With the advent of gay hookup apps like Grindr, many folks assume that the Gay Sauna is a relic of the past. Thankfully, they would be wrong. In many towns and cities around the world, the Gay Bathhouse is alive and well!
I’m Karl Majak and I first visited a gay sauna in the UK at the age of 19 where I developed a deep attraction for them. For the past decade, I’ve been frequenting gay saunas and bathhouses all over the globe and have become quite an enthusiast about this incredible sexual institution.
You see, Gay saunas provide a space for men to relax, regenerate themselves, socialize, and enjoy kinky casual sex. But for many men, whether gay, straight, or just curious, the fear of the unknown is a major stumbling block to them enjoying what gay saunas have to offer.
“Highway rest areas, they’re the bath houses of the ’90s for many, many, many, many gay men.”– There’s Something About Mary, 1998.
At Whoreuro, we make it our mission to make underreported sexual institutions alive and accessible for all. You’ve requested it and we listened! Today, we’re going to cover a comprehensive gay sauna survival guide.
From just what happens at bathhouses and finding a men’s bathhouse near you to gay signals and a sauna cruising guide, this guide leaves nothing out and is compiled from my own personal experience.
The first time is never easy, but this guide will make your first gay bathhouse story a pleasantly memorable one! First off, let’s look deeper into what happens at bathhouses and just what they are.
What happens at bathhouses for gay men?
Bathhouses or gay saunas are located in towns and cities all over the world. You’ve probably walked past one, perhaps unknowingly. They are (mostly) legal establishments for gay, bi, and curious men to visit and enjoy the company of like-minded and sexually open men.
Generally, a gay sauna will be divided into four areas: Reception, a social area, a relaxation lounge or spa area, and a play area. Let’s look into these in a bit more detail. At the end of this guide, I’ll relay my first experience of exploring the layout of a gay sauna.
This will be your first port of call when visiting a sauna. It’s no different to a regular reception except for the possible addition of sex accessories for sale, sensual art, and gay-related literature or leaflets available.
You’ll likely be buzzed in via a discreet entrance beforehand. Once here, you pay your entrance fee and receive your towel, locker key, and possibly lube and condoms. Many saunas offer a free overall tour for newcomers or you can explore at your own pace.
This usually consists of a lounge with refreshments, seating areas, TVs, and sometimes computers for visitors to use. This is just for hanging out, watching the news, and meeting other like-minded men, no cruising or sex usually takes place here.
A relaxation lounge
This is where your showers, saunas, pools, jacuzzis, and gym type facilities will be. Like the social area, not much sex takes place here. Playing in the places like a jacuzzi is considered unhygienic and is usually forbidden.
However, it’s not uncommon for people to be playing inside the saunas. You can’t blame them, all that heat can really make a man horny! So don’t be surprised if you feel a hand or two on you here, but save the hardcore stuff for the next area.
The cruising area
The one you’ve all been waiting for! Arguably the highlight of a gay sauna is the play area or cruising space. These vary wildly but often consist of Gloryholes, BDSM equipment, cabins for sex, public fucking galleries, and porn cinemas.
As long as it’s consensual and not dangerous, pretty much anything goes here. It’s a great place for sexually open-minded men to indulge their naughtiest kinks, often with strangers.
Therefore that’s the various features of a general sauna and how they work. Now that you have a general map of what you’ll be walking into, you probably have further questions about how to behave inside and what goes on. So next up is our bathhouse etiquette guide!
Gay bath house etiquette guide
Just like with Gloryholes, gay saunas have a universally accepted code of etiquette to follow. Whether you like or agree with these rules or not, they should be respected and have been formed through years of sauna sex. They’re there to ensure everyone has a good experience.
Take a shower before entering
After paying at reception, your first port of call will likely be a locker room and then a shower block. Even if you’ve already taken one at home, take a shower before you go in.
Also, any strong aftershave or a lot of deodorants can have a negative effect in a steamy environment of a sauna, so a shower will help wash it off. Other sauna-goers will appreciate it!
Understand gay signals at the bathhouse
To avoid any misunderstandings it’s useful to learn gay signals that you’ll come across at the bathhouse. Let’s look at the two basic ones. For Gloryhole etiquette and signals, this article has everything you need.
Firstly, if someone is staring at you lustfully and cruising near you in the play area or elsewhere, it’s a given that they’re interested in getting to know you well. Very well in fact.
If the opposite occurs and somebody is purposely looking away from you and not making eye contact, they’re not interested. Don’t take it personally, you’re just not their type or they might simply be relaxing after a heavy play session.
Not acknowledging a potential playmate is an acceptable way of showing you’re not interested in sauna etiquette.
However, if you’re interested in someone looking at you, slow down and maybe flash a polite smile to initiate an interaction. And speaking of which…
Getting touchy feely
Outside the social and leisure area, there isn’t much talking. People come to the play areas to fuck, not to talk about the weather. So rather than exchanging pleasantries, they communicate in another way… which is still quite pleasant to be fair!
Don’t be offended if someone touches your ass or cock, this is standard communication in a sauna. Generally, if someone grabs your ass they’re a top. If they grab your cock, they’re a bottom and want you to fuck them. If you’re interested, don’t be afraid to return the signal.
