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24 Aug 2007

braving the heat

Fridae's Alvin Tan, shares some observations about sauna sextizens and offers some basic sextiquette for readers making their first forays into this sweaty scene.

When I was asked several years ago to visit a sauna to gather first hand information about the subculture, I crumpled onto the floor like a gazelle gunned down by poachers on Discovery Channel and had to be revived by smelling salts.

My distress was predicated on the stereotype of gay saunas as sleazy and furtive underworlds where sweaty predators lurked at every dark corner - ever ready to pounce on vestal virgins such as myself and ravish us on the spot ("Oh! Spare me kind sir!").

To make matters worse, there's the dress code which comprises nothing more than a towel the size of a Lilliputian blanket and the unspoken requirement that every gay men who dares step into a sauna should at least have memberships to California Fitness and GNC.

For some gay men, there is the additional worry about bumping into a fellow colleague, an ex-boyfriend, etc, or worse, receiving an outright rejection in front of sauna spectators - all of which are enough to cause even the strongest of gay men to break out in cold sweat.

However, yours truly is nothing if not professional and I overcame my initial reservations by reminding myself of my mission to contribute to the gay community - no, not by spreading my legs, but by offering penetrating insights into the world of dark rooms and mazes.

So last weekend, I made my dewy debut at a famed men's club with a towel wrapped around my head a la Erykah Badu - thereby eliciting the compliment from the management that my appearance at the sauna was causing quite a stir!

(Editor's Note: By causing a stir, I believe that they were referring to the fact that the sight of an effete and cadaverously pale Alvin Tan actually has the opposite effect of causing a stampede out of the sauna.)

On my subsequent visits to other saunas (purely for research purposes of course), I found local gay saunas (and I believe, gay saunas all over the world) to be well-oiled meat marketplaces with an operating rule discernible even to Helen Keller.

Simply put, the good-looking will always gravitate towards the good-looking (duh!). The mere mortals and the fugly will also gravitate towards the good-looking but will only succeed in driving the good-looking off - unless the pickings are particularly scarce that night.

Notwithstanding this basic rule, there are broad categories of sauna sextizens who can be found (and in some cases, avoided) in most, if not all, saunas. Firstly, there will always be the coy courtesans who waste time playing hard-to-get. These men will almost always overdo the eye-contact-smile-and-walk-away-then-turn-and-cruise-some-more routine.

Word of advice to you coy creatures: When you are roaming around wearing nothing but a towel in a room of scantily clad men, it is unnecessary and may in fact be counterproductive to pretend that you have reservations about getting laid.

Then there are the men magnets with their killer looks and to-die-for bodies. You can usually spot them a mile away by looking out for a crowd of horny guys circling around them like vultures around carrion.

Speaking from personal sauna sexperience, I would however advise against making a move even on men magnets - until you have seen all the goods. I once chanced upon a celestial creature only to have him open his towel to reveal an erection no larger than a pacifier.

At the other end of the sauna scale, there are the scary sauna stalkers who follow their intended targets around like starving lionesses stalking their prey. Unfortunately, once you have one on your tail, you cannot simply clap your hands twice and say "Begone, foul one!"

To sauna stalkers, I would just like to say that no one enjoys getting harassed and chasing someone down darkened corridors is likely to either freak him out or irritate the hell out of him - thereby diminishing your
already slim chances of getting to know him better.

Equally annoying to sauna sextizens would be pesky fifth wheels who wait for two guys or a group of guys to get it on before crashing the party. As a sauna species, fifth wheels have the hide of a rhinoceros and the uncanny ability to show up uninvited however private the party may be.

Faced with the very real possibility of coming face-to-face with coy courtesans, sauna stalkers and pesky fifth wheels, it therefore behooves yours truly to offer some basic sauna sextiquette for gay men making their first forays into their local saunas.

The first rule is simple: If you waste too much time waiting for each other to make the first move, you will both probably end up like Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations.

Considering that saunas are so dimly lit that any proper identification would be impossible and that sauna sexperiences are likely to be once-off encounters, you should discard any faux sense of shyness and approach the guy (or guys) who caught your eye.

