Sex In The Bath
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sex in the bath
Bath sex offers the comfort and pleasure of water, but with a reduced risk of slipping that shower sex poses. Some people find warm bathwater relaxing, and a full tub can make it easier for those with painful conditions to move around. However, a large tub of water can pose a drowning risk, so partners must ensure they are sober and can easily get in and out of the bath.
A gay bathhouse, also known as a gay sauna or a gay steambath (uncommonly known as a gay spa), is a public bath targeted towards gay and bisexual men. In gay slang, a bathhouse may be called just "the baths", "the sauna", or "the tubs". Historically they have been used for sexual activity.
Bathhouses offering similar services for women are rare, but some men's bathhouses occasionally have a "lesbian" or "women only" night. Some, such as Hawks PDX, offer so-called "bisexual" nights, where anyone is welcome regardless of gender.
In many countries, bathhouses are "membership only" (for legal reasons); though membership is generally open to any adult who seeks it, usually after paying a small fee. Unlike brothels, customers pay only for the use of the facilities. Sexual activity, if it occurs, is not provided by staff of the establishment, but is between customers with no money exchanged. Many gay bathhouses, for legal reasons, explicitly prohibit and/or discourage prostitution and ban known prostitutes.
Records of men meeting for sex with other men in bathhouses date back to the 15th century. A tradition of public baths dates back to the 6th century BCE, and there are many ancient records of homosexual activity in Greece. In the West, gay men have been using bathhouses for sex since at least the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time when homosexual acts were illegal in most Western countries and men who were caught engaging in homosexual acts were often arrested and publicly humiliated. Men began frequenting cruising areas such as bathhouses, public parks, alleys, train and bus stations, adult theaters, public lavatories (cottages or tearooms), and gym changing rooms where they could meet other men for sex. Some bathhouse owners tried to prevent sex among patrons while others, mindful of profits or prepared to risk prosecution, overlooked discreet homosexual activity.
When a friend with "little experience but great desire" confided his homosexual longings to Charles Griffes in 1916, Griffes took him to the Lafayette so that he could meet other gay men and explore his sexual interests in a supportive environment: the friend was "astounded and fascinated" by what he saw there. The baths also encouraged more advanced forms of sexual experimentation. Griffes himself had had his first encounter with a man interested in sadomasochism at the Lafayette two years earlier (he found the man "interesting" but the experience unappealing), and several men interviewed in the mid-1930s referred to experimenting in the baths and learning of new pleasures.
In London, the Savoy Turkish Baths at 92 Jermyn Street became a favorite spot (opening in 1910 and remaining open until September 1975). The journalist A.J. Langguth wrote: "...[The baths at Jermyn Street] represented a twilight arena for elderly men who came to sweat poisons from their systems and youths who came to strike beguiling poses in Turkish towels... although they were closely overseen by attendants, they provided a discreet place to inspect a young man before offering a cup of tea at Lyons." Regulars included Rock Hudson.
Steambaths in the 1930s: The steambaths that had been well known to me were those of East Ham, Greenwich and Bermondsey. In the first two it was frequently possible to indulge in what the Spartacus Guide coyly describes as 'action', but behaviour at all times had to be reasonably cautious. In the Grange Road baths in Bermondsey, however, all restraint could immediately be discarded with the small towels provided to cover your nakedness."
In the 1950s exclusively gay bathhouses began to open in the United States. Though subject to vice raids, these bathhouses were "oases of homosexual camaraderie" and were, as they remain today, "places where it was safe to be gay", whether or not patrons themselves identified as homosexual. The gay baths offered a much safer alternative to sex in other public places.
Another service offered by the baths was voter registration. In the run-up to the 1980 election, the New St. Mark's Baths in New York City, with the assistance of the League of Women Voters, conducted a voter registration drive on its premises.
