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Bodies, Technologies, Spaces: On 'Dogging'


David Bell
Sexualities 2006 9: 387
DOI: 10.1177/1363460706068040
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Article

Abstract This article provides an analysis of key dimensions of the


(hetero)sexual practice or subculture known as dogging.
Dogging combines voyeurism, exhibitionism, public sex and
partner-swapping or multi-partner sex, and predominantly takes
place in secluded sites on the urban fringe, accessed by car. The
article sketches some recent UK media coverage of the dogging
scene, and then explores the ways in which particular
technologies are utilized in the scene. It also discusses the spaces
of dogging, and suggests that dogging represents a
technologically-mediated folding of public and private space.
The article concludes by pointing towards other aspects of
dogging that warrant future scrutiny.
Keywords dogging, sexual practices, spaces, technologies

David Bell
University of Leeds, UK

Bodies, Technologies, Spaces:


On Dogging
My aim in this article is to think about the (hetero)sexual practice and
subculture known as dogging, which has been in and out of the UK
media spotlight in the early years of the 21st century. I want to argue
that dogging represents a creative commingling of antecedent sexual
practices and subcultures, all of which are (to different extents) enabled
by different technologies. In short, I want to explore dogging as a
technologically-mediated and site-specific sexual practice and subculture;
or, more accurately, to see it as an assemblage of bodies, technologies
and spaces.
To do this, I begin by offering a provisional definition of dogging, and
show how it has been discussed in selected mass media texts. My aim here
is not primarily to provide an analysis of media discourse, but rather to
highlight how media technologies are themselves part of the assemblage
that constitutes dogging: the circulation of information about dogging in
the media and particularly on the internet has certainly democratized the
Sexualities

Copyright 2006 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi)
Vol 9(4): 387407 DOI: 10.1177/1363460706068040
http://sex.sagepub.com

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Sexualities 9(4)

scene, even while it often demonizes it. Following the discussion of


selected media accounts, I then move on to trace the archaeology of
dogging, by sketching the antecedent sexual practices and scenes that
dogging draws together; my aim here is to theorize dogging as a conjugation of media/communications and transport technologies (Hay and
Packer, 2004). I therefore pay particular attention to the role of technologies in enabling these scenes, and thus highlight the technological
mediation or conjugation of dogging itself. I also focus on the use of space
in these antecedents, in order to highlight the particular geographies of
dogging, which are themselves technologically-mediated. I conclude by
highlighting other aspects of dogging that warrant analysis.

Towards a preliminary definition of dogging


Dogging refers to a complex set of sexual practices which centre on forms
of public sex, voyeurism and exhibitionism, swinging, group sex and
partner swapping though these elements are differentially co-present at
any moment (Kahney, 2004). Although its precise etymology is inevitably
somewhat obscure, it is thought to have originated in the UK in the 1970s
as a slang term for men who used the alibi of walking the dog to enable
them to watch courting couples engaging in outdoor sex, or sex in cars
in lovers lanes. Setting aside concerns over the robustness and reliability
of some definitions on the site, the online encyclopaedia Wikpedia hosts
a linked discussion of the etymology and sociology of dogging, suggesting this 1970s origin and discussing the transmutation of the term (and
practice) by the early 21st century into the more complex, organized and
technologically-mediated scene described in the following paragraph (see
wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogging).
Typically, a dogging scene involves heterosexual singles and couples
driving to secluded locations, and engaging in sexual acts in their cars or
in a nearby open space. Other participants at the scene may watch the
action, or may ask or be invited to participate. The sex may also take place
away from the dogging location, after the initial pick up. It derives its
name from the convenient excuse of walking the dog that functions as
a stand-by alibi for participants (as in Im just off to walk the dog, dear,
I wont be long, or I was just out walking my dog, officer). The dogwalking alibi also frames the choice of location for dogging sites are
often those favoured by dog-walkers, such as car parks near to recreational
green space. (Of course, not all doggers actually bring dogs with them.)
The kinds of locations used for dogging urban fringe green spaces such
as nature reserves, parks and picnic areas provide particular affordances:
they are accessible by car (and provide the all-important parking space),
they offer seclusion, there are legitimate reasons for presence that
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participants can call on if caught, and they are easy to find, being marked
on maps and signposted on the road.
Some branches of the scene differentiate between participants who
remain in their cars and who engage in exhibitionist and/or partnerswapping sex (parkers) and those who walk around the site, watching
and sometimes joining in with sex (doggers or peekers). Nevertheless,
as it is popularly described and discussed, the entirety of the car park sex
scene is usually referred to as dogging. The scene is most often associated
with the UK, though sources anecdotally suggest the diffusion of the term
and practice to other Anglophone countries, while media accounts sometimes allude to scenes in other countries or at least, as in the coverage
of actor Steve McFaddens alleged participation, to British tourists
exporting the practice when they go on holiday.
A central element of the dogging scene is its reliance on technologies
a key focus of this article. Most obviously, it uses the technology of the
motor car, and draws on longer-established sexual uses of the car. But it
is also enabled by other, more recent technologies, and these have been
equally if not more important in producing and sustaining dogging as a
scene or subculture. These are the technologies of the telephone, especially the mobile phone, text messaging (SMS) and camera- or videophones, and the technology of the internet the most significant
resource for doggers and would-be doggers, with dedicated websites
offering tips on sites and news about the scene, as well as opportunities
for contact. There are further technologies to consider, too the technology of contraception and/or prophylaxis, and the mundane technology of dog-leads (Michael, 2000). Later in the article I offer a
broader analysis of the roles of all these technologies in transforming
sexual practice and in enabling dogging; first, I want to briefly discuss
recent UK media coverage of dogging.

