In Defense of the Tubs

October 16, 2010

I can still remember that first time – the chill in the winter night on line outside the door off an alley, not wanting to make eye contact but dying to see who else was waiting to enter; later, the butterflies in the stomach and the rush of warm, humid air once we paid the fee and were buzzed in to this secret sanctuary of uninhibited gay sexuality in the heart of the frozen, conservative American Midwest of the 1970s.

My initiation to the baths was at the hands of my more experienced college boyfriend – he was 22, had been there before and knew the deal. The place was crowded, mostly a profusion of aroused, pinkish flesh (not too much diversity back then) and damp white towels. We watched an older man blow an athletic young guy our age for a rapt crowd in a hallway. When he finally pumped his load down the man’s throat, knees gave way, but he was held up by the embrace of two strong men. His moans were drowned out by the collective sighs of the grateful audience, many of who played right along.

For me, this night of cocks and kisses and steam began what’s been a lifelong love for the baths. I had no idea that gay life, and its sexuality, could be so exciting, so fresh, and such a continual adventure. I also remember thinking that this was something I could grow to “love too much.” Thus, it was wise to be cautious, lest those parts of my personality prone to attract too much of a good thing gain control.

I don’t live in the Midwest anymore and the building that bathhouse was in has been converted to condos – just like everything else. In the intervening years I’ve been lucky to sample the tubs all over the United States as well as in several European countries and Brazil. I still go, though not as often, and as a fifty-something daddy what I attract and what attracts me is quite different from that lad of 21.

There are many things I love about the baths besides the omnipresent opportunity to be sexually thrilled in a way you hadn’t before. There’s that feeling of cocoon-like safety upon entering – these are not probable places for gay bashers to haunt or for anyone who is not specifically interested in men who want sex with men. There’s the sensuality of the sauna and steam; the way a man moves down a darkened hallway with just a towel slung low on his hips; everyone’s senses highly tuned to feverish cruise pitch.

In our towels – and nothing else – we’re all equals; the millionaire’s got nothing on the pizza delivery kid, and may in fact have less “baths currency,” unless he’s also got a 6-pack or a big dick (for those turned on by such things). In my usual L.A. bath venues, one is as likely to hear Spanish as English, with a good amount of Chinese and Russian mixed in – as well as the European staples French, German, Italian – cause we all know, those Canadian and continental tourists love the baths.

The gay baths are a logical extension of public bathhouses whose concept goes back at least to ancient Rome – it would be easy to forget that most people in the world did not have in-home bathing facilities until the late 19th century at the very earliest.

There are records of European church and government authorities trying to regulate and stop the homosex going on inside bathhouses dating back to the 15th century. It’s a testament to gay men’s tenacity toward the pursuit of pleasure and community that these attempts have ultimately failed.

For the most part, the sex is free and enthusiastically given; one bathhouse in Rio had an equal compliment of hustlers to customers, but this is an aberration. The baths can be, actually, quite social. The pool, Jacuzzi and normal (as in non-porn) TV salon are frequently the most popular places to hang out (pun intended) between lusty encounters. Over the years, for many gay men ostracized from families or others during holidays, the bathhouse provided a welcome social, as well as sexual, diversion.

My sense is that the popular opinion of the tubs, at least in the American gay community, changed with the advent of HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s. Abruptly these places became lightning rods of “irresponsible, promiscuous behavior” where men spread the disease with multiple partners.

Fearful customers – and that was practically everyone – stopped going. A popular mantra was “if you go to the baths, you’ll get AIDS and die.” Many bathhouses around the country went out of business. Government authorities closed others with collaboration from elements in the gay community – notably in New York and San Francisco. Nearly thirty years later, those two cities are still underserved in this area – San Franciscans, at least, are fortunate in that two of the best American bathhouses are located close by in Berkeley and San Jose.

