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Ah, bathhouses, the sacred temples of the gay world. These soapy institutions have long held a place of great importance in the world of gay hookups. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, it’s undeniable that for centuries they have provided an excellent excuse to get a bunch of men naked and steamy around each other without alerting the straights to what’s going on. Today of course, we have many more options when it comes to locating sexual partners. But bathhouses in some ways are still a rite of passage of gays. So whether you’re a waterlogged veteran or dipping your toe in for the first time, here’s what you need to know to get the most out of your bathhouse experience.

First of all, bathhouses often get a bum wrap for being squalid dens of sin and viral disease. When millennials picture a bathhouse, it seems like their minds conjure up images of creepy old men with their pendulous ball sacks hanging down under their towels. And while it’s true that you may find a wider selection of older men at these places, don’t let that turn you off. You don’t have to hook up with them if you don’t want to, but no need to body-shame or be ageist, ya damn whippersnapper.

Before you arrive, make sure you’ve packed all the necessary items. Many bathhouses are cash only, so leave the credit card at home. In terms of what clothing to bring, the technical answer is none. Bathhouses are a place for men to let it all hang out. The most important item you’ll need to have is sandals, unless you want a serious case of athlete's foot. And for all my bottoms out there, ya’ll already know, but you better be bringing your gear (lube, douche, etc.). Remember that soapy water is NOT a lubricant.

A bathhouse is not the same thing as gay bar. Don’t walk in being extra AF and acting like a Chatty Kathy. Most bathhouses have an unwritten code of nonverbal communication. Remember that TECHNICALLY speaking, men go there for relaxation and pampering. And for some, that is really all they want out of the experience (and that’s fine!). For most though, communication takes the form of touching, squeezing and general body language. If a guy wants you, he may give a little tug on your cock and grab your ass. This type of communication speaks volumes. But if you’re ever uncomfortable, absolutely let him know that he needs to back the fuck off. Once you’ve found a partner, make your way to one of the rooms that designated for that more… interpersonal type of relaxation. ;)

As a precaution, never accept food or drink from strangers. Especially Gatorade. Unfortunately, there’s still a problem with boys getting spiked with GHB, molly, or meth. And it’s usually impossible to tell if there’s something bad in there. So no matter how deprived of electrolytes you are, do yourself a favor and wait to re-hydrate at the 7/11 next door when you’re done.

Ultimately, your bathhouse experience should be fun relaxing, and maybe hot as hell. If someone or something gets in the way of one of these things, abort and move to a different section. Don’t expect everyone there to want to fuck you, and don’t feel like you should have to fuck everyone who approaches you. And again, believe it or not--despite being surrounded by horny nude men, some guys REALLY are there just to relax. But of course, I’m sure that’s not why you’re going.

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