2 min

The next step

Are gay bathhouses ready for bisexual fun?

DOUBLE TROUBLE. Julia Garro can't get no satisfaction. Credit: Jan Becker

Gay bathhouse owners will let gay men fuck each other on their premises – but no one’s interested in a separate night for bisexual men and women.

“It seems the logical next step,” says Julia Garro, the political coordinator of the gay student group at the University Of Toronto. “Men’s bathhouses are well established, women’s bathhouse events have been really successful, and so it seems that a mixed gender bathhouse would naturally follow.

“At the same time, though, I’m not totally convinced that the community is ready for it.”

Certainly no one wants to host it.

Of the city’s eight bathhouses, only Club Toronto agreed to open up its doors occasionally for a women’s night. And it was the third Pussy Palace – held on the same night as Pride week’s Bisexuality Unplugged public forum – that gave Garro the idea for a bi bathhouse night.

“There was a huge bi presence,” says Garro, “and I was able to envision the potential for a bisexual bathhouse happening.”

Club Toronto owner Camille Pentajon says he’s just not interested.

“I just don’t feel like doing it. It’s not the proper time. I don’t want males and females together in the bathhouse.”

He refuses to comment further.

The folks at Spa Excess have also declined.

Says Peter Bochove: “I’m reluctant because Spa Excess is a relatively brand new establishment. We’re just 10 months old, still paying off our opening costs, and concentrating on building up our client base. I don’t want to turn away our regular clientele for one night, because we risk losing their patronage to other spas in the city.

“It’s a good idea, one that we’re open to reviewing again next year.”

Sex in public places is illegal. But the last time gay bathhouses were raided – in 1981 – hundreds rioted in the streets in protest. This month, Toronto’s chief Crown attorney dropped charges against 18 men arrested for indecency at The Bijou porn theatre. But the Crown also warned that all bets are now off, and that men will be prosecuted in the future.

Both bathhouse owners say The Bijou raids have nothing to do with their decisions.

Bi Women’s Network organizer Krista Taves is excited about the possibilities of a bi bathhouse. “This is about creating a safe space for bisexual exploration within the queer community, instead of just keeping that expression confined to the fringes. Because no one knows what to expect, the first one would be tentative, with an emphasis on exploration and celebration.”

But does mixing bi sex into a homo sex space make for a fundamental difference in the atmosphere?

Taves says, “Bisexuality is perceived as more out of control than a gender exclusive space. We’re not just asking for a space together, but one for sexual expression. This begs the questions: what is queer space, and how do we envision it? There’s an assumption that bisexual sexual engagement is heterosexual, when in fact, it is quite definitely not. We’re just so used to monosexuality, and bisexuality challenges that.”

Apparently, there’d still be some policing, however.

“Our key concern is the event’s potential for straight male voyeurism. We need to ensure that it doesn’t turn into a spectacle. It’s hard to control attendance, though, when ticket sales are open to all,” says Taves.

Stephen Harvey, the men’s co-ordinator of the Healthier Sex Network, agrees. “The event must be free of harassment. And bathhouse etiquette would need to be negotiated. We must allow not just for gender inclusive space, but also for gender specific space, with separate male, female, and mixed gender spaces set up.”

Garro says she’s lobbying. “The focus now is on simply getting the word out, encouraging interested bi men who frequent bath houses to say, ‘We want this!’ because they have that power, and getting more people involved. It’ll be a not-for-profit event, and so we hope to develop a committee of volunteers, so that we can combine our efforts to make this happen.”

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