I revisit this history because it shouldn’t be forgotten. A lot of the hunters on this site were either not born yet or were too young at the time to remember. The closing of the baths, I believe, was very much tied into our collective shame of being gay and having gay sex – and it also delivered the message that we were a group that couldn’t be trusted to behave responsibly on our own, that we needed “help” from a “concerned” authority.

Today there are still objections to going to the baths, but they come from a different place. Now it’s for guys on the “down-low,” cheating on their wives or girlfriends; scaredy-cats afraid to come out. Or that the only people who go are those with drug problems, specifically crystal meth addiction. Still a bad place, still a good place to catch an STD.

Certainly, there’s a truth to all those statements. But you could say the same thing about many establishments, from bars to clubs to circuit parties to gay pride parades, as well as hooking up with strangers from the Internet. All require caution, all require an assumption of risk and a decision to either practice safer sex or not.

I’m not keeping my fingers – or my legs – crossed, waiting for a new golden age of the bathhouse. America is basically a sex-negative country, and most efforts to the contrary are very hard won. I also believe that there’s a strong assimilation movement within current gay culture that wants to establish one-man to one-man marriage as the norm, which would put continued heat on places like the baths or sex clubs. But you know something – we are fundamentally different from the heterosexual culture because we are all men, and it’s our nature is to be non-monogamous.

I’ll still enjoy my trips to bathhouses here and in Canada and Europe, where they don’t have the negative stigma and are hugely popular after-work hangouts. What about you? Do you still go? Do you not? Do you find them hot, tepid, disgusting, daddy-friendly or not? We’d like to know.

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Post written by Jim Arnold (View Author Profile)
About this author: Jim Arnold is a writer, filmmaker, and communications guy living in Palm Springs, CA. When not drooling over all the hot daddies and hunters on this site, he enjoys hiking in the local mountains and driving as little as possible. When pressed, he can roller skate backwards and do cartwheels. Jim blogs at jimarnoldla.wordpress.com.
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Comments

i like going to baths, either in NYC or right here in DC. it is a lot easier to "hook up" there than it is on line, and you see what you are getting. the Baths in Ft Lauderdale are beautiful, fun to hang out by the pool and they serve food on weekends brunch.

it is not a replacement for having relationships, but fun nevertheless and I met a former lover and some of my long time friends at the baths.

I was 18 when I first went to the baths in Dallas. I was certainly not naive about what gay sex was at that point in time, but to see it in such proliferation was nearly more than I could deal with. The funniest thing I remember about that first visit was that the next day my legs were so sore from walking around all night long, looking, watching, yeah... taking part. I'm now 56 and that same bath house is still in business and I make the attempt whenever I'm back in Dallas to go there. I'm a much different person than I was back nearly 40 years ago, and what goes on in the baths is certainly a lot different (no more dark orgy room! damnit!!), but I find that I still enjoy myself.

My very first bathhouse adventure was at the Continental Baths in NYC in either 1960 or 1961. I was stationed at Governors Island which was an Army headquarters in those days. I was 21 yrs old. It was very exciting. I do remember entertainment at the pool but really don't know if it was the Divine Miss M and her pianist, Mary Banilow....lol.

It was 1966 when visited a bath again. I arrived in San Francisco from a tour of duty in Vietnam and decided I needed some excitement before heading back home to Massachusetts and family. I was brown as a berry from the tropical sun and thought I would be a good catch for someone. Unfortunately, I wasn't approached by anyone, and those that I approached simply brushed me away. I was a complete failure in what I thought would be a great adventure. I was 27 at the time and wondered what exactly the problem was. Maybe I looked too much like a cop with my cropped GI haircut. Anyway, I was very, very disappointed. Subsequent visits to baths never proved to be very exciting for me. I really like one-on-one encounters without an audience.

I just remembered that in 1963 I went to a Turkish Hamam (bathhouse) in Ankara, but that was strictly a straight place. Interesting, but not very exciting.

