Complete Gay Men's Sauna Guide Intro
Saunas have been a key part of gay and queer culture for decades. They offer men who have sex with men an environment in which to be themselves and have fun without fear of judgment, and give those exploring their sexuality a relatively safe and anonymous place in which to do so.
However for first time visitors to a sauna it can be a nerve wracking experience - trust us we've been there too. But fear not! From basics like when to go and what to take, through to how to behave, flirt and have fun safely in a sauna, we'll give you all the info.
Feel free to skip to the parts you're wanting to learn about the most (as there's a lot of info), but if you've never been to a sauna before we'd recommend starting from the beginning to make sure you get all the info you need.
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What is a Gay Men's Sauna, Bathhouse or Spa?
These are all similar words for 'sex on premises venues', that provide a place for men who have sex with men to relax, and meet others for casual sex. These names are fairly interchangeable, with the main difference between them being around the facilities offered at a venue. e.g. a bathhouse may not have a sauna.
Each is usually a collection of facilities that enable men to wander round, relax, have sex, and occasionally even chat! (that may sound the wrong way round, but once you read the behaviour section below you'll understand!)
What Goes on in a Gay Sauna?
Whilst the underlying premise is around hooking up and having sex, you'll see that a wide variety of things goes on in a sauna. Some people stay for hours and hook up with multiple people, some go for a short time, or just like watching others, or even just being around naked men and relaxing in the facilities. The biggest thing to remember is that you can get up to as much or as little as you want, and there's no pressure for you to partake in anything you don't feel like.
What Do I Wear at a Gay Sauna?
In a word....nothing!! You'll likely have a towel around your waist, but nothing underneath. There may be some nights that allow you to wear swimwear or underwear, but generally if you try to on a normal day, you'll be asked to leave, or feel like a social outcast. When everyone else is naked, it's bad form to be the only one wearing something.
You might want to wear some flip flops to protect your feet and be a bit more comfortable. Some places require them, but it can be quite country specific - nowhere does in the UK for example, but it's more common in the US.
What Facilities are there are a Gay Sauna?
While the exact facilities will differ from place to place, you can expect to find a mixture of the below at a gay sauna. This will depend largely on the size, and many will just have a couple, though larger venues can have many
Where are Gay Saunas Located?
The good news is that you can find bathhouses all over the world!! The bad news is that they're not in every country, tending to be found where homosexuality is legal and tolerated to some extent. They're most common in large towns of cities, as these tend to have higher amount of LGBTQ+ people and a more accepting and progressive attitude towards homosexuality.
Holiday and tourist destinations can also have a higher amount of saunas compared to other areas, where LGBTQ+ travellers top up local visitor volumes. Saunas are rarely in the epicentre of a town or city due to high rental costs.
How to Identify a Gay Sauna?
There are too many saunas for us to list, however a quick search for gay saunas in the place you are visiting/live should show up a list or local article to find them. Nowadays, just about every sauna will have a website, or information on Google to make sure you're not mistaking the premises for a more pedestrian (but also lovely) spa, where no hanky-panky goes on.
From the outside, men's saunas will almost always be windowless, as this offers privacy for people quickly entering that don't want to be seen to be visiting. Most won't actively advertise what they are outside - e.g. London's Pleasuredrome, Locker Room or Covent Garden Health Spa. This is because while locals may know what it is, many passers by won't have a clue, so also helps with patron anonymity.
Sauna Opening Times
Some saunas are open 24-7, but this is becoming less common. More and more are open from 10 or 11 in the morning to 11 or 12 at night, but most are 7 days a week. Always check before arriving that it's open when you want to visit.
Best time to Visit a Sauna? Busiest Times
A few times I've tried calling up a sauna to ask if it's busy or when they get busy. Because they want people there, you'll almost certainly get told 'it's busy now', even when it isn't. They can just say 'oh everyone left' by the time you get there and have paid your money.
Most of the time gay saunas get busy early evening after work on Thursday and Friday, On Saturday and Sunday it can get most crowded during the mid afternoon - around 4-7pm, as people have more time and are able to 'prepare' more than after work. This trend is however changing a little with increasing numbers working from home.
Beyond this, if you have gay clubs nearby, they can get busy late at night on Thursday, Friday and Saturday when people leave the clubs and go hunting for fun. Caution is to be had here, as people are more likely to be drunk (or maybe on drugs). Not only does that usually mean worse sex, but they may listen less to consent or what you're wanting.
