Steam Room Sex: Yea or Nay?

Written by | Gay Voices

empty steamroom

I see a lot of gay men making fun of a story about a guy suing Equinox for not enforcing it’s supposed “zero-tolerance” policy about inappropriate behavior, in this case – having other guys ogling you and pleasuring themselves in the steam room. If this were explicitly a gay sex club and a “safe space” for that activity, public masturbation would not be an issue, but it’s supposed to be a gym.

You may argue that by virtue of being in a predominantly gay neighborhood, with a majority membership of gay men, that this is simply “to be expected” – but not every gay man (let alone straight guy) wants to endure that behavior in a gym, and the gym management doesn’t endorse nor even condone such behavior. In fact, the terms of the membership contract explicitly ban such behavior as inappropriate, so clearly anyone who indulges knows they are violating the terms of their membership.

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No doubt, if a straight man infiltrated the women’s steam room and pleasured himself while ogling a woman, we’d all easily agree that’s a form of sexual assault or harassment, but men (gay or straight) are suppose to accept this behavior as “no big deal” according to lots of gay men online. I think some gay men believe they are exempt from accountability for their toxic masculinity because they believe that if you’re male and gay, then you surely must WANT such bold sexual overtures directed your way. And if you don’t, they will relentlessly label you a “prude” or a sensitive “sissy” or the “PC POLICE” – oh the irony.

A noted gay humorist has pooh-poohed any objection to this phenomenon on social media, saying “We used to have a name for that sort of inappropriate steam room behavior: We called it “fun,” and guys of every sexual orientation seemed to like it,” once again attempting to shame those who object into silence, and painting them as the minority whose rights should be subjugated by a majority lowest common denominator. I’m sure smokers preferred the olden days, too, when they could light up wherever they wanted, and straight men who felt they were entitled to catcall women and harass them at work. But I personally don’t want any uninvited second-hand smoke OR bodily fluid at the gym, and I don’t remember signing any membership agreement for coming out as a gay man that requires me to partake of public masturbation in health club steam rooms.

I believe narcissistic sociopaths, be they gay or straight men, will always blame and ridicule the victim when their aggressive and predatory behavior is rebuffed. But the #MeToo movement is making slow progress in exposing such hypocrisy among gay men, who need to respect reasonable personal boundaries in public spaces that are not explicitly reserved for their sexual encounters.

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Last modified: April 16, 2018