Sexual acts between men were illegal until 1967 and even after that date there was a lot of social stigma attached to being gay or engaging in sexual activities with a person of the same sex. This stigma led many gay and bisexual men to go ‘cruising’, looking for anonymous sex with strangers in public places such as toilets and parks.
Otterspool Promenade, in the south of the city runs along the River Mersey and was opened in 1950. Being away from the city centre and more secluded, it soon became known as a popular meeting place for men who wanted anonymous and casual sex with each other. From at least the 1960s onwards Otterspool remained popular, even becoming well known throughout the non LGBT community as a gay cruising area.
Recently the rise of online meeting sites and apps like Grindr make public cruising less popular, though Otterspool is still used by gay, bisexual and bi-curious men to cruise for sex, despite occasional attacks and patrols by the police. As well as apps, websites such as cruisinggays.com have also been developed by cruisers to post listings, advice, and tips on cruising areas across the world.
“Be carful [sic] loads of police there this morning as someone got attacked last night serious assault”
- Anonymous user on squirt.org (25/02/2016) about Otterspool.