Why Gay Men Go To The Baths
All these bathhouse stories probably have you asking, “Why do I spend so much time at the baths.” That is a fair question. This essay will clarify why so many gay men (myself included) spend so much time at the baths.
The bathhouse scene is a real society with its rules, culture, and politics. It is another world that’s never been written about until now. There is one thing the baths can offer that no other gay establishment can offer – total acceptance. Let’s face it; the gay community is very segregated and superficial. If you are a gym bunny, you belong in the circuit scene. If you are a Twink, it is the nightclub and bar scene. If you are a Bear, it is the leather scene, and so on. You would be hard-pressed to find a Gay Senior or a Visible Minority in any of these gay environments.
The baths are the only gay meeting place where you can see a cross-section of every gay group imaginable – all under the same roof. On any night, you can see Latinos, Twinks, Bears, Chubs, Asians, Blacks, and Gay Seniors: All nationalities, all ages, and all shapes and sizes. Everyone is accepted, and no one gets turned away at the door.
Being practically naked, you are inhibited and vulnerable. Stripped of clothing, people’s walls and guards are down. It puts men interacting with one another on an equal level playing field. No one knows the other person’s profession or status, as everyone is in a towel. You might have corporate lawyers interacting with truck drivers, and so on. The inequality aspect of the baths happens when everyone is naked – as some men are better looking than others.
While no one will get turned away at the door, men still get judged by their looks at the baths. But you have a better chance of meeting someone at the baths than at a bar or club. That is because bathhouses offer different types of men. In contrast, bars and clubs cater to a specific type of man – twinks, bears, muscle men, etc. It would be a venue filled with men having the same characteristics. In short, bathhouses offer more variety, giving you better chances to meet someone.
While both the baths and the bars are superficial, the baths tend to be more honest because everyone is naked. There is nothing to hide. Whereas in a bar, everyone performs, and clothes can hide a person’s flaws. Despite all of the strides and advances gays and lesbians have made in mainstream society, it can still be isolating to be gay in the gay community. The baths allow men to mix with other gay men from all walks of life. It fills a need to connect with someone, one more reason why so many gay men go to the baths. Why this urge? One word: loneliness, or rather a subconscious feeling of isolation.
In reality, the need for sex in the gay community is the hunger to connect with another gay man. The sexual act fills the loneliness and the need for companionship, whether a quick blowjob or anal intercourse. That is why a lot of sex occurs in a bathhouse. The bottom line? There are a lot of lonely gay men in the world.
But many gay men go to the baths looking for some 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. But they have this need to connect in some way with other gay men. Whether it is a conversation or 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 in bars or clubs, as it is a closed-door environment. Bathhouses offer these men a false sense of security and acceptance. That feeling of freedom to let go and feel uninhibited.
But it is not only these straight men needing to connect. Many gay men are lonely and need to communicate with other gay men. That is why you see the same men repeatedly at the baths. Think of a regular customer at a bar, and you get the idea – the sheer subconscious feeling of loneliness and a need to connect with other gay men.
I’m lucky that the bathhouse I go to is known as the friendlier place to go, which is the backdrop to all these stories. All the regular clientele is warm and welcoming. In short, it is not only a sexual atmosphere but a social one. That social aspect is why men go to this particular bathhouse. Free sex is a secondary reason. Usually, it is the other way around, so it is why this bathhouse is so special. Also, you do not have to restrict yourself to doing 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, relax in the whirlpool, read magazines in the lounge, watch TV or porn flicks, and chat with other guys. There is something for everyone.
When you start seeing the same men over and over again, conversations do begin to take place. Friendships can develop. But the thing you have to remember is that all of these friendships are superficial. Once you leave the baths, you only see these men again at the next bathhouse visit. If you run into them again at the baths, you quickly pick up the conversation where you last left off. That could have been a week ago or even six months ago. For instance, I was chatting in the lounge with another friend. Many guys passed by, and I said hello to several men. I knew all of them, 15 in all. But I’m experienced enough to know that these relationships are superficial. They don’t go outside of the bathhouse environment.
If you know relationships at the baths are superficial, that’s great. Unfortunately, many guys buy into this false sense of security that a relationship grows at the baths. That thinking sets you up for a BIG fall. Plus, not all bathhouses are friendly, as conversation is practically non-existent at other bathhouses. 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 a GQ magazine. But if you 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 only. To get laid as much as possible, seeing sex as clinical and functionary. Many bathhouses are like that.
Therefore, because of its friendliness, I keep going to this particular bathhouse (not the one with the gorgeous men). I have been a loyal customer for decades. My reason for going is to escape. After a long day, it is lovely to get away from the world. Have steam or sauna, dip in the whirlpool, and chat with someone. You feel like you have escaped the world for a while, and no one will find you. You are away from cell phones, e-mails, texts, and everyone. Sometimes it is funny. I will be at the baths, completely naked in the lounge, watching the news in my towel. Beside me are a coffee and a roaring fireplace. I look out of the window and see it is raining. The real world is on the TV, and I am in this escape world behind closed doors.
The irony does not escape me.