I am a super-sex-positive guy. The kind of guy who doesn't really think twice about jumping in on an orgy and I am totally down for casual, no-strings-attached sex. So, you'd think bathhouses would be right up my alley, right? Well, spoiler alert, I've never actually gone into one.
I've thought about it a few times, sure, but there is a certain grimy vibe that has clung to the bathhouse scene for more than a few decades now. From what I can tell, there was a lot of negative press and propaganda during the initial days of the AIDS outbreak that really brought the hammer down on the bathhouse scene and caused the next few generations to shy away from them, mine included.
So, I never really went to a bathhouse but I found myself thinking about them recently. I wondered why I never even popped my head in for a peek. I love an adventure and that really sounds like an adventure to me!
I began to wonder about why I had never gone to a place that sounds like such a wonderland to a guy like me and realized it was mostly because of things I had heard and not experienced. I also realized that my seemingly reasonable excuses for shying away had lost a lot of their weight thanks to changes in the world since they began to fall out of favor. In short, the only thing keeping me away was my own prejudice.
By the time I was coming of age, bathhouses were mostly seen as places where "dirty" men went to cruise for sex and you'd be lucky to escape with nothing more than a nasty case of the clap. While there are legitimate concerns surrounding disease and casual sex, we've come a long way as a community in our ability to adapt to the times.
Back then, people weren't careful enough and there weren't preventative drugs like PrEP to help curb the rampant spread of the disease. Besides, there isn't much difference between hooking up a stranger or strangers you met on Grindr and fucking people you meet in a bathhouse when you get right down to it.
As far as creepy men cruising for sex, well, yeah, of course there are men looking for sex there, but there's nothing creepy about it. Those old birds could probably teach me a thing or two about a thing or two and it's not like they stop being human once the wrinkles start to crop up!
I decided I would like to check it out. The only problem is, I don't know the first thing about them, really. I'm a socially awkward guy, I like to know the etiquette of any given social situation before I can even begin to feel comfortable. So, I went looking for tips online to help get me through. I found some good stuff, I hope they'll help you if you decide to take the plunge too!
1. The Buddy System
Whenever I am going into a new situation, I like to have a friend along who knows the terrain. If you know someone who frequents bathhouses already, you're golden! Just go with them sometime. Even if you don't know someone who already goes, having someone just as mystified as you are will probably go a long way toward making you feel more comfortable. Besides, you're going to need someone to help watch your back, but we'll get to that later.
2. Flip-Flops Are Like Condoms For Your Feet
Your junk isn't the only thing at risk of exposure to pathogens in environments like bathhouses. These are, essentially, places that are much like a gym shower or locker room. You don't want athlete's foot or whatever so, wear some flipflops. Some bathhouses have a rule against going barefoot. Be prepared. Bring an old, cheap pair to protect your feet and avoid a breach of decorum!
3. Don't Be A Dick...
This is generally good advice all-around but, seriously, try not to be a dick when you are rejecting the advances of another guy. Most of these guys know the score, you don't need to be rude. Just be firm and politely say, "No thank you." They'll probably just move along until they find someone who is down to get down too.
...Unless You Need To
4. Speaking of Consent...
.. make sure you maintain your ability to give it! Don't get so intoxicated that you lose control of yourself or you could get taken advantage of. Make sure not to take drinks from strangers and always keep an eye on your drinks to be sure you don't get roofied. The most commonly used date rape drug is a clear, tasteless, odorless liquid. Someone could tip a few drops in your cup as they bring you your drink and you'd never know until you woke up, possibly in the hospital, the next day.
If you are going to be taking any recreational drugs, make sure you know the person who is giving them to you or bring your own. Sure, this guy might be hooking you up with some sweet molly, but it could also be cut with something horrible or it could be some entirely different drug. You could end up tweeked out on meth instead of petting faces and enjoying the pretty colors.
It's messed up, but it's just the world we live in these days. Don't let it make you afraid to enjoy a night out, just make sure you keep your wits about you! this is also where bringing a buddy along can be extremely helpful.
5. Bring A Little Bag With You
A lot of the people offering advice about going to the bathhouses for the first time say it's a good idea to bring a small bag with you that you can wear. A drawstring bag you can wear over your shoulders seems to be the favorite. Lots of bathhouses have lockers for rent, which is great for having a place to store your clothes and stuff but doesn't do you much good for the things you need to keep with you while you're kicking around the place. Little white towels don't have pockets, after all!
6. Bring Stuff To Put Into That Bag
If you're wondering what you might need a bag for, well, here you go! First off, you're going to need a place to keep your condoms and lube. If you plan on having the full bathhouse experience, you're definitely going to need those for it to be successful. Secondly, you're going to want to have a place to keep some cash on hand. A lot of bathhouses are cash-only and if you spend even a little bit of time in a bathhouse doing what usually gets done in a gay bathhouse, you're going to need to replenish your fluids! Since you won't be accepting drinks from strangers, you're probably going to need to buy a drink at some point.
The final thing is more of a personal tip of my own, though I have also seen it recommended by others online. Bring a douche kit with you! Anytime I think I might be getting some action, I bring a douche kit with me, just to be safe. I can't stand the thought of everyone's least favorite resident of my downtown area, Mr. Brown, crashing my sexy parties. So, I always make sure I am ready to evict the bastard before getting down to business.
7. Be Open To The Experience
I think the hardest part of going to a bathhouse, for me, is going to be setting aside my preconceived notions and just going with the flow of the experience. I am looking at my upcoming trip to the bathhouse as an opportunity to expand my horizons and get even a little taste of how things used to be back in the golden age of bathhouses.
I think it will be good to set aside my prejudices and experience something that was once an integral part of gay culture and community. Adventure, personal growth, and casual sex practically on tap? I'm down!
So, what do you say? Plan on getting steamy in a bathhouse any time soon?