For some Sydney gay men, sex-on-premises venues (SOPVs) are a part of life. It’s where they can cruise for anonymous sex whenever they feel the urge.

Learning how to use these venues, however, can be tricky. They can also be dangerous if safe sex is not practised, which is why ACON is running free workshops for men who want to learn more about SOPVs.

The workshop -“ Cruising 101 -“ aims to make participants more familiar with different types of venues, to teach successful cruising strategies, disseminate safe-sex information and build confidence and self-esteem.

Rob Sutherland, gay men’s education officer at ACON, said Cruising 101 was one of ACON’s most popular workshops and one of their longest-running, starting back in 1998.

Four of the workshops are held each year, with the latest one starting this week. There was so much interest people had to be turned away.

Obviously reports of the internet killing off SOPVs were premature.

Sex venues have historically played an important part in the culture of gay Sydney and I think they still play a very significant role in a lot of gay men’s sex lives today, Sutherland said. That’s certainly the feedback we get from participants in the groups.

Men who attend the groups come from all walks of life, ranging in age from early 20s to late 50s.

The workshop is for guys who are already using venues and want to develop a better understanding of the culture that governs SOPVs, and also for guys who are really quite inexperienced or haven’t been to venues but would like to, Sutherland explained.

Obviously there’s a big sexual health component, and that’s one of the core reasons we run the workshops -“ to equip guys with the skills to negotiate sex safely in that environment, he said.

Participants in the four-week course learn about SOPV etiquette, such as the fact that most communication in venues is nonverbal, something that can prove difficult for some at first. There are also tips on how to hook up with someone.

We teach the One Two Three rule, Sutherland said. It’s when you walk past someone in a venue and you count to one, then to two, then to three and then you turn and, if they do the same thing, you’re in.

If you want sex in a cubicle, walk in and leave the door open, things like that. A lot of eye contact is a key to any sort of pick-up.

Participants are also taught how to negotiate their way out of situations they’re not comfortable with.

One of the fundamental things to learn is that you always have a right to disengage from whatever situation you find yourself in, Sutherland said. This means if you ever feel uncomfortable you always have the right to say stop.

We also teach how to say you’re not interested without offending someone.

The final session of the workshop involves a trip to a local SOPV to get some hands-on experience.

The next cruising workshop will be held early next year. For more information contact 9206 2106.

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