Press dogging
Dogging has been in and out of the UK media spotlight over the last few
years, and for a variety of reasons. I do not pretend to offer a comprehensive content analysis of coverage here; rather, I want to briefly sketch
a few selected moments in the medias interest in dogging. Dogging
receives episodic coverage in the local and regional media, usually staged
more-or-less as a moral panic. Local press coverage is particularly significant, in fact, in providing detailed place-specific accounts local knowledges of dogging, often under the guise of warning the concerned
public. My local paper, The Sentinel, for example, ran a feature on
19 January 2003, headlined Voyeurs told to watch out by police
(Lawton, 2003). It opens by describing dogging as a group sex craze
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being promoted on the internet, goes on to (usefully!) list key dogging


sites in the locality, and includes sound-bites from the police, local council
officials and a psychotherapist. The overall emphasis is to warn of the legal
ramifications of being caught dogging, with the reassurance (or warning)
of a heightened police presence at renowned sites. A second article from
The Sentinel, from 24 March 2004, returns to this reassurance/warning,
with its headline Park patrols increase after dogging reports (Alcock,
2004). The article replays the same themes as Voyeurs warned . . .,
noting the role of the internet in publicizing dogging sites (more than
20,000 people have registered with one UK dogging newsgroup), listing
local sites (accompanied by commentary lifted from a dogging website)
and reminding readers of the penalties of the offences connected to
dogging (mainly public indecency). What is more important about this
report, however, is its connection to national media coverage of dogging
as a result of a tabloid story about celebrity ex-footballer, Stan Collymore.
The Collymore story, widely recounted in the national press, stated that
the ex-footballer had become curious about dogging after encountering
it online (Davies, 2004). While he claimed his initial interest was merely
research he was looking for a platform to relaunch his media career,
and thought dogging would make a fascinating documentary topic he
confessed to the Daily Mirror to having quickly become more than just a
distanced researcher. The Mirror article also provides a detailed description of the incident witnessed by the journalists. Importantly, it highlights
the use of mobile phones for making contact with doggers: after having
met a couple at a local dogging site, numbers were exchanged and the
next night Collymore received a text message reported to have read: My
wife wants to get fucked tonight. Shes a bit nervous. Will you meet her
at 8 oclock? So, while the Collymore story is perhaps most significant
because of its celebrity content, it also adds to the broader media discourse
around dogging, fleshing out the picture of what dogging is and how the
scene works. Crucially, it restages the centrality of technologies cars,
phones, the internet to dogging.
A second notable case of celebrity dogging exposed in the UK tabloids
concerned the television actor Steve McFadden, best known for his role
in the BBC soap opera EastEnders. In August 2005, McFaddens
ex-girlfriend confessed to the News of the World that she had unwillingly
participated with him in dogging scenes in the UK and in France. The
actor apparently had a mobile phone he kept exclusively for arranging
rendezvous, and used camper vans to stage sex for onlookers at dogging
sites (Nuwar, 2005). The brief but extensive coverage in the tabloid press
of this story provided ample room to once more rehearse the secrets of
the dogging scene, including in the News of the World an appeal for readers
to send in their own dogging stories. Other tabloids have run similar
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stories, and have also been hosts to adverts for dogging websites and
dogging-related personal advertisements.
A televisual representation of dogging appeared as part of a documentary, Hypersex, broadcast in the UK by BBC2 in December 2002. Filmed
and narrated by Olly Lambert, Hypersex centred on Paul, a man Lambert
met in a Sheffield sex club, and included discussion of his participation in
the car park scene. Paul elaborated on the attractions of this scene,
emphasizing the taboos it transgressed: having sex with someone elses
wife, having sex outdoors, the risk of possibly getting caught. Paul
enthused about the liberation of having sex without relationships he
describes the car park scene as a male fantasy of free sex and multiple
partners. Paul introduces Lambert (and the audience) to the nuances and
etiquettes of dogging the use of car lights to signal openness to either
being watched while having sex or to engaging in sex with onlookers, and
so on. However, the film ultimately frames Paul as a sex addict, as a loner,
and as perverted. As a media representation of dogging, Hypersex marks
out that this is the domain of perverted men men who may talk the
sexual liberation talk, but who are to be pitied. Nevertheless, the film
provides another mass-mediated discursive presence for dogging, providing its viewers with detailed information about a scene that would otherwise remain invisible to many of them (Cooper, 1995).
There is one more moment in the medias fascination with dogging that
I want to describe here, from the UK national broadsheet The Guardian
(Allison, 2003). This article stresses the sexual health issues around
dogging, and reports an initiative by a health promotion team to warn
doggers and would-be doggers to take appropriate precautions to play
safe noting that rises in sexually-transmitted diseases have in some cases
been linked to dogging. As per usual, the piece derives a substantial
amount of its material from websites, but what is notable about its focus
for my purposes is its discussion of contraception/prophylaxis noted
earlier as one of the key technologies I want to explore in this article. So,
while it is a scare story about rising rates of STDs, it offers a technological (rather than moral) solution.
It is important to see media reporting of dogging as constituting part
of the scene itself. As Hay and Packer (2004) suggest, media coverage can
be seen as part of a broader assemblage or conjugation of
media/communications technologies and transport technologies that
have become increasingly intertwined. While their focus is on rather
different conjugations of technologies their initial object of interest is
the launch of a new human transporter their discussion of automobility as a technologically-mediated experience that balances new
freedoms with new forms of governance is certainly resonant with my
discussion of dogging, as the next sections will show.
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Sex and technology