When making the first move, do observe the reaction from the other party. If the interest is mutual, then you can lead the way to a more secluded corner or cubicle. If it's not, don't throw a hissy fit but rather retreat graciously and move on.

Conversely, if you are not interested, make it clear by not smiling back or by moving to another spot. Always bear in mind that you're dealing with a fellow human gay. So even though the encounter may be anonymous, there's really no need to be rude. Instead, say "no" and do so as politely (but firmly) as possible.

Having said all that, I must categorically state that my sauna sexpeditions are not motivated solely by the glistening man meat on display - despite rumours that I am in the running for the title of "Furthest Eyeball Popper" in the Guinness Book of World Records whenever a delectable dude walks by.

If I may speak truthfully, a trip to the sauna is always enjoyable because it allows the voyeur in me to tap into the gay grapevine and eavesdrop on conversations revolving around the bedroom antics of the more wanton members of the local gay community.

After all, where else could you enjoy an endless parade of eye candy and pick up unadulterated infotainment the likes of "You mean that butch-acting guy over there? Trust me, he's a Legs-Up Lucy." or "Don't you know? I heard he can take it up to the elbow!"

(Editor's Note: Fridae would like to remind all readers to practice safe sex at the saunas by wearing condoms and encourage readers to share their most memorable sauna sexperiences below.)

Reader's Comments

1. 2007-08-24 19:28  
Comment #2 was deleted by its author
3. 2007-08-24 22:19  
Thanks for the story. I would like to visit a sauna but am nervous,a s do ont kow what to do. The storyw as a little thin. What happens and how do things happen? How do you carry condoms in a towel? Where do you go? Any advice would be great.
4. 2007-08-24 22:21  
first time i am reading a fridae story and i liked your literary references and descriptions.

although i think most men here would scratch their head when they see wanton.

great style. and a very detailed story.
5. 2007-08-24 22:37  
ha....don't worry about going to a gay sauna in Beijing,i once had a look inside but really believe u get HIV just by snifing the air.
Nice fridea(mostly for asia)reports about a gay sauna in the US.This really helps people in asia!!!
Comment #6 was deleted by its author
7. 2007-08-24 23:03  
hiv doesn't transmit through air.
8. 2007-08-24 23:38  
silly question but I wear glasses.... can I wear my glasses in a sauna or stay blind ???? lol I really don't know.
9. 2007-08-25 00:01  
to rustyming:
yes u may wear ur glasses. i myself wear glasses. n anyway how do u expect to reject ppl u can't even see?! it's already dim enuf in the saunas.

to melvinpool
most saunas provide a condom for u wen u arrive. either given to u wif ur towel or placed within ur locker. as for carrying a condom wif u... u can tuck it into ur towel wen u wrap it ard ur waist... or u can tuck it into the elastic band which holds ur locker key, which u will be given irregardless of how much things u have wif u.
Hope dat answers ur questions.
10. 2007-08-25 00:11  
melvinpool for gawd sake just go with the flow....everything will come naturally to you when u get there so you go girl!
11. 2007-08-25 01:14  
Just to clarify, in my experience most saunas in Singapore provide condom in the locker, but not in Malaysia.
12. 2007-08-25 02:30  
Were you able to hear people ask about their partners HIV/STD status? Do you know if these saunas offer or provide STD screening or an HIV test?
13. 2007-08-25 04:18  
We know how we all, well most of us anyway,love to suck and be sucked, but please do so in safety.

A good way to suck with abandon in these 'palaces of lust and desire' is to carry on your ankle a few 'suckable condoms' tucked into some elastic bands in a thin convenient package.With practice, you can in one fell swoop, pull out the condom, unwrap it and roll it on before he knows what has happened, especially in the dark rooms when lust has overcome common sense for safety.

