t doesn’t think it’s for them. What do you think we’re losing? Yeah. Well, so I not to be disagreeable. But I don’t think that’s true. Okay.
Conner Habib 44:48
You know, I, before I moved to Ireland, I took a three month road trip across the US and I mean, there was cruising everywhere, especially in you know, rural states and rural areas. I think that people who locate cruising or different sexualities in cosmopolitan city spaces, might see an erosion of it. But I think that that’s always been a failing of people who live in cities to talk about the rest of the world sexuality as if it exists in the Cosmopolitan manner. And I think that that’s true even again, like before the AIDS epidemic, like Stonewall, like all that, I think it’s that’s always been a miscalculation. You know, and an exaggeration. And again, not everybody’s done that, but I think I think that, you know, it’s good to remember that these spaces still serve really necessary function. everywhere in the world, that’s not a city and they serve a function in a city too. And that most people now conceive of understanding your sexuality as something that you can be open to and do something about if it’s not the sort of idealised heterosexual Yeah, whatever. But lots of people don’t understand their sexuality till they’re much older, lots of people don’t want to live out or in their sexuality in the ways that are presented as options, you know, lots of people don’t want to commit to a sexual identity that relates to prepackaged ideas of what sexuality is. So I think these spaces, they still exist, they will always exist. And the the only way that they won’t stop existing really, and then they will exist again, in a new form is if we destroy heterosexuality once and for all, which I’m think would be fantastic.
K Anderson 46:56
But what’s your plan for that? Can I
Conner Habib 47:00
just I’ve my it’s been my whole life has been an act of destroying heterosexuality. You know, just, yeah, a certain version of heterosexuality, obviously. But like, so I think, you know, so I think I noticed them everywhere. But I think people don’t know how to look for them, when they have a certain experience. And so, you know, and it’s also, it’s not always, it may not be apparent, to, I don’t know, I don’t want to say it’s not apparent to younger people, it certainly is apparent to younger people in some ways. But and there are still, you know, people under 30, at cruising areas that I saw as I was going around the US, but, you know, it’s they might not associate some of what they’re seeing, because of an expectation of what queerness looks like, still,
K Anderson 48:04
you know, but the kind of dignified version of queerness is that work? Well, or,
Conner Habib 48:12
you know, like, we have to ask ourselves a question, which is, is someone who is married and closeted having sex at a rest area queer? You know, even if they don’t identify that way, if they’re eroding sexual sexual rigidity in their lives, uh, whether or not they’re conscious of it? Is there something queer about that when we see it? Is Is there an whether or not we think it’s ethically correct for somebody to do that and lie to their family and all that kind of shit? Like leaving that aside? Just for a moment? You can come back to it later, everybody, you don’t have to leave it aside, forever come back to it after I said, like, do we, when we look upon that sees a queer act happening? You know? Do we see, like a queer act in when we when we think about somebody’s sexual imaginations? You know, the closet is a productive space, you know, it can lead to all sorts of interesting expressions that would not come from just openness and that’s not me arguing in favour of the closet. But just to see also what’s there to see also what’s happening there and understand it as part of the, you know, legacy tradition, community family history of, you know, LGBTQ.
K Anderson 49:53
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I guess like the thing. So even for these People that would fit into that category that you’re talking about 50 years ago, 2020 years ago, 30 years ago, I go cruising space would be the only place that you could access and have those experiences. Right. But now there are there are apps for that there are websites, and other ways of connecting that that, you know, frankly, are maybe less exciting, but kind of remove some of those barriers if you’re terrified of getting caught. If you’re terrified of seeing someone, you know,
Conner Habib 50:32
well, well, there’s no app for cruising, right, like you don’t get to wrap No,
K Anderson 50:37
no, no. Yeah.
Conner Habib 50:39
Right. And so you you run into all the other problems, you know, with with with those sorts of apps. I mean, people are, if people are nothing if not terrified to meat off of apps. I mean, you know, the person who asked you 800 questions before they’re willing to talk about meeting you next week. You know, what are you into? Is this this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this getting all the particularities in a row before? You know, I mean, I would say that that’s a large part of the experience of using apps is making sure that all particularities are pandered to in a real, I mean, a real, like, hyper capitalist way, you know, I need it, you know, it’s like, Burger King, like, I need every single thing I want in this before I even decide if I’m going to have the experience or not. And I think that that is, you know, people are terrified of sex, you know, still, and they use apps, but they’re terrified of going further than being on the app for sure.
K Anderson 51:45
Yeah, but I guess I’m talking about that, that gateway, I suppose in terms of, like, if you’re, if you are considering having sex with someone of the same gender, it’s far less intimidating to download an app and have a look around than to go to a cruising space.