I'm a southern-born, midwestern-raised gay man in his mid-40's. My first introduction to the Baths was the fabulous 3 story bath house in the St. Charles district (?) of New Orleans, while there on a business trip almost 20 years ago - a place that no longer exists, I think. 2 stories of mazes and dark rooms (one which included a semi-tractor trailer with a sling in the center of the maze).

Since then I've visited Steamworks in Chicago, a small bath in Myrtle Beach (anyone know if that one still exists?) and was a long-term member of Bodyworks in Detroit - the closest to Ann Arbor, where I lived for 11 years.

Since moving to NYC, I've often been saddened by the Guilianni-era closing of all the good bathhouses in NYC, and looking for a great new one to arise. Sadly I'm still waiting.

Now as an actor, I enjoy finding new baths in new cities- I'm looking forward to trying the one in Columbus Ohio soon. I do find it interesting to note that Ohio- a state which still allows sexual discrimination in housing, and is deeply resistant to gay rights should be more welcoming to bath houses than NYC, which is supposed to be much more open and tolerant...

If anyone has suggestions to places to visit in NYC that I've just missed.... Please let me know! :)

Columbus has 2. I've not gone, but I tho't I'd let you know. And it is sad that sexual discrimination in housing and in employment is still allowed here. Columbus is a very
gay friendly city for the most part, tho'.

re: Two Columbus Baths

Club Columbus - Part of the Club chain. New, modern facility with full gym and outdoor pool. A generally younger crowd. Close to Ohio State University.

Flex - Dark, 2-floors with dungeon-like playroom in the basement. A little seedy and rough-around-the-edges. Less image concious men. A little more "mature" crowd. In a not-so-great part of town, but in this daddy-boy's opinion...worth the trip.

Just my opinion...

My first bathhouse was in Mpls, around 1970. I was not long out of college and had heard about the tubs, and wanted to check it out for myself. I was too frightened and nervous to have sex, but my curiosity was more than satisfied, if nothing else was!

It wasn't until I moved to NYC in 1977 that I became a regular. But then, New York pre-AIDS was a banquet of gay sex, it was everywhere. I remember being cruised on a subway train, we were sitting on opposite sides of the car, stared at one another, watched each other get obviously aroused, left the train and went to the station toilet. I remember walking down Bleeker Street on a sunny weekend afternoon, seeing a hot guy coming out of his apartment building. He locked the door, turned, saw me, turned and unlocked the door again, and I followed him upstairs to his place. The entire city offered the same free sex as the tubs, from backroom bars, the Mineshaft, gay cinemas, even parks. But the advantage of the baths was that you could rent a room and lock the world away. I visited baths in many US cities, as well as in France and Germany (that was a treat!).

I suppose the above makes it sound as if I was an easy mark, but in truth I was always more cautious, or at least more particular. I could never understand the guys in the baths who just went from room to room all night long. Or the ones who got a room and laid on their stomach with a can of Crisco by the bed, never even looking at the men who mounted them. I was that weird hunter who would walk around until I found the right willing partner, then we would go to my room and spend the next several hours in intimate and mutual pleasure. Then I would get dressed and go on my way. It was never about quickies for me, nor was it a numbers game. Thank god I usually found someone who was looking for the same! I will always be thankful for them.

I stopped frequenting the baths when I found my partner in '83, and since his death I've only been to one bathhouse, in Houston, about a year ago. But for me, it was no longer the same. I'm not 30 any more, and that was painfully obvious! So it will probably be a stop I will pass by from now on. But for those who do go...may you have as much fun as I did, and enjoy the memories that I have! Thanks for the blog, it opened a floodgate of remembrances. :)

ROTFL...The Bleeker Street story...that was great!, very funny!...

