What happens at a gay bathhouse?
Ever wondered what goes on in a gay bathhouse or a gay sauna? Ever been a bit curious to see what it’s all about?
Here’s a quick preview of what you can expect.
What is a gay bathhouse?
Bathhouses – which are also referred to as saunas and sex-on-premises venues – are the venues where guys go to have sexual encounters with other guys.
A sex-on-premises venue can range from the fairly basic – some sort of a space where guys can have sex – to the full spa and steam-room experience inspired by the Ancient Greeks.
What’s the history of gay bathhouses?
Bathhouses - or saunas, as they’re generally referred to in countries such as the UK and Australia – aren’t a new thing.
The Ancient Greeks were obviously a big fan, but communal bathing is something that can be found in most parts of the world. Of course, anywhere where there’s guys getting naked, you’re going to find guys getting off with each other.
We tend to get detailed historical records of bathhouses when something has gone wrong or there’s been some trouble or drama. Places such as Florence in 1492, when there was a crackdown on sodomy that was targeted at bathhouses. Also, Paris in 1876, when there was a police raid on a bathhouse and six men – aged 14–22 – were charged with offences against public decency. In New York in 1903, police raided a bathhouse and arrested 26 men – charging a number with the offence of sodomy.
The style of bathhouse that we’re familiar with today began to emerge in New York and London in the early 20th century. They deliberately took their inspiration from the Ancient Greeks.
It was the late 1960s and 1970s in the US when gay bathhouses came into their own. This was around the same time as the concept of gay liberation began to build momentum.
While the devastation caused by HIV to the gay community around the world also impacted saunas and bathhouses, sex-on-premises venues continue to play an important part in the lives of many gay men. Even the emergence of location-based hook-up apps hasn’t made saunas redundant - they’re often a preferred meeting point once you’ve connected with someone online.
Today, in most major cities, you’ll be able to find a bathhouse.
Bathhouses continue to play a really important role in creating a space where men can get together, get naked, and get off.
What type of guys go to a gay bathhouse or sauna?
Honestly, all types of people. From young to old, body-conscious to comfortable. Everyone from proud gay men, to young guys beginning to explore, to guys who need to exercise a bit of discretion. What they’ve all got in common is that they’re looking for sex, for an encounter, for intimacy.
What happens in a gay bathhouse or sauna?
It depends a bit on the facilities offered by the venue, but most places will give you a locker and a towel. You take all your clothes off and put everything in the locker, then wrap the towel around you.
Generally there will be a shower area, a steam room, a hot tub, a dry sauna, and a series of cubicles.
A good starting point is to have a shower first and then get your bearings as to the layout of the venue. Giving yourself a bit of a tour of the venue is also a great way to scope out who else is there.
After your shower, if you’re not sure where to start, head for the hot-tub or the porn room. These are usually good meeting points where other guys will be congregating and looking for action.
You hang out, you wander around, you make conversation. If you connect with a guy, or more than one guy, then you have sex. No one forces you to do anything, no one is forced to do anything.
Why do we need gay bathhouses now we have marriage equality?
Some people seem to have a perception of saunas as representative of a time when being gay was something to be kept hidden, when encounters between guys were illicit and a little bit dangerous. Why do we need saunas now that we have marriage equality? Why do we need saunas now that gay men can create ‘normal’ families like everyone else?
Having great sex is one of the huge advantages of being a gay man. Being able to meet up with other guys and have hassle-free sex is fantastic. Having no-strings sex doesn’t make you a bad person, it just simply helps satisfy the sexual needs that all men have.
Going to a sauna doesn’t have to involve any compromise of whatever committed relationship you’re in – a lot of couples will go to a sauna together, not necessarily to have sex with other people but just to spice things up a bit.
Being a bit sexually adventurous is one of the great things about being gay and sex-on-premises venues are an important part of our community and our identity.