Troll (gay slang)
Troll and trolling are slang terms used almost exclusively amongst gay men to characterize gay, bisexual and questioning or bi-curious men who cruise or "wander about looking" for sex or potential sex partners or experiences "in a notably wanton manner and with lessened standards of what one will accept in a partner." The term can be used positively or negatively depending on the speaker, usage and intent and can describe the person or the activity. Although often referring to "an unattractive older gay man" and although troll as a slur "is primarily a visual, not a behavioral" judgment the phrases can be used for anyone who is trolling regardless of the putative troll's age or perceived beauty.
Origin and historical usage
Troll as gay slang is amongst the lexicon of the cant Polari used in the gay subculture in Britain which has become more mainstream with transcontinental travel and online communication. There is still debate about how Polari originated but its origins can be traced back to at least the 19th century.
The term troll probably became equated with cruising because a troll is a "creature of Scandinavian folklore depicted as a devilish imp who lives in dark places and “patrols” in an endless search." "The word trolla in Swedish means ‘to charm or bewitch’." Or perhaps from trolling as trolling for fish: Cast a wide net and hook whatever you can.
"As a Polari word, troll can mean ‘to walk effeminately’, or ‘to walk, seeking sex’." Trolling can be used almost interchangeably with cruising and like much of Polari usage was probably meant to disguise what was being talked about because being gay was and still is taboo and discussing gay sex in any public area can be risky.
The word "troll" has remained unfamiliar even to many gay men in Britain, who have never heard, used, or needed to use the term. Regular customers in the same gay bar might have different takes on the usage – one simply referring to cruising, another referring to a negative version of a troll as a someone who "will have your skin crawling in seconds with his lascivious looks and raunchy repartee," another meaning older gays who prefer to troll for younger guys.
Variations on troll exist. A gay culture author asserts that trolley-dolly may be "derived perhaps from a combination of lalies and troll. A trolley-dolly (contemporary gay slang) is a gay flight attendant." Some assert, however, that the phrase references the duty-free and drinks trolleys pushed by flight attendants; many people also use the phrase to refer to female flight attendants and in the UK it is often applied to supermarket checkout operators.
Depending on the culture the men are in, the setting, time of day (or evening), how comfortable they are about their sexuality and their intentions will all affect the trolling experience. Some men are still coming out or even a virgin to same-sex experiences; some societies punish gays with prison, public humiliation and even death. So having the appearance of just walking through the area or using a restroom comes in handy until those there for sexual fulfillment can let their guard down as it becomes obvious everyone is there with like-minded goals. For regular areas or “troll haunts” that are frequented by a recurring group of trolls there is a general rule that "as in most gay male settings, the young, the muscular, and the unfamiliar are more sought."
A troll’s intention will also influence actions and outcomes ranging from casual sex in a more private area to exhibitionism like masturbating to group sex, fulfilling a sexual fantasy or even the voyeuristic thrill of watching someone else have public sex. Some are looking to: perform fellatio either directly or through a glory hole, receive it, or switch roles; perform or receive anal sex; participate in group sex or a BDSM experience even including gang bangs; or simply to watch others perform sex acts.
A regular public bathroom at a college, public library, shopping mall, train station or even a public park could be a higher risk trolling venue while more private venues like nightclubs, bars, offices and even churches add to the sexual excitement for some escalating the experience with more taboo environments. For some potentially getting caught is almost better than the sex itself.
Public sex is often illegal, but enforcement varies from lax and rarely enforced to the aggressive pursuit of entrapment, even at disproportionate financial expense to the police force. Victims of other crimes, such as mugging or assault/gay bashing, during cruising also see varying support from police in different regions, from supportive to dismissive and insulting. Cases of police brutality against gay men found cruising cause further distrust of law enforcement in the gay community, although it is used on the Internet often.
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|Look up troll in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- A Sex Stop on the Way Home by Corey Kilgannon, New York Times, September 21, 2005
- Polari British gay slang
- Cruising for Sex .com
- The Little Black Book: This one can keep you out of trouble, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund; also available here. Additionally published as "Little Black Book: This one will keep you out of trouble" in PDF format; also available here. An article that gives legal advice on cruising for sex. Note that if one actually carries this article on one while cruising it could possibly be used as evidence of intent.