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A glory hole (also spelled gloryhole and glory-hole) is a hole in a wall, or other partition, often between public lavatory stalls or adult video arcade booths for people to engage in sexual activity or observe the person in the next cubicle while one or both parties masturbate. The partition maintains anonymity. Body parts including fingers, tongue and penis may be used for anonymous oral, vaginal and/or anal intercourse. Erotic literature and pornographic films have been devoted to the sexual uses of glory holes.
A 'glory hole' is usually a hip-high hole drilled, punched or filed in a wall between stalls in a public restroom or adult bookstore peepshow; through this hole one man will insert his penis for sexual contact with another person. Usually it is the centralized location which facilitates impersonal, anonymous sex, rather than the structural feature of the setting itself.
To use a glory hole a man puts his finger through the hole to indicate interest in sexual activity. Offering a condom indicates interest in protected sex. If the other party is also interested, he will accept the offer and put his penis through the hole to be serviced. The most common activity is oral sex, and to a lesser extent anal intercourse, a handjob, or vaginal intercourse. Glory holes are today most commonly found in established adult video/bookstore arcades, sex clubs, gay bathhouses, and adult theaters.
If a glory hole is found between two booths in a video booth at an adult bookstore, the person who wishes to perform oral sex will normally be seated in a booth. The seated (and sometimes kneeling) position commonly signals to others that they are there in order to perform oral sex – which allows those who wish to receive oral sex to take the adjoining booth. That second person will normally remain standing.
Numerous motivations can be ascribed to the use and eroticism of glory holes. For some, the sheer anonymity is itself arousing. For others, it can serve as a way to have intimacy without a prolonged relationship, or to ensure sexual compatibility before further pursuing a relationship. Utilizing a gloryhole is also an easy way to mitigate any perceived physical shortcomings like being overweight or somehow less physically attractive. One social theorist has described the attraction of this form of sexual encounter thus: "The ultimate sexual objectification of gay male sexual encounters is the glory hole in public toilets. As a wall separates the two participants, they have no contact except for a mouth, a penis, and perhaps a hand. Almost total anonymity is maintained as no other attributes are taken into consideration." The glory hole is seen as an iconic erotic oasis in gay subcultures around the world; people's motivations, experiences and attributions of value in its use are varied.
In light of the ongoing AIDS pandemic, many gay men are re-evaluating their sexual and erotic desires and practices. Glory holes allow for a physical barrier, which may be an extension of psychological ones where internalized homophobia (a result of many societies' widespread abhorrence of LGBT practices and people). For some gay men, a glory hole serves to depersonalize their partner altogether as a disembodied object of sexual desire, either sticking through or on the other side of the hole. These motivations might be considered characteristically male motivations, as opposed to specifically gay and/or bisexual men's motives.
Public sex of any kind is illegal in many parts of the world; and police undercover operations continue to be used in order to enforce such laws. Adverse personal consequences to participants in glory hole activity have included police surveillance, public humiliation in the press, and criminal convictions. Gay bashing, mugging, and bodily injury are further potential risks. For reasons of personal safety, as well as etiquette, men typically wait for a signal from the receptive partner to come through the hole before inserting any part of their genitals through a glory hole.
In addition to safety and legal risks, there is a heightened risk of sexually transmitted diseases associated with having sex with infected partners. This risk can be reduced through the use of condoms, although their use in glory hole activity is not common.
In John Waters's 1994 dark comedy film Serial Mom, a glory hole is used as a plot device when an eyewitness sees the title character through the hole hiding in the neighboring stall prior to a murder at the nearby urinals. An earlier film by Waters, Desperate Living (1977), contained a scene in a women's lavatory depicting a chest-high double glory hole—for breasts.
The opening stunt in Jackass Number Two features actor and stuntman, Ryan Dunn, inserting his penis into a glory hole that opens up into the cage of a hungry snake, which proceeded to violently bite his penis.
In the 2000 comedy Scary Movie, which spoofs popular horror films, Shawn Wayans' character Ray, who had shown stereotypical signs of being gay or closeted throughout the movie, goes to the bathroom in a theater. Upon seeing a glory hole and hearing sexual noises, he proceeds to listen with his ear pressed to the hole and is suddenly impaled through his head by a penis.
In the 2002 film The Sweetest Thing, Cameron Diaz gets injured in the eye when she unknowingly peers through a glory hole in a men's restroom.
In the fifth season (6th episode) of the television crime drama The Shield, a married man patronizing a glory hole in a public restroom was assaulted with a rat trap.  Four episodes later, a second attack that resulted in a severed member had a quick shot of the bloody glory hole.
In the 2008 teen sex comedy Sex Drive, the protagonist Ian (Josh Zuckerman) uses a roadside reststop and while in the stall a "men's room predator" (Allen Zwolle) who is trolling for sex sticks his erect penis through a glory hole. Meanwhile Ian is preoccupied texting and making appreciative noises about the conversation, which are comically misinterpreted as affirming his desire to have a sexual experience with the other man; he mistakenly also grabs the man's penis, which was obscured by toilet paper.
In the fifth episode of the fourth season of the television sitcom It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, "Mac and Charlie Die (Part 1)", Frank and Sweet Dee discover a glory hole in the bathroom at their bar, Paddy's Pub.
Season 1, episode 11 of Louie features comedic use of a glory hole marked "Heaven" to discuss the concept of faith.
The sketch comedy troupe Whitest Kids U Know have a skit about a glory hole.
In the 2011 video game Duke Nukem Forever Duke uses a glory hole in the bathroom of the strip club to increase his maximum health or "ego".
Video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas features a radio advertisement for an amusement park named "Glory Hole".
In the South Park episode Reverse Cowgirl, Sir Harrington, the inventor of the toilet says one is to sit on the toilet facing inward—that's why he designed bathrooms with a "laundry hole" Glory hole (sexual slang).
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