Friday Forum: Are Undercover Sex Shop Stings Homophobic?

It’s that time of the week, when Queerty takes a break from the opinion-making and puts you, the readers, in charge. Each Friday, we invite you to be the pundit on a hot-button question facing the LGBT community and its allies. As always, we expect people to be respectful and considerate of others by refraining from personal attacks. We present the information, you make the decision.

chelsea_blue_storeThis weekend, protesters in New York City plan to demonstrate outside Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s residence to draw attention to a series of undercover stings targeting older gay men at sex shops and video stores. The demonstration, planned by the groups Coalition to Stop the Arrests and the Gay Justic League plan to rally at 17 East 79th Street Saturday from Noon to 1 PM. In a statement, the organizers made their case, saying:

“Scores of innocent men have been swept up in these false arrests, documented in the Gay City News. Young undercover cops go up to middle-aged gay men, cruise them, ask for consensual sex, and then offer to pay the older men to have sex with them. Though none of the men agree to the offer, they are then arrested by a gang of undercover cops and put through the system. None of the men have prior arrests. And while only 17% of male prostitutes arrested in NYPD’s Manhattan South district are over 40 years old, 66% of the men arrested at the Blue Door video store are. The legitimacy of these arrests is inconceivable. It also casts doubt on arrests at other targeted stores.

These false arrests have been condemned by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Council Member Rosie Mendez and State Senator Tom Duane. Mayor Bloomberg must put a stop to these arrests now and bring the rogue cops engaging in these crimes to justice.

1. MAYOR BLOOMBERG – Stop the false arrests of gay men for prostitution!
2. GOVERNOR PATERSON – Appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and punish these crimes by the police!
3. MAYOR BLOOMBERG, D.A. MORGENTHAU and POLICE COMMISSIONER KELLY – Sit down with gay groups, leaders and victims of these illegal stings, to get to the bottom of this outrage, and stop the arrests and prosecutions –NOW!”

Paul Browne, the department’s deputy commissioner for public information, previously defended the arrests saying, “The fact remains that the locations had become notorious for solicitation of sex acts, with complaints from the public resulting in police attention.”

Of course, gay men being targeted in sex stings are nothing new. Gay bars were regularly raided in the pre-Stonewall era and modern-day police have gone onto online sex sites to capture those soliciting for sex and those offering it. Senator Larry Craig was arrested in a sex sting set up at the Minneapolis airport.

Drop for a moment the issue of whether prostitution should be legal or not and consider this question: Should police officers go after gay sex workers at all? Is there a line to be drawn—and if so, where should it be? The NYPD maintains it only arrested men who did not walk away once the undercover cops offered money for sex, but then again, most of the arrested men maintain that they were bewildered by the offer and did not understand why, you know, a young guy was offering them money for sex.

We put it to you: Are undercover sex shop stings homophobic?

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  • anyankafan

    i can’t speak for their homophobia, because perhaps if there were an appropriate heterosexual counterpart to these stores there would be a comparative crack down there, (Tho i doubt it), but i can certainly see it as pure entrapment. All it is doing is beefing up those in charges resumes, making them look theyre doing something to ‘protect social values’, when really all theyre doing is tarnishing innocent people.

  • saintrage

    Maybe they have forgotten the lessons of STONEWALL.

  • anyankafan

    they the police or they the gays? :P i’m assumin police? (yay riot :) )

  • Sebbe

    Like anyankafan said, it is plain and simple entrapment, but these people are forced to pay a lawyer to defend the charges.

    What a waste of public resources to be going after any sex workers (who are of age) straight or gay. Even more so, when it is doubtful the majority of these men could even be described as “sex-workers”.

  • at work today

    The relevant question, and the cause of the protest, is *not* whether police should go after gay sex workers (either versus or along with straight sex workers), it’s whether police should go after innocent gay men patronizing a perfectly legal establishment. The homphobia charge is much more powerful in this case, in which it appears that the NYPD is criminalizing gay men who are not criminals.