Conner Habib 52:10
I don’t I don’t think that’s I don’t think that’s true. I mean, I see what you’re saying, I don’t want to be too argumentative, like input. But I think like, what’s a cruising space? You know, like, if you if you get an app, and you’re just looking and you never meet anybody, right, which is what tonnes of people fucking do. Or, I would say, at least the majority of time spent on apps is not spent trying to actually meet somebody. You know, most most people who are cruising You know, they’re cruising with some intent when they walk around the mall wherever mall stelar from the mall, or they’re in there are they they’re in a parking lot. And they’re checking people out and and assessing the potential of hookups. The difference between the apps and, and cruising spaces, is that the narrative is that everybody is on the app, because there’s a potential to meet. Whereas cruising spaces, you have to figure out if people are there for that reason, you know, which is a different thing. I mean, there are lots of other differences too, but I just think, I think that’s kind of what you’re getting that like, you know, if you go on Grindr, and you see someone on Grindr, you can make a reasonable assumption, like, yeah, this person isn’t on here, just because they’ve parked their car, you know, on their way to somewhere else, you know, but you don’t know if that person has any intention of, of having sex, and very often, neither do they. You know, so there’s a different kind of
K Anderson 53:42
speaking from experience here. Sure. Yeah. And it’s, like, I’m making huge assumptions when I’m making this type of statement. I suppose I’m just thinking about, from my own experience, and what would be the least scary option?
Conner Habib 54:06
Do we want it to not be scary is that, you know, I mean, we will have, like, a terribly a policeman, you know, physically threatening, you know, well, some people don’t, I would say most people probably don’t want it to be physically threatening, but that’s different than not scary. You know?
K Anderson 54:24
Yeah. Yeah. No, yeah, absolutely. And, and I totally, I’m not discounting the, the, the real, this relevant and the excitement and the spontaneity, which you don’t get in an app. But suppose that that dipping your toe in the water is Yeah, I’m just putting out that would be my preference is to create an app on Grindr asked for lots of pictures without sharing my own, asking what their interests are without telling them mine and then blocking them
Conner Habib 54:57
will see, you know, think about the different It’s between that and a cruising spa, where you go, and you would probably have sex with people that, you know, it’s not as much about your preferences, right, it’s more about meeting somebody who, who has also divested some of their preferences to choose sex and desire itself instead, and to abandon identity. I mean, gloryhole is, you know,
K Anderson 55:33
pretty extreme version of that.
Conner Habib 55:35
Exactly. So then if you go to a cruisee spot, you know, a parking area and you walk into the woods, you know, like, people abandon their identities there, and whilst there’s fresh air as well, right, exactly while doing a tree bath, you but you, but you, you know, really? There’s a kind of radical honesty in that, you know,
K Anderson 56:00
yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, this, you can make the same arguments about bars as well. But like, there’s a proximity factor where if you like, if you had, if you were being asked for your ideal, and you wanted, like to itemise the things you were looking for, and the act you were looking to undertake, then you can just stay home all night on Grindr, or, or any of the other apps, let’s not leave them out. But But when you’re in a bar, or a club, or, yeah, if you’re, if you’re out in the cruising space, you’re like, well, what’s available to me? You’ll do? And there’s some magic in that. Because, yeah, you’re like, you get something that you’re not expecting.
Conner Habib 56:44
I think it’s really, really important for people to, um, interrogate their own boundaries, particularities and preferences, and the specificity of them. It no one else has the right to do that for you, like, no one has the right to push you past your own boundaries. But everybody should take up the challenge and the also the excitement in some ways of interrogating, why do I like why do I think I like what I like? What would happen if I did something that was not that was outside of that just to see, you know, and if I’m not willing to do that sexually, can I masturbate thinking about just kind of weird things that I, you know, and give myself a completely safe space to try that out? Could I try that out with somebody else? I mean, there are, there are lots of reasons why I think this is really good. And I think that’s cruising spaces, you know, in some ways lended themselves to that and, and continue to lend themselves to that. But I don’t. And I think that Grindr, I think the hookup apps are largely the exact opposite of that. They’re a, they’re a labyrinth of unending consumerist preference choice, you know, and it really drowns and damages people in a way, you know, because it concretizes it really helps them avoid any self exploration. And that’s not true for everybody. Some people use Grindr and scruff if you went out and one other one, and they are BBR t if we really want to go there. But I think we be where t is probably more like a cruising space. And then like the apps, but you you have people, some people use them and are like, Okay, I’m just going to finally just try a fucking thing. You know, and I think I think that’s great. So I don’t mean to discount the people who have had those experiences. But I think by and large apps, and just a lot of ways, social media, in general, and algorithmic sexual imagery, and all that kind of stuff, it can really intensify, you know, the, the particularity. And it, it’s, it can also, if people are open to it, open themselves up to all sorts of things. Like, if you’re on an app, it’s like, if you’re on Pornhub, or some other, you know, tube site, and you see, like, a clip that is turning you on, and it suggests one that has nothing to do with what turns you on. A lot of people will click on that other thing. Right. And I think that that’s, I think that there’s a lot of potential there, you know, for opening up new pathways of desire and understanding the self and all that kind of stuff.