Before I move to discuss the particular erotic conjunctions of bodies and
technologies antecedent to and folded into dogging, I first want to offer
a working definition of technology in the context of my discussion. In
the essay What is technology? Stephen Kline (2003) opens up the
problem of definition, noting that the term technology can be variously
used to describe things, actions, processes, methods and systems (Kline,
2003: 210). Perhaps most commonly used to refer to artefacts, or what
he names hardware, technology also refers, in Klines view, to the
sociotechnical systems that manufacture hardware, to the information,
processes and skills used to complete a given task, and to the broader
sociotechnical systems of use, which bring together combinations of
hardware and people (and usually other elements) to accomplish tasks
that humans cannot perform unaided by such systems (Kline, 2003:
211). It is this latter, more encompassing notion of technology that
informs my argument; so, while I may focus on pieces of hardware, such
as the motor car or the mobile phone, I am equally interested in systems
of use that bring people (bodies) and technologies together in specific
ways. Building on this, I am interested in using Hay and Packers
discussion of the conjugation of media/communications technologies
and transport technologies which they call auto-mobility, and which
they define as a broad range an assemblage of technical devices,
applied and social technologies of communication and transportation
(Hay and Packer, 2004: 212). In particular, Hay and Packer are keen to
point to the ways in which auto-mobility ushers in a strange paradox
regarding freedom and control (2004: 227): hi-tech mobility offers new
personal freedoms, but also allows new forms of regulation and governance. Like Hay and Packer, I am also interested in tracking back from a
particular event (in my case the momentary media spotlight on
dogging, in theirs the launch of a new mode of transport), in order to
provide an archaeological (they prefer genealogical) reading of how
technologies have come together to produce that event. Tracing some
moments in the history of sex and technology therefore provides a
diagram that has dogging at its centre, in the sense that dogging has
borrowed from and built on antecedent practices sociotechnical systems
of use to produce its own unique conjugation or assemblage. To understand dogging therefore means exploring its predecessors, in terms of
their coming-together as already-sexualized elements. An important part
of this story, in fact, concerns the convergence of media/communications technologies and transport technologies in an emerging regime
of mobility (Hay and Packer, 2004: 216) as well as their conscripting
into a parallel emerging regime of techno-sex.
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So, working with this expanded notion of technology, it is important at


the outset to note that sex should itself be thought of as a technology,
perhaps most obviously in the Foucauldian sense of technologies of the
self (Foucault, 2000) the practices of living within and through power
structures that offer both freedoms and regulations (for a useful
discussion, see Gauntlett, 2002). This can be understood in terms of the
codification of sex into repertoires of acts, positions, techniques and
performances as particular configurations of bodies, body-parts and
other props and stages. Moreover, the development of discourses of
how to do sex, such as sex manuals and sex education, further disseminates sex-as-technology, describing those repertoires and categorizing
types of sexual act and performance, including the value-judgement of
what constitutes good sex or even great sex (Bhattacharyya, 2002).
In the examples I discuss here, specific erogenies are produced at the intersection of bodies (or body-parts) and technologies (or technology-parts).
The first sex-technology interface I want to explore is perhaps the most
straightforward: the use of contraceptives.

Sex and contraceptives


Contraceptive and prophylactic technologies provide a significant
antecedent to the dogging scene, in that the availability of forms of contraceptive in the West in the post-war years is credited with having a major
role to play in the so-called sexual revolution. Contraception especially the female contraceptive pill (The Pill) is seen as having liberated
sex from reproduction (and reproduction-anxiety), remaking sex as recreational rather than procreational (on The Pill as technology, see
Oudshoorn, 1994). While some sex historians, such as Seidman (1991),
doubt that the sexual revolution occurred in anything more than
rhetoric, even he concedes that:
There did occur one major change in the postwar period: the appearance of
discourses and representations carrying public authority that legitimated sex as
a domain of pleasure, self-expression and communication apart from a context
of intimacy and love. As a medium of these secular values, sex was defined as
acceptable in virtually any consensual adult context. Eros was, in effect, transfigured into a site of individuation and social bonding. (Seidman, 1991: 124)