These times may vary depending on location, and a good way to double check busy times is to Google the sauna. The business listing may show the busy/peak times based on mobile data and when people visit. If you also have a particular preference for a type of guy - e.g. bears, daddies or under 25s - saunas quite often have dedicated days/times during the week to boost numbers. You may get fewer people attending but more to your liking.
What to Take to a Gay Sauna?
All saunas should provide condoms and lube, however sometimes the quality can be iffy. Until you've checked the sauna, it can be a good backup to take your own condoms and sachets of lube with you. These you'll at least then know will fit, be less likely to break, and not give you any allergic reactions.
Many saunas don't allow people to bring poppers from outside or that aren't sealed, due to the potential for there being drugs or other substances contained within bottles. Because sex takes place here, phones are strictly forbidden and you'll be required to put them away for the duration (scary right?!?!).
If you're thinking of bottoming at the bathhouse, it's a good idea to get yourself clean beforehand - see our guide to douching to help. Whilst some places have the facilities to get yourself sparkly, it's unusual and not particularly hygienic. Take a small douche with them to use in an emergency, but be aware it's not always super easy to clean on the premises.
Other Services at Gay Saunas
Some bathhouses provide on site STI testing or vaccinations. With Monkeypox and Covid still high at the time of writing this article it can be an amazing service to take advantage of.
If you're having casual hookups, it's responsible to keep on top of your tests to keep yourself and others safe. So if it's available, after your fun it can be a great opportunity to get a quick test before you leave for home.
Sauna Parties and Events
Mentioned a little earlier, to boost midweek numbers, you'll often find saunas let under 25s in for a reduced rate/free on a midweek day, may have weekly daddy days or bear nights. Sometimes foam parties or club nights happen to try and attract a bigger evening crowd as well. So if you have a particular tribe you identify with or are attracted to, it can be worth exploring these events that might sit outside the busiest visiting hours, as they could be more welcoming and fun for you.
Gay Sauna Sex and Playing Safe
With some exceptions - e.g. no sex in the locker rooms or in the jacuzzi - There are rarely rules about what has to happen where or with whom. Corridors, corners, toilets, showers, the sauna, steam rooms, slings, cabins, in the other toilets ... solo, in groups, with older guys, younger guys, hairy guys, jocks bears, twinks ... Anything and everything goes on in all these places with all these people at some time. You're usually more likely to find fun in the main areas, but there's no rigid rules.
As you're playing with someone new, it's always best to play safe and use condoms in saunas. They will almost certainly provide them but as a backup it can be a good idea to bring your own to make sure they fit, are of good quality, and you're not allergic to any of what's provided.
Arriving at a Bathhouse
Because some men use bathhouses as places to explore their sexuality, or simply don't want to be seen entering a sex on premises venue, it's usually quite quiet outside. You may well see people loitering nearby pretending to be on their phones, waiting until the coast is clear to dash inside. It's rare to need to queue up outside, but for larger events or parties it has been known to occur.
Different places have different entering policies, but some spas will first give you a pat down and check your bag for poppers, alcohol or drugs. If you're planning on taking Viagra it's therefore a good idea to have it before you enter, as there's a chance you might not be allowed to take it inside. Check the venue's policies before arriving to make sure you know what you can/can't take.
Sauna Ticket Options
Next it's time for a ticket. Many places are open 24 hours and will offer a ticket for around 8 hours, or up to 24. Note, you're not allowed to sleep overnight in saunas - some drunk people at weekends can try to lock a cabin for a few hours kip, and homeless people have been known to use saunas as cheap places to stay too.
Sometimes you can get 48 hour passes or weekend passes that might be slightly more expensive. It's not uncommon for a sauna to offer monthly or yearly memberships too, though these are usually taken by people that live nearby, or where the venue has other facilities like a gym to take advantage of.
Entering a Gay Sauna
The Locker Rooms
Once you pay for your ticket, you'll likely be given a wristband with a locker for your clothes, and usually two fairly skimpy towels. One will be to wear while you're in the sauna, and one will be for drying off after you've finished and had a shower. If you want an extra towel you usually have to pay a few pounds for one.
Some saunas are very relaxed, though some can be quite tight on security. You may get asked to leave some sort of ID, your phone or wallet at reception, so they have a way of identifying people if any illegal activity goes on. Usually you can access these inside - as they want you to buy drinks, food and Viagra - so don't worry too much about it.
