Why Gay Men Go To The Baths
You may be sitting in front of your computer reading all of these stories, wondering why I spend so much time in a bathhouse. That is a totally fair question. This essay will give people a better understanding as to why I and so many other gay men around the world spend time at the baths.
The bathhouse scene is a real society with its own rules, culture and politics. It is a whole other world, one that has never been written about - until now. One thing the baths can offer gay men that no other gay establishment can offer is total acceptance. Let's face it; the gay community is a very segregated and superficial environment. If you are a gym bunny, you belong in the circuit scene. If you are a Twinkie, it is the nightclub and bar scene. If you are a Bear, it is the leather scene, and so on. You would be really hard pressed to find a Gay Senior or a Chub or a Visible Minority at any of the gay scenes mentioned above.
The baths is the only gay meeting place where you can see a cross section of every gay group imaginable under the same roof. On any given night you can see Latinos, Twinks, Bears, Chubs, Asians, Blacks, and Gay Seniors. Of all nationalities, all ages, and all shape and sizes. Everyone is accepted and no one is turned away at the door.
Being practically naked, there is a certain inhibition and vulnerability. Stripped down, people's walls and guards are down. It puts men interacting with one another on an equal level playing field. You have corporate lawyers interacting with truck drivers. You don't know what the other person does, since everyone is only in a towel. There is a certain equality being at the baths. Much more so than an atmosphere like a bar as people are judged by what they look like or what they wear. Being naked brings a sense of equality, with some men being better looking than others (obviously).
Yet despite all of the strides and advances that have been made for gays and lesbians in the mainstream society, it can still feel very isolating being gay in the gay community. That is why it is great to be able to go to the baths and mix with other gay men from all walks of life. But another reason as to why so many gay men go to the baths is the need to connect with someone. Why this need? One word: loneliness, or rather a subconscious feeling of loneliness.
The need for sex in the gay community is in reality a need to connect with another gay man. (Read Making The Connection for more) Whether it is a quick blowjob to anal intercourse, the sexual act fills the loneliness and the need for companionship. That is why there is a lot of sex at the baths. Simply put, there are a lot of lonely gay men in the world.
But there are also many gay men that go to the baths, looking for some sort of companionship in a non-sexual way. That is why you see more married, bi or closeted men at the baths. These men don't have many dealings interacting with the gay community and the need to connect someway with other gay men is strong. Whether it is conversation to observing two gay men having a quickie. It fills that need to be with another man. These men feel safer connecting with other gay men at the baths than the bars or clubs, because it is such a closed doors environment. What the baths offers these men is a false sense of security and acceptance. There is a sense of freedom to let go and feel uninhibited.
But it is not only these straight men having a need to connect. There are many gay men that are lonely and have this need to connect with another man as well. That is why you can see so many of the same men over and over again at the baths, just to hang out. Just as you have a regular going to the same bar nightly, that person would be labeled a regular bar patron. It is the exact same analogy as being regular bathhouse patrons (myself included). Why Like I said at the beginning, a sheer subconscious feeling of loneliness and a need to connect with other gay men.
The bathhouse I go to on a regular basis (and is the backdrop to all of these stories) is known in my city as the friendlier place to go. All the regular clientele is warm and friendly. In short, it is not only a sexual atmosphere, but a social one as well. That social aspect is the primary reason why men go to this particular bathhouse. The available sex is the secondary reason. Usually it is the other way around, so that is why this bathhouse is so special. Also, you do not have to restrict yourself to do just one thing. If there is no one interesting around, there are other things you can do. You can sit in the sauna/steam room, you can relax in the whirlpool, you can read magazines in the lounge, you can watch TV or porn flicks, and you can chat with other guys. There is something for everyone.
When you start seeing the same men over and over again, conversation really does start to take place. And a friendship can develop. But the thing you have to remember is that all of these friendships are superficial. Once you leave the baths, you never see these men again until the next bathhouse visit. And that is only by the off chance you run into them again. And you can easily pick up the conversation where you last left off. That could have been a week ago, or even six months ago. For instance, a while ago I was sitting in the lounge with another friend shooting the breeze. There were many guys that passed by us, and I said hello to this person and to that person. And I knew all of them, 15 in all. But I'm experienced enough to know that these relationships are superficial and don't go out of the bathhouse environment.
If you are aware that all of the relationships you develop at the baths are superficial, that's great. Unfortunately, many guys buy into this false sense of security that they are developing relationships at the baths. If you TRULY think you are developing a friendship, you are setting yourself up for a BIG fall. Plus not all bathhouses are friendly. Conversation is practically non-existent at many bathhouses across the country. The majority of them are rather cold and uninviting. For example, another bathhouse in my city attracts the most drop dead gorgeous men; everyone looks like they have stepped out of GQ magazine. Yet if you even happen to glance at any of these men, they will verbally rip you to shreds. The atmosphere is so intense; the guys are there for one reason. Getting laid as much as possible. So the sex is clinical and functionary, the way a lot of baths are.
Therefore, I keep going to this one particular bathhouse (not the one with the gorgeous men), because of its friendliness. I have been a loyal customer, ten years. My personal reason of going is to escape. After a long day, it is wonderful to escape from the world. To have a steam/sauna, dip in the whirlpool, and chat up someone. You really feel as if you have escaped from the world, just for a little bit, and that no one will find you. You are away from cell-phones, faxes, e-mail, pagers and everybody in the world. Sometimes it is funny. I will be in the baths, sitting in the lounge, completely naked, in my towel watching the 6 0 clock news. Beside me are a coffee, and a roaring fireplace. I look out of the window and see it is raining. There on television is the real world, and here I am behind closed doors, in this escape world. The irony does not escape me.