Giddens (1992) refers to this new sexual freedom as plastic sexuality, and
describes how contraceptive technologies (among other things) brought
with them new sexual scripts and a new sexual contract. Part of the sexual
revolution involved taking lessons in love from gay culture, especially the
sexual practices associated with episodic or casual sex. One cluster of ways
that this was incorporated into heterosexual culture was via the wife
swapping and sex party scenes. These practices were partly accommodated
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under the label swinging, which also introduced multi-partner and


selected same-sex activities (Bell, 2004). One arrangement incorporated in
the swinging/sex party/wife-swapping scene which links in with the sexualization of cars is the key party. The key party scenario runs thus: couples
arrive at a house party by car. The men who are always coded as the
owners and drivers of the cars put their car keys in a bowl or other convenient receptacle. At the end of the evening, the wives take turns to pick
pot-luck from the bowl, and go home with whichever husbands car keys
they have picked out.
Of course, The Pill is only one of the contraceptive/prophylactic technologies implicated here. Especially in the era of AIDS, barrier technologies and especially the condom have become ever more significant sex
aids, but these bring with them new problems especially in terms of
disposal. In one of my favourite autobiographical accounts of juvenile
dogging, food writer Nigel Slater recounts a particularly close encounter
with this problem, as he crouched beside a parked car to catch glimpses
of its occupants having sex:
The Capri suddenly stopped moving. I twisted my head round and looked
gingerly up. The drivers window opened an inch or two and a hand pushed
something wet and glistening out the window. It landed on my back, then, a
second or two later, a tissue followed. [Later, back home] . . . I discreetly
wiped a thick, shining line of semen off the back of my school blazer. (Slater,
2003: 1701)

The condom is, of course, only one sexual response to HIV/AIDS.


Other forms of sexual practice have also developed as ways to have
promiscuity in an epidemic (Crimp, 1987), including so-called sex
without secretions, mediated by communications technologies telephone sex and virtual sex (Blazdell, 1992; Kroker and Kroker, 1988).
While sex without secretions is often written as an alternative to
embodied sexual contact, in the dogging scene (as in other comparable
scenes) the relationship between communications technologies and sexual
practices is more complex; while for some, virtual participation is enough
and is facilitated through amateur pornography depicting dogging
for others, communications technologies such as the phone and the
computer are complemented by bodily co-presence and contact, while the
technologies themselves become sex aids, charged with erotic possibilities.
I will return to this issue in a later section, but first I want to focus on the
sexual life of the automobile.

Sex and cars


The car has recently enjoyed heightened academic scrutiny, most notably
in social and cultural theory as part of a broader analysis of the trope of
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mobility (or auto-mobility), and also from the still-growing material


culture studies agenda (see, inter alia, Edensor, 2003; Hay and Packer,
2004; Miller, 2001; Sheller and Urry, 2000). Included in this work has
been an exploration of the commingling of the car and the driver variously labelled the car/driver by Lupton (1999), the car-driver by
Sheller and Urry (2000), the cason (a contraction of ca(r) + (per)son)
by Michael (2002) and an attempt to unpick and unpack the mutual
constitution and on-going shaping of technologies and social relations. As
Lupton writes:
The embodied relationship that humans have with . . . cars in the process of
physically using them shapes the ways in which they think and feel about these
artefacts . . . The form and function of cars . . . serve to direct human action,
embodiment and thought in certain ways. We use cars to construct and express
our subjectivity . . . [C]ars are designed and marketed to invoke emotional
states such as desire and excitement . . . They are often represented as humanlike in their affective and erotic appeal. (Lupton, 1999: 59)

Although her focus is road rage, Lupton does a larger job of mapping
out the embodied ontology of driving, including emphasizing the (latent
and explicit) erotics of cars and driving (pushed to their imaginative limit
in Ballards (1973) Crash, which endlessly delineates the sexual potentials
of bodies-in-cars). Lupton also notes the ambivalent relation of the car to
private and public space entering the car generates a private space in a
public space (Lupton, 1999: 60) and the role of car ownership and
auto-mobility in contemporary constructions of autonomy, individualism
and identity. Moreover, her focus on road rage brings into relief the
enjoyment of risk invoked by certain kinds of car-driving practices. Also
interested in understanding road rage, Michael (2000) explores the ways
that cars (or, rather, casons) enable subversive and subcultural behaviour even while they are situated in regulatory regimes (both explicit, such
as highway law, and implicit, as in the etiquettes of driving). The car, he
writes, enables certain deviant emotions, certain mis-uses (Michael,
2000: 86) these include road rage and joy riding, resonantly named
by Michael examples of the naughty hybrid (2000: 92).
It is another instance of the naughty hybrid that I am interested in
here: the use of the car in sexual practice. This intimate association has a
long history of its own, and the erotics of the car remain a mainstay of
both advertising discourse and cultural practice. The history of autoerotics includes the evolution of distinct sites of car-based amour such
as so-called lovers lanes where courting couples (especially teenagers)
can drive away from (parental) surveillance to make out (DEmilio and
Faderman, 1988; Sheller and Urry, 2000). Car-bound making out has
also been enabled by other automotive recreations, such as the drive-in.
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Particularly in the USA perhaps, cars signified (and still signify) teenage
autonomy and growing up, and car ownership and driving are hence
woven into subcultural practices of teenhood (and beyond), including
sexual practices. In terms of contemporary dogging, Kahney (2004) notes
that the youth-dominated custom (modified) car scene has distinct
spatial and sexual overlaps with dogging, in that young people with
custom cars often congregate in the same marginal zones as doggers, and
also often use their cars as sites for sex.
The car affords mobility to other groups for whom transit is also
equated with new sexual freedoms. Retzloff (1997), for example, provides
a detailed account of the role of the car in shaping postwar gay male
culture in the city of Flint, Michigan. In the absence of a developed
commercial gay scene, subcultural and sexual spaces were carved out in
and around cars; for gay men as for growing-up teens acquiring a
license to drive also gave them a license to frolic (Retzloff, 1997: 235).
A malemale sex scene thus evolved in Flint that used cars and related sites
including a parking lot scene, techniques and codes for car cruising,
and the use of the alibi of hitchhiking as a cover for in-car sex:
In Flint, the car allowed gay and bisexual men to assemble like never before,
and these men gave new meaning to the concept of driving for pleasure. . . .
[T]he concealment and mobility afforded by the automobile greatly enhanced
the ability of gay men to find each other . . . The car thus gave men access to
gay spaces both local and distant, became a gay space itself, and helped shape
stationary gay spaces as they evolved during the 1960s. (Retzloff, 1997: 243)