I'm 69 going on 70. I came out in an era when it wasn't safe professionally to visit gay bars or bath houses. I did it anyway. I never met any co-workers or patients at any of them. I toured the west from Seattle to San Diego in the early 70's and had a ball (picked up nothing worse than a case of the crabs). By the early 80's I had a partner (who is still a very dear friend) and we did 3-ways. All of a sudden the AIDS epidemic began. We all re-examined our promiscuity and began having "safe sex". We had friends back then who quickly died of HIV infection. It was a sobering experience to say the least. I still go to our local bath house an I find that almost everyone practices safe sex. If the answer is NO my answer is NO. As a licensed health-care professional nearing the end of natural life, that is not the road I want to follow. It is most gratifying to know that AIDS-prevention awareness has become an accepted part of being gay.

This was great post and I am about to turn 50 and just wanted to echo your sentiment about the early 80's being a VERY sobering time...I spent most of the 80's in a state of trauma and didn't have what could be called sex from about 82 till about 88 when I regained my confidence...came through negative.

I had some ambivalence about the baths in the 80's but, at the same time, here in my city it was place where an out fellow by the name of Don from the health department conducted testing so the baths served as a place for the dissemination of safe sex info.

Very interesting. I have admit, you've changed my view of bathhouses somewhat. You really paint them as social, warm, friendly, exciting places.

I've never been to one, but maybe I shouldn't rule them out completely as places of low self-esteem and despair! They sound like a real thrill.

Don't worry. You'll find lots of guys with low self-esteem and no social skills. Like in any life situation, it's a matter of separating the wheat from the chaff. You'll probably find that you haven't missed much.

I've never been to a bath house. I have been to many bars and clubs and the general attitude I have encountered - particularly in Australia - is one of unfriendliness, self consciousness, gossip and pretension. A stomping ground for those who are born with a natural confidence, much like straight culture.

I cannot imagine what that atmosphere would be like wearing only a towel. I am only going on what I have heard - and because I have heard these things, I would never visit a bath house.

Can I ask, how do you deal with men you don't find attractive (through attitude as much as anything) expecting to have sex just because you are there? How do you pass up someone who is not attractive to you? I didn't think a lot of talking went on. How do you deal with their sneers and bitchiness (the cock blocking gossip) after you've done so?

I'm glad most of you have had pleasant experiences at bath houses. I have been to a handful over the years and I have to say they have been a waste of time for me. Most of the time I have left without having done anything. The attitude (low self esteem) that permeates these places makes it so difficult to meet anyone. The most vivid memory I have is getting a splinter in my foot from walking barefoot on an old wooden floor.

Maybe it's a different time period. I tried the baths in the 90s and not the glory days of the 70s. Glad some of you guys had fun.

I worked in one, when I was coming out at 26. I think working there you get a good perspective on folks. You have folks hungry for the physical intimacy as well as the emotional intimacy. Lots of variety of men and like any place it's what you make of it. The big emphasis on "You"! This is a place where you're naked for all to see which is an insecurity that many people have....just look at how many people cover their privates in nude pics.

It's a great place to test your security with yourself and learn to accept yourself as a fine sexual being. You see those that are shy on the outside and bring that into the bathhouse and don't find too much success. A bath house can be a place where you should feel free to express your sexuality because that's what a majority of the people there are doing.

I have met people that have become friends for years....we even started having pizza socials on somedays(depends on the type of bath house your in). I learned to separate sex from love...Thank god!

I think the baths are great if you don't wish to bring someone to your home or stand around at a club or bar and be preoccupied with the search for sex. It's the same dance but different setting and can be as direct as only you make it. If you can't take rejection in the real world well you're not going to be able to handle it the baths. There's something for everyone out there. It can be your fantasy island or hell. I can go to a bath house and not have sex and be fine with it because I go to get away, look at some eye-candy...and maybe meet a few people I never would've anywhere else.

