The first time you step into a gay sauna can be an unnerving experience. What exactly are you supposed to do when you’re inside? And what aren’t you supposed to do? Alternatively, you may be so familiar with a particular gay sauna you’re written into the fire instructions.
Gay saunas are sex-positive places. You don’t go to a sauna to play scrabble. As soon as you’re in the locker room getting into your white towel, eyes begin roving. You take a shower on your way in, and even more eyes are roving. You then find yourself cruising around, trying to figure out the space – or at least reacquaint yourself with it. Expect men in towels looking at other men in towels. Communication occurs on a nonverbal, almost psychic level.
Traveling is often better than arriving. The anticipation of what you might find can outstrip the pleasure of actually doing it, so to speak. Then again, you may find yourself having a very memorable experience with one or more people. No one hands you instructions when you walk into a gay sauna. It all comes down to sauna etiquette and the luck of the draw.
What’s it like in a gay sauna?
Some people will couple or throuple up very quickly and disappear into a cabin. In many saunas, the cabins are quite visible for peeping toms over 180cm. Supposing you’re throupled up and getting to know your new companions, don’t be surprised to find yourself being watched. Also, if you spend too long in a cabin a member of staff is likely to knock and check up on you – essentially to make sure you haven’t passed out.
Some people will walk around the maze waiting for Leonardo DiCaprio or Matt Bomer to show up. They may eventually manage their expectations and settle for something else. Others will continue their quest for the unobtainable. But as we’ve already established, sometimes the anticipation of what you might find is the most fun part. That might be why some seem so reticent to do anything. Also, some people like to watch and not participate. Elton John insists that that’s how he survived the 80s.
People who aren’t interested will make a point of not looking at you. This doesn’t make them haughty or disdainful – they may or may not be in real life, but that’s irrelevant. Not engaging or acknowledging is perfectly acceptable in a public space where sex is happening.
So, if you’re in a bigger gay sauna you may find a decent-sized jacuzzi. This is a more informal space. People may unwind in the jacuzzi… but what they’re really doing is waiting for a hot person to arrive. Flirting often occurs in the jacuzzi, along with fairly muted conversations about where people are from. It’s acceptable to make out in the jacuzzi but nothing too explicit should take place. Get a room.
Now we’re going to look at the types of people you are likely to encounter in the gay saunas of the world.
The sleeping person
Yes, the sleeping person – especially if it’s a 24-hour sauna – is something of a feature. People who missed the bus home after the clubs closed may have no choice but to head to the sauna. Some saunas will have snoozing areas – nothing too fancy, maybe a few sofas or sticky mattresses on the floor. Don’t engage a sleeping person as they can’t consent. Wait until they’re awake.
The chatty person
Although saunas aren’t especially chatty places, some people just can’t help themselves. They are inherently chatty, especially if they’ve had one too many. The chatty person is often in or near the jacuzzi embroiled in conversation with someone, even if they don’t speak the same language.
Sometimes more than one chatty person is at the sauna. Very chatty people are both drawn to and repelled by each other. You may find yourself cruising back to the jacuzzi and finding two chatty people putting the world to rights. They may even be chatting so much they forgot to turn the bubbles back on and the water is now flat. As they’re being so intimate you may think they’re an item or a pair of friends. They may well be, but on the other hand, they could simply be chatty people who’ve just met. Chatty people in saunas rarely seem to have sex.
The creepy person
Creepy people can be found in all stations of life and gay saunas are no exception. It may be someone with an unsettling aura, someone prone to stare or someone who doesn’t take no for an answer. Not taking the hint is deemed to be the height of bad etiquette in a gay sauna. Seriously, if someone says no it’s a no. Unless they come running back through the maze to find you and say they’ve changed their mind quite suddenly. But what are the chances? Travel Gay’s top tip – don’t be the creepy person!
The ridiculously hot person
People try not to stare too blatantly but they can’t help it. A ridiculously hot person has emerged with the face of a Greek god and the body of a porn star. They may instantly disappear into a cabin with the next hottest person. But sometimes they’ll cruise around basking in a superior aura. You can try but it’s probably not going to happen.
The person who’ll do anything and anybody
Often found in a swing.
The drunk person
They might be drunk and they might be on a cocktail of everything. Most saunas have strict door policies when it comes to intoxication. If you show up with your eyes rolling in the back of your head you’re unlikely to get in. But some slip through and it becomes pretty obvious that they’re a mess. Naturally, someone in an altered state is in a vulnerable position. It’s not a great idea to do anything with someone who’s too drunk. Can they meaningfully consent?
Gay sauna etiquette is something you pick up over time, but it should become pretty clear after your first visit. You’re in a public space where everyone is looking for sex. That doesn’t mean they’re obliged to have it, however. What you find when you’re inside is very much influenced by what you bring. Remember that when you’re changing into your towel. Read More: The Best Gay Saunas in Europe.