The Bathhouse: Bathhouses (baths) are used for many reasons. While most guys go there for sex, men also go there to relax, to meet other men socially, to exercise, and to explore various aspects of their sexuality. There are also many reasons guys don’t go to the baths. Unfortunately, some of these are based on misperceptions and unfounded fears: MYTH: Only HIV-positive guys go to the baths. FACT: Both HIV-positive and HIV-negative men go to the baths. Guys who don’t know their HIV status also go to the baths. MYTH: That’s where people get HIV or other STIs. FACT: People get HIV and STIs all over the place, not just in the baths. MYTH: People who go to baths are more “promiscuous”. FACT: People who go to baths do not necessarily have more casual sexual partners. Entering the space You enter an entrance lobby where you pay to get in. You can either rent a room/cubicle or a locker. Some places will have different types of rooms. You can usually rent rooms/lockers for different time periods. Most baths make you sign a receipt before you enter. This signature isn’t for formal identification purposes; it is merely to assist you and staff in case you lose your key or forget your room/locker number. Some places will charge you a one-time membership fee. Once you’ve paid, the entrance attendant will buzz you inside through a locked door. He’ll hand you your room/locker key that usually has an elastic band attached to it so you can keep your key around your wrist, arm or ankle. He will also hand you a clean towel. Most venues will hand you a free condom. Some places will have free condoms available - just ask a staff person where they are if you can’t see any. Some baths will offer a free security box for you to store your valuables, like wallets or watches, for safe keeping. The environment Baths are typically laid out as a maze of corridors, rooms/cubicles, dark public rooms, and public shower and toilet areas. Many baths will also have wet and dry saunas, gym rooms, porn video rooms, whirlpools, other interesting sexual play spaces and non-sexual relaxation lounges. If it’s your first time at this bath, look for a map on the wall to locate your locker or room, or ask a staff person for help. It may take you a while to orient yourself, but this can be part of the fun. Room/cubicle walls usually don’t reach the ceiling, so sound travels between rooms, adding to the sexualized atmosphere but also giving you less privacy. Guys use dark public rooms for group sex or sex in front of other people. These spaces can sometimes be very dark so be careful not to walk into a wall! Different baths create different atmospheres and sometimes attract specific types of guys. Explore the baths to find ones in which you are comfortable. Many have websites where you can view the premises before you actually go to them. The experience Once you’ve found your locker or room, relax for a while. Although you’re expected to undress and wear your towel around your waist, you don’t have to. Although many guys walk barefoot, some keep shoes on or bring slippers. Make sure to always have your key on you as it has your room/locker number on it. The way someone is positioned inside their room can suggest the type of sex they’re looking for, but this isn’t always true. A guy lying on his stomach might be telling you he wants to get fucked, while a guy lying face up might be looking to get sucked or to fuck. If you rent a locker you can cruise in the hallways and public spaces.You can also look into rooms with open doors. Don’t knock on closed doors. Only cruise open or semi-open doors. If you rent a room you can cruise in the same way, but you also have the option of staying in your room and leaving the door open to suggest you’re looking for sex. You can sit or lie on your bed, or stand by the doorway. Baths are mainly about sex. However they’re more than that. They are places to relax, socialize, work out, or just take in the sights. One way to avoid disappointment, depression and frustration if you don’t find sex is to take advantage of these other uses.Unfortunately some of us feel pressured to conform to certain sexual norms. Going to the baths doesn’t mean you must have sex with as many guys as you can in one night, although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this if it’s what you want. Just be yourself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Bath hygiene Follow these guidelines if you’re going to have sex in the baths. Many of these tips are good for other sex situations. Shower with soap between each sexual partner (this includes blow jobs). Check yourself regularly for sores, rashes or pimples. Cover any sores or cuts, especially the soles of your feet if you choose to walk barefoot. Wash hands regularly with warm water and soap. Avoid over-using alcohol-based hand sanitizers as they dry your skin, increasing risk for cracked skin. Avoid sharing towels. Make sure your towel is between yourself and the bench inside sauna/steam rooms. Avoid brushing or flossing your teeth at least ½ hour before sex. Keep your hands away from your nose, mouth, ears, eyes and hair. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Avoid body shaving before having intimate physical/sexual contact with others. Avoid intimate physical/sexual contact with others if you have an open sore, infected cut, boil, cough or cold. Bathhouses are legal spaces since they’re licensed by the City. Every space within a bathhouse, except the space licensed for alcohol, is considered private space. The Sex Party / Orgy Most of us find out about sex parties or orgies by speaking to someone who has already been to one. You might be personally invited or added to an email list. Some online sex sites have sections devoted to helping organize sex parties. Parties can be located in someone’s house or apartment, hotel rooms or a bathhouse. Events that take place in a private residence might include dinner and conversation to start the evening. There might be introductions, ice breakers to get people comfortable, and a discussion of ground rules. Depending on the size of the event, there might be multiple rooms, each differently themed. There may also be non-sexual areas if you want to take a break. Some events are ‘safer sex only’ parties. Others may leave it up to you to decide. There are bareback parties where guys engage in unprotected anal (raw) sex. Check in advance to know what type of party you’re going to. If you arrive at a bareback party but weren’t expecting it to be one, don’t feel pressured to participate. If you’re going to a bareback party, check out www.actoronto.org/bareback for more information. Some of us like to have one-on-one sex, some of us like to have group sex, and some of us like to have sex in front of other people. Sex parties can be a lot of fun but can also present particular risks. It can be difficult to keep track of what is going on when there’s a group of guys having sex around you. If you’re a top, make sure to change the condom with each different person that you fuck. If you’re the bottom, check to see that the other guy put on a new condom before he fucks you to make sure he’s not wearing a condom that he used to fuck someone else with. Periodically check, with your hand, to make sure that guys are using condoms. If you’re having oral sex (sucking cock) with a lot of guys, avoid deep throating as this increases your risk of getting certain STIs – like gonorrhea and chlamydia.