I went to a gay sauna last night. I’ve been planning this for weeks – it takes me that long to develop the fortitude. I was originally going last week, but the electricity bill came in and, well, I just couldn’t face the experience.
It’s not as if I haven’t been before; I even used to work at one. When D and I broke up and still in that horrible living together but in separate rooms phase, I went to my first Sex On Premises (SOP) as an excuse one night to not go home. I had a pretty fun time (I was much younger and the shoulders hadn’t started to sprout like alfalfa on damp cotton-wool) and as I was leaving I noticed a sign for staff wanted. I was still very raw on the Scene, and I felt that I needed to challenge myself, to learn more. I saw working in a sex club as possibly the platform I needed to launch myself into the seedy – enticing – underworld of Gay Life. Also (ever practical) it would get me out of the flat and away from D. So I applied and got the job.
On my first day I followed another feller around to learn the ropes. Baptism by fire, in the first room we went to clean the vinyl mattress was splattered with blood. I was pretty shocked by this but my supervisor just gave a shrug. Someone pulled too tight and tore a foreskin, he said. An hour later, on the next round, I discovered another mattress pooled with blood. I’m not sure what disturbed me the most – that there was someone bleeding from their dick or that they thought it was a good idea to continue having sex after the first time.
I never told D about the job, of course he knew, but I came to enjoy it. It also taught me the greatest lesson on Gaydom – gay men look like everyone else. Sure you would get your handsome 30-something musclemen and you slight femme Asians (actually, we got a lot of these – they were sort of the speciality of the house), and you would also see bearish blokes and the tight T-shirt brigade, but I’d also hand out towels to men who looked like, well, accountants. It was an eye-opener, while tea-towelling the coffee cups, to watch the menagerie sitting on the old sofas in the common room, reading the papers or watching whatever late film was on the telly; they all looked so… normal. Perhaps Gay Life isn’t a special club after all, I thought, but just another part of life, with a small “l”. Through the labor of shoving damp towels into laundry bags, stocking condoms and topping up lube dispensers I learnt a good deal.
There’s a story of a friend bumping into D at a bus stop. “Poor Clyde,” lamented D, “How tragic his life has become. How poorly he is coping with our breakup. He’s taken it so hard that – shudder – he’s stooped to a job mopping up cum!” “Actually, I’ve never seen him happier,” said the friend.
Still, I only last eight weeks. The manager who did the roster liked me but he quit. The other manager wasn’t that favourable and so I didn’t appear on the next sheet. I didn’t mind at all.
Clyde the Penguin lives in Sydney, Australia. In his time he has worked at a number of jobs, including a waiter, a designer, a clerk, and as the person who hands out the towels in gay saunas. This is his first novel.
Mostly, 90% of the time, a visit to an SOP is pretty much a routine affair. You’ve got a need, you go in, you do the biz, then you go home. The rest of the 10% falls into the extremes. Either you have such an amazingly good time, with such amazingly beautiful men, that you wonder why you don’t come more often; or the visit is one that is absolutely soul destroying. You wander the halls endlessly looking, yearning, but no one wants you, and you feel ugly, and unwanted, and like spit. On these rare occasions some people just lock themselves in one of the little rooms, have a quick wank and write the experience off as a loss; but I’m not as strong as that. It would always upset me.
So I stopped going.
Many years after D, and a couple of other letters, here’s me now. Thanks to my new friend Mort* I can’t afford to go out and meet people in pubs like I used to, yet frankly there is only so much cask red you can drink to numb the desire. There’s a line in the third Blade film, Blade Trinity, that goes: Sooner or later, the thirst always wins. So, to loop back to the beginning, I went to a gay sauna last night.
The night fell firmly in the 90% category. The first person I hooked up with was more than likely a straight who uses SOPs as a means to an end: all he wants is his cock sucked. He did mange a couple of quick tugs on my own willy, but it was under duress. He didn’t last for two minutes before he had to excuse himself to visit the loo.
The next was a handsome wog in the steam room, but he left to go have a shower… he was feeling a little sticky. But the third – and the one that turned me off the whole night adventure – was one of those loud moaners. Keep it down, there are people trying to have sex in the next room; I had to shove my cock in his mouth to shut him up! And he called me “Baby” which always makes me uncomfortable. Anyway, he came, I came, so I gave him a quick peck on the lips and high-tailed it to the showers.
Upstairs I read the pink press for a while as others laid on towels and watched episodes of Sex and the City. I haggled over going back for another round or going home. I went home, tapped the cask and watched Joey Stefano do what he does best.
That will have to do for now.
* His last name is Gage.