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What happens inside a gay bathhouse?

We caught up with Chris Amos, from London gay sauna Pleasuredrome, to talk about why gay bathhouses still matter.

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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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The exhibitionist appeal of a kilt

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Image published via Pixabay
Image published via Pixabay

I caught up with my Twitter-buddy Sean to talk about his passion for kilts.

Due to the nature of his work, Sean has to remain anonymous for this interview.

What was your first experience of wearing a kilt?

I started wearing them several years ago, more out of interest than anything else. I’m not Scottish, I have Irish heritage.

The kilt really appeals to me as an item of clothing on many levels — it’s far more comfortable to wear than trousers, and also looks a hell of a lot smarter too. I always wear the sporran, kilt hose, and flashes with it — it’s the complete look.

Is there a sexual element to wearing a kilt for you?

The freedom of it is wonderful, and there’s a real buzz about wearing a kilt — it gives me a lot of confidence, it’s a bit like power-dressing.

I get a lot of positive comments and compliments, from both men and women.

I’m guessing that you’re a bit of a purist when it comes to wearing a kilt — obviously there’s no underwear?

It depends where I am, to be honest. If I’m at home, or out socialising or doing general stuff, then no, never. At work I’m a bit more respectable.

As well as being a kilt-lover, you’re also a naturist. Are those two passions related in any way?

I’d be lying if I said no — its very liberating, and its also the one item of clothing you can wear where it’s almost expected that you’re going to ‘free’ underneath — what’s not to like about that?

How do you explore your love of naturism?

That’s easy — taking my clothes off as often as possible. It’s a fantastic way to be more comfortable and confident about yourself. There are far too many hangups in the world as it is — why add to them?

Would you describe yourself as an exhibitionist?

Without a doubt!

What’s your ultimate kilt-wearing fantasy?

It used to be to be able to wear them all the time — so, in some ways I’m living out that fantasy now.

Sean without his kilt (image supplied)
Sean without his kilt (image supplied)

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