So the baths can be a lemon only if you refuse to make lemonade :+)

I've been to the baths in quite a few places in the US, as well as in Toronto. I'm a big 50-year-old guy and, as such, I know and understand that many if not most of the guys there won't be interested in me, as is typical in normal life as well. But there, it's ok....it's not all about sex exactly, it's about being in a totally uninhibited environment where everyone is basically there for the same thing. If sex happens with someone I think is sexy, all the better, but if not, at least I got to view many incredibly handsome guys having a great time. I get tested regularly, and have never caught any STDs in my life, so the thought of the baths being a cesspool of disease certainly isn't true (and I've heard that quite a bit from judgmental, usually young, gay guys). Do you have to be careful?? Yes, of course, but dont' you usually do that with people you'vejust met anyway? If not, perhaps you should. For me, I'll probably continue to go as long as I'm willing and able.

What a great article. Very informative and refreshing. I love saunas and have for many years. I find them extremely relaxing , non threatening and I think most people are non judgmental. I certainly hope they exist for many years to come. You can go to a sauna for relaxation , casual sex or social interaction...and I do know several people who are now in long term relationships after meeting at a sauna.

...the first time that I went to a bathhouse (in Amsterdam, back in the '70s) was in my first year at university and I was taken there by an executive in a three-piece suit who had picked me up hitch hiking from Leyden (where I studied) and who had already jerked me off while taking me there....It was a place full of older men who jumped lustily on the pretty, blond, young thing I was back then. I thoroughly enjoyed all the attention I was getting. Still, it was a bewildering experience, as I hadn't come out yet and still wasn't sure of my sexuality. I didn't go back to a sauna until several years later and have gone ever since intermittently between the LTRs I've had. For me a visit to a sauna has always been a treat that I allow myself when I just want to lay back and enjoy the warmth, humidity, and closeness of male bodies without worrying about any strings attached to intimacy. Now, as a single in my fifties, regular visits to saunas both in nearby Figueres (Catalonia, northern Spain, where I live) and Barcelona help me to live without a steady sexual partner and enjoy an independent life. Some times are better, hornier, more exciting than others, but I always come out satisfied. I enjoy the moment of cocooning, self indulgence and casual fysicalness that a sauna visit provides. As venues, gay saunas have developed significantly for the better over the decades. Especially those in a country like Germany tend to be luxurious, sometimes beautifully appointed places where you can also drink and eat well apart from enjoying the warmth of the baths and the sight and feel of naked masculinity. Bubbles of paradise, that's what gay saunas are for me.

Boy oh boy did that bring back the memories of my younger days!!
The first time I ever went to a bathhouse was the old Corral Club in North Hollywood (CA) with 2 friends. I had never heard of such a place, and then I was 22 or so and still living at home with the family in Pasadena. What a place! I went back the next night by myself. Found out that they had a special entry fee on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for $3.00....so I always made sure that I got my 'buck-a-fuck' those nights, as then, AIDS/HIV were not known. I always made sure I douched upon arrival, and when getting ready to leave to drive home.
Then I heard about a place called 8709 (on West 3rd Street), which the building there is now replaced by a building of Cedar-Sinai Hospital in L.A. There I had my first experience having stuff stolen from my locker (watch and high school ring - thank God whoever took the stuff left my glasses so I could drive home).
I made it a habit whenever I traveled to find the local tub and had a great time. And when I moved to San Diego, I was so pleased to find out that around the corner from my apartment in Ocean Beach section, there was a tub....so easy to get to!
Now that I am 60, I am well aware that my physical body size is most likely a turn-off for those younger than 30, just as when I was in my 20's, anything older than 35 was ancient. I guess the best part of the tubs for me was that you could go, pay your entry fee, and get what you wanted without the endless stand and model bit at the bars....and then run the risk of getting a DUI on your way home from the bar(s) and without anyone to sleep with.
Now that I live in South Orange County (Calif), the closest tubs are in either San Diego or Long Beach....well over an hours drive in either direction.
As I type this, I am in the Palm Springs area visiting friends and the old Club Baths on Perez Road in Cat City is long gone....sorta odd isn't it, with Palm Springs being one of the most popular gay living and retirement spots?
Even in these days of computer search sites for a bed partner, there is nothing like a tub!
To all of you who have written in response to Mr. Arnolds comments above, thanks for the memories of the good old days!!