  • Anthony in Nashville

    I guess the moral of the story is to do your cruising online. I thought bookstore trade went away in the 90s.

  • Darth Paul

    Should police officers go after gay sex workers at all?

    No, they shouldn’t go after ANY sex worker. If they must justify their salaries using ‘moral’ bs, go after the buyers, not the seller. Besides, isn’t punishing the entrepreneurial MAJORLY unamerican?

  • Sebbe

    @Anthony – I thought so as well. I don’t know any young (under 30) gays like myself who frequent a “bookstore” for a hookup. It’s so last century. That said, the targeting is still wrong.

  • Gurlene

    The bookstore at Christopher street and the Westside Hwy closed at the end of last month due to lack of business. They had just remodeled the place two months earlier. The $2 per hour african clerks they had working there were so nasty it is no wonder no one would go in there.

    I do agree cruising a bookstore does seem a bit last century. The only “trade” to be found in those stores were either crackheads or undercover police officers.

    I thought everyone knew that NYC is now such a police state that by the middle of the year you will be subject to arrest if you have sex in the only bathhouse left in Manhattan. Speaking of which the price to enter has gotten so high just to have 4 hours of sexual romp (or looking for something to come in that may turn you on) they too have noticed business dropping off.

    About the only place left is a steam room in a gym and even those businesses have been forced to close their steamrooms becasue of the health department. I am waiting to hear about undercover officers making arrests there next.

  • dizzyspins

    Based on the allegations, it sounds like these are pretty clear-cut cases of entrapment. I don’t know if its homophobic, though, because the police do go after female prostitutes all the time (though the johns are more likely to get off lightly or scott free).

    Having said that, I wish people would realize we don’t have a constitutional right to have sex in bookstores and bathhouses. It’s hardly up there with armed robbery or murder, but its against the law–and pretty pathetic. I mean, aren’t there enough bars and websites we can meet each other? Do we really need every dark corner we can get to rut like pigs?

    And I can’t stand the whole gym steam-room hookup. Its a friggin’ public place where most people–gay and straight–are just trying to work out and de-stress. Why should I, a paying customer, be uncomfortable using my gym sauna because someone else has decided to turn it a cruising spot. What if I decided to turn the bench press into a cot and took a nap?

  • Anon

    i think i saw this in queer as folks…

  • Sebbe

    @dizzyspins – I agree, I never understood it. Don’t these people have apartments?

  • Anthony in Nashville

    @ dizzyspins and Sebbe: I’ve always thought it was mostly closet cases that did things like bathrooms, parks and bookstores. A self-respecting gay man wouldn’t put himself in those scenarios in my opinion.

  • GranDiva

    @Anthony in Nashville:
    And yet, across America there are plenty of self-respecting gay men who avail themselves — in very low-tech ways — of seedy bars, bookstores, and bathhouses every weekend…

    Don’t generalize.

  • Jaroslaw

    Why at all is a great question. It is not as if NYC is suddenly otherwise crime free and the police there have nothing to do.

    I’m not addressing the legality of prostitution, just suggesting that the city is out to make a buck. They know the over 40 guys can pay the fees and fines.

    And yes, the way the world works an over 40 would be bewildered as to why a young hot guy would pay HIM for sex so “not walking away” is BS reasoning.

  • RS

    @dizzyspins: But they *weren’t* having sex in the bookstores. They met someone and agreed to go have private, consensual sex elsewhere in a private place. It’s no different, and no more illegal, than meeting someone in a bar and deciding to go home with him.

    As for the bathhouses … I don’t understand the concern. Bathhouses exist solely for the purpose of providing a place to meet and engage in consensual sex. Your argument about sex in the steam room of a local gym makes more sense, because people do go there for other purposes, but no one innocently wanders into a bathhouse for any purpose other than to engage in (or at least watch) sex.