After this you'll likely enter the locker room to find your locker and get undressed. It's usually quite quiet in here, though sometimes people exchange pleasantries. It's not polite to stare at others as they get naked, with most keeping their eyes on their locker and possessions. Occasionally people might share a compliment as they cross paths however - 'it's a shame I'm leaving, I'd have stayed if I knew you were going to be here' etc has been known.
Once your stuff's safely in your locker, make sure you have your towel and put your key on your wrist. If you lose this it's usually possible to get into your locker via a master key (so also make sure you remember your number just in case), but can be time consuming and tricky to get staff to help.
Entering the Sauna
Next up, it's sauna time (finally right?)! Now all saunas have different layouts, so first it can be a good idea to get your bearings and understand the lay of the land. If you're entering at a busy time you may quickly discover where people are congregating, where action happens, or where it's quieter for when you want a break or to relax (though if someone catches your eye obviously feel free to pursue that - you're there for fun after all!).
Everyone has their own way of enjoying a sauna. Some will hang around the cabins looking for fun, some will enjoy the facilities and just enjoy being about naked men, some will mix things up, have breaks in the bar, be there for just an hour or the whole day. It's totally up to you. A big bit of advice though is don't go in expecting or demanding something to happen. Going with the flow of the situation and with the feelings you find yourself in can mean you can have a more enjoyable time.
How to Behave in a Sauna - Communication, Etiquette and Flirting
Here we'll go through the some key rules of communication etiquette, as well as the body language that takes place to flirt and hook up in the main areas of a sauna
Key Behaviours and Etiquette in a Sauna
The Golden Rule of Communication
Firstly the big one. It may surprise you, but people don't talk in gay saunas(!!) Maaaayyyyybe with someone in a jacuzzi or at the bar, but ultimately the rule is that silence is golden. Saunas are a magical place of subtle glances and gestures, the catching of eyes and the grazing of thighs. The one exception to this is that if someone does something you're not wanting them to, feel free to say 'no / please stop' if they're not picking up that you're not interested or respecting boundaries. In a quiet place, even a whisper will sound loud, and they'll almost certainly go running for the hills. People can sometimes try their luck (particularly when there is a group of people playing in a public space), so it's just something to be aware may happen.
Without any talking, saunas become a space where hooking up is based almost solely on physical attraction. So a lot of trying your luck and failed flirting attempts is part of the game.
There are a lot of different types of gay tribes and attractions, so it doesn't mean you or they are horrible or ugly, but simply not what the other is looking for. There's never a need to be rude to someone, so if you're not interested, a simple brush off, slight move away, or a smile and shake of the head is perfectly fine as you move on. Don't sweat it (unless you're in the hot sauna of course).
Being Watched and Having Others Join
If you're playing with someone in a public space, be aware others may well start to watch. You might even find others start to try and join the two of you. If you enjoy being watched but don't want others to join, you don't have to let them in. Generally just a gentle push aside, angle of the body, or shake of the head is sufficient, but occasionally you may need to be more forceful with some of your more enthusiastic patrons.
Just because you're in a public space doesn't mean you have to do things you don't want to. The best way to avoid this however is to find a private room or cabin with the person you're playing with. Most do this if they're moving on to penetrative sex anyway, as it's a little more comfortable and offers a space to sit or lie down.
How to Enjoy Different Areas of a Sauna
Walking the Corridors and Mazes
People usually go for a wander around between visiting specific areas, or cruise the cabin coridoors when they're wanting to move from lighter to heavier play with others.
If you see someone you like as you're wandering around - perhaps you're in a maze (area with various pathways and cubby holes to find guys in - a relaxed way to get someone's attention is to try to catch their eye. It sounds minor, but when no-one is talking, lingering eye contact is a big signal.
If you're passing someone you like, you can slow down, try to catch eyes, then stop by a wall and look back to see if they've done the same. If they have, it's usually an invite to take things further - this could be in a steamy or dark section you're in, or in a nearby room. Otherwise catching eyes with someone whilst standing still and playing with yourself through your towel can work well. If they like you they may stop and start to get involved, or lead you off somewhere.
