There are three different types of saunas: Finnish saunas, American saunas and the gay sauna. Finnish saunas are an overseas delight while American saunas are sort of like the “fast food” of saunas. Now meet the gay sauna, which is a world apart from the typical naked sauna, and even the same-sex sauna. The typical gay friendly sauna is a commercial bathhouse, which primarily exists to facilitate sex among consenting men. In theory, there could be such a thing as a platonic sauna for gay men, but that’s just not as much fun. The average sauna for gay men is not platonic but Socratic, if you will.
The amenities at a sauna for gay men will differ according to location, culture and budget. Some commercial bathhouses are very high-class and may have 10-20 rooms, lockers, saunas, steam rooms, Jacuzzis, swimming pools and shower areas. In addition to the resort facilities, bathhouses also contain private areas, where guys and dolls can get better acquainted. Some elaborate gay sauna facilities actually include full apartments, bungalows and bedroom areas.
Whereas saunas for gay men are rightfully identified as very sexually open venues, they must not be confused with brothels. Though the sauna will openly encourage sex between visitors (some even have an anytime, anywhere policy) there is no monetary compensation as there is with prostitution. All sex is free in these facilities and exclusively for the pleasure of visitors. Visitors only pay fees for the use of the gay sauna. Some saunas will have rules against having sex with employees, while others (such as The Basement Sauna in the U.K.) will allow consensual sex as long as the employee is off the clock.
There is a deep rooted culture in the gay sauna, as bathhouses for men date back to the 15th century, and perhaps all the way back to the 6th century in “closeted” Ancient Greece. The modern day bathhouse of sex dates back to the 1800s, when homosexual activities were illegal in most U.S. states. Men would frequent bathhouses and other public settings for affairs while some sympathetic (or more likely greedy) property owners would allow discreet sexual activity for the price of admission. It wasn’t until the 1950s when legal gay-friendly saunas would open in the U.S. These bathhouses were not without celebrity visitors; the late Truman Capote was a regular throughout the 1970s.
In Australia, the first sauna for gay men was opened in 1967. It wouldn’t be until the 1980s when gay saunas would be safe to occupy in Britain. By the 1990s however, the government started to accept alternative lifestyles and stop police-sponsored raids of these saunas. Today, with the rights of homosexuals now recognized in most civilized countries, there are gay bathhouse resorts in Ireland, Prague, New Zealand, Japan and numerous other countries.
Progress is continually being made (Australia aired the first TV advertisement for a gay establishment in 2003) even while some countries are showing hesitance to accept free sex saunas for what they are. Certain states and provinces in the U.S. and in Canada are still conducting raids on charges of indecency, even while other states enjoy relative peace and calm. On the opposite of end of the world, China of all countries has now decriminalized homosexual activity though raids continue. The battle continues for the rights of gay men to socialize and express themselves sexually, just as any other citizen has the right to do. Admittedly, public promiscuity is usually the issue here, and straight men and women are sometimes victimized in a similar manner.
Suffice it to say, before venturing out into a gay themed sauna, research the establishment, the country and the local city to determine your level of safety. Look for large resorts that have a long history and get good reviews from visitors. Read over the resort’s official website and get a feel for the local area. Is it a gay friendly city to begin with? As the modern world becomes increasingly open-minded, so the gay sauna increases in popularity.