If you’re not interested, then a polite shake of the head and a “no thank you” should be enough to signal your disinterest. If he doesn’t get the message, then be a bit more assertive. Don’t ever feel pressured into doing something you don’t want to do!
Don’t be surprised by peeping Toms!
If you’ve hooked up with someone and are getting down and dirty in one of the play areas, don’t be surprised to find eyes watching you from somewhere! Even in private cabins, determined voyeuristic folk will find a way to see you in action.
Unless you’re really not into this, try to find somewhere more discreet. But if it doesn’t bother you, then why not put on a show? I Like to think of these peeping toms as my personal audience and try my best to put on a naughty performance for them.
Maintain the sanctity of the jacuzzi!
Like many of you, I love cum. I also love jacuzzis. But guys, these two just don’t mix! I’m all for weird sex, but jacuzzi sex is forbidden in gay saunas for a good reason. The aftermath just really isn’t nice.
Respect the leisure area and your fellow sauna visitors and take your playmate/s to one of the play areas and fuck to your heart’s content. Respecting this rule is a great way to avoid being kicked out too, which is never a good end to a sauna visit!
Try not to get too drunk
Many gay saunas are open 24 hours. This means that, during certain hours, people leaving clubs and pubs will want to visit for some late night fun. There’s nothing wrong with this, but if you’re a paralytic drunk and can hardly stand up, it’s probably best to leave it until another day.
Also, some first-timers might resort to some Dutch Courage before they enter the sauna. Again, within reason this is fine, just don’t go too far and always be in control of yourself and know what you’re doing (and with who!).
Be kind to others at the bathhouse
All ages (18+) and body types are usually welcome at most gay saunas and rightly so. They’re there for the same reason as you, to have fun! If you’re not interested in them, politely let them know from the get-go.
Don’t lead them on or rudely turn them away. None of us stays young and handsome forever, so treat everyone with respect and kindness regardless of age, weight or looks.
Don’t be a creep and understand the word no
Just like in bars or on the bus, creepy people can be found at a sauna too. Whether it’s someone with a creepy aura, staring a bit too much or who just doesn’t understand the word no, this is the person you don’t want to be.
The latter issue is one worth underlining. No means no and if someone isn’t interested, then leave them alone. Continuing to harass someone for fun when they’re clearly not interested in is seriously not cool. Don’t be that guy!
Don’t be afraid to try gay Gloryholes, especially if you’re shy!
Any respectable gay sauna will have Gloryhole facilities. Often the subject of urban rumour, I’ve noticed a few newbies who are intimidated by glory holes. Ok, there is basic Gloryhole etiquette to learn, but they’re a whole lot of fun!
Gay Gloryholes take away the small talk aspect of hooking up in a sauna and can be a great way for shy lads to get involved at their own pace in the play areas.
Choose the right footwear
Most saunas will issue you flip flops with your towel and locker key, but a few don’t. Wearing street shoes in a sauna environment is far from ideal and generally frowned upon. So pack a pair of clean comfortable flip flops to change into if you’re unsure.
Top tips for visiting a gay sauna
Ok, now you’ve got the basic etiquette nailed down, let’s look at some of my top tips that will make your gay sauna experience as smooth and enjoyable as possible. Learning these things the hard way isn’t fun, lads. So take note!
Pack a gay sauna bag
Around the world, the quality of saunas can vary a lot. Whilst many have a ready supply of condoms and lube, many don’t. Sometimes the ones that do aren’t the best quality either. So packing a little bag of essentials can go a long way. For example, as a versatile sauna-goer, my kit includes things like the following:
- My favourite condoms, anal lube, and a douche.
- Comfortable flip flops.
- Fetish outfits I plan to wear such as jock straps etc.
You can pack all of this in a small shoulder bag or drawstring bag, stash it in your locker and bring it with you when you visit the play area. Trust me, it pays to be prepared!
Bring cash over cards
A lot of gay saunas accept cards, but an equal number don’t. Why? Well, a lot of people are naturally hesitant to have such an establishment show up on their bank statement. So cash is king. But don’t turn up with your life savings in your back pocket, either. Bring only the cash you need.
Don’t be scared to indulge in what’s on offer
Your first visit to a gay sauna is all about exploration. So don’t be afraid to indulge in what’s on offer. Maybe you’ve always wanted to be ploughed in a sex swing or fucked in front of a crowd in new positions.
If the situation presents itself, don’t let your shyness hold you back and don’t be afraid to get stuck in. But remember, it doesn’t always have to be about sex!
Don’t feel pressured to have sex
The reality of a gay sauna is that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. If you just want to relax around like-minded men and indulge in the facilities, feel free. If you wander into the sexual area, then don’t feel pressured to play. You can equally indulge in your voyeuristic side and watch other men go at it.
The only thing to note here is to get used to telling people you’re not interested in playing. A lot of people are here for straight-up sex, so don’t get offended if you’re constantly propositioned. Just be clear that you’re just watching at the moment and nothing more.