It can also be common, especially if it's quite busy and crowded, to trail your arm as you pass someone and brush their leg. This is another signal that you like someone, and the response if they're interested would usually be not to immediately stop, but to pause and glance back a few steps past. They may not have seen you properly so may want to take a proper look before engaging. However be aware they may turn around to look and then keep walking.
Private Rooms and Cabins
This is where you go when you've found a friend for fun, and want to take it up a notch, away from the eyes and hands of others.
These are usually quite small, dimly lit 'rooms' without a roof (so you will be heard by passing patrons, but no-one minds if you're noisy). You'll usually have a space behind a lockable door with a fairly thin wipe clean matt to sit or lie down on (depending on size). People usually meet, have some fun in a cabin, before parting ways immediately after.
It's not the most comfortable of spaces, but you're there for a good time not a long time. Commonly, condoms and lube aren't in these rooms, so you'll need to grab some on the way. They likely have tissues and a bin, so please use these and your towel to clean up after yourself for others to use afterwards. Usually these rooms don't have glory holes as they're meant to be private spaces, but you might see one or two about.
You'll sometimes see some bottoms just pick a cabin and set up camp there for hours; presenting themselves to anyone that wants them. To be honest, in busy times this is pretty anti social behaviour, so please don't do this. The rooms should be usable by everyone.
My favourite place to relax in a sauna. These are usually strictly no sex areas due to water filters, but fun has been known to occur in them. Usually some lighter touching and mutual hand play under the water is all that occurs, as anything more is tricky to say the least.
Before you enter you have to put your towel somewhere, so everyone gets a peak at you as you parade into the water (try to remember which one is yours!!). Don't be shy, the sauna celebrates all types of people - and they're all naked too! If there's someone you like, it's a good idea to try and sit next to or opposite them if there's space - though you can always move about if space becomes available.
Most of the time flirting will occur with someone sat opposite or next to you, with a touching of feet under the water. If you or they move away, it's a no-thanks and you go back to staring at the ceiling and enjoying the bubbles on your bum. If you're interested you can move over next to them.
If you're next to someone, they may move their thigh to be in contact with yours, or again touch feet underwater. Similarly, if you're not interested you can simply move away a little and that suffices as a 'not for me' signal. If interested, people usually gently move their hands across and start some gentle play together, perhaps kissing too.
The namesake of many establishments; the sauna! Now firstly these usually aren't anywhere near as hot as saunas you find in spas, gyms or hotels. That's because the door is opened and closed a lot (letting the heat out), and also for safety (as people can spend longer than they technically should for their health in there).
They can come in different sizes, but usually have a few sides to them with a couple of levels. People often come in here to relax and unwind a bit, more than for fun, however plenty does go on. Here people are more likely to keep their towel on, showing their attraction to someone they like by either adjusting their towel to reveal a bit more of themselves to someone. The other main way of showing interest is by looking at someone (though here there's not usually eye contact) and starting to play with themselves. If the other is interested they may move closer to the other and each start to play with the other.
Because of the heat and that you're often surrounded by others, things usually only go as far as oral here (...usually). Some saunas have lighter and darker sections to them if they're big enough, and people may move to the darker area to be a bit more private for their fun, as it's otherwise often quite bright as well as hot. As a side note, make sure you stay hydrated during your time in a gay sauna, particularly after visiting the physical sauna section!
As a personal tip, you can find people can quite overtly just open the door, pop their head in and stare at who's in there before leaving. It's a bit bizarre and a bold move, but each to their own. We'd recommend not constantly running around between areas, you can often actually miss out on the fun that happens organically.
Most of the time, the showers are simply where you'll go to wash off after a sauna or steam, or perhaps clean up after having had some fun. Because of all the facilities it's rare for much action to happen here, unless there's a foam part or event happening there. Sometimes people are a little more chatty here, or may find someone to interact with more elsewhere but it's quite a low key environment.
Where things get.....steamy.....right? Well a bit. Steam rooms can be fun, but similarly to saunas, with the doors opening and closing a lot (particularly when busy), there's often not too much steam in there. If there is, it's not the best place to see who you're with. Some like this aspect, but it's rarely the busiest place in the sauna.
Here the same flirting rules as in a sauna apply. People often sit with their towel and will invite you to join by either twitching their towel and revealing themselves to you, or moving nearby and pressing up against your thigh or leg. Moving away or ignoring their advances is the sign for no, or you can simply leave the space. If it gets steamy (and sometimes just anyway), some may remove their towel completely and let it all out. You don't have to do this and it's definiteyl a personal choice, as most tend not to.