    These guys were clearly entrapped, as everyone here agrees. They were no soliciting prostitutes, they were trying to engage in unpaid consensual sex. And they weren’t trying to have sex in public. They were meeting in public and then trying to move the consensual action to a private location.

  • BradK

    Remember when we called NYPD “Heroes”?

  • Sebbe

    I didn’t even know “bathhouses” existed anymore. I personally prefer my sex with someone I love. Do they still have whore houses for the str8s (outside of Nevada)?

  • CondeNasty

    Yeah hmmmmm. While this is entrapment, from my experience these places usually exist for people to cheat on their wives or boyfriends(i.e. you cant play at home). Best to go online and say “can’t host”. Problem solved.

  • Gurlene

    @dizzyspins: The point I was making as to the steam room at a gym was the price it costs to enter the bath houses. There is a lot of blatant crusising going on in gyms now because there is just about no other place for men to cruise and feel fairly safe but I will add it has gotten completely out of hand. At the gym I go to the instructors will not walk with new members in to the club in the locker room area because of what they might see and have to explain. They let them walk through by themselves or just try to discourage that part of the tour.

    I for one have more or less become unvoluntary celibate because I will not go online and invite a total stranger into my house for sex. The majority of people who do cruise online are looking for 6 pack abs, buns of steel, 12 inches or more, well, you know the rest…. and no clear concrete proof of who the person is that is going to knock on the door. There have been robberies a’ plenty that have gone unreported and let’s not even go into stalking that have resulted in this type of cruising because younger queens have been taught that bathhouse are “unsafe”. You have no idea where or what the person you picked up in a bar or online have been, do you? I mean really.

    While we are on the subject of meeting online for sex let us not forget what happened two years ago to a young NYC man named Michael Sandy who was chased to his death on the Belt parkway and dragged back onto the pavement by his attackers who then rifled through his pockets. He had no idea he was being set up for a robbery by people who had done this kind of thing before. You young know-it-all queens really hand me a laugh though I do not wish death or physical violence on anyone.

    I have no problem meeting someone at a bathhouse for sex because as was posted in another comment that is the only reason you go to places like that. As for bookstore you are asking for it. Only crackheads and police hang out at those places and yes, bookstores have served their purposes. It is now time to move on and leave them in the past (1970’s thru 1990′) where they now belong. It is now cheaper to go online and download those movies than it is to buy them in-store.

  • ConservativeRepublican

    Wow. They’re being arrested even though they don’t accept the cash? I’m not a fan of prostitution, but what the cops are doing here is sick and anti-American.

  • ConservativeRepublican

    Err, I meant to type un-american, not anti-american.

    Anyway, I hope these arrests go nowhere. As I said, I don’t like prostitution, but what has happened to these men is just horrible.

  • Sebbe

    @Gurlene – from a young “know-it-all” queen, I think its pretty gross and unsafe to have sex with a stranger no matter where you meet them (offline/online). I think you find this more common in older people who were more repressed in their youth. Those of us who grew up out and proud don’t seem to have this problem.

  • Gurlene

    @Sebbe: I honestly don’t believe you said what you said. So since you are baring your soul for all of us to read why not tell WHO or WHAT it is you have sex with sweetie. You sound confused AND mormon. I mean really. How many dates does it take before “trade” walks away from your young twink know-it-all anus.

    Based on how you sound I doubt you even make it to the first phone call let alone date.

  • Sebbe

    @Gurlene – I actually have a boyfriend so it’s not an issue for me. But I would say minimum 2 to 3 dates is a good rule. If you can’t wait that long, it is probably not worth it IMO and experience.

    I suppose if I was old, ugly or lonely it would be different.

  • Pragmatist

    I have two thoughts on this question:

    (1) If this is part of a citywide crackdown on prostitution in general (i.e. if similar raids are happening at non-gay venues), then it’s not homophobic. However, it *is* a disgraceful waste of New York’s dwindling municipal resources. Even during its heydey, New York faced serious issues of resource deprivation (as it always has). Now that the crisis has killed the financial sector, New York *really* can’t afford to waste money going after victimless crimes like alleged prostitution in sex shops.

