Origin and historical usage
In a specifically sexual context, the term "cruising" originally emerged as an argot "code word" in gay slang, by which those "in the know" would understand the speaker's unstated sexual intent, whereas most heterosexuals, on hearing the same word in the same context, would normally misread the speaker's intended meaning in the word's more common (and presumably less threatening) nonsexual sense. This served (and in some contexts, still serves) as a protective sociolinguistic mechanism for gay men to recognize not only each other, but those who may wish to do them harm in broader societies noted for their homophobia.
In the latter half of the twentieth century, decriminalization of homosexual behavior increasingly became the norm in English-speaking countries. The protective barrier once provided by the term "cruising" as a "code word" has therefore largely broken down, and arguably, become increasingly irrelevant. Thus the specifically sexual meaning of the term has passed into common usage to include the sexual behavior of heterosexual persons, as well.
Regional usage variants
As with all argot, regional variants abound. In the United States, the term "cruising" continues to predominantly denote exclusively homosexual behavior. In Australia and the United Kingdom, however, it is also widely used by heterosexuals to describe their own behavior, as witnessed in the common male heterosexual derivative phrase "cruising for chicks".
Historic examples of usage
The term has been enshrined since at least the mid-1970s in the name of the gay bar Booze 'n' Cruise, located on Historic US Highway 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Although the business has recently come under criticism for allegedly encouraging drunk driving by some who do not understand the term's historic usage, the name remains as a conscious reminder of gay history.
The term has also been adopted, in an altered form, by the website qruiser.com, an online LGBT community based in Sweden. This is a tongue in cheek reference, however, as the community functions as a forum for social interaction for the Scandinavian region, rather than focusing on exclusively sexual encounters. The website has also attracted many heterosexual members as well.
In the UK, Hampstead Heath in London (especially the West Heath) is a well known and, arguably, accepted area for cruising activity to take place. The Highgate Bathing Ponds are particularly central to this lifestyle, with various areas within the locality catering to different interests of cruisers.
In popular culture
Cruising for sex is alluded to in songs such as "Cruisin' the Streets" by the Boys Town Gang as well as "I'm a Cruiser" by the Village People.
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- 2News Exposes Men 'Cruising' For Sex In Public Parks. KUTV - Salt Lake City, Utah (2007). Retrieved on 2008-05-19. Published: 11-14-2007
- Kilgannon, Corey. A Sex Stop on the Way Home. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2006-03-28. Published: 9-21-2005 Article from NYT about a cruising area in New York City
- "The Little Black Book: This one can keep you out of trouble," Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund; also available here.
- Additionally published as "Little Black Book: This one will keep you out of trouble" in PDF format; also available here. An article that gives legal advice on cruising for sex. Note that if one actually carries this article on one while cruising it could possibly be used as evidence of intent.
- World's largest gay cruising guide