The Probably True guide to Gay Saunas
The Probably True guide to Gay Saunas: What to expect, good etiquette, and some basic hot-tub maintenance.
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So it turns out that at some of you weren’t listening to my “How to DEFINITELY NOT hook up with someone in the gym showers” guide. I know this because someone DM’d me to tell me how, as a result of listening to that episode, he HAD had some sexy times in the gym showers. His messages were wonderfully detailed and a joy to read, but it was a guide to NOT doing that, so obviously I am thoroughly disappointed, and quite sticky.
With that in mind, I thought I should offer an alternative, about a place where you’re pretty much expected to get up to naughty things, and in fact that’s the main reason people go there. So, here’s the Probably True Guide to gay Saunas.
First off, it’s important to know if the sauna you are in is actually a GAY sauna, or just a normal boring one. There are several clues to this, but in my experience, if there’s words like “Municipal Pool” or “Community Leisure centre” then that’s probably not the kind of place intended for you to get your sweaty naked fuck on. I’m not saying you can’t, just be aware that you might scare Doris, the nice lady from the Women’s Institute, who’s popped in because she heard a nice steam might be good for her bad hip.
Another clue is that, generally, instead of sachets of lube and condoms and screens with porn playing on them, saunas that AREN’T for sexy times tend to have signs saying “please wear your bathing costume at all times” and “this area is regularly patrolled by staff members of both sexes” and “Stop shagging in our sauna, you horny bastards”. The exact wording may differ.
So once you have ascertained that you are at the right kind of Sauna, you go in, pay your money, take your clothes off and put them in a locker. They’ll give you a towel which is the only thing you wear. You’ll need to keep it with you throughout your adventure. Think Hitchhiker’s Guide, but far fewer robots and a lot more late-middle-aged men with angry viagra-boners.
Usually you wrap your towel around your waist, but if you’re feeling confident, just chuck it over your shoulder. If you’re feeling confident and very pleased to be there, just hang it off your nob. And don’t worry if it falls on the floor and gets soaking wet with… let’s say water. You can take it to the desk where they gave it to you and swap it for a clean, dry one whenever you want.
Which is a good point. Saunas are, probably by definition, very moist places. Most things will be a little slimy, a little slippy. This also goes for a lot of the people you’ll meet in there, too. It’s not a bad thing, just an adjustment you should set your brain to. It’s also going to be quite subdued, lighting-wise. This is almost certainly for the best. However much the marketing materials want you to believe that their sauna is exclusively stocked with porn stars, remember that it is actually going to have a fairly normal selection of people. Some will be attractive to you, some will not. Some will be attracted to you, some will not. I’m not saying lower your standards, I’m just saying don’t expect everyone in there to be super attractive and enthusiastic about you and your penis. Think about teenage discos and how horrific things are when the lights go up at the end of the night and you see clearly who you’ve been snogging for the last hour or so. Some things are best left unknown. Embrace the mystery. Otherwise you end up with rather harsh reality checks, like the time I got an olympic-grade blow job from a random in a sauna, only afterwards to try to kiss him and find out that the reason it was so good was because he’d taken his teeth out.
Anyway. Getting ahead of myself.
Usually saunas are divided broadly into fucky spaces, and not-fucky spaces. The not-fucky spaces are the changing rooms, the bar or whatever, and any kind of lounge area. Often the lounge area has some TVs, a few sun loungers or some hard-wearing plastic seating, and usually a hot tub. You’d think that a hot tub would be solidly in the fucky area, but no. It’s meant as part of the ‘rest and relax’ place. Where you can come between vicious buggerings and have a gentle soak to relax and revitalise yourself, and possibly find the next person you’d like to bugger you viciously. There’s still plenty of under-the-water fondling and tickling going on, as we all try to keep straight faces and chat about random stuff, but it’s best to keep it low-key and try not to finish anyone off in the hot tub. If only for the sake of the poor bastard who has to clean the filter. Just imagine the call to the maintenance guy. “Hiya Steve, yeah, it’s happened again mate. Completely clarted. I know. Yeah, it’s like someone poured a bucket of wallpaper paste in there. I wouldn’t normally bother you on the weekend, but the bubbles aren’t popping when they get to the surface of the water. Yeah. Cheers mate. See you in a bit.”
The fucky spaces tend to be the sauna itself, steam rooms,and some cubicles, which are usually mildly grim, but then it’s a sauna, not a 5-star romantic weekend in the country. Depending on where you are and what facilities are available, there may be other spaces for more niche activities like slings, water sports, glory holes, any kinky shit that might be available.
You are welcome and encouraged to get as sexy as you like anywhere in the fucky area, and many people do. Be aware that doing so in any communal part may lead to people watching and touching themselves, which might be right up your alley. They may also try to put things right up your alley. It’s up to you if this is ok, because consent is very much a thing. You can usually bat them away or politely shake your head or otherwise make an obvious “no ta” gesture. If that doesn’t work, or you get sick of randoms attempting to get involved, you can move to a cubicle, which have lockable doors so you can have a little privacy.
The cubicles are generally very plastic and wipe-clean, which can get a bit awkward if you and your opponents are all quite sweaty and slippy. I generally find the best thing to do is find a position that allows you to brace yourself against a wall or a twink if you want to get any kind of rhythm going. These get wiped down or hosed out every now and again, so if the first one you find is particularly manky, don’t make a big deal of it, just move on and try to find a cleaner one.
And when you’re done, do the classy thing and put any condoms, empty lube sachets, etc. in the bin. Don’t leave them for someone else to clean up.