    (2) I don’t really think this is a citywide crackdown on prostitution. All of the reports I’ve heard are about gay men being targeted by the police. Therefore, I do think it’s motivated by anti-GLBT sentiment, and that’s quite an outrage.

  • Gurlene

    @Sebbe: Have a good weekend honey and tell all the other girls out there in Father-Knows- Bestville where you obvious reside Gurlene of NYC said hello.

    Gotta go now. Today is the last day of the Geritol special at Rite-aid and I need to stock up on a few more CASES of it. I swear with a swig of brandy you never notice the taste.

  • Larry

    This is absolutely homophobic, and though I’m not a legal expert, I would say it constitutes entrapment. These people don’t need to demonstrate outside Bloomberg’s office — they need to sue the pants off the NYPD (no pun intended).

  • Sebbe

    @Gurlene – I’m certainly not a prude, but don’t expect some of us to get all up in arms and outraged like you because the bathhouse is expensive and the only one left. I respect my gay elders, I’m just saying unfortunately you obviously grew up in different times when those type of things were a necessary evil. But to each his own. Does medicare pay for the geritol?

  • petted

    It qualifies as entrapment because the officer initiated the pursuit i.e. the party that raised the issue of sex and subsequently brought up payment. There have been a number of cases on this very issue and the rule of thumb is that in order for it not to be entrapment it most be clear that if the officers had not been present that a criminal act would still have taken place basically you cannot persuade someone to commit a crime and then prosecute them for the intention to commit that crime.

    “… the factual issue [is] whether the informer had convinced an otherwise unwilling person to commit a criminal act, or whether petitioner was already predisposed to commit the act and exhibited only the natural hesitancy of one acquainted with the [sex] trade.”

    See Sherman v. United States ->

  • Charles J. Mueller

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. – Werner Erhard

  • Charles J. Mueller


    Another boring recitative on morality.

  • alan brickman

    it sounds like a “politcally correct” sting to me polical correctness is just another way of intorducing censorship and bigotry to me…

  • Charles J. Mueller

    A suggestion for next Friday’s Forum:

    Is the Pope Catholic?

  • derrysf

    Of course all we know of the details of what we are presuming were entrapments is contained in the press release of the protesting organisations, so…do we have enough data to know what happened?

  • CondeNasty

    @ Sebbe & Gurlene

    I must say this is becoming a generational issue. I am in my mid 30s and was always too skeeved out to do the bathhouse thing. I’m not a hater, it just freaked me out as a concept. But I have found that dudes my age or older love the bathhouse in general and see it as a place of sexual freedom and a gay birthright or right of passage. The younglings who are now able to date in high school and college are not always so up for this and see it as a pathetic holdover from the post-liberation 1970s. Lets agree to disagree. Time will sort it out and historians will document the shifts in culture.

  • Charles J. Mueller

    @Distingué Traces:

    “Charles, I’m pretty sure “recitative” doesn’t mean what you think it means.”

    Oh really, now. You’re “pretty sure”, but you’re not positive? Crystal ball a lot, do you?

    No doubt, you believe that this has something to do with something?

    This called a dictionary. Look into it.

  • Sebbe

    @CondeNasty – Point well taken

  • xolondon

    Yikes! I am surprised at the level of judgment being passed here. As if picking up men on Craigslist and having them come fuck you in your home is somehow more… what? Pure? There are many who would find that kind of dangerous in its own right.

    To each his own. You expect to be in love with everyone you diddle with, well, I hope that is possible! But I personally do not think police should spend their time hanging out in the booths of the Blue Door unless there is a substantial criminal situation happening. It’s NYC, land of the free!