While the Flint case study is in some senses atypical, given the intensity
of car culture at this key site of American automobile manufacture,
Retzloff ends by noting the broader impacts of cars on American gay (and
indeed, broader sexual) culture. And while the city is often seen as the
quintessential car-sex backdrop, marginal spaces on the urban fringe and
rural locations have equally been subject to auto-eroticization. Particularly in terms of gay male culture, the opportunities afforded by the car
to escape, to go elsewhere, and to drive to places to meet other men have,
over time, produced a complex map of auto-erotic zones themselves
part of a larger map of transport-related sex sites (see Bech, 1997). For
rural gays, the car is one of the key tools in forging identity and
community through mobility (Kramer, 1995) although newer technologies, especially the internet, provide different forms of contact for
rural gays today. The rural subcultural sexual use of cars is not, of course,
restricted to gay men; see Jones (1992) for a discussion of blockies,
young rural women performing (hetero)sexuality through cars and
driving. Moreover, there are well-developed sexual scenes utilizing still
points or nodes in the networks of auto-mobility, such as highway rest
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areas (lay-bys in the UK), either as sites to pick up drivers, truckers or


hitchers (Corzine and Kirby, 1977), or as sites to visit (with or without
sexual partners) for cruising, watching and fucking (Lieshout, 1995).
While some studies have emphasized the use of such sites by closeted
men-who-have-sex-with-men, both Corzine and Kirby and Lieshout
reveal a much more complex coming-together of different types of differently-identified (or dis-identified) men in these spaces. Most notably, sex
zones like these are seen as important alternatives to commercialized gay
scenes, and more open in terms of cross-class and cross-race sexual
contact. Lastly, these transitional, marginal spaces are popular sex sites (as
are other comparable sites such as parks and public toilets) as they offer
ready-made alibis for presence there public spaces therefore become,
somewhat paradoxically perhaps, preferred sites for some kinds of sexual
activity, particularly those that are legally or morally transgressive, in that
they provide a number of legitimate reasons to explain ones presence
(Corzine and Kirby, 1977: 173). This logic also partly accounts for the
choice of dogging sites, although the extent to which forms of privacy are
desired is more complex, given the voyeurism-exhibitionism dimensions
of dogging.
One transformation in the experience and practices of auto-mobility
that has been relatively neglected in recent analyses, but which is important in the context of dogging, is the combination of the cars mobility
with what we might call the mobility affordances of other technologies,
most notably the mobile phone. Early mobile phones were, of course, very
much embedded in car culture, since their mobility was limited to their
umbilical tethering to the car itself (Hay and Packer, 2004). Jains analysis
of very different affordances of these twin quotidian focuses of mobility
(2002: 386) her paper presents an ethnography of two urban women
using cars and phones to run errands provides a fruitful frame for
thinking through how urban geography and newly available mobile technologies work in conjunction to authorize meanings of mobility (2002:
386). In stressing both enabling and constraining moments in this new
mobility, Jain provides some useful pointers to help theorize the
car-plus-mobile-phone intersection utilized in dogging; it is to phones,
and mobile phones, that I now want to briefly turn.

