Gym Shower Sex and You
“Met up with you again in the shower and this time we gave each other a tug until it got too crowded.” Scroll through the craigslist m4m missed connections in any major Canadian city and you are likely to find a few ads like the one above: posts dedicated to the discreet gym hook-up. Matthew Harris surveys the soap-droppers and exhibitionists, and takes the pulse of the shower sex scene…
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You might have seen a few examples of the activities they describe in person. Two guys hurriedly putting their towels back on in a gym sauna or some dude flourishing an erection while he showers. Or, you might even be one of the guys posting an ad.
It’s clear that sex in public gym showers and saunas is a common but rarely discussed activity. Grant, a gay man from Toronto (all names in this article are pseudonyms), admits that he used to be “a total locker room slut. It’s been a while but I still can’t go to the gym without running into some dude who I messed around with in the steam room.” David, another gay Torontonian, said he’s had at least fifteen sexual encounters in one particular gym in Toronto: “kissing, nipple play, handjobs. Mainly oral.”
Trying to determine how common these activities are can be difficult due to their inherent secrecy. And when asking men about their sexual experiences in gyms, it’s hard to separate what is truth from what might be boasting, or simply hope. “I almost always get my rocks off at the gym,” another anonymous gay man told me. “Some Goodlife gyms are like a bath house. They do just about everything.”
While this may be all fun for the gay men involved, some straight gym patrons are noticing. And they aren’t always liking what they see. Chris, a regular gym user, has had men come onto him in gym showers and saunas a few times. One man he nicknamed ‘Big Red.’ Big Red followed Chris into a gym shower and “got into the stall across from me. He said ‘What’s up?’ I looked over, and fucking Christ, he’s wanking again, staring at me. I got too flustered to say anything. Just hurried the fuck up, rinsed off, cleaned up, dressed, and escaped.”
Marcel agrees that gym sex is crossing a line. “As a gay guy who has had public sex,” Marcel tells me in an email, “I can say the gym stuff is slightly annoying. I have talked to a few friends (straight and gay) and the general consensus is that the gym stuff is doing no one any favours.” By which he means it isn’t giving gays a positive reputation—as to whether the participants see it a favour or not…
It’s also good to remember that sex in public places is still generally illegal across Canada. So, if you are grabbing a new friend in a shower or sauna and you are caught, you could – theoretically – be charged. And even if that isn’t likely, you still run the risk of being kicked out of your health club. Krista Maling, a spokesperson for Goodlife, says that when confronted with sexual behaviour in their gyms, “We evaluate the individual situation and take appropriate action – whether that be speaking with the member to ask that they refrain from a certain type of behaviour, or in more serious situations, to cancel their membership.” And she reminds us that they are watching. “We have regular staff checks of the sauna and shower areas to ensure that these are safe and appropriate environments,” Maling says.
After all, most straight men like Chris are not offended by the presence of gay men in gyms – at least in major cities – but they are put off by the unwanted sexual attention. “Look, I don’t mind being hit on by guys,” Chris says. “I like to feel like I look good, so I take it as a compliment, even if anything further is simply not appealing to me. But the shit at that gym – that just made me straight-up uncomfortable.”
And that’s one lasting consideration. While gym sex can seem like a liberation, it can make innocent bystanders feel infringed upon. In their pursuit of fun and sexual freedom, gay gym-bunnies might need to remember that it’s hard to know who’s gay when everyone is naked, and that you can’t flag sexual interest with just your towel. Perhaps this calls for a, ahem, lighter-handed approach?
Grant suggests that not offending straight patrons is the least gay men can do. “With great showers comes great responsibility,” he says. “We must be careful not to offend the straight dudes who, whether they like it or not, we get to check out.”