  • Charles J. Mueller


    Ja Ja. That too. lol

  • dgz

    granted, i know jack about NY law/NYC ordinances, but i *do* know law, and i seriously have never heard of a prostitution sting carried out in this manner, gay or straight. vice stings are usually carried out in one of two ways:
    1) pose as a prostitute, wait to be approached by a john, arrest. rinse, repeat.
    2) pose as a john, drive up to a prostitute, get a price quote, arrest.
    if this press release is true, it’s also pretty weird, because real prostitutes almost NEVER have clean records; they almost always have prior prost. convictions or ordinance violations for stuff like “obstructing traffic” that’re just law enforcement code for prostitution, 1st offense. this case smells.

  • Gurlene

    @dgz: To give you another view of just how stupid this is one of the men charge with prostitution lives in europe, is over 40 years old, and was staying at the Waldorf for 5 days on a business trip that he showed proof of. However the NYPD said he was prostituting. LOL

    It is very hard to believe he would be turning $20 tricks to support himself. That hotel runs everybit of $20 per minute.

    Several years back in Washington DC an officer was investigated for blackmailing married men who frequented male strip joints in DC. He would cruise through the area and look for cars with car seats in them and used his position to gather personal information on them to see if they were the type who would want to keep things quiet.

    Officers who graduate from the NYPD academy have only one thing in mind. Make detective ASAP regardless of peoples rights. Who better to stomp on than defenseless gay men who are out cruising for sex.

  • JJJJ

    Aside from my opinion on the issue, I appreciate the way Japhy has set this up : leaving it open to the posters to decide. We see too many blog moderators try to push their own agendas down our throats, so this is a cool change.

  • dave

    you should not hook up with people. if you dont want a relationship you should not be having sex

  • Charles J. Mueller

    @Charles J. Mueller:

    Another Pricilla Good Body, drive-by, gay turf shooting.

    Repeat after me, Chuck.

    Do not feed the trolls

    Do not feed the trolls

    Do not feed the trolls

    Do not feed the trolls

    Do not feed the trolls

    Do not feed the trolls

  • self-respecting-gay

    A few comments here say that no self respecting gay would go to those places for a hookup. I am a self respecting gay in my 40s, reasonably attractive, not a model type, and a man of color. Average joe. Try getting someone in the bars these days, with the superficial shrillness and the overt racist mentality . Some of us would like to know someone without being judged so harshly–on everything from the way one is dressed to the way they look. So really when we need company we have no choice but to hook up with the so called closet cases who too are looking for a little companionship with like minded people. Also, there are lot of gay people across this vast country where the only way gay people meet and interact is in these places, that many here are looking down upon. Not every town is a gay town like Manhattan or a loaclity like Castro(Manhattan, by the way, is the most judgemental gay city in the US). Besides, outside the gay ghettos,the 2 villages in NY and Weho and Castro in California, the atmosphere is life threateningly homophobic, worse than many of the so called red states. I remember a few years back a gay guy was killed with a baseball bat in one of the subway stations . And the jeers and overt bigotted remarks in places like Queens, Brooklyn and Bronx, it is hell! One feels threatened all the time. So for many, these bookstores are the only place they feel they can be gay. It is not by choice, people, but by circumstance.

  • BombasticMo

    This is complete homophobia and entrapment. And there’s a long history here. Someone earlier mentioned the plot line from Queer as Folk, and I remember covering a similar episode in Seattle when I was working for the Seattle Gay News.

    The police arrest gay men for “prostitution and public sex”, but they send the cutest, most homophobic honeypots into the restaurants and bookstores and then carry confused, older gay men out in handcuffs.

    Everyone’s ideas of where to cruise or whether or not prostitution should be legalized (personally, everywhere and yes) aside, this isn’t about prostitution. It’s about closing down gay brick and mortar locations to make way for more sodomy-free zones.

    And it’s an incredible abuse of power by the police, who know exactly what they are doing.

  • vernonvanderbilt

    There’s little to add to this topic that hasn’t already been said, but what the hell…I’ll throw a couple pennies on the pile.

