Visit a gym in any major city and you’ll quickly pick up on the local “culture.” You know what I’m talking about. New York and Los Angeles, specifically, are notorious for the goings-on in its gyms showers, steam rooms and saunas. It’s become such a huge problem in certain places that there are signs posted warning guests about lascivious behavior, and a handful of locations have removed the locker-room relaxation stations altogether to discourage such activities. While I contend that exercising your demons to completion can be exciting and fun and – probably, the most appealing part of it – anonymous, it can make other gym-goers uncomfortable. Thus, five reasons you need to stop treating your gym like a bathhouse – if you know what’s good for you.
1. You’re making other people uncomfortable with all that cruising. Although it may seem like everybody came to the gym to get a “full body” workout — from your perspective, anyway — not every guy in the joint is looking for play. Believe it or not, the majority of dudes are there to get their lift on and go about their day. Staring bros down with come-hither glances may work on some patrons, but there are a high percentage of people who aren’t into it — at all. Of course, as gay men we think every hot bloke pumping iron must be at least a little bit homo, but that’s rarely the case. Do what you came to the gym to do — stay active and healthy — and save the cruising for the bars and bedroom apps where they belong, lest you become a homophobe’s new punching bag.
2. Most guys prefer discretion in the locker room. It must be a generational thing, because when I’m in the locker room I rarely see guys my age — I’m 35 — milling about with their junk hanging out. Rather, it’s the older crowd that likes to walk around naked, stand at their locker for an extended period of time in the buff (sending minutes-long emails, no less), and generally move at a glacial pace drying off every nook and cranny of their bodies. Certainly that’s not a definitive statement — there are men of all ages trying to entice the rippling mass of man-flesh next to them with an ample showing of their own skin – but from my experience there’s consistently an age gap between those of us who from go from soaking wet post-shower to dry and draped in clothing in less than 60 seconds and those who could’ve had a three-martini lunch in the time it takes them to put on a pair of underwear.
3. Likewise, most guys came to workout and relax, not hookup. Your gym’s saunas and steam rooms exist to serve its customers with a place to unwind and loosen tight muscles after an intense workout. They were not installed for anybody to have sex inside them, despite popular opinion. But thanks to the bathhouse culture that’s deeply rooted within our community, we’ve come to regard any heated, clothing-optional area as a destination of desire. Sure, these spaces and situations can be sexy — exposed private parts have a way of getting a rise out of people, after all – but not all occupants are up for getting down. That’s not to say that two consenting adults can’t make a go of it, but you shouldn’t put anyone else out, run them off, or otherwise make them uncomfortable because you want to act out a fantasy. You have a bedroom for that. And if your boyfriend is home — making a one-on-one tryst with a gym trick a no-go — that’s your problem and nobody else’s.
4. What you’re doing in the facilities is unsanitary. All that grimy sweat pooling on the benches and floors of steam rooms and saunas aside, the fact remains that not everyone showers before they enter; that’s issue number one, and it’s pretty disgusting if you’ve just come from a five-mile run on the treadmill. Secondly, if you’re having sexual contact with another person in these rooms, you’re introducing a whole host of other bacteria to the scenario that, personally, I’d rather do without – and I’m not alone. I’ve witnessed plenty of questionable activities happen here — from making out to oral sex to full-on penetration — and I’m never more disgusted (or run out of a room quicker) than when a guy blows his load all over the wood or tile structures instead of his towel and quickly exits without a second thought about cleaning it up. This is how things like death get spread, and it needs to stop.
5. Performing lewd acts in public Is illegal. While the after-exercise facilities at your gym seem like private places — low lights and condensation-covered doors have a way of suggesting to your subconscious that they are — they’re still very much public. As such, if you get caught performing lewd acts in public, you’re subject to the codes of conduct that help keep our world free from sexual predators — and that’s exactly how you’ll be defined, perhaps forever if you’re charged with a criminal act. Now, most gyms will simply ask you to leave and revoke your membership in this case, but if you’ve offended or touched someone else without their consent, it could mean big trouble, and in the end that’s just not worth it. Which brings me back to the bathhouse: If you’re feeling frisky, head over there. Otherwise, keep your love muscle to yourself at the gym and nobody gets hurt.
— Mikey Rox