Guys in bath houses can be passing STD's around, however professionals trained in the arts of the social, political and psychological sciences view people as generic human resources to fill their needs after a brilliant canned presentation.

Well, this was timely! I was having a quick check to see if I had any new messages before I head over to the bath house.
You could say I was a late bloomer, having known about the bath house in town since I moved here in 1980 but I only went there for the first time four years ago. This was probably a good thing since I know two guys who contracted HIV there in the 80's before safe(r) sex was the norm. I'm always careful and have never picked up anything worse than a case of crabs.
I really enjoy it, but a few hours there takes a lot out of me - in more ways than one. ;-)

Thanks for your artical. I started my bath house experience 42 years ago At the Club Chain in Toledo Ohio, The Club Chain went on the have numerous bath houses thoughtout the midwest, across the country and Florida. At Sixty-one I'm still active, carefull and HIV- . I've meet wonderful men and lovers at the "sphitz". One fellow I met their lived with me for twenty nine years. I continue to meet great men at the tub's. I decided years ago to not just have completely annomous sex all the time but to speak with and find the humanity in the individuals I've encountered. When men are just in a towel we leave alot of the pretense of who we are at the door and get a chance to enjoy what we like. I've visited bath houses in most of the states that operate one over the years. Because we judge each other so often on our phyical shape, staying in prime condition has been one of my joys of life. The bath house haven't created my sense of good health and well being but they have certainly added to that notion. Peace to all my brothers, get clean, stay healthy and be kind to one another and yourselves. If someone want's to write a book I've got some good stories......... :)

Jim's article brought back so many good memories for me. The first bathhouse that I went to was in the late '70's and it was one of the most notorious ones, the "BallPark Baths" in Denver, CO (that's right, I said Denver, CO). It was like the bathhouse in the picture of this article... it was something. A place I wish every gay man could have experienced. Three levels, each about 15K sq.ft. An indoor waterfall; steam room like an Italian grotto. Complete weight room, a dance floor to rival any club. An actual cab of an actual truck in one large room, wherein you could play out any fantasy of having sex in a truck. A huge orgy room. Each room had mirrors all around. A large snack bar and chill-out area. Friendly staff. Fantasy rooms (for an extra cost), but there was also "2 buck locker" nights on Tuesdays. And it was a time, before the plague, that even the hottest guys went to in the afternoon after work, or on the weekends even before the bars closed. On special weekend nights, like Halloween, they would have theme parties complete with a dj and a full banquet table of food and fresh fruit. To go there on an cold winter night and hear the moans and groans of men having hot, uninhibited sex was a total turn-on for me. It was the place where I saw two (at the time fairly unknown) movie/TV stars. And I never had a bad time. It was liberating. And you had someone clean up after you when your business was done. The only other place that comes close these days is the "Steamworks" in Chicago ( I knew it when it was the Unicorn....HOT). Anyone who never experienced such a place could not possibly know what a welcoming, warm, sexy atmosphere bathhouses like the "BallPark Baths" was..... It was an era.

I would never be caught dead in a bath.. Going to a meat market and picking out a piece of meat?.. ew.

Well, Its not surprising that many of the men enjoying the memories were around before the plague years when I suspect that bathhouses were the best place(if not THE place) to meet men for sex. It makes sense considering the social stigmas of the time even to be seen in a bar was still problematic for some-and bath houses erased even that hindrance for many. I have talked with many gay men over the years who went to the baths back in the day and can see why there is such reverie.

However....

I grew up in the 1980s when anonymous was synonymous with higher risk sex. I watched as a lot of my older friends(those guys who bragged of bath house exploits in the 1970s) died. It wasn't that I wanted to make direct correlations but it became harder and harder to ignore the coincidences after losing track of the funerals. AIDS redefined how we treated and expected to be treated by others. For better or worse it changed what was important to a lot of us.

