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What happens inside a gay bathhouse?

Here’s why we still need gay bathhouses.

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I caught up with Chris Amos, from London gay sauna Pleasuredrome, to talk about why gay bathhouses 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’re open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As venues have closed, more and more men have been trying out Pleasuredrome. Plus, 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’re 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, and 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 4 PM and 9 PM. On Fridays, we’re packed from 4 PM to very late, and Saturdays from 4 PM 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, as 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’ve 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.

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Fetish

Can we talk underwear?

Junior has over 800 in his underwear drawer. Is that a record?

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Junior (image supplied)
Junior (image supplied)

I caught up with Twitter-buddy Junior from Belgium to talk about his addiction to underwear.

When did you first become interested in men’s underwear?

I think it was because my mum made me wear those old-looking classic white briefs, while the other kids in school were wearing more colourful briefs and boxers — I wanted to wear that too.

One day, I was about 10, my mother and I went shopping for new clothes. I saw these cool white briefs that had a wide rainbow coloured waistband. I got a few of them and I loved them, and didn’t want to wear anything else anymore. I think that’s when my interest in underwear started.

When did you first realise that you had a sexual connection with men’s underwear?

A few years after I got those rainbow waistband briefs, when I was about 15, I could buy my own clothes. The underwear section in the store was my favourite place to be. I got hard seeing all those lovely, beautiful and cool undies. I bought a lot.

The boys in school became jealous because they wore baggy boxers or boxer briefs while I wore trunks and hipsters. I loved wearing other boys’ undies when they left them in the changing rooms.

How have you explored that sexual connection or fetish over the years?

Underwear is a big part of my life. When I see a guy bend over, I always try to see what he’s wearing.

One thing is for sure — I like clean, neat, new underwear. I don’t mind cum stains, but my fetish stops when they’re too smelly or dirty, or a really old pair.

Why is Twitter a good way to share your interest in underwear?

On Twitter you can share photos that are seen as ‘inappropriate’ for other platforms. My Instagram account was deleted for posting a photo of an underwear bulge.

It’s also a good way to interaction with other users.

How do you connect with other guys with a sexual interest in men’s underwear?

Twitter, briefsmania.com, and Grindr are all good places to connect with other guys who are into underwear.

I like to go to underwear parties, or date men who have the same interest.

Is there a level of exhibitionism with your underwear fetish?

I guess so. When I’m on the beach, I don’t mind wearing my undies to lay down my towel — I walk around a bit before putting on my swim-briefs. Same at the gym, I’m the one walking, chatting, and talking the longest in my underwear in the locker room. I don’t mind wearing thongs or jockstraps in the locker room, which is unusual in Belgium. I also like to show off my underwear waistband above my jeans.

Do your friends or family know about your passion for underwear?

I think most of my friends and family know. I’m the one always shopping for special underwear. When they want to give me something for my birthday or Christmas, they mostly give me gift cards to buy underwear.

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How many pairs of underwear do you own?

I think I have about 800 pairs. But around 600 I keep in my drawers — the others are in my archive boxes. I have about 200 trunks and boxer briefs, 200 briefs, 100 jockstraps, 50 thongs, and 50 novelty ones.

Which are your favourite brands of underwear?

I have a lot of favourite brands. In the past it used to be HOM, Aussiebum, ES Collection, Calvin Klein and XTG. Now I like Garcon Model, Andrew Christian, Pistol Pete, Marco Marco, Addicted, and Alexander Cobb.

Which styles of underwear do you prefer?

I love to wear all styles — even baggy boxers. But if I have to order them it would be tanga briefs, briefs, boxer briefs, jockstraps, then thongs.

What are some of the next steps in exploring your fetish?

Meeting new men who have the same passion for underwear as I do. I can talk and chat with guys on Twitter and other websites, but I’d like to get in touch with more guys in Belgium who have the same interest as me. Perhaps one day I’ll host my own underwear parties.

Follow Junior on Twitter

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