In Australia, the first gay steam bath was opened in Sydney in 1967. This was the Bondi Junction Steam Baths at 109 Oxford Street. From 1972 through 1977 the following gay steam baths opened: Ken's Karate Klub (nicknamed "KKK"), later called Ken's at Kensington; No. 253; King Steam; Silhouette American Health Centre; Colt 107 Recreation Centre; Barefoot Boy; and Roman Bath (nicknamed "Roman Ruins"). In Melbourne the first gay bathhouse was Steamworks at 279 La Trobe Street, which opened in 1979 and closed 13 October 2008. Adelaide's Pulteney 431 is one of the oldest gay saunas in Australia still in operation, having opened its doors to Adelaide's gay community in 1977.
Many bathhouses are open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. There is typically a single customer entrance and exit. After paying at the main entrance, the customer is buzzed through the main door. This system allows establishments to screen potential troublemakers; many bathhouses refuse entry to those who are visibly intoxicated, as well as known prostitutes. In some areas, particularly where homosexuality is illegal, considered immoral, or viewed with hostility, this is a necessary safety precaution.
Sexual encounters at bathhouses are frequently, but not always, anonymous. Some feel that the anonymity adds to the erotic excitement: that is what, for these patrons, one goes to the bathhouse for. Bathhouse encounters sometimes lead to relationships, but usually do not. Bathhouses are still used by men who have sex with men and do not identify as gay or bisexual, including those that are closeted or in heterosexual relationships.
In many bathhouses the customer has a choice between renting a room or a locker, often for fixed periods of up to 12 hours. A room typically consists of a locker and a single bed (though doubles are sometimes available) with a thin vinyl mat supported on a simple wooden box or frame, an arrangement that facilitates easy cleaning between patrons. In many bathhouses (particularly those outside the United States), some or all of the rooms are freely available to all patrons.
Some men use the baths as a cheaper alternative to hotels, despite the limitations of being potentially crowded public venues with only rudimentary rooms and limited or non-existent pass out privileges.
These guys will actually call me at home or send me e-mails and we will make a date and we will meet at the baths purely because the sling is there and it's easier and we go for a beer afterwards. I use the bathhouse more as an ancient Greek, Roman social centre and also a fucking centre and a fisting centre as well, and there's a lounge where I can sit and relax with a coffee and a cigarette.
Bathhouses are not always identifiable as such from the outside. Some bathhouses are clearly marked and well lit, others have no marking other than a street address on the door. Bathhouses sometimes display the rainbow flag, which is commonly flown by businesses to identify themselves as gay-run or gay-friendly. Bathhouses commonly advertise widely in the gay press and sometimes advertise in mainstream newspapers and other media. In 2003 Australia began airing possibly the world's first television advertisements for a gay bathhouse when advertisements on commercial television in Melbourne promoted Wet on Wellington, a sauna in Wellington Street, Collingwood.
In many countries, being identified in such a sauna was still viewed by the press as scandalous. In Ireland in November 1994, the Incognito sauna made mainstream press as the gay sauna where a priest had died of a heart attack and two other priests were on hand to help out. Scott Capurro is known for his deliberately provocative comedy material and often refers to gay sexual culture including gay bathhouses.
On being buzzed in, the customer receives a towel (to wear, around the waist) and the key for his room or locker. The customer undresses, storing his clothing in the locker provided or room, and is then free to wander throughout the bathhouse which typically includes the amenities of a traditional bathhouse or steambath. In contrast with traditional bathhouses for bathing, the common areas of a modern gay bathhouse resemble a gym's locker room or a small lobby.
Many bathhouses also provide free condoms and lubricant. Some establishments require a piece of identification or an item of value to be left with the front desk on entry. Homosexualities emphasized the importance of a towel:
Most men, beyond footwear, typically just wear the towel provided. According to bathhouse etiquette, it is perfectly acceptable, even friendly, to put one's hand under someone else's towel to feel his penis, which, if well received, is the first step in sexual intimacy. Some bathhouses permit and others not only permit but encourage total nudity. In some bathhouses nudity is forbidden in the common areas of the establishments. Some men may wear underwear or fetish-wear, but it is unusual for customers to remain fully or even partially dressed in street clothes. Bare feet are frequent, though some men prefer to wear flip flops or sandals, sometimes provided by the establishment, for foot protection. The room or locker key is usually suspended from an elastic band which can be worn around the wrist or ankle.