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Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex In Public Places

1940 words - 8 pages

Laud Humphreys’ book “Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places” was originally published in 1970. Humphreys earned his PhD from Washington University in St. Louis, although several faculty members tried to rescind it due to his research methods that were perceived to be “dishonest”. His book details the activities of homosexual men who regularly visit public restrooms (tearooms) to find quick anonymous sex. Since Laud Humphreys was a sociologist, he recognized the simplistic stereotypes that the society had on impersonal homoerotic activity. The sociologist thus noted that it would be of considerable social significance for the society to appreciate the motives and patterns of this ...view middle of the document...

Humphreys distributed his observations based on qualitative data during different periods, time and seasons of the year in order to get a representative sample (p. 13-19).
In the initial stages of his research, Humphreys noted that deviants, especially patrons of public restrooms were often threatened by outsiders such as the police and violent youth, meaning that they had to be kept anonymous. In order to fit in, Humphreys pretended to be gay. Therefore, he became a “watchqueen”, in order to observe the sexual behaviour patterns in the tearooms. The author further adds that he was able to establish some form of rapport with informants who helped him with the research. The first part of the research was observation of the sexual acts as the author posed as a watchqueen, while other partners mostly performed oral sex. Humphreys notes that this form of sex was common because it took relatively less time in a small space compared to other forms of sex. This also eliminated the likelihood of being “caught in the act.” Humphreys then noted 50 oral sex encounters in his observation sheet. The tearoom sex also included 53 sexual acts. He compared this record with that of 30 subjects that was observed by a cooperating respondent. The cooperating respondent was also a sexual participant thus the total time-and-place representative sample of participants was 134. Humphrey incorporated sample attrition due to change of address, the two men who engaged in anal sex and those who drove rental cars. Therefore, 100 men was the final sample size that was used in the research study.
In the second part of his research, Humphreys interviewed 100 subjects whom he had observed engaging in tearooms sexual acts. He was able to do so by tracing the license plates numbers of these individuals from the location of the tearooms. With the license plates, Humphreys was then able to obtain their names and addresses from public records through disguise. A year later, he interviewed the subjects based on the information he had obtained in regards to the behavior he has observed from their parts in the tearooms. He pretended that the research was meant for a general social health survey that he was conducting at the time. After randomizing the study sample, Humphreys completed 50 interviews with the subjects and 50 more from the social health survey sample that he had added to this larger group sample to enhance subjects’ anonymity. The latter acted as a control group that matched the subjects based on factors such as race, job category, marital status and area of residence. In summary, the study employed several strategies such as systematic firsthand observation of the participants, in-depth interviews of respondents, secondary data and structured interviews. The author asserts that he applied these measures to guarantee confidentiality of the subjects, and to obtain the accurate measurement of the deviant behaviour observed.
Humphreys notes that physical...

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