Suck,suck,suck,but please do so safely and with no regrets or fear afterwards. The thin ones nowadays on the market should dispel any lack of sensitivity on both parties and make our community a lot safer....sex is fun...oral sex is enjoyable...but keep it safe and live to suck another day with no STDs.
14. 2007-08-25 06:14  
I guess NYC is an exception. Most of the guys that go to the saunas are not eye popping studs ( especially me) But let me say for a tall fat white guy, I get a lot of offers and some very hot men tapping me
15. 2007-08-25 07:10  
I dislike going to saunas after a bad experience in BKK. When I was there, I was groped by a fat white hairy white guy. Had to give him a hard punch to drive him off. Since then, haven't been to a sauna. Which is the best sauna in Singapore with the best crowd? What is the best time to go?
16. 2007-08-25 11:04  
Hi I would like to say that having gone to several Saunas around world I found Singapore to have one of the best Sauna. The guys were nice goodlooking and fun.
I would just like to add that despite the general enviroment I have found it possible to chat and get to know some guys before or after the "action" who later became friends i stay in contact with. So the experience does not need to be completly apersonal
17. 2007-08-25 11:36  
Fridae should have more writers like Alvin or articles like this to stop readers from going to trevvy as is happening now.

Alvin: You're still the funniest and you should be flattered that many new writers at fridae and trevvy are "copying" your style. Write more! Write more!
Comment #18 was deleted by its author
19. 2007-08-25 12:17  
Saunas are a great solution for horny men to relieve their sexual tensions. This is truly "NSA" (no strings attached) fun.

The ones in Singapore seem cleaner (and wilder) than other places though:) And some of the establishments have rather creative theme nights as well.

The Romans and Greeks had the right idea, and its so nice to see the popularity of these salubrious palaces of wanton desires spreading.

For good wonton, though, try Hong Kong!
20. 2007-08-25 13:05  
Krude: As hot as you are, and you are~ and as into literature as you seem to be~ I'm surprised that you don't get Tiger69's point about getting HIV from "sniffing the air." I've never been into a sauna in China, but I suspect (although I clearly can't be sure) that almost nobody is using a condom. Despite the little red ribbons at the top of everyone's profile here in Shanghai, I have only met ONE bottom who asked me to wear a condom. All the other ones (a couple I guess) I've had to do it myself after a point in which they surely should have been reaching for a rubber.


Condoms are NOT about TRUST. I believe you that YOU don't THINK you have HIV. It's about KNOWLEDGE. How often are you tested? Oh~ never? How many times have you let a guy BB your ass? Oh~ ten times? Good good... and you "trusted" them because......? Oh~ that's right~ they look healthy and don't seem like they have HIV. They were nice guys. Those are good ways to measure a guy's HIV status!
21. 2007-08-25 13:08  
Post #13 by 'bengmuscle' is the perfect illustration that belonging to a minority rejected by most of society doesn't necessarily stop you from being a bigoted racist ass yourself... thanks for the desmonstration, bengmuscle, and I can't wait to see what you will look like when you're 60, fat... and still horny because that's one of nature's nasty (?) tricks, fyi... that guy was rude and silly when he grabbed you, but hey it was in a gay sauna, right ? not exactly a church or a museum... your violent and spiteful response is a lot worse than his stupid behaviour, that's for sure.
22. 2007-08-25 13:13  
i think some guys like myself are hesitant about going to saunas because of the reports we read about police raids. is that still happening?

yveserwan - its about invading someone else's personal space and forcing yourself on another. don't make it an issue because of your insecurities.

23. 2007-08-25 16:52  
Definitely a racist comment - why even mention he was white?
24. 2007-08-25 16:57  
Another great article by Alvin Tan; he's becoming a national treasure.

I well remember the last time I was in the Rairua sauna - it was during the great SARS outbreak a few years back and I must have been the only gay white tourist in town. What a lucky break for me.

The nice local guys were circling me like moths around a candle flame and bobbing up and down with abandon. I made some good friends that night and am still in touch with some of them; saunas can be more than anonymous sex palaces.