    First, regarding the actual topic of this post, I don’t see how you could call this anything but entrapment. To me, it’s obvious. What can I say? People need to remember that cops are underhanded creatures for the most part, and are definitely not on our side unless there’s some sort of massive public outcry over something. History supports me on that.

    Now, onto what I think is an equally (arguably more) interesting issue, the state of the hook-up in modern America. I’ll come right out and say now that I have:

    – made numerous hook-up dates via internet sites and chat rooms over the years, and the worst that’s ever happened was some bad sex.

    – gone to a bookstore once with some friends after a night out, having no idea what to expect, and had a couple of boring, unfinished encounters during the 45 minutes or so I was there.

    I am not ashamed of either of those facts.

    However, I’m (generally) of a mind that sex for sex’s sake is something that is not incredibly exciting for me, but I respect that no-strings-attached hook-ups with random strangers work well enough for others.

    So, where do bath houses and bookstores fit into the modern world? I’ve never been to a bath house, but the concept does sound rather liberating in a quaint way. I could never see myself frequenting one, but I get the appeal it has for others, particularly the older generations. It tickles their nostalgic fancy, reminding them of more carefree times from their younger days, and I don’t see anything wrong with that if that’s what they want. No reason to argue or call names over something so silly. If you don’t want to go to a bath house, no one is forcing you to.

    As far as bookstores go, as I mentioned, I’ve gone one time, to a place with the little booths that play pornos. The only reason I did anything with anyone is because my door didn’t lock when I thought it did, and the first guy who walked in happened to be attractive. It was a “what the hell” situation, pretty much, and it didn’t make me think any less of myself. However, from what I saw the rest of the night, that was far from a typical experience. Everyone else that tried to get with me was looking for money, drugs, or was just not attractive to me for whatever reason. The bookstores seem to attract a seedier clientele, and I have trouble believing that they’re a safe environment for hooking up. Add in the threat of undercover entrapment artists, and it’s an even worse option. You’d be better off cruising a park or a rest stop or something if that’s what you want. Not that I condone illegal behavior, but seriously…it’s not like it’s hurting anyone.

    The fact is, this is the 21st century, and we’re living in the Age of the Internet. People are growing more accustomed to putting as little effort as possible into their interpersonal relationship with others. Times have changed, parts for the better, parts for the worse. That’s the way it is with every generation. It doesn’t make one better than any other…it just means they’re different.

    I know a lot of the straights are uncomfortable with the down ‘n’ dirty details of gay sexual practice, and I think that translates into a bizarre sort of prudery in the mainstream GLBT community. I see no reason to care what methods other people use to get their libidos massaged. If you want to attack someone for getting laid, perhaps you could use a little physical affection yourself. Puritanical self-censorship does us no favours. Denying the sexual to focus on the orientation does not “purify” us in the eyes of the ‘phobes. Instead, I would argue that such practice actually dehumanizes us. Sex is a fundamental part of being human (unless you’re asexual, I reckon, which is perfectly fine as well). By cutting the biological imperative out of the picture, you’re cutting out a significant chunk of what makes us human.

    I’m not saying you need to get into an in-depth discussion of the etiquette of fellatio or the politics of anulingus with every straight person you meet, but you shouldn’t feel compelled to tuck away your sexual nature any more than they do. We’re not angels, you know. We’re humans, and humans live in the dirt. Don’t be afraid to be dirty.

  • Charles J. Mueller


    Written like a man who is very comfortable inside his skin. ;-)

    If more people could look at sex, life (and their own selves) in the manner and with the honesty that you do, what a more pleasant world this would be for everyone.

    Live and let live should be the golden rule, not that there is anything wrong with the one that has been enshrined in first place.

    My hat’s off to you, guy. Hope you have great day.

  • Sebbe

    @Vernon – I commend you on being able to successfully use the word quaint and bathhouse together and if for no other reason that that was worth it to listen to what you had to say.

