It was one of those things that no one had ever heard of and then the next day it seemed to be everywhere, and everyone seemed to be doing it.
It most likely evolved from the swinging scene and was probably around for quite a while, but before everyone had access to the internet news just didn’t travel that fast.
The modern history of dogging has not been well documented, most likely due to a lack of funding for research and lacklustre interest from academia, even if these conditions were met an unwillingness of participants would probably hamper the creation of any substantial records. While a Wikipedia page dedicated to Dogging exists, it is rudimentary at best and contains no real insight, it is doubtful if any contributors to the page have ever actively engaged in dogging themselves.
Attempting to document the very first instance of dogging is task akin to finding the model who was the inspiration for the Mona Lisa or trying to count how many illegitimate children Boris Johnson has fathered, a feat some of the greatest minds will surely be working on for many years to come.
We may never find the very first instance of modern day dogging, but we can follow its explosion in popularity after it was first given column inches in Britain’s major papers in the mid-1990s and then other mainstream media, and with the rising availability of the internet in the early 2000s
One of earliest uses of the term ‘dogging’ in a major national print publication was in 1994 by The Star and now defunct News of the World newspaper, amongst others, in which they reported that footballer Stan Collymore frequently visited dogging sites and would describe himself as a ‘dogger’. While he said he was ‘ashamed’ of himself, the story only had the effect of bringing the pastime enjoyed by a few in-the-know into the mainstream and creating an explosion in interest that websites struggled to keep up with.
Once the Collymore story broke Dogging was officially out of the bag and into the woods. Those already in the know no longer had to worry about keeping their little secret, secret – dogging was the hottest craze to hit the British sex scene in years, and the British pubic couldn’t get enough of it! It was probably one of Britain’s biggest exports in a century.
"We simply love it as a nation. Thousands and thousands of people come dogging across the country, from London to Cornwall, to Cardiff to Glasgow. British dogging is the best, as we pretty much invented the niche, and more than in other countries, we actually treat each other nicely. When you join a group or couple for outdoor dogging in the UK, you will generally find them very welcoming and friendly.”
The modern day dogging scene that we know today was born.
The world was still in the mist of the .com boom, new websites listing dogging sites seemed to appear every day, our old Nokia mobile phones would be bombarded my text messages promising to divulge the location of dogging hotspots, ‘Lad’s Mags’ like Nuts, Zoo, and Loaded would run stories about late night encounters down country lanes, it was an epidemic we could all get behind. Even a decade after the Collymore story broke, the mainstream tech site Wired published a story titled 'Dogging Craze Has Brits in Heat'; it was clear this wasn't just another 90s fad.
Things stayed pretty much the same for much of the 2000s, it is often referred to as Dogging’s ‘Golden Years’, where it received huge support from both within the dogging community and the wider, non-dogging community. Dogging sites were plentiful and easily accessible, participants were eager and numerous.
But after roughly a decade into the new millennium a paradigm shift became apparent, the public attitude towards one of Britain’s greatest exports since the steam engine started to change, sentiment towards doggers turned sour in some areas, locals no longer welcomed the night-time visitors like they had before, signs went up proclaiming ‘No Dogging’ on posts to the entrances of narrow country lanes and remote car parks, local police said they would patrol areas to prevent the activity.
When someone put up a fake brown "official dogging area" sign at a Cotswold beauty spot that had become popular with doggers in 2010 that was quickly torn down by angry local and reportedly burned on a bonfire, everyone knew the mood had changed.
There was resistance from both sides of the political spectrum, the Guardian ran articles titled 'Dogging? Not in my backyard please', the Daily Mail Surrey woods has been ruined... Why do the police now think it's OK for people to have sex in public?, what is a dogger to do?
No one was really sure why this ever so popular outdoor sex trend was suddenly facing such a public backlash, some say it could be because it had become so mainstream, possibly after Channel 4’s 2013 now infamous documentary Dogging Tales and that like everything else, it became a victim of its own success.
Seasoned veterans blame the new comers, saying some of them don’t follow the rules like the old guard, Bob Moore from West Country Doggers Alliance says “It’s great we have new blood joining, we need those young guys to keep it alive, some of the chaps down here are pushing 60 and 70, but they need to ensure they appease everyone else who uses these sites, I’ve heard stories of people losing their homes, business and jobs because of inconsiderate doggers, it’s just not right”.
Bob’s comments may seem alarmist at first, but in a café, the Hog's Back on the A31 which is accessed via a layby which became so overrun by doggers after it was voted the second most popular site in Europe faced closure and the loss of a number of jobs. And the local authority was forced to spend £25,000 to put up some form of visual barriers to protect the children at the primary school just meters away from getting a very early lesson in the birds and the bees.
Just a short drive away another café owner say he has to clear a ‘bin-bag’ full of discarded sex related debris every morning as part of his morning routine before opening.
“It’s things like this that give us doggers a bad name” says Bob.
“I think another problem is that police now have to be considerate of doggers human rights, and that always seems to get people’s backs up”.
Tensions have thawed somewhat in the past few years and both sides have seemed to have managed to accommodate each other’s demands, now in 2020 things between the two communities are quite good.
In these uncertain times no one can predict what tomorrow will bring, and that hold trues for the al fresco sex scene, we’ll just have to wait and see. Some have even been asking ‘Will dogging increase after Brexit’? due to massive lorry tail backs, and how will this affect relations.
The simple answer is no one knows.