The ones in Singapore are so much cleaner than some of those in England. There used to be one in Manchester that had old newspapers on the corridor floors to soak up the water from the showers. But the best are in Amsterdam with live jazz bands, free wine, beer and sandwiches, and five floors of non-stop fun.
25. 2007-08-25 19:06  
it is ok to be a aj, but it is never ok to be a promiscuious aj. how ethical and disgraceful. good luck.
26. 2007-08-25 20:08  
am i the only gay man in the world who has never been to sauna and has no desire to go to one ? ... i feel like a tut tutting middle aged suburban housewife
27. 2007-08-25 21:56  
Luuurrvvv this article.

Thanks for the info ALvin. I never been to a sauna before, but now I can get the picture clearly.

I love how u categorized sauna sextizens....it's soooo true...(coz again...samething happens when u go clubbing anyways)...

28. 2007-08-25 22:34  
Sauna's a great place for morale booster after a long hard day. Visited Towel Club and One Seven last nite. It was just fun to see how other place's culture of AJ is

But I do not like to be stalked and followed. I find it irritating most. I do not necessary find that one need to have sex or hoping to find sex. Its a just a great communial place to look see and get to know frens.
29. 2007-08-25 23:23  
i never been in gay saunas before, thats why quite freak out bout gay saunas..i'm sorry to say but i wanna try it oneday (just wanna look all around to implement what Alvin said) hahaha..emmm..some others cases also quite freaking out people when a maniac sex that chasing u from a public toilet in shopping mall and following you whenever you go..and thanks for the editor notes bout the warning play safe..thats good for the closing part of the article..thanks to Alvin too bout his sharing the expirience's..good luck..ADIOS..
30. 2007-08-26 01:01  
The same thing applies at the local (very undercurrently gay) swimming pool in Malaysia on the sextizens who patron there.

"I would however advise against making a move even on men magnets - until you have seen all the goods. I once chanced upon a celestial creature only to have him open his towel to reveal an erection no larger than a pacifier."

Ahhh but the thing is that its how he uses it and not the size. Looks like Mr. Alvin here requires size as his requirement of measuring up a potential scandal/partner. Tut tut tut.
31. 2007-08-26 07:13  
LOVE IT SIGNED, a saunaite member world wide :) great job in capturing the entire PROCESS of having an orgasm w/ others :) ron
32. 2007-08-26 08:00  
Hey yokeyZol - are you saying that gay men who go to saunas are "promiscuous", "unethical" and "disgraceful"?
33. 2007-08-26 09:51  
As a manager of a gay sauna in Syd Alvin really tickeled my funny bone, oh the stories I could tell.Watching the gay male mateing dance is quite something to behold!!Let you into a little secret guys, its the so called plain jane's that get most of the action.
34. 2007-08-26 10:15  
Bathouses are great. A few notes:

1) Beats internet hookups- you see the goods right there and then, no endless emails.

2) I only go to bathouses in cities that I do not live in... this will safely exclude ex-es, colleagues etc.

3) There is no shame in it, everyone is there for the same reason.

4) For every person that rejects you, there is 20 that you have rejected.
35. 2007-08-26 14:33  
A very well written article. Good job, Alvin.
Comment #36 was deleted by its author
37. 2007-08-26 16:25  
Thanks for your support, steveuk, and my last comment to bengmuscle will be this : nagging about my alleged "insecurities" won't make your blatant racism more right, Mr Don't-Touch-Me-I'm-Too-Gorgeous
38. 2007-08-26 16:49  
Lol ..it is funny but true ...but that aside these place can be very dangerous ...raging hormones,bulging packages, hardening rods , and horny holes can actually rob us off our common sense and regard for safety ...saunas in overseas provide condoms and I dont think the one in Malaysia do , but at least they should sell them at cost to customers or place a condom dispencer/machine is a well lit corner of the black maze.

if you cant be good, be safe ;-)
39. 2007-08-26 18:36  
There is something that I like to remind the others. At the dark alley inside the sauna, if someone just pops your little brother into their manhole without a forewarn or courtesy to ask you to wear a condom that is RUDE. Doesn't everyone know that "PLAY SAFE"...
40. 2007-08-26 21:02  
Well guys I have only been to saunas in Melbourne and Bangkok but everything Alvin says is fairly spot on. I have to say though that from what I have read and what I have seen, Australian saunas are far far far better at providing condoms. The best sauna by a long way is Wet on Wellington in Collingwood Melbourne which has trays of condoms in every room plus pump packs of lube. I disliked the fact that in Babylon Bangkok they gave you just one condom in your locker which you had to carry around with you. What a drag. Do they really think one is enough? What if you drop it or it breaks?