I had always wondered what the clubs and baths were like. So I finally went to a few different ones. I tried a few clubs and bathhouses. Yes there was an element of guys on drugs, guys who can't do intimacy, closeted guys or guys who can't even call you by a name-they don't care-but other people were (apparently having fun) banging away like rabbits. I decided that the level of disconnection I felt ultimately didn't work for me-and I disliked constantly having to say 'no' and politely pull peoples parts from my person particularly when I was already playing with someone else. It started to dawn on me that the only way I was ever going to have 'fun' was grow eyes in the back of my head or another pair of arms. It made me realize though there were 'rules' at the door there was no actual instruction manual for the 'what if' moments.

All places have their plus and minus aspects and the bathhouses and sex clubs are just like any other place gay men congregate for sex. You have to decide what types of those places fit best for you.

Ah the Baths-Ive been lucky enough to visit a few in Europe as well as the states. Now I go to the clubhouse here in ft lauderdale on Sundays with my husband. They have a fantastic pool and a little buffet. I sit and read my sunday paper and enjoy the sights while David still explores the rooms, then joins me for lunch and a swim. Its like a mini gay day vacation. As for the safety of it-it is up to each man to protect himself. Whether you are doing a stranger in the bath, or a stranger you met in a library, you are still fucking a stranger. And condoms work everywhere.

as a married gay guy - the baths are heaven. Wheather I get any or not the freedom and openess is so relaxing. I'm older and not great looking so I don't expect to hook up but being near naked and even totally naked at times is awesome. Seeing other men enjoy themselves and seeimg how hot alot of guys my age are is a treat also. I would love a lesson in how to just talk to guys without having them think you want to get anything from them other than conversation, that's what I crave in the outside world. I feel luckly to live in a town with a small club that I can go to once in awhile. I love this blog site also. Anyone who is a married gay guy and likes to chat let me know. Lets all enjoy our life safely.

Bath houses should be used with caution considering the reports on the news of whats going on these days.

i have been a few times. because i am older, not pretty and not rich, i do not get much of what i come for ... so have pretty much given up. that said, a couple of times i have got real lucky (got to suck off a hot guy or maybe get blown, which is what i go for) and always fun to watch guys when they do it in the public areas. that said, bath houses serve a real purpose for guys who need to get off anonymously, who are married and curious, or who just want to explore their options. they fill a real need, and as long as one practices safe anal sex (condoms) you need not worry about catching something. if you are looking for certain drugs or hookers, of course those can be found at the bath house too. just use common sense when you go (sam)

I went one time...the instant judgments, the condescending looks and the rest of what, for me, was a negative situation all around, isn't something I'm looking to repeat any time soon. Sure, the studly, the manly, the hung are going to have a fantastic time because gay men are drawn to men like this but for the average, the everyday...it's not a satisfying experience. I'm FAR from someone with low self-esteem but I've never found satisfaction or any sort of personal validation at any of these kinds of places.

Great reading, thank you all; I have to jump in.
My early bath experiences were the CBCs - Club Body Centers - in St. Louis and Jacksonville. I haven't visited either city in a while, but I
hope they're still there. Like others have said, it is (usually) what you make it. Even today, I find other black men to be a minority @ baths - same goes for Asians. I love being naked with/around other men, and seek out nude venues - beaches and soon local gay naturist clubs - where I can enjoy that. My husband-partner of 20+ years is definitely the "shy" one, but he enjoyed Cupecoy as much as I did this past week!
Although I've traveled a lot for work the only non-US bath I've been to was this 3-floor wonderland in Amsterdam about 15 years ago - it was fantastic! They closed the Boston venues, but there are a couple in Providence. I definitely prefer the smaller, more intimate Club in the downtown area. One of those practically hidden front doors with old wooden steps leading to regular guys and friendly staff. The other one, MegaPlex, is a true meat market with haughty help and neighboring "gentlemen's clubs" video stores w/ booths and just a video theater -
very commercial and cliquey-my take, anyway. I think guys in my age range - 50-60 - have a better time at the smaller one Downtown.
Hey, going to Vietnam and China next week, anyone got any bath house suggestions? 

