I caught up with Chris Amos, from London gay sauna Pleasuredrome, to talk about why gay sauna still matter.
With the rise of hook-up apps, there was a sense that the days of the gay sauna or bathhouse were finished. Why do you think that saunas like Pleasuredrome continue to have a role to play in the lives of gay men?
The rise of hook-up apps has impacted on the gay social scene – especially bars and clubs. However the sauna scene is still flourishing, perhaps even more so. A lot of people are actually using the apps inside the sauna, or to meet at Pleasuredrome as it’s much safer to meet here than go to someone’s flat.
Also, in London, many people share their flats . If you want to hook up privately and can’t take them home, Pleasuredrome offers deluxe pods which provide an alternative to expensive hotel rooms.
Men come to Pleasuredrome for all sorts of reasons. Some come after going out, on their way to or from work, some men prefer to not use apps. Lots of visitors to London come too, some men just come to relax and enjoy the facilities.
Plus, in the sauna, you can see other guys in the flesh and hook-up there and then.
Has the way that gay men use saunas like Pleasuredrome evolved in recent years?
With the rise of apps, and the credit crunch that hit the UK in 2008, there has been an erosion of the gay scene, with less venues to visit. But Pleasuredrome is an institution in the centre of London. We never close – we are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As venues have closed, more and more men have been trying out Pleasuredrome. We’ve noticed a younger crowd coming in since we’ve offered a discount for under-25s.
We’ll soon be expanding Pleasuredrome to make the spa 50 percent bigger. This will enable us to open an additional 22 deluxe pods with TV, power points to recharge mobiles and controllable lighting.
We are also very excited about creating Britain’s first steam maze. A brand new stone spa pool with unique water features will also be added.
What sort of guys go to a sauna like Pleasuredrome?
There’s a lot of diversity in London. This is reflected in the guests that we have. We get young guys, older guys, bisexual guys, married men, guys wanting to experiment, tourists, all nationalities, jocks, slim guys.
We have a very open policy and welcome all guys.
What days of the week and times of day are the busiest at Pleasuredrome?
During the week, we’re busiest between 4pm and 9pm. On Fridays, we are packed from 4pm to very late, and Saturdays from 4pm all the way through to Sunday morning and Sunday afternoons. We always have guests.
Is a London sauna, like Pleasuredrome, different in any way to saunas that I might find in other cities around the world?
Pleasuredrome is different to other London saunas. We focus on offering the best facilities – steam rooms, saunas, spa pool – and keep these clean and well-maintained.
With the expansion, we really are aiming to be one of the world’s great saunas. The steam maze will be an experience. The owners have visited saunas across the globe and will incorporate the best of what they’ve seen into the Pleasuredrome expansion.
Do you ever have any shows or performances at Pleasuredrome?
We never do special parties or theme nights - despite many requests from promoters to do so. We have found that the few times we did special events, it put off our regular clientele. Our priority is to always offer a clean, safe environment for our guests – an experience that every time that they visit, they know what to expect, no surprises.
At Pleasuredrome, you always know it will be busy, you’re welcome, and you know what you’re going to get.
If I’ve never been to a sauna before, but I’m interested in trying it out, what advice or guidance would you give?
Going to a sauna can be daunting experience for first-timers, which is part of the thrill of the experience. There’s a degree of freedom and relaxation that can’t be found elsewhere.
So many men to meet and see in the flesh, as opposed to navigating fake profiles and constant messaging on dating apps - here, you can see for yourself. Most guys are surprised how friendly people are. There aren’t too many men who only come once and never come back - that says a lot.
Click ‘See gallery’ to see all the steamy photos from the shoot.
Gear up for RECON LONDON
RECON LONDON, 24th May – Vauxhall, London
One of Recon’s most popular fetish parties in London is back and a bit earlier than usual.
Every year, in December, Recon takes over Fire’s arches for its popular RECON LONDON. This year, Recon decided to not wait a whole year and presented us with an extra edition on the 24th of May.
We caught up with Matt Groves, Brand Events Manager for Recon, to bring you all the details about the party.
Who are the guys that go to this kind of party?
All kinds really, If I had to generalise I would say that the guys who attend our parties are open minded and perhaps a little more sexually adventurous.
The crowd can range from first timers who are curious to see what a fetish event is like to hardcore fetish veterans.
It’s a great mix of people into all different types of kinks and fetishes. There is a real diversity with the guys who attend our events, and my experience is that lots of fetish guys are really friendly.
If I hadn’t been to a Recon party before, but I was a bit curious, how serious is the dress code? What would be a good entry-level approach for this type of event?
When it comes to the dress code, we’re open to all fetishes: leather, rubber, skinhead, military and sports.
Whatever you feel sexy in really, sports wear is a good entry level approach, you don’t need to break the bank to gear up- lots of guys like to come in Lycra, cycling shorts and wrestling singlets, and you can’t go wrong with a jockstrap and harness. If you like the look of rubber, I fully recommend investing in a pair of shorts and seeing how
What sort of locker facilities are there? Do I have to wear my fetish gear on the tube?
You would be surprised how many people do travel in their fetish gear!
There is a coat check and an area for people to change before and after the party- If you don’t fancy traveling on the underground in a jockstrap and harness 😉
What will you be wearing?
I’m a rubber guy so I’ll probably be in a rubber top and shorts. It can get pretty hot and steamy in some places especially if your running round the venue , I learnt many years ago that wearing the bare minimal has advantages. I’ll also be wearing my custom Recon harness and a smile.
Could I just go and have a few drinks and a dance, or is it pretty much a sex party?
It can get as sexual as you want it to get. Lots of guys like to gear up and just have a drink and a dance, and some guys will head to the play spaces and will be there all night!
I would recommend going to explore, we’ll have a large darkroom, a sling room and bondage area. As well as a pup area and wet area for guys into watersports.
If you are a smoker, some of the best conversations I’ve had with guys are in the smoking area.
What do you hope that people feel when they’re attending the Recon event on 24th May?
I hope that people feel comfortable and included in the scene.
I always want people to have a good time, but I want people to feel that when coming to a Recon event that their fetish identity is valid and supported.
The event is an opportunity for lots of guys to explore their own sexuality, kinks and fetishes and meet like minded guys but it’s also a place to to have fun and be open minded.
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