As far as the mating dance goes, how many time have you seen guy A follow gy B but guy B is chasing guy C and guy C is looking for Guy X. Oh so sad to see the passing procession of sex starved men.

41. 2007-08-26 21:07  
So~ yveserwan~ if I said that a fat old white man attacked me, is that racist also? Guess not since I'm "whitie." If I can say it then he can too. Get over it. From what I've seen ~ and it ain't a whole lot ~ some older, formerly closeted, white men who go on "sex tours" to Asia (or whatever they are doing here) seem to think that Asians are their forced fuck buddies and it's not cool. I've seen older Asian men do it too! Oh!!! I'm a Racist... I said Asian.

Racism is everywhere~ Learn to deal with it~ Go complain about it in a forum that will actually do something to change it~ I'm not sure when Fridae became that place~ Grow up and suck it up.
42. 2007-08-26 22:06  
Hmmm... I once came across some bitchy Asian gay patrons at TowelClub Singapore who openly ridiculed other patrons who happened to be Caucasians, saying out loud, "I don't f**k white men ..." I found that extremely offensive and racist. So ... deal with it?

I guess if the same yellow Asian goes to a sauna in Australia and got yelled by another caucasian, "I don't f**k yellow chink!". How much chance do we have that the same chink will keep quiet, suck it up & grow up?

Oh sorry, I'm a chink myself. But doesn't mean I shouldn't be offended by people who does not know manners and should behave better. ;)
43. 2007-08-26 22:32  
Sorry, the censored word was b*tchy.
44. 2007-08-27 02:48  
Nice article again from Alvin, a lot of true observations. Some of these comments below about racism though -- sometimes race is mentioned as part of someone's description, like blond hair or tall, but there's no generalization being made there!

Go back and re-read bengmuscle's first comment (#13 below): "I was groped by a fat white hairy white guy." Yet no one picks up on the "fat" or "hairy" adjectives (assuming the double "white" is just a typo, not an emphasis).

What I want to know is: WHO is that STUD in the photo illustrating this article! Amazing!
45. 2007-08-27 08:53  
talk about sauna and rasicm. in japan some sauna only for japanese, they dont except foreigners...
very rasicm system...
46. 2007-08-27 09:56  
Wow, the story is so funny and yet so true, it's like reading my own sauna experience here in Malaysia, especially the part about coy courtesans and stalker... so human is just still human, they are same everywhere.
47. 2007-08-27 10:04  
Sauna....if u think gay sauna is sleazy for you, wait to u know what u can do in the straight men sauna...even worst.....:)
48. 2007-08-27 11:37  
Seriously,I never been to any of the Sauna in Singapore despiste I am Singaporean.I have heard alot from my gay friend on their experience in the local sauna and how they have "clinch" several deals in one trip!Sounds fiun but it has not mmotivated me to try at least once,I think i would prefered to go with someone instead of myself for the first time.Maybe...when i have the invitation or motivation,i will go one day and experience it myself :P
49. 2007-08-27 12:14  
Seriously, how is a "straight guy's sauna" like? Does it even exist? I know of spa & stuff, where they sauna room is in-built inside the massage room, so what goes on behind closed door between the male patrons & female masseurs are no brainer. But is there any common sauna rooms like those we have for the PLUs?
50. 2007-08-27 16:16  
Has anyone been to the new "international standard" sauna in Shanghai? Is it good? clean? crowd? Kinda curious!
51. 2007-08-27 18:07  
Guys try Saigon...very surprising and shocking...theyre getting to be very open and wild for your taste...depends on your persuasion.Had a former lover who prowled the sauna scene,couldnt have one too many(started the decline of our hopeful relationship...heheh)...FUNKY!
Comment #52 was deleted by its author
53. 2007-08-27 19:37  
Hmmm ... true that very few good looking gays go to saunas? Only those not so good looking ones go.

