Troll (gay slang)

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In the notorious "meatrack" on Fire Island Pines, New York, a man trolls for sexual action.

Troll and trolling are slang terms used almost exclusively among gay men to characterize gay, bisexual and questioning or bi-curious men who cruise or "wander about looking"[1] 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."[2] 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"[3] and although troll as a slur "is primarily a visual, not a behavioral" judgment,[4] the phrases can be used for anyone who is trolling regardless of the putative troll's age or perceived attractiveness.

Pejorative use[edit]

As a verb, "to troll" is not necessarily pejorative, with "trolling for sex" merely a synonym of cruising for sex.

The same is not true of "troll" as a noun describing a person, usually an elderly or unattractive gay male (a "troll") aggressively seeking younger partners ("twinks" or "chickens"). This usage carries all of the negative connotations associated with "dirty old man" outside the gay community; editorialists in the gay press also occasionally cite this usage as evidence that a gay community which values youth and physical attraction is marginalising its elderly.[5][6]

Origin and historical usage[edit]

A troll is a fearsome member of a race of creatures from Norse mythology that have achieved international recognition and become stock characters in popular culture.

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."[2] "The word trolla in Swedish means ‘to charm or bewitch’."[7] 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’."[7] Trolling can be used almost interchangeably with cruising[8] and like much of Polari usage was probably meant to disguise what was being talked about because being gay was (and in some contexts 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,"[9] another meaning older gays who prefer to troll for younger guys.[10][11]

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."[12] Some[who?] say, 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[citation needed].

"Trolling" is also a term used for generations among fishermen in boats, to describe the way they let a line with a hook and bait on the "fishing line" follow along behind the boat moving slowly, hoping that this slow baiting of the fish will result in a catch. In Gay sub-cultural slang usage would often be coded to seem as though the speaker was talking about "fishing behavior'" but the "gay slang" usage decodes the message to mean "cruising for sex" and luring the potential contacts [catch]. The homosexual "cruising" could be called "trolling" to mean moving along slowly and letting potential contacts ["catches"] have opportunity to "take the bait" i.e. connect for sex. It does also carry the implicit meaning of being a behavior done by older less desirable men seeking sex in public places, but younger people may use the term either to describe serious sexual hunting, or to make light of it, and by using the term "trolling" to put a humorous light on what is considered to be a somewhat socially questionable behavior. [13]


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."[14]

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.[15]

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,[16] 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.

Legal concerns[edit]

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.[17] 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.[18][19] 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.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ken Cage (2003). Gayle: The Language of Kinks and Queens: A History and Dictionary of Gay Language in South Africa. Jacana Media. p. 100. ISBN 191993149X. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Donald F. Reuter (2006). Gay-2-zee: A Dictionary of Sex, Subtext, and the Sublime. Macmillan. p. 214. ISBN 0312354274. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
  3. ^ Green, Jonathon "The Big Book of Filth: 6500 Sex Slang Words and Phrases By Jonathon (INT) Green, 2002, pg. 244" Retrieved on 2007-06-06.
  4. ^ Atkins, Dawn "Looking Queer: Body Image and Identity in Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender Communities By Dawn Atkins, 1998, pg. 446" Retrieved on 2007-06-06.
  5. ^ "StackPath".
  6. ^ "The New Gay » Commentary: Chicken, Twink, Thirty-Two, Daddy, Troll". Archived from the original on 2014-08-05. Retrieved 2014-07-02.
  7. ^ a b Baker, Paul "Polari - The Lost Language of Gay Men By Paul Baker, 2002, pg. 47" Retrieved on 2007-06-06.
  8. ^ Coleman, Julie. "Love, Sex and Marriage: A Historical Thesaurus By Julie Coleman, 1999, pg. 292" Retrieved on 2007-06-06.
  9. ^ Anderson, Dan. "Sex Tips for Gay Guys: Troll Dodging By Dan Anderson, 2002, pg. 44" Retrieved on 2007-06-06.
  10. ^ Herbst, Philip H. "Wimmin, Wimps & Wallflowers: an encyclopaedic dictionary of gender and sexual orientation bias ... By Philip H. Herbst, 2001, pg. 50" Retrieved on 2007-06-06.
  11. ^ Downs, Alan "The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World By Alan Downs, 2006, pg. 94" Retrieved on 2007-06-06.
  12. ^ Baker, Paul "Polari - The Lost Language of Gay Men By Paul Baker, 2002, pg. 194" Retrieved on 2007-06-06.
  13. ^ Report on the Life of the Male Homosexual in Great Britain by Gordon Westwood.
  14. ^ Leap, William L "Public Sex/Gay Space By William L. Leap, 1999, pg. 62" Retrieved on 2007-06-06.
  15. ^ De Vries, Brian and Herdt, Gilbert H. "Gay and Lesbian Aging: Research and Future Directions By B. (Brian) De Vries, Gilbert H. Herdt, 2004, pg. 94" Retrieved on 2007-06-06.
  16. ^ Mann, William J. Gray gays: Aging gay men and lesbians face unique challenges by William J. Mann, Boston Phoenix, May 1997" Archived 2007-05-24 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2007-06-06.
  17. ^ a b Otton, Garry. " Cruising: A Private Inconvenience by Garry Otton, ScotsGay Magazine, January 1995" Archived 2007-06-29 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2007-05-18.
  18. ^ Groot, Willemien (17 March 2008), "Police get homosexuals out of the bushes", Radio Netherlands Worldwide, archived from the original on 9 March 2011, retrieved 18 May 2010
  19. ^ Muir, Hugh (15 May 2007), "Officers' homophobia hampered murder investigations, says review", Guardian, London

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