  • Smokey Martini

    I’m a 24-year-old gay guy who LOVES going to the local bathhouse…. both alone and with my partner of 4 years! From experience, I can say that bathhouses are by no means a generational thing and definitely not a space ridden with shame. Sure, closet cases who are scared of coming out and straight guys who like dick from time to time DO patron bathhouses, but the bathhouse world is way more diverse than many would want to acknowledge (or imagine). And, of course, not all of them are ‘seedy’ and ‘scary’! In fact, many of them function like ritzy clubs – replete with bars, gyms, saunas, and registered massage therapists – that provide an added touch. This is definitely the case for the one I frequent in Toronto, which is part of a large chain and is ALWAYS in impeccable condition! Mind you: those bathhouses that are ‘sketchy’ are more a reflection of the carelessness of the owners and the cities that house them, than they are of the nature of the patrons. This is something to take to heart, for all you judgmental people out there…

    That said, the best part of the bathhouse experience is that one is likely to find people of various age groups, ethnic backgrounds, body types and pilosity who – for whatever reason (and, really, who’s to judge?) – identify as gay/ straight/ bi/ married/ with children, etc etc. This, in itself, is liberating because EVERYONE is taken down (or, rather, elevated) to the same level! All patrons are expected to strip down to a towel (and possibly flip-flops) that erases you of all your history and social stature, to make you just like everyone else (i.e. another body). This ‘body with a towel’ becomes a baseline standard against which all other physical/biological features become aspects to titillate one’s senses and pique one’s sexual interests! Everyone, in other words, has the potential to be a sex-god or a major turn off, depending on how attractive someone finds you. Of course, it’s also liberating to know that everyone you cross paths with is there for exactly the same reason: sex, sex, and MORE sex (however you want to define it). All this allows one to have as much power as the next person to scope out a potential sex partner, approach them for some play and, if interested, to hook up. Or, if not: to turn them down – no strings attached! Where else can you find a space where all this power/ energy/ sexuality/ freedom can be found working together at once? I mean, REALLY. Name me one and I’ll give you a virtual pat on the back.

    However, I also agree with vernonvanderbilt, to an extent, in that it does seem to offer men of older generations a nostalgic space for the pursuit of anonymous sex. But who is to say it doesn’t do the same for the new generation of twentysomethings who want to experience their first (and repeated) anonymous encounter in a safe and gay-positive space? NO, bathhouses are NOT breeding houses for STIs — at least NO MORE than engaging in sex at home with a guy you just met at a club. An unlimited supply of condoms are provided all around the premises, and the choice to make use of them – as with ANY sexual encounter – is a strictly personal matter. Irresponsible is he who doesn’t. In fact, bathhouses do all they can to educate their patrons of STIs and personal hygiene via pamphlets produced by health organizations (usually found at the entrance); and depending on the location: through the provision of weekly or bi-weekly testing clinics! Actually, I would say bathhouses do a better job at informing its patrons of sexual health and health risks than the local school board does, which tends to do a shitty job at providing information to younger kids. That is, if information on sexual activity and STIs is given at all!

    Then again, bathhouses are not JUST about the sex, either. Some also have gyms one can use that are a fraction of the price one would pay to use the local gym, or even the YMCA. Many bathhouses also have saunas and jacuzzis that, while not exactly hotspots for sexual activity, are nevertheless bustling with men who want to take some time off to relax after a day at work or right before a night on the town. They also provide a great space for sleeping if one is tight on cash or is somehow stuck in the city late at night; usually a popular destination for students and businessmen who are able to sleep through loud music and their neighbour’s moans and groans. In short: going to a bathhouse does not necessarily mean that one is looking for sex. Again, there’s a lot more to it than people are willing to acknowledge (and imagine). The truth of the matter is that you really DON’T know what your local bathhouse is about unless you actually enter and spend a few hours inside. Heck, you might even end up liking it!