Be relaxed, but use common sense
You can meet some wonderful people in Gay saunas, but like all walks of life, there can be some unsavoury types too. Thankfully, most saunas are pretty vigilant against such people, but it pays to exercise common sense.
By this, I mean buying your own drinks and not taking drinks from strangers you’ve only just met. It goes without saying, that if someone offers you any illegal substances, you should walk away.
Don’t be afraid to take breaks!
And last but not least is one of my most important tips: Taking breaks! I visited a gay sauna whilst wearing a pedometer watch once. After walking around and playing all night, I’d racked up a whopping 4 miles of steps!
Saunas are fun, but all of the cruising and leisure facilities can take their toll. So don’t be afraid to take a backseat from time to time. Some offer private rooms for hire, which I highly recommend for first-timers to take a breather. If not, you can use the TV room to chill out.
Hammering the steam room and hammering ass can have a very big effect on your body. Don’t burn yourself out, stay hydrated, and take as many breaks as you feel you need.
My first gay bathhouse story
As I mentioned earlier, we’ve all been there when it comes to the first gay bathhouse experience. So to round off this guide, let’s finish with something that ties it all together in context. I’m going to tell you a little tale of my first gay bathhouse story to give you a better idea of what it’s like.
Goodness, now we’re going back! My first gay bathhouse story began in London. The British capital has a few bathhouses on offer, but not all are equal. After doing my research, I decided on the one I would visit. It was reputed to be clean, safe, and with a well-stocked play area.
After leaving the tube station, I scoped out the discreet door to the sauna a few times before summing up the courage to go inside. Pressing the buzzer, the door was opened remotely as arrows guided me up a set of stairs to the reception area.
Here, I was greeted by a friendly mid-30s guy who immediately put me at ease. He asked me if I was aware that this was a gay sauna and I confirmed I did. After telling him it was my first time, he offered a complimentary but completely optional tour of the sauna. As a nervous newbie, I accepted.
With my entrance fee paid, I was handed a very skimpy towel, a locker key, condoms and lubricant. The first stop was the locker room. Nothing out of the ordinary here and similar to your average gym. A large locker room with a few naked men milling around.
Slipping out of my clothes and securing them away, I took a shower. However, in contrast to a gym, I had a few non-discreet pairs of eyes admiring me as I soaped up my body and privates. I couldn’t help but get an erection, but the fun would have to wait as my tour guide was waiting!
The friendly guy working at the sauna introduced me to the facilities. A relaxation area with tea, coffee, TVs and newspapers for guys to hang out. A leisure area with a pool, jacuzzi, wet and dry saunas, and a small gym with some naked men exercising and chatting.
When it came to the staircase leading to the play area, my tour was over. ”The cruising area is somewhere you’ll have to explore alone”, my guide said with a wink before returning to his desk.
I came to accept the fact that men will be undressing you with your eyes throughout. Although a bit uncomfortable at first, I quickly got used to it. To start off slow, I grabbed a coffee and chilled out in the lounge before heading to the leisure area.
A light workout, a wet sauna, and a dip in the pool really loosened me up. To round off, I hopped in the jacuzzi where I was joined by two other guys. We sat and chatted whilst watching British daytime TV on the wall.
But after a while, I soon felt hands sliding up my thighs under the water. One of the guys massaged my balls as the other began stroking my growing member. Now, it’s a strict rule in most saunas that no sex is allowed in the jacuzzi. So I was invited to join them upstairs in the play area.
The darkest area of the whole complex, the play area had everything you could think of. Gloryhole booths, private cabins, an adult theatre playing gay movies, and even a BDSM dungeon. I and my two new friends retired to one of the private cabins and locked the door.
Inside was a wipe down mattress, a dispenser of lubricant, and a bowl of condoms for patrons to use. It’s safe to say, these men knew what they wanted. I was soon impaled in a spitroast and our cries of pleasure echoed around the play area, causing others to try the door.
After a while of sucking, fucking, and rimming on our own, we decided to unlock the door when we discovered a small queue of men had formed who were equally keen to get involved. In short, I got more than my fair share of cock within the first hour. After an explosive orgasm, I returned to the leisure area to chill.
After regaining my energy, the process was along the same lines: Relax, meet like-minded men, converse, and play hard. It was a wonderful first-time experience and a great initiation into the gay sauna scene. One I quickly grew to love dearly.
A conclusion to the gay sauna survival guide
In summary, I hope this guide has provided all of you open-minded guys with enough knowledge to confidently visit that gay sauna you may have been eyeing up or perhaps I’ve even broadened your mind to a new sexual experience to try.
When it comes to gay sauna etiquette, don’t expect to be an expert after your first visit. It’ll be a learning curve, and a fun one to boot! Follow the tips and rules in this guide, approach it with a positive open mind, and never feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to, and I guarantee your first bathhouse experience will be one you’ll cherish forever!
“When we reopened in October, the number of people who came up to me and said, ‘Thank God you’re open again, I’ve really missed this place’ was incredible.– Paul Town, manager of The Locker Room in South London
In the wake of the current pandemic, many gay saunas are struggling. I highly recommend the following article from The Face that covers the future of British gay saunas in particular and covers the social aspect that saunas offer to the gay community.