Welcome to the Digital Bathhouse
Manhunt, Adam4Adam, Gaydar, Grindr. Asspig, Craigslist ... these websites and mobile apps and the many, many more like them have made gay sexual trysts easier to order in than Chinese food. With all these sites and apps where gay men can so easily hook up with willing partners after checking out the pics followed by (maybe!) a quick chat to see who will host, who bottoms, tops, flips ... whatever.
Then after more negotiating ... and more negotiating ... and more negotiating ... the more entrepid one actually ventures outside (gasp!) to visit the awaiting party. Or parties. Outside, he can see everyone looking at him as he checks the address on his smartphone -- a dead giveaway to a traveling trick.
Following the old "bird in the hand is worth two in the Ethernet," once you get to the door, you’re pretty much assured of having sex. Whether or not that sex with that real-life person will be were anticipating depends on your mutual chemistry.
But most of us bad boys who have gone through the endless back-and-forth, enjoyed each other’s pics know that once all the preliminaries are through, we’ll just shrug and make the most of the encounter.
In most cases, that will be the last time the two have sex or even see one another again. Instead of a repeat, the vast majority of men simply move on to the next guy who passes online inspection. The game begins anew.
If this all seems like déjà vu to an old hand like myself, it’s because it is. This is just a digital version of the old bathhouses, those multi-level sex palaces that flourished in the years between Stonewall and the AIDS epidemic.
Many of us old timers remember with fondness of the multitude of sexual encounters in such infamous bathhouses here New York like the Everhard, the St Mark’s and my personal favorite (it was near my home), the Club Baths. It was at the Continental Baths that Bette Midler and her then pianist, Barry Manilow, launched their careers; it was also the inspiration for Terrence McNally’s play and later movie adaptation, "The Ritz."
Those bathhouses and the backrooms throughout the world gave much pleasure and immediate gratification to gay men during the years when gays were without the freedoms to associate, let alone marry. The baths provided a protected sanctuary for gay men to play without threat of arrest or public humiliation.