    So, there you go: a little background for you guys into bathhouses ‘in modern times’. Sounds great, doesn’t it?!

  • Salvador

    As a gay male who has endured a lot of bigotry in my life, I wish gay activists would spend more time on problems like discrimination in employment, health care issues or promoting same sex marriage and less time attempting to legitimize public anonymous sex. Nothing sets back the image or perceptions of gays or gay culture more than glory holes, public bathroom sex and the current example of sex shop and video store sex. This reinforces every negative stereotype about gay males. If you want to further the cause gay rights, try a little discretion.

  • Charles J. Mueller


    Salvador. Salvador. Salvador. Why is it always with the “image” or “perception” of how straights see us?

    Do you think heterosexuals do not have bath houses of their own, public bathroom sex, book stores, sex shops and video store sex or s&m clubs they at they frequent to let off a little “steam”?

    How naive you are. Try a little discretion?

    Whatt you are essentially saying, is get back in the closet…and keep it closed because we don’t want to know what’s going on in there.

    If it works for you, knock yourself out. But, puleeeeze, don’t tell the rest of how to live because YOU reinforce the negative stereotype of a Bible-thumping, religious bigot who puts their nose where it doesn’t belong.

  • Smokey Martini

    @Charles J. Mueller:

    Agreed. The problem with trying to uphold some spic n’ span image of gays is that it further entrenches the discomfort – if not the phobia – many straight folk are confronted with when imagining or speaking of gay sex. The more upfront one is about one’s sexual encounters and particular kinks (like, say, the ladies on Sex and the City were), the more naturalized gay sex should become. And note: “should” is the relative term here, since this ‘honest’ and ‘open’ discussion of gay sex will not have the same effect on everyone.

    Heck, straight folk might even realize that gay sex is just as titillating, just as fun, just as raunchy and sweaty, just as hairy and sticky, just as steamy, just as animalistic, and as liberating (if not more so) than straight sex is. As long as it’s consensual and relatively ‘safe,’ then there really should be no concerns. And, once you get rid of any concerns, guess what else disappears? That’s right! All attempts to regulate, conceal, or eradicate it.

    This is why it’s important for public schools to emphasize gay sex as much as they do straight sex in biology, sex ed, and phys ed classes despite parents’ objections. Only then will the dark mystery (and, by extension, the implied naughtiness and/or horror) of gay sex will be undone. After all, much of the homophobic uproar against gay people and the sex involved comes from people who are misinformed – if not downright ignorant – of what REALLY happens in our bedrooms and sex spots.

  • Salvadore

    Charles. Charles. Charles. If you think advancing gay rights means protesting for the right to blow a stranger in a video store then more power to you. Unfortunately, when serious advocates of gay rights attempt to enact meaningful reform, like blocking Prop 8, we can’t achieve success even in California. Naive, please, I was marching for gay rights in the early 1960’s sonny. I did 18 months in jail for consensual sodomy. Believe me, it was not a pleasant experience. I’ve been bashed more times that I care to remember and been hospitalized more than once for the cause. I’ve beaten and been beaten by cops, rednecks, and low life homophobes. You’ve got a lot of fucking nerve judging me. Am I not entitled to my opinion? Keep your dick in your pants in public!

  • Lucas

    I think it’s moreso entrapment than homophobia.

  • richard

    it’s homophobic. taking advantage of those whose behaviour/gay sex/they don’t agree with.

    they target older gay men, ask to pay them as they are already walking out, and
    before the person can respond he is swarmed by police.

    whether or not you agree morally with gay men cheating, or straight men cheating is totally irrelevant.

    what if you were walking out of a bar or a restaurant and someone offered to sell you illicit drugs and while you were processing the question you were arrested for not immediately screaming, ‘no’?

    they are taking advantage here to close down these establishments.
    an abuse of power. from gracie mansion on down: corruption.
    you may not care because it does not affect you, but in the future
    they may abuse your rights as well.

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