Tearoom trade: a study of homosexual encounters in public places book, was written by Laud Humphreys as a Ph.D. dissertation with the title "Tearoom trade." The study aimed at analyzing homosexual's behaviors practiced in public toilets. Humphreys affirmed that the men who took part in homosexuality acts emanated from various social backgrounds. The homosexuals differed in their personal motives and belonged to the categories of either being "straight," "bisexual," or "gay." The study tried to identify the common stereotypes associated with men homosexuality in public places. In the study, he realized that most homosexuals lived normal lives, they had families with children, and others received much respect in the community because they kept their acts private. The tearoom study has sparked a major controversial debate in social research since it infringed the privacy the participants.The main findings of the research
In his findings, Humphrey destroyed many stereotypes. Fifty –four percent of participants were happily married with wives and children. An insincere analysis suggested that the subjects be exemplary citizens who had exemplary marriages. Additionally, his findings illustrated that, Thirty-Eight percent failed to be classified in the category of bisexuals and homosexuals. In 38%, most of the subjects or their wives were Catholics and their conjugal rights had been denied after the birth of their last child. Their substitute sex had to be rapid, impersonal and inexpensive. This category avoided taking chances that could destabilize their present shaky marriages or jeopardize their roles in the family as the head and the sole provider. These men sought any form of sex that could form an organism-stimulating action whose effects were less desperate compared to masturbation and one where commitment and love were not involved. Out of the other sixty-two percent of his subjects, twenty-four percent were evidently bisexual, favorably married, well-educated, economically stable and outstanding members of the society. The single were twenty-four percent and undercover homosexuals. In his findings, Humphrey came into terms that only fourteen percent of his participants matched with the common stereotypes about homosexuality in the society. He concluded that, only Fourteen percent of the members of the society belong to the gay community, ready for homosexual’s relationships.A discussion about the research goals
The main research goal of the study was to analyze the homosexual’s acts that took place in public toilets. Humphrey aimed at observing the impersonal sexual encounters practiced by men who involved themselves in same-sex especially in public restrooms. The researcher also had a goal of acquiring vital information about sexual behaviors and homosexuality in public areas. He also tried to identify the solutions to the stereotypes in the society concerning the gay community.A detailed description of the research methods used
Humphreys used participant observation and structured interviews as his main research methods. He positioned himself in “tearooms" and ready to serve the role of a "watchqueen" (a person who monitors the watch and coughs whenever in the presence of a police car or a stranger). He was very loyal in his role as he observed the acts in disguise. In some instances, Humphreys decided to be open to the homosexual men, disclosed to them about his role as a social scientist and urged them to reveal their personal information about their life. The people who remained willing to disclose about themselves considered the most educated in the "tearoom trade." In a bid to avoid bias, he secretly traced the men he observed and put on paper their car’s license numbers. One year down the line, Humphreys disguised himself as a health-service provider and activated an interview to get details about the men’s marital status, financial stability, race and many others.Discussion about the main findings
After observing the behaviors of the men, he came up with surprising findings. In his study, he realized how gay people carried themselves in the public restrooms. He noticed that the man waiting for another man to enter into the restroom. The first man in the restroom tried to express the urge for sex by displaying a sexual object to the other man. The third man acted as a "watchqueen" to monitor the safety of the men engaging in the act. Humphrey disguised into a lookout so that he could interact with the men and learn more about their behavior. The homosexuality happened wordlessly and anonymously within the public toilets. The most popular sexual behavior was the Oral-genital sex, as it required less time and a small space. The rare sexual behavior was anal sex because it needed more time and the men feared the authorities from trapping them.In the other part of the study, he noted the license plate numbers of the males he was observing and traced their residents. He then requested them to fill a structured questionnaire claiming that he was undertaking a "social health survey." In his findings, he came into conclusion that most gay men had families and were respected in the society, reasons why they always feared any threats that could expose their behaviors.Effectiveness of the study’s methodology
In my opinion, I think that Humphrey’s methodology was fit for the intended purpose. Through his method of participant observation, he succeeded to observe the subjects behaviors and came up with accurate findings of his study. The structured interview that he carried on to get information from the subjects when disguised was also successful. The benefits of using these methods were that the researcher minimized the rate of bias that could have come appeared during the study. The problem is that he used the methods in a way that was not scientifically recognized creating controversies in social research.The study’s ethical considerations
The “Tearoom” study was very controversial in the subject of research. Humphrey never respected the modern contemporary standards in research and this brought about a hotly discussed debate. The worst blunder that he made was to observe the behavior of humans without their consent. In addition, Humphrey conducted a survey and failed to reveal to the subjects the goals of his research. However, he was wrong to publish the findings of a controversial study without consent from the subjects. Nevertheless, he never used the recognized research methods to come up with accurate information. The most burning issue that is against the research ethics is acquiring the information from the subjects secretly and violating their privacy for exposing the information into the public. The study led to public outrage since Humphrey used the license plate numbers of the subjects to track their real names and addresses. Later on, he disguised as a health-service provider, interviewed his subjects without their knowledge that they had encountered him earlier before. The study by Humphreys raised many ethical questions as he violated the rights of the subjects by capturing information and publishing the findings without their consent.
Humphreys, L. (1970). Tearoom trade: Impersonal sex in public places; enlarged edition with a retrospect on ethical issues. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.