Sex and communications technologies


The telephone As with the motor car, the history of the telephone is
accompanied by a history of its sexual uses. These include, among others,
the use of public telephone boxes as sites for public sex (Bell, 2000) and
to display prostitutes calling cards (Hubbard, 2002); the development of
phone sex in all its myriad forms, including straightforward interpersonal
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dirty talking between lovers, plus commercial chatlines, datelines and so


on (Baker, 1992; Blazdell, 1992; Hanson, 1995); and the more recent
and related phenomena of text sex and toothing. And, like the car
discussed earlier and the internet (see later), the telephone has become
woven into and has helped to create and sustain distinct subcultural
practices, including sexual practices, as well as changing conceptions of
personal identity and reshaping the boundaries between public and private
space (for an overview, see Katz and Aakhus, 2002).
While some commentators have chosen to explain phone sex as an
instance of AIDS-phobic sex without secretions or panic sex (Kroker
and Kroker, 1988), Blazdell (1992) argues for seeing it instead as a
potential site around which to reimagine the very co-ordinates of sex, the
forces of desire, the catalogue of sexual practices as a site for new kinds
and meanings of sex. As Hanson (1995: 34) writes, phone sex is an
industry which has been booming in response to the demand for varieties
of safe sex that in some way preserve the sexual liberation of the seventies. However, while much of the ink spilt over phone sex sees these new
practices as supplanting actual bodily couplings, I am more interested here
in the supplementary and anticipatory uses of the telephone, with phone
sex enacted as foreplay to be followed by the real thing. Hanson (1995:
36) similarly acknowledges the limitations of phone sex in this regard,
noting that phone sex allows for the promiscuity and anonymity
attributed to urban queer sexuality, though few have found it an adequate
substitute for promiscuity in person.
The importance of the mobile phone in particular to the sexual practice
of dogging is, in essence, three-fold: it assures that participants can be
contacted, no matter where they are even if theyre in the car, or out on
foot hence assuring successful liaisons; it provides another convenient
cloak of secrecy texting is a discreet, everyday way of communicating,
and since the call and its reply are inaudible (unlike conventional
phonecalls), it can be conducted unobtrusively, privately; and the sending
and receiving of dirty texts itself becomes part of the thrill of the scene.
It thus contributes substantially to the technological affordances woven
into dogging. The second communications technology that provides
similar affordances is, of course, the internet.
The internet Sexual content and communication over the internet has
received widespread attention from reporters and academics alike.
OBrien and Shapiro (2004) provide a recent overview of emerging
discourses on internet sex, usefully collating the principal viewpoints of
scholars and commentators. First, they summarize the scope and size of
internet sex activity:

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[S]ex is the most frequently searched for topic online . . . [O]nline pornography industries are among the most prolific and profitable enterprises on the
Web. It has been estimated that over half of all spending that occurs on the
Internet is related to sexual service and activities . . . Entrepreneurs of sexrelated services are continually seeking new, more efficient and resonant platforms for service delivery. In this regard, sex-related activities can be seen as a
major variable in the technological and economic growth and development of
the Internet. (OBrien and Shapiro, 2004: 115)

But to understand what internet sex actually comprises, OBrien and


Shapiro move on to ask and then answer a question: what does doing
it on the Web mean? (2004: 116). They sketch a number of interrelated
activities: looking at sexual imagery (still or moving, posted or live-feed);
finding others for sex-based chat (exchanging text-based messages
through chatrooms and other similar forums); searching for sex-related
information (e.g. advice on where to meet people who are into particular
sexual practices); and hanging out online with sexual likeminds (2004:
11617). While these different elements are frequently commixed, for
example in the Internet Relay Chat (IRC)-based sexpics trade (Slater,
1998) or in interactive platforms such as CU-SeeMe (Kibby and Costello,
2001), we can nevertheless read this list as an indication of the range of
practices that constitute internet sex for some participants, the internet
merely offers a convenient resource for established sexual practices, while
for others it offers opportunities for experimentation, identity-work and
communogenesis (Bell, 2001). OBrien and Shapiros principal interest,
however, is in tracking the tensions between two discourses on internet
sex: those of liberation versus those of concern. In the former, the
internet is seen as productive of new sexual freedoms, while in the latter
it is seen to produce new sexual offences. These tensions might best be
seen in terms of the positive role the internet is argued to have had in
producing a safe space for the transgender community on the one hand,
with on the other the moral panic about paedophile use of cyberspace.
A final dimension of the concern discourse important to us here is the
question of whether the internet in fact reinforces dominant stereotypes
rather than enabling the proliferation of new bodies and identities online:
to what extent is the internet overwritten by codes of heteronormativity
(and, we might add, homonormativity)?
Setting these important questions aside for one moment, I want
instead to focus first on one way that the internet is transforming sexual
relations and practices, and that is in its flattening of the distinction
between producer and consumer. In interactive forms of internet sex,
participants can simultaneously consume sexual material produced by
others, and produce their own sexual material for others consumption:
they become prosumers. This is perhaps most apparent in the amateur
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porn and interactive sex entertainment branches of internet sex. As


