I wish you had given a bit more practical and somewhat less judgmental advice to the guy who called in during Lovecast 229 expressing interest in exploring anonymous sex/cruising/bathhouses for the first time.
As a well-adjusted gay man who partakes occasionally in these activities, Dan, I have news for you: for some of us, anonymous sex is hot. I don't know why, but it tickles my psychological errogenous zone. Maybe if you thought of it as a "fetish" you might be less judgmental. Immediately before the bathhouse caller you celebrated a woman's quest to knock herself out with her diaper-and-sippy-cup ageplay fantasies. Then you said to the bathhouse caller things like, "Don't let someone into your pants who's not into investing a few hours getting to know you." Um, whacking off with an anonymous guy in a park or sucking a dick at a gloryhole carries a sort of thrill that is just not the same if you "get to know" someone first. Sex with your partner is different than a casual one-night stand, which is different than anonymous sex. Your caller's nervous laughter as you talked about bathhouse sex led me to believe that he was thinking, "Oh, yeah, how could i have thought about that, I'm embarrassed that I was even turned on by the thought of this..."
But you are right, there are greater personal, emotional, and sexual health risks to acting out on these fantasies, and I agree with you that you might want to think twice before putting a dick in your mouth that's been in another several mouths and asses that night. But you can find plenty of guys on Grindr who fit that description too. So, as with other sex practices that carry greater risk, there are risk reduction strategies one can use in an effort to scratch an itch for anonymous sex without the reckless disregard, such as:
· Inform yourself. Websites like squirt.org and cruisingforsex.com have tons of information on cruising spots and bathhouses, including what sort of men you'll find there, conventions of cruising and bathhouse behavior, and ways to reduce your health and legal risks.
· Always practice safer sex. Assume that everyone you engage with is HIV+, and make an informed decision about what you are and are not comfortable doing with an HIV+ person. If that thought freaks you out, then maybe anonymous sex is not for you, or you can stick to only the absolutely no-risk activities. There's no reason you can't stick to just jerking off with someone if that's the only thing that feels safe. If you do activities that have non-zero risk for HIV and other diseases (for instance oral), get full STI testing regularly.
· Just the same as with meeting a guy online or in a bar, trust your intuition. If something about a guy or the situation feels off, exit immediately. Better to miss out on what would have been a good connection then to stay and find out your intuition was right.
· Try risk-reduced hybrid strategies. If you like the setting of the bathhouse but not the sexual health risk, then meet a guy online and arrange to meet him there and just have sex with him.
Your caller may decide that anonymous sex is not for him but plenty of others will still explore it despite the fact that it's not your thing, Dan. They can dramatically reduce risk following the above guidelines.
Here's a funny story...
I have a friend who liked to patronize bathhouses back when he was single. I don't like to patronize bathhouses but I like all sorts of other stuff. On Monday mornings we would get together and compare notes about our weekends. He would tell me about his adventures—vanilla sex in a bathhouse setting with strangers—and I would be appalled. Then I would tell him about my adventures—varsity-level sex in an apartment setting with my boyfriend—and it would be his turned to be appalled.
Just goes to show... different strokes for different folks.
I'll happily own that I have hangups about bathhouse and/or anonymous sex, UC, and I'm willing to admit that I'm not the best person to go to for advice about bathhouse sex as I've never had sex in a bathhouse and I never will have sex in a bathhouse and I don't understand why anyone would want to have sex in a bathhouse. But I'll also happily relay good advice for the bathhouse-curious from from folks who feel differently about bathhouses and/or anonymous sex provided my pro-bathhouse readers are willing to own that bathhouse sex carries huge risks that must be thought through and mitigated. (Which is not to say that no one has ever been infected with HIV, or other STIs, in the context of a presumed-to-be monogamous and/or monogamish relationship.)
So I'm happy to pass your solid advice along to that particular caller, UC, and it's a crying shame that more people who patronized bathhouses aren't already following your advice. If more people did, I might feel differently about bathhouses. Thanks for sharing.