Travel
2 min

Finding New York’s gay sex scene

Public venues aren’t gone — they’re just better at hiding

Spring Fever at Brut in April 2015. Courtesy Brut

New York City is a vast urban landscape that has always inspired and defined generations for decades. Its gay sex scene has been no exception, particularly in the ’70s, but today decent kinky venues are much less typical. Those that remain are spread across the various boroughs and, in some cases, difficult to find.

So where’s the inspiration? There’s no doubt a large number of kinky men in the city, so it could be argued that the scene hasn’t died, but is just harder to find. If you can scratch the surface just a little, you’ll find a vibrant, yet clandestine scene. 

Like many major cities, New York’s gay scene was devastated in the ’80s by the HIV/AIDS plague. The city began shutting down sex venues in the name of public health, and subsequently, so an entire subculture began disappearing. In the ’90s, Mayor Rudy Giuliani went on a rampage to clean up New York — and it worked.

While iconic places like the Mineshaft and the Anvil are no more and the sex cinemas of Times Square are left to legend, there are still some great public venues alive and thriving in NYC for the leather community and anyone looking to play .

The Eagle (554 W 28th St) in Chelsea is a great place to start, serving as a hub for New York’s gay leather community. Although the scene is changing at a rapid rate, the Eagle still caters to the kinksters with leather-only nights, pup nights, hanky parties and foot fetish nights. On the weekend, you’ll find much less leather being worn but it doesn’t mean it’s not of interest to the men there — when it doubt, ask. When all else fails, go to the Eagle.

The Cock (93 2nd Ave) is another option in the Lower East Side. It’s a favourite for the young and old, but gets busy much later on. It’s not a leather bar, but it’s certainly sleazy and has quite the reputation.  

Brüt is a monthly leather party which was recently featured in the New York Times and is more leather themed. You’ll no doubt find some of the hottest men wearing leather, but they aren’t necessarily into the kinky side of it. The same could be said for the annual Black Party, which now happens in a Brooklyn warehouse. Most men are outfitted in gear, but it tends to feel more like a costume party. The promoters of the Black Party, Saint at Large, do other events throughout the year, so check out their website for future parties. 

Many sex venues are alive and well, but depending on the day of the week and how busy they are inside, the entrance can be semi-private or private so RSVP ahead of time when possible. Paddles (250 W 26th St.) in Chelsea is the only gay BDSM sex club, hosting bear, bondage and spanking nights, amongst other themes. For the traditionalist, there is the East Side Club (227 E 56th St) and West Side Club (27 W 20th St), which are typical bathhouses — they are certainly no Steamworks, but they do the job if you’re feeling more vanilla.  

As a city that’s ever evolving, it’s no surprise that there’s a growing popularity in curated sex parties which are organized online. Some require a photo with stats to be considered entry, and admittance is based on looks and age. Some people think this method might become the norm, but others see it as a step back from creating a more inclusive scene. This avenue of cruising requires much more research beforehand, a bit of back-and-forth with the host and even possible rejection, but no doubt — hot play can be had.

Although it’s not what it used to be, New York City is still one of the most intriguing places in the world and has tons of gay men looking for a good time. Though the sex scene has gone underground, with a bit of persistence you can find exactly what you’re looking for in the city where anything can, and does, happen.