Kibby and Costello (2001) write, in their work on the platform CUSeeMe, the positions of spectacle and spectator become interchangeable.
The CU-SeeMe sites they studied enacted image-based displays of sex
and nudity (rather than purely text-based), with participants simultaneously seeing their own images and those of other participants on
screen, accompanied by textual commentary. As Kibby and Costello
(2001: 362) write, the play between looking and being looked at is one
of the key aspects of the erotics of CU-SeeMe, bringing together
voyeurism, exhibitionism and narcissism in a single encounter. Participants were also aware of the technological mediation of the platform, and
that in itself was woven into the overall erotics. In this account, then, we
witness some reshaping of conventional sexual scripts, which clearly
resonates with the practices of dogging. However, on the CU-SeeMe
scene described by Kibby and Costello the interactions tended to reflect
lived norms of gendered behaviour (2001: 366) though the authors
suggest that there is still more potential for transgression and experimentation than in off-line settings.
This theme is also picked up in Slaters (1998) work on the swapping
of pornographic material (sexpics) on the Internet Relay Chat (IRC)
platform. While the scene appears libertarian, even transgressive, Slater
finds much of the material circulating to be strikingly organized and
policed according to the conventions of off-line mainstream (heterosexual) pornography (Slater: 1998: 99) what we might call pornonormativity. This means that male sexuality is emphatically heterosexual;
women, however, can enact bisexuality, though the extent to which this
is merely conforming to another script of pornonormativity is open to
question. This leaves the liberation-versus-concern question still
somewhat open and unanswered: on the one hand, interactive sex sites are
allowing more people to prosume sexual material in new and expanding
ways; on the other, the weight of pornonormativity restricts what can be
prosumed. Whatever the reading we can get from this tension, there are
important issues raised here to work into our understanding of dogging.
Clearly the internet is widely used, in all the ways OBrien and Shapiro
(2004) delineate, by dogging participants witness the medias obsession
with dogging websites. For some people, it is their only contact with
dogging they purely consume its virtual spaces. For others, the internet,
like the car and the mobile phone, is part of the technological infrastructure that enables them to participate in the scene both on- and off-line.
Dogging websites provide information about the scene, its codes and its
spaces, circulate images and descriptions of dogging activities, and provide
forums for arranging liaisons (on so-called Meet Me Tonight sites; see
Byrne, 2003). In many ways, it can be seen to have as central a role to
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play, in fact, as cars and phones. But there is one last piece of mundane
technology to bring into the equation.

Sex and hudogledogs


And then theres the dog . . . As already noted, while the term dogging
has its origin in the dog-walking alibi for participants, the actual presence
or absence of a dog or dogs is not considered particularly significant in
the scene it has become little more than part of the folklore that
surrounds dogging. Now, that disappoints me, so I want to round out my
thinking about bodies and technologies in dogging by bringing the dog
back in, partly via Michaels (2000) discussion of the hybrid or co(a)gent
that he names the hudogledog (human-plus-dog-lead-plus-dog), but
also because actual dog-walking is central to my already-quoted favourite
account of dogging, from Nigel Slaters (2003) autobiography, Toast. In
two short extracts, Slater recounts how he happened upon a lovers lane
(or, more accurately, lovers lay-by) while out walking the family pet, and
how this subsequently became his nightly ritual, sustained by a Walnut
Whip a chocolate treat proffered by his father. In the second extract,
Slater describes the moment when his little secret was discovered, while
out on a family walk:
Suddenly Dad swings left into the lay-by . . . Such a magical, secret place at
night, by day the lay-by looks shabby, and shockingly real. Dads eyes drop to
the ground and suddenly his brow puckers . . . I can feel colour working its way
up my neck and into my ears; hot, red, embarrassed. In the cold light of day
there are no twinkling stars and distant lights, no naked bottoms, no spread
legs, no muffled cries. Just hundreds of used condoms, little piles of dog shit
and dozens upon dozens of Walnut Whip wrappers. (Slater, 2003: 176)

So, the dog provides a ready excuse for being in certain places at certain
times a perfect excuse, were it not for the detritus of dogging. But the
dog is much more than alibi, of course; it is also an unwitting (and possibly
unwilling) voyeur. While I do not want to dwell here on the ethics of dogs
involvement in dogging, it is nevertheless an interesting extension to the
usual list of functions of these companion animals one more curious
example of how dogs intervene in their humans lives in variegated ways
(Michael, 2000: 126). What I am interested in is the hudogledog as an
actor in producing an understanding of dogging. More accurately, as with
Michaels analysis, it is the mundane technology of the dog-lead that
rounds out my exploration of doggings technologies. For the dog-lead
does a lot of work in bringing together the hudogledog and presumably, in the context of dogging, its role is to confine the dog while its
human watches or joins in. Perhaps, in fact, a dog-lead can stand in for a
hudogledog as a ready-made prop for justifying presence at a dogging site
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the dog itself might have run off, or have been let off the lead for a run.
Of course, the dog lead only makes sense in the appropriate location a
location befitting walking the dog. So, to round off my discussion, it is to
the sites of dogging that I now want to turn.

