Sex on tap: the story behind Sydney's gay bathhouses
Hey! Guys! Imagine a place where you’re sure to get laid. Where the object of your desire is only a nod of the head away and there are dozens – sometimes hundreds – of them to choose from. Well, such places exist, but only for gay guys. They’re called bathhouses, and Rob Scott went to one of Sydney’s busiest…
Tattooed Daddy is giving me that look. It screams “let’s fuck”, and I’m trying my best to avoid eye contact. We’re in a dark room, maybe five metres squared, with a big cinema screen in the middle playing the most hard core porn I’ve ever seen at loud volumes. There are five other guys adorned only in towels sitting with us and I could swear that each one of them is looking at me and playing with their junk. Maybe they can smell a newbie, ripe for the picking. Or maybe it’s just me, a paranoid guy thrown into a jungle of masculinity, the thick scent of sex and amyl nitrate lingering in the air.
I’m sitting in the corner of the video room wondering what the hell to do. Sneaky sent me on a mission to explore the gay bath houses of Sydney, and as much as I’m used to putting myself into all types of weird sexual scenarios for the magazine, this one is the most difficult so far. Going to a swingers club (issue zero) was fun. Seeing a dominatrix (issue one) wasn’t, but it was insightful, even if the dominatrix was slapping me around and calling me names. Last month (issue three) was a travel guide through Sydney’s BDSM scene.
There is no way this can end well. The main risk is it will read as being homophobic; I’m straight, so I’m naturally intimidated by a bunch of guys congregating in an establishment with only one aim in mind: getting dirty.
The other scenario involves me getting amongst it, and that aint gonna happen. So what do I do? Just sit here and observe, lurking in the corner like some kind of pervert?
Let’s rewind for a minute. The mission was to explore the gay bath houses of Sydney, and whilst there’s certainly a large number of venues for men to meet and fuck in the city, there’s only a few that provide all the amenities of a full service bath house.
Firstly, there has to be a sauna, steam room and spa. I could only find a few venues that really fit the bill: Sydney City Steam on Sussex street in the city, Bodyline Spa and Sauna at Taylor Square and Kingsteam on Oxford Street. Ken’s at Kensington, previously Sydney’s most famous venue, is now closed.
You might remember Ken’s from the news a few years back.
Today Tonight, the disgraceful cunts that they are, had found out NSW Transport Minister David Campbell had been a regular at Ken’s and decided, all for the sake of a few headlines, to out him. There went Mr Campbell’s life and career. As usual: fuck you, Channel Seven.
I narrowed in on Bodyline Spa and Sauna for one reason only: It is the closest to the Sneaky office.
I walked in at around eleven on a Saturday night. I figured this would be peak hour. It was a balmy night, plenty of people partying on Oxford street. Shit, if there was a place like this for straight people and I was feeling tipsy and horny, this is about the time I’d be heading there.
I walked into the almost anonymous door and paid my twenty bucks. I was given a towel and a key with a number on it, and after going through a second entrance I was in a room full of lockers. Coincidently I was assigned locker number 001. Score! About seven men, all in various states of undress, were attending to their belongings, some taking their clothes off, others looking freshly fucked and ready to leave.
I was jittery. It’s not my business who does what with whom, but as a straight guy you’re naturally going to be a little weirded out by the scene. A couple of these guys were huge… muscled men built like rugby players.
After nervously waiting for the crowd to thin out, I got undressed. Slowly, with the shakes, I took off my shirt, then jeans, then underpants. Stark naked, dick shrivelled, I put a towel around my body and entered the play zone.
Downstairs was a tiled area with open showers, a sauna, a spa and a steam room. I looked around and saw a sign demanding that anybody entering the area shower first. Dammit.
Memories of boarding school in year eight, where there was an open shower area, shared by all the students. I hated it then and I wasn’t looking forward to it now, but rules are rules, right?
I hung up my towel on a peg and there I was, naked in front of my fellow men, scrubbing down. Whilst the sauna and steam room had closed doors, the men in the spa could see everything. For some strange reason I was became paranoid about my size. The scenario wasn’t a turn on – in fact I’d began to retreat, if you know what I mean, but I had the strange feeling of being embarrassed that my dick wasn’t big enough. Weird. I’ll try not to analyse that too much.
After what seemed an eternity of showering, I dried off and took a look around. A few guys in the spa were staring directly at me with come hither expressions, but others were clearly keeping an eye out for someone more suitable. I decided on the sauna.
Inside the small space, maybe two metres by three metres, were five men sitting around expectantly, all seemingly waiting for a move to be made. Nervous energy was all around; lots of sideways glances. Five minutes went by and I began to suspect I was the problem – could they sense the imposter?
In any case, there wasn’t much happening, so I excited the sauna and saw a few more fellas had entered the spa, all still waiting for the right specimen, ready to pounce. I thought about going in and starting a conversation – I was, after all, here to report – but couldn’t work up the… balls.
So I waltzed into the steam room and was immediately confronted by a sweltering jumble of humanity. Ten, maybe fifteen (but to my eyes, hundreds) of boys and men, bears and cubs, twinks and… I don’t know anymore of the terms. In the far corner was a group of three, with one man standing and two others on their knees, doing exactly what you’re imagining.
