The term has its roots in self-contained English toilet blocks resembling small cottages in their appearance; in the English cant language of Polari this became a double entendre by gay men referring to sexual encounters. "Cottage" is documented as having been in use during the Victorian era to refer to a public toilet and by the 1960s had become an exclusively homosexual slang term.
The word used in this sense is predominantly British (a cottage more commonly being a small, cosy, countryside home), though the term is occasionally used with the same meaning in other parts of the world.
are used to signify that one wishes to connect with the person in the next cubicle.
Since the 1980s, more individuals in authority have become more aware of the existence of cottages in places under their jurisdiction and have reduced the height of or even removed doors from the cubicles of popular cottages, or extended the walls between the cubicles to the floor to prevent foot signalling.
Today, an online community is being established in which men exchange details of locations, discussing aspects such as when it receives the highest traffic, when it is safest and to facilitate sexual encounters by arranging meeting times.
Historically in the United Kingdom, public gay sex often resulted in a charge and conviction of gross indecency, an offence only pertaining to acts committed by males and particularly applied to homosexual activity.
The Sexual Offences Act 1967 permitted homosexual sex between consenting adults over 21 years of age when conducted in private.
The act specifically excluded public lavatories from being "private".
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 eventually removed this contentious offence in favour of "indecent exposure".Since the offences are public but often carried out behind closed doors, the police have found it easier to use undercover police officers who would frequent toilets posing as homosexuals in an effort to entice other men to approach them for sex.These men would then be arrested for indecent assault.Such practices were severely curtailed after a judge decided the police officer in the case had consented to the assault if he had desired and required the defendant to touch him with sexual intent in order to have evidence of a crime.was arrested for wilfully and obscenely exposing his person in the Lang Park toilets near Wynyard railway station in Sydney, Australia.He denied the charges and this early case highlighted the practice of the police using pretty policemen (i.e. As only one police officer was present in the toilet, the magistrate determined that the police were unable to correctly corroborate the evidence and gave Mc Nulty the benefit of the doubt.