It probably goes without saying that saunas are phone-free places. Partly because it’s never good to have expensive elecrtrical equipment that close to so much moisture, but mostly because no-one wants strangers running around taking photos. Understandable. I remember a story from a few years ago, before phones came with cameras as standard, and a mate of mine had his with him in the hot tub because he was texting someone. Not a great idea, because it slipped out of his hand. This was not a partiucularly classy establishment, even by sauna standards, and there was a noticeable film on the surface of the water. Just… oily grossness. So he just sat there, as his phone slipped out of reach and he watched it drift to the bottom and then the screen slowly flickered and died as the insides got ruined, because buying a new phone was preferable to having to put his head into the “water” to get it back.
Perhaps because of the lack of phones and such, I’ve heard from others that saunas can be quite social, convivial places. Not sure if it’s just me, but I often find the opposite. There’s not usually much talking that goes on, apart from the odd bit like “oh yeah, that’s it” or “ow teeth jesus”. But maybe that’s just me. I do have a terminal case of resting bitch face. Maybe that applies to my entire body. Can a person have resting bitch dick? A willy that just exudes “fuck off” vibes while just swinging there… Penis with a threatening aura?
Anyway. It can be fun to go with a friend, if you have the kind of friends who you’re ok with seeing naked and doing various things. If your friends aren’t ok with that, probably don’t take them. It will mess with the vibe. Besides, it can be a nightmare to try and find people later on. And usually you meet new people. That’s kind of the point, I guess. Still, it’s not always a chatty place, so be on the lookout for non-verbal communication. Eye contact and body language and things like that. The first time I went, I was with a friend and he was sat chatting with me and then just up and down every five minutes to go and give some tart a good seeing to. I got very confused because he hadn’t spoken to or even got near any of these guys, but somehow immediately knew they wanted to get sweaty with him. Turns out I’m just not very good at non-verbal cues.
Anyway. If you’re there and being social it'll probably be quite convivial and nice. If you’re just there for anonymous fucking, there’s plenty of that, too. I know a few guys who go to a sauna, stay in the social areas mostly, and just chat. Maybe get a dude’s number so they can meet up for a drink later. Seems a bit of a strange way to do it, but I suppose you get out what you put in. Which reminds me, don’t wear a wristwatch…
Speaking of eye contact and non-verbal communication, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to get sexy with anyone you don’t want to. If you’re not interested, just gently shake your head, or move your towel over anything they might be trying to get hold of. Consent is always a thing, so don’t feel that you can’t say “No, thankyou” if they’re not what you’re after. If they get persistent, say it louder. Places like saunas tend to come down pretty hard on people who think that consent doesn’t have to apply to them, so they’re unlikely to keep pressing their intentions. And, on the other side of this, if you’re not sure if someone is keen on letting you play, you can either ask them, with actual words, like a grown up, OR you should assume they aren’t interested, and move on. Plenty more to play with, and they will actually be enthusiastic about you touching them in fun ways. Either way, don’t be hurt or upset if someone isn’t into you. I politely declined a guy’s advances once, and he got all indignant and said “Why not?” As if he genuinely couldn’t imagine a reason someone wouldn’t want him tickling their pickle. I gave the only answer that mattered in such a situation “Because I said so.” This didn’t seem a good enough answer for him, but that’s not a me-problem, so I got up and walked away. Why someone else doesn’t want to do sexy stuff with you is none of your business. You have your answer and should act appropriately.
Sometimes you’ll see super buff guys standing in the corridors of saunas, posing. Not 100% sure what the point of this is. Presumably it’s some kind of advertising. I guess if I’d put the amount of effort and time into my body as those guys evidently have, I’d stand around with no clothes on and make sure everyone saw it, too. Either way, they’re just human, so feel free to say hi or offer them a quick fiddle as you pass them by.
Talking of passing by in corridors, I posted in the Discord group that this was a subject coming up, and someone asked me to add a bit on how to get past people shagging in a corridor when all you want to do is be on the other side of them. Honestly, I think the obvious “excuse me, can I just get past?” should be sufficient. There are all sorts of spaces for the bumming and such to be ocurring, so either they couldn’t keep their hands off each other long enough to get into one of the cubicles, or they want to do it where other people can see. Both are fine, but if they’re in the way, you shouldn’t feel weird about asking them to move. Of course, everyone will be slightly sweaty and moist, so it’ll be a lot easier to sort of slide past, but I can’t guarantee they’ll be down for that sort of thing. I mean, they probably will, but it’s always better to ask. In fact, you could even say “Excuse me, do you mind if I join in?” Then if they tell you yes, you can have some fun. And if they say no, you can reply “Well then would you mind moving so I can find someone else? Ta very much.”
Finally, don’t mix drugs and saunas. Even drinking too much beforehand isn't a good idea. One, you risk getting a floppy willy, and B, saunas being warm places to relaxx in means your blood pressure will change, and if you’re taking interesting substances, you might end up having a bad time or needing medical assistance. Most places won’t let you in if you’re high or acting suspiciously, which is why I got turned away once for smiling. And honestly, I don’t blame them. If you were in central London on a rainy Thursday evening and some weirdo smiled at you, you’d assume he was off his tits, too.
Whether or not you’re a fan of saunas, remember that they’re an important part of the queer world, and are something that the straights generally have no idea about or involvement in. They’re a truly queer space, and it’s nice, if only for a while to get away from the pressures of straight society and the crushing weight of their “morals”. You could, f you wanted, even say that every thrust of cock in a bumhole in a sauna is a blow in the fight against the cis heteronormative patriarchy. You’d be killing the vibe a bit if you did, but you do you. Personally, I tend to stick to saying things like “Thatr’s a big one” and “pass the lube, please.”