Spaces of dogging
Finally, then, I want to consider the settings where all this technologicallymediated sexual activity takes place, those marginalized sex zones
(Califia, 1994) where the marginal(ized) practices of dogging have carved
out a stage. In this light, Measham (2004: 320) sees dogging sites as wild
zones outside of the commercialized leisure spaces of contemporary
cities, noting that dogging represents a wholly unexpected and as yet
unregulated reclamation of traditional beauty spots, recreation grounds
and open space for alternative leisure pursuits. To an extent, dogging can
be seen, as in the context of technology, to be drawing on pre-existing
sexual practices involving particular kinds of space. It is related, therefore,
to gay male practices such as cruising, and with the practices of outdoors
sex, which has both heterosexual and homosexual variants, for example in
the use of beaches especially nudist beaches as sex zones (Bell and
Holliday, 2000; Leap, 1999). These scenes, like dogging, are complexly
organized and codified, with a range of possible modes of participation,
including watching (voyeurism), being watched (exhibitionism), and
having sex. Such scenes have been theorized in terms of their re-appropriation of public space, contesting normalized definitions of appropriate
sites for sexual practices (Duncan, 1996; Hubbard, 2001). They have
been described as counterpublic spaces, often ephemeral and secret
sites, carved out in the interstices of heteronormative geographies (Berlant
and Warner, 1998). However, I concur with Hubbard (2001: 52) in
arguing that the public/private distinction is much more complexly
folded in these spaces, and that a more fluid and topologically complex
interpretation of public and private space is necessary to understand the
changing geographies of sexuality. While much of the work examining
sexualized spaces has focused on non-heterosexual practices, Hubbard
also includes what he names scary heterosexualities (2001: 57) a
category into which we can easily incorporate dogging. Perhaps this
folding is even more acute in the spaces of dogging, in fact, since these
revolve around a number of technologies that further blur the
public/private divide. Both the mobile phone and the car present possibilities for private space to exist in public; Sheller and Urry (2000: 746)
describe the car as a rolling private-in-public space, while Jain (2002:
401) sees the mobile phone enabling the habitation of private space in
public. At the same time, the exhibitionist and voyeurist components of
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dogging fetishize the thrill and risk of being in public, rather than
claiming public visibility as a political act (an act that is itself very contingent only some sexual dissidents can use visibility in public as the basis
of rights-claims; see Skeggs, 1999).
The eroticizing of publicity married to particular forms of mobile
privacy-in-public locates dogging in a complex relation to both public
and private, therefore; dogging cannot be read straightforwardly as an
attempt to claim publicity or to reclaim privacy. Rather, dogging stages
elective privacy and publicity, often simultaneously; as Hubbard (2001:
67) puts it, borrowing from Hetheringtons (1999) discussion of folded
and crumpled spaces, publicity and privacy co-join differently in different spaces, and it is in sites that are imagined as not solely public or solely
private that new identities will emerge. Dogging, I would like to propose,
is a very clear candidate for empirically supporting Hubbards claim. While
not politicized in terms of rights-claims or citizenship, and not politically
radicalized (there is no Doggers Pride although the radicalization of
dogging is not inconceivable, especially in light of the creation in UK law
of the new offence of inappropriate sexual behaviour in public; see
Byrne, 2003), dogging nevertheless poses a challenge to reconceptualize
the figuring and configuring of spaces, acts and identities, and crucially,
to understanding the role of technologies in producing a simultaneously
mobile and located, public and private, assemblage.

Conclusion
This article has attempted a preliminary exploration of some dimensions
of dogging. It has provided a provisional definition, briefly sketched some
media responses to the practice, outlined the role of technologies both in
dogging and in antecedent sexual practices that are folded into dogging,
and discussed some of the issues raised by the spaces of dogging, especially in relation to public and private space. It has described dogging as an
example of a geographically and culturally located assemblage of bodies,
technologies and spaces.
There are many further avenues of enquiry beyond the scope of this
article, of course. I have not provided a reading of the content of
dogging websites, which would doubtless reveal important insights into
the modes of sexual storytelling (Plummer, 1995) used within the
dogging subculture. I have not examined the organization and performance of gender in dogging encounters, and the extent to which these
reinforce or transgress pornonormativity. Nor have I produced an ethnographic account of the micro-practices of the dogging scene, in the way
that earlier researchers mapped sexual sites (e.g. Corzine and Kirby,
1977). There is certainly more work to be done in understanding the
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specific erotic codings of the chosen spaces of dogging, to unpick the ways
these sites produce territorializations of desire. Moreover, I have only
alluded to the legal issues surrounding dogging, rather than providing a
thorough socio-legal analysis. And I have sidestepped the empirical
question of who participates in dogging, which would, I am sure, reveal
interesting patternings of age, class and so on and which could also point
up class and age crossings within the scene. Nevertheless, the directions
that I have chosen to pursue have at least begun the task of thinking
through the practice of dogging, and to reveal the manifold intersections
of bodies, technologies and spaces that dogging produces.

Acknowledgements
For reading drafts of the article, or for conversations about dogging, thanks to
Jon Binnie, Tim Edensor, Ruth Holliday, Phil Hubbard and Todd Welton.
Thanks also to Todd for alerting me to the Hypersex documentary, and to Dan
Hampton for Voyeurs Told to Watch Out by Police. Thanks to the participants
at the Sexuality and the City seminar, University of Newcastle, for listening to
and commenting on a draft of this article and thank you to Mark Casey for
inviting me to the seminar series. Finally, thanks to Ken Plummer and Agnes
Skamballis at Sexualities for seeing the article through to publication.

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Biographical Note
David Bell teaches Human Geography at the University of Leeds. His research
interests include urban and rural sexual cultures, consumption, science and
technology, and urban and cultural policy. Recent books include City of
Quarters, Science, Technology and Culture, Cyberculture: the Key Concepts and
Ordinary Lifestyles. Address: School of Geography, University of Leeds,
LS2 9JT, UK. [email: d.j.bell@leeds.ac.uk]

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