chapter  9
13 Pages

Cruising the channels: The queerness of zapping

ByJAAP KOOIJMAN

I often watch television in bed, just before I go to sleep, switching from channel to channel in search of something good towatch. Yet Dutch television has little to offer around midnight. Most commercial channels only show phone sex advertisements at that time, featuring topless women looking seductively into the camera while playing with their nipples, accompanied by a female voiceover urging me to give them a call. Once in a while a commercial for gay male sex comes by, inviting me to send a text message – ‘CRUISING’ followed by my postal zip code – to an expensive phone number, with the promise that I will receive directions to the ‘hottest’ outdoor places in my neighborhood, where I can find anonymous sex with ‘willing’ men, although ‘actual physical contact’ is not guaranteed. The commercial consists of footage of cruising at an abandoned parking area, seemingly shot with a hidden camera, showing blurred images of one man watching another from the front seat of a Ford Escort (the car’s brand name clearly visible on the dashboard, shown in close-up). The boundary between private and public space appears to be crossed as the opportunity of public sex enters the privacy of my home through the television screen and by a possible connection through my cell phone. One can wonder, however, how ‘public’ this cruising area really is, as not only are such areas in general hidden from open public view (Califia 1994: 20; Humphreys 1999: 30-1), but the commercial also presents the area as a space that needs to be exposed (hence the hidden camera aesthetic) and that can only be reached by sending an SMS. As a commodity advertised on television, cruising is rendered visible, yet because of its anonymity and the sensation of possible exposure, remains invisible at the same time.