In the middle was a stone table, on which a man in his mid forties, of average build, was lying down with legs spread wide. A muscular, Statue Of David young fellow was licking and sucking amid growls and groans of approval. The man on the table was also surrounded a group of three – all taking turns at receiving blowjobs from him, like a really weird variation on musical chairs.
It took all of three seconds for someone to make a move on me. A man of about thirty, strong physique, probably fairly attractive, went straight for my dick with a swift action of his hand: professional, well trained, experienced – he hit his mark perfectly.
I tried not to flinch – that seemed rude, but all I could muster was a polite “no thankyou”, as if he’d asked me if I needed some dressing for my salad.
I stayed in the steam room but moved to a far, unoccupied corner, hoping to observe and report.
Nearby were four (maybe five… perhaps twelve?) other men. One was positioned, doggy style, sucking another guy’s cock. On the other side was an aggressively masculine looking “top”, fingering and licking Doggy Man’s anus. Aggressive Top had a young guy, looking fresh out of school, licking his six pack and, as far as I could see, tweaking his nipples.
I was soon cornered by two men who had misinterpreted my nervousness for curiosity. Once again, my dick was grabbed with the kind of swift and practised professionalism you’d expect of the Artful Dodger pick-pocketing a mark. I declined the advances politely again, and moved out of the steam room.
For a moment I was lost. Was this it? The establishment’s website had advertised private rooms, but I couldn’t find any…
Aha! Upstairs again. On the other side of the locker room was a staircase, leading to another level. The lights were dimmed and the hunks were awaiting. The level had a maze like quality, with corridors leading through various private rooms, each with a vinyl bed, more than enough condoms and a lube dispenser.
Some men (and boys) were waiting outside rooms, others were roaming around. The guys doing the waiting seemed to have reserved their rooms, and the roamers would occasionally stop, check out the meat on offer, and either move into the room with their new partner or move on.
I marvelled at the directness of the transaction. Gay guys have this shit down to its bare necessities. In the hetero world, If you’re picking up a girl you have to be funny, charming, you gotta buy drinks, you have to say the right thing, you have to have a personality and then if you’re really, really, really lucky you’ll get laid. It’s an incredible hassle.
At a gay bath house all you have to do is make eye contact. A quick nod of the head or a very polite “no thankyou” and you’re either in or you’re out. If you’re rejected, there are at least fifty other people on offer – there truly is somebody for everybody.
I wandered around a while longer. Behind closed doors there were screams and moans, the sounds of pleasure and pain. I came across several rooms with bondage gear and slings as well as an open room with a fake jail cell door.
Three men were in the room putting on a show for all to see, moving around in various configurations. Two others stood against the wall, watching and occasionally touching themselves.
A strange smell hung around the whole establishment. A combination of bleach (the rooms obviously need regular cleaning), sex and amyl nitrate. Amyl is commonly used among the men who attend the venues. I’ve taken it before: One long whiff leaves your heart racing and head fuzzy for about a minute, and apparently it’s great for sex. I was told later by Tattooed Daddy that the young boys especially go wild on it. There’s also a magnificent by product of sniffing amyl – it loosens the anus, making penetration by a giant dick a little easier to handle.
By this time I needed a breather, and stumbled into the movie room. The hardcore porn on the screen featured a close-up of a man performing analingus, but aside from that there was a more relaxed atmosphere. Tattooed Daddy sidled up, keen for some action, but I told him it was my first time and I needed some rest.
“Yeah, I’m just checking it out really”.
We made small talk, and decided to head to the smoking area, where I finally confessed my journalistic mission. He laughed his ass off.
“Mate this is no place for you. Fucking hell. Well I guess you came at the right time if you want to see some action. Although Sunday afternoons get pretty crazy too…”
It turned out Tattooed Daddy is a straight acting bisexual, not unlike many of the guys who regularly attend bath houses.
“I’m not gay, I just like to fuck with guys every now and then. And this place is perfect…”
I asked if it was the anonymity he was after.
“Yes. Because I’m not out – and I don’t really want to be to be perfectly honest with you – I don’t go to gay clubs and places I might be seen… A bath house is perfect for me. Everybody is a stranger, everyone knows why they’re here… you can get it done in no time at all.”
What about the risk of disease?
“I’m not worried about it because I’m really, really careful. I always wear a condom, and I don’t eat ass… I give the occasional blowjob, but I’ve been coming here for years now and have never had anything.”
Is everyone else so careful?
“Yeah, pretty much. I mean it’s a strange place. Where else do you go with the only intention of having sex with people you’ve never met before? So yeah, I guess there’s a risk, but most of the guys here use protection.”
We chatted for a while longer before I’d decided I’d had enough. As I went back to my locker and got dressed I went back to thinking about the pure, raw transactional nature of the sex on offer here. It really is amazing. A place where nothing matters but your desire to fuck, and there’s a look for everybody. Any type is welcome, and any type will walk out having gotten some action.
The whole place is like a real life tinder. But for men only. So… grindr, then.
As I closed my locker door and headed towards the exit, I overheard a conversation between to guys who were getting undressed.
“I’m not getting out of here until I’ve been fucked tonight,” said one.
I have no doubt his mission was successful…
James Branson is the editor of Sneaky. He started the mag in his bedroom in 2013 with an idea to write about all the weird people he knew. The magazine eventually became a strange hybrid of oddball fashion, immersion journalism and anything else that happens to enter his mind in any given month.
Photo: Nikki Sparkes