Video rooms are often quite dark, with black walls and ceilings. The usually large screen or wall projection of gay adult entertainment will provide some level of illumination on those watching and relaxing in the room. Video spaces always come with somewhere to sit, and usually have beds or platforms covered in the same mattresses you'll find in the private rooms.
These can be places to just go and chill out. Get your testosterone levels back up with some stimulation after playing with someone, and some even have a nap there (look out for someone snoring)! People usually keep their towel on, but may enjoy themselves to the video stimulation while around others. Catching someone's eye here can be tricky as you're generally all facing a wall, but it can happen. See it generally as more of a place to relax and recharge though, as saunas can be quite intense at times and you may want somewhere quiet to calm down a bit, particularly if you're there for a while.
Bar and Relaxing Areas
Bar and food areas may be no-sex zones. You've got a whole sauna to play with others, so no need to be getting your sp*nk in someone's sandwich!! There's normally water fountains for you to stay hydrated at during your stay, so the relaxing area and bar is usually used by those staying for a for a good while and in need a break. It's often a place to meet back up with a friend if you've come with one and both been off having fun.
Gay Sauna FAQs
Can i bring my phone or iPhone into a sauna?
Almost certainly not. There may be areas you're able to use them, but phones may even be put away safely by reception. This is to help everyone relax without worry of being photographed or filmed without their consent.
Monkeypox and Gay Saunas
Monkeypox is currently spreading rapidly, and affecting men who have sex with men at a high rate. Due to the close contact you can have with others in saunas, monkeypox has a high potential . As such at the moment we would not recommend visiting saunas.
If you choose to, be watchful for monkeypox symptoms in the period after you have visited. If any symptoms occur please contact the sauna you visited and they may be able to contact some visitors from the day you attended. If you have the number of anyone you met there, let them know too.
Even if you Monkeypox vaccine, there are plenty of other STIs you can pick up at a Sauna, so it's always advisable to play safe and use condoms if you attend.
Do I have to have sex?
You don't have to do anything in a sauna. I've been before simply as a place to relax and recover from a hangover! You can do as much or as little as you want. Don't worry about doing everything and anything on your first visit, as it'll be open for you to return if you enjoy yourself and want to come back.
Do I have to be naked?
Unless there's a specific themed night where other attire is required, you'll need to be naked under your towel. You may find a few people walking around without their towel wrapped around them, but most cover themselves, so you won't be naked unless you remove your towel. This is needed to enter the jacuzzi - no-one wants a soggy towel.
What do I do if I'm uncomfortable with someone
Communication is big in saunas. Because it's usually silent in the main areas, some people find it hard talking when in a private setting. Make sure you're clear with your partner of choice what you're willing or not willing to do. If they aren't happy with it, good news, there's loads of others just outside for you!
If they continue to be pressuring or start to do anything that goes beyond your consent, most of the time there are alarms inside the cabins. Alternatively you can call for help and others will likely hear you. If anyone acts appropriately, report them to staff and they'll likely be removed from the premises.
I think I caught an STI/STD at the sauna, what should I do?
See a doctor immediately. If results are positive, let the sauna know the details - you can do this anonymously. They may have some people's details on record that they're able to contact directly or via mailing list.
If you got the number of the person(s) you hooked up, it's responsible to let them know. it might not be the most comfortable conversation, but it's in everyone's best interest to do so.
How do I get someone's number?
Occasionally you might have had a really good time with someone, and both want to meet again. Many people just use saunas for casual sex, or may have rules in an open relationship that prevents them from seeing others again. Because of this you won't get everyone's number you play with - in fact it's a rarity. However you may be able to get your phone from your locker, or alternatively get the staff to provide you with pen and paper to write each other's numbers down.
Drugs like GBH have been a problem at some men's saunas. Most have a zero drugs tolerance policy, but it can be hard to enforce unless someone's caught in the act. Because of this, take care of who you're playing with. If something seems off then it can be best to steer clear from them. Never accept a drink from someone else that isn't handed to you from the bar by a member of staff, and only use poppers that you own or have bought from the venue.
We hope you liked our guide! If you're read all of it you're amazing, and all set up as a sauna expert, ready to cruise the hallways of a men's bathhouse near you
x The Age Gap Guys x