recreation

Anonymous Sex + Endless Lube: Welcome to the World of Gay Sex Clubs

As one might expect, the advent of Internet cruising has negatively affected revenues at encounter establishments over the past 15 years. In Southern California, Internet cruising for sex began with DELOS, a BBS (bulletin board system), and progressed like everywhere else to AOL chat rooms and now hook-up sites. So why pay a 15 or 20 dollar entry fee when you can get it for free on Craigslist? “The Internet,” Glen says ominously, “is dangerous. We give condoms and lube. We promote safe sex. We have on-site HIV testing. Online you could meet an axe murderer. We get people out of the parks, out of the alleys, and out of the restrooms. We give them a safe place to come.” Hooray for double entendres.

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After working in the sex club industry for almost 15 years, the way Glen views sex has changed. “I’ve become jaded,” he explains. I look at porn now and it’s like watching Oprah. There’s no stimulation.” Porn isn’t the only thing playing on the TVs, though. “We have HBO on by the coffee machine,” Glen boasts, explaining that there are regular patrons who come not for sex, but for what he refers to as the “congeniality” of the place. Suddenly I’m no longer at a sex club; I’m at Cheers. “Maybe they’re sober and they don’t want to go to a bar so they come here for eight or nine hours and sit and drink coffee and watch movies.” Glen says this cheerfully while I die a little inside for these guys. Keep in mind there are no comfy couches; there is no WiFi, Frank Sinatra albums for sale, or non-fat half-caf lattes. There is a hard black bench and Sanka in Styrofoam cups. I don’t know about you but if I pay a fifteen dollar entry fee, I’m gonna ejaculate somewhere.

But are these places really just about sex? Or is that–in between the scents of bleach and sweat–love in the air I smell? Glen gives me an emphatic, “Oh yes. I, for one, am an example of that and I know many people who met in sex clubs who have gone on to meaningful relationships.” Glen met his partner of fourteen years in the previous unlawful incarnation of this same sex club. Sounding a little like Mae West, he sassily recounts their meeting: “I was working behind the counter and he said you’re a little big in the hips but you’ll do. Then he hit me in the head with his head.” To clarify, his beau head-butted him and the rest is history.

I don’t get it, either.

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Glen sings the praises of sex club love. “Here you can connect instantly, you know if you’re compatible right away.” If by “compatible” he means establishing who is a top and who is a bottom, okay, but I think Glen and I have different ideas of what it means to connect with someone. There is a saying: If you think you want to fuck someone, just talk to them and you probably won’t want to fuck them anymore. People don’t talk much in sex clubs.

And Glen doesn’t like the ones that do. “That really pisses me off, the ones that come here in groups and chit chat in the back.” By the back, he means the place where the majority of the sex goes on. No chit chat in the back. No heavy cologne. No jacket and tie. This club is about hardcore, blue-collar, John Goodman-in-Roseanne masculinity. Stinky armpits and musky balls.