K Anderson 59:39
twines are long you take to masturbate there doesn’t a
Conner Habib 59:42
Right, right. Exactly. Well, yeah, or how long the clip you’re you’re using is right. But I think that grinder actually and these other these apps, I mean, not to harp on them too much, because I do think they have their purposes. And I think they’re good in some ways, but I think that they actually do the opposite, where you see two people next to each other And like, You are always aiming for, you’re always aiming for the particularity you’re always aiming for the hyper specificity of what you’re looking for. And I mean, there’s something to be said for that experience, too. I just don’t like that people get locked into it, you know?
K Anderson 1:00:19
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Cuz like, ultimately, What’s your goal? Is it to get laid or not?
Conner Habib 1:00:27
Right. I mean, I wrote an essay A long time ago called facing the torsos, which was about how people use hookup apps, essentially as personalised pornography, they don’t really, you know, use them to meet people. They’re about, you know, they’re about a frustrated arousal, which has its benefits. But we, but not if you can’t see it as that not if you can identify it for what it is,
K Anderson 1:00:50
you know, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And quick side note, I really like the way you keep saying specify specificity because I can’t say, specificity. specificity. Yeah, I’m gonna practice that one. So I didn’t close the loop before I did start looking up at the origin of the word gloryhole. And then gave up because the conversation went in a different way. Uh huh. I would look up and let you know later. So and in terms of the Student Union Building, is
Conner Habib 1:01:21
still there. I mean, they The last time I was there,
which I don’t.
Conner Habib 1:01:27
I go to Amherst, every few years, but I stopped checking, you know, not too long ago, because, you know, they had just changed the walls out and there was no hole anymore. There was no indication that anybody was cruising there anymore. There’s still other cruising spots in that area. But that is not one anymore.
K Anderson 1:01:50
And so you don’t know if they like, intentionally did some kind of
Conner Habib 1:01:56
low they’ve totally intentionally did it three people and everything. If that’s what you mean.
K Anderson 1:02:03
What did you just said straight people ruin everything? Yeah. No bed like, I mean, there’s one thing to change the piece of wood between stalls, but it but like, did they do anything above that?
Conner Habib 1:02:16
And like that you said would like as if it were some sort of weird, like colonial
K Anderson 1:02:23
Well, what is it like chipboard or something
Conner Habib 1:02:25
like, like, you know, Mr. Puffin stuffs.
K Anderson 1:02:31
Here we have, you know, like, plain sometimes, yeah. What did you mean? Sorry? Well, this like, did was it just like, Oh, well do a refurb here, and we’ll like, replace this wall? And that’ll stop them days? Or was there like more of a campaign to like, oh, now the deviance?
Conner Habib 1:02:59
I don’t think so. I don’t think there was a campaign in this case. I mean, certainly there are places that, you know, there are undercover cops there and stuff like that. But I think this place, you know, I remember them, putting just like a metal panel over where the glory hole was so obvious, but then time, but then just cut a hole on the next one over, you know. So there was a kind of
K Anderson 1:03:29
compare, underestimate our ingenuity.
Conner Habib 1:03:33
But then, you know, never, never underestimate the ability of a gay person to put a hole somewhere.
But the, the,
Conner Habib 1:03:40
you know, and then they then they boarded that one up, you know, with a bent metal panel. And then, and then eventually, like, the walls themselves were just changed out with metal walls. You know, so because before there were that sort of like dense plastic, you know, whatever that is called, I don’t know what that’s called. But between you so he couldn’t really cut through the metal walls anymore. Yeah, he could, I suppose. Pool off the Toilet Paper Dispenser on both sides and then have a hole maybe I don’t know.
K Anderson 1:04:09
Should we go and check? Did you ever go to the men’s bathroom in the Student Union Building at you masters? Hearst campus? Or heck? I mean, did you go to any cruising ground that no longer exists? Well, if you did, I would love to hear from you. Tell me your stories and share any anecdotes and maybe not photos through social media. You can find me on most platforms. That’s Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, and the user handle K Anderson music. And you can find out more about Connor by following him on twitter at Connor Habib or on Instagram at against everyone with Connor Habib Les bases is not only a podcast about a concept record as well. I’ve been writing songs about queer venues and the people who used to live their lives there. And we’ll be releasing songs over the coming year. You can hear the first single from the set, well groomed boys, which is also playing underneath my talking right now on all good streaming platforms. If you like this episode, I would really appreciate if you subscribe, left a review on Apple podcasts, or just told people who you think might be interested in having a listen too. I am K Anderson and you’ve been listening to lost spaces.