Introducing the use of chemicals currently banned by the EPA (DDT, etc) for the good of the planet would make the tubs less of a risk for sure.

do please explain how re-introducing the use of a biologically persistent and potentially carcinogenic insecticide has fuckall to do with bathhouses. are men being assaulted by waves of mosquitoes at the baths?

The "circle of life" mentality at a bath house should be reconsidered according to news reports of what a lack of values is apparently causing on a big scale within the hookup community now. Be careful and don't relax with alcohol.

I first discovered one in New Orleans where an Acquaintence has taken me. I wasn't out of the closet yet this was in 2004. Never got into any heavy play. just masssaging and touching that is it. The steam room and hot tub is very relexing. Don't go during decadence and Mardi gras too crowded and crazy. If you like crowded and crazy have fun.

I was the Old Owner of a Gay Steam Bath in Fort Erie Ontario Canada, for 9 years Called Erie Sauna I Sold it to Central Spa 2 years ago I worked 6 days a week with 1 day off , my Best Days were Friday, Saturday , Sunday and Monday, Tuesday I was Closed , Wednesday and Thursday Somedays Were Great, Somedays were the Pitts it's Been in this Small Town of Fort Erie for 60 years and still going Strong , there is sun deck for nude bathing , or sex on the roof , 2 floors of fun lots of horny men , Even now , don't own it still go back to have fun there so that way Guys Coming out of the Closet Have a Safe and Friendly Place to Play in , and Our Gay History in this SmallTown of Fort Erie is Still Here and going Strong for more years to come

I've got sad news to report from San Diego. The Vulcan bathhouse is closed. I first went there in 1976, the year I came out. I was like a kid in a candy store, being attracted to mature hairy men when I was a hairless 'twink' of only 23. I became quite furry much later, but still enjoy my times with masculine men with body hair. Bathhouses are a magical enclave where gay men can be uninhibited with no worry about being attacked by homophobes or molested by police. The security, conversations and SEX have been a part of my life for over 35 years. The Vulcan opened in 1974 and has been a welcomed part of my life in "America's Finest City" for most of my life and I'll miss it deeply.
Now San Diego only has one left and one I've never been to called Club San Diego. I've heard it characterized as mainly having twinks with attitude and 'tweakers.' Not my kind of place, but many Vulcan aficionados said it could change with the influx of Daddy-types who might migrate there from the Vulcan. Let's hope that that transmogrification happens.
In all these comments in this blog, going back to 2010, I saw no mention of CCBC in Palm Springs. I call it a 3 1/2 acre outdoor bathhouse! I have not seen anything remotely like it anywhere on the planet, including Amsterdam and Rio. Despite the 2 hour drive to get there, I may be partaking of their pleasures a little more often now that the legendary Vulcan has closed.

After 62 years the Steam Bath in Fort Erie Ontario Canada Has Closed For Good , I was the Owner of a Gay Steam bath in Fort Erie For 9 years when I had it was Called Erie Sauna , Sold my Licence to Central Spa , Them Being a Big Chain was Hoping They Knew How to Run a Gay Steam Bath in a Small town they Didn't Know How to Run it , they didn't have the Right Personality, to keep it Open ,they were running it like a Big City One this is a Very Small town they only had it Open for 2 years and 5 months , So Our Gay History in this Small Town has Come to a End , it will be Missed in this Small Town ,so it's a Very Sad Day we Don't Have a Gay Steam bath in this Town anymore ,No Place to Have any Fun in there are No Gay Bars Here , There is Nothing Here Now, I Live 2 Doors Away From it Keep Hoping that Someone will Buy the Building and it will Open again But that is Just A Dream it's Very Hard To Let it Go when it's Been in this Town for That Many Years , and it's Just Gone, and Can't Do anything about it , From the Old Owner of a Gay Steam Bath in Fort Erie