just look at the profiles of those who go saunas .
54. 2007-08-28 08:50  
Great job. Well-written, funny, entertaining and hit the nail right on the head!
55. 2007-08-28 09:55  
To Asexstories.
I go sauna, and I think I am handsome... and it should be "a sex story" or "a few sex stories"...
56. 2007-08-28 10:21  
Yes everything you said is very true even compared to those saunas in Malaysia. Obviously everyone is there to get laid. But I was different went there with my bf to enjoy the sauna but only had sex with each other.I notice most of the guys in sauna neglect safe sex.This is very dangerous.Please always use condom and never just give yourself without thinking.My bf's friend who is an active sauna goer is now suffering from AIDS.So think...Take care.
57. 2007-08-28 12:18  
Would somebody please think of the children? o:-)
58. 2007-08-28 23:42  
Someone should make a comedy about the Singapore Sauna Scene.
59. 2007-08-29 14:17  
brilliant writing! Alvin is one of the better reasons why i just renewed my subscription to Fridae . . .
he can make picking ones nose and farting sound sexy, adventuresome and down right fun!

but to be honest, the sauna scene still is like fast food sex-- too hedonstic and sleazy and tacky!

i still perfer tryists in hotel rooms or even outdoor parks where the men are better and air is cleaner!

can't we evolve beyond the hedonistic stereotype?

anyway, before I comment too much, I guess I should go there and try it, ha ha
Comment #60 was deleted by its author
61. 2007-09-01 13:18  
62. 2007-09-10 16:05  
Alvin, you need to stop writing in such a showy and wordy fashion. Writing is not a contest to show how smart you are, how much alliteration you can sprinkle in your writing or how many high-brow-but-actually-low-brow literary allusions you can make. It all ends up yielding as much emotional intimacy as a vibrator with flat batteries.

You're writing for the reader, not for your own ego.
63. 2007-09-10 16:11  

it's not a stereotype if everyone has to evolve beyond it. that would be called actuality.

if sauna sex is fast food then hotel trysts and parkland adventures must surely just be fast food by another name? it's certainly not fine dining.
64. 2007-09-11 16:30  
Had my virgin trip to one of the most famous sauna in Singapore last weekend ... astounding as it may sound, Alvin was quite accurate in depicting the details of the going-ons within (tons of late night actions).

Was a birthday treat (yeah, Singaporean are running out of ideas to celebrate their birthday) but I guess I dun regret going. It was an eye opener and yes, I did get my share of fun (SAFE fun) ...

Agreed - have fun safe (no point killing urself FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY).
65. 2007-09-25 18:48  
am new here in SG! can someone recommend me top3 men's saunas/clubs? i'd appreciate if you msg me or give me a personal tour. :)
66. 2007-10-04 14:10  
I was in Babylon Bangkok last week . Took 4 steps into the dark U-shaped double exit steamroom and promptly had my diamond cross on a platinium chain snatched. Be warned.
67. 2007-10-17 12:30  
How foolish you are to have diamond and platinium chain in sauna! What happened is all within the expectation as a result of your showing off,haha.
68. 2007-11-02 19:14  
sloane - try this

69. 2009-12-05 06:07  
Agredit the editor of the matter Alvin Tan, so forgot to tell something interesting about the saunas he visited both the benefits that a session of sauna and steam can bring benefit to the body skin health and physical well-star and mental health.
I say this because I work as a service provider in saunas since my training "1995", like massage therapy, "the picture is the sauna Bains de l'Est, Swisse" problems that matter but paussivéis addresses are not always the reality, I hope that readers judge before any information is important Fezer personal knowledge and unbiased advance of what can be a great esperiencia the life of each one.

Cassiano Neto
The message was given, and hope to have contributed to cover his adventurous spirit and cautious with certain situations that can cause unpleasant surprises.
Enjoy and big hug to everyone.
70. 2015-01-31 10:55  
Disagree entirely Mr Studman. I found Alvin's writing very entertaining. As a professional and published writer myself, I recognised his skills and enjoyed this article.

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