When I was an escort, one of my first concerns was body odour. Not my own, but that of my clients. I assumed that it would be the norm for guys to show up to my apartment smelling like fresh or stale sweat, having stinky crotches and asses, or bad breath — and I was correct. So part of my “routine” (all escorts I knew had greeting routines) was to welcome the client at the door and say “Let’s take a nice shower together so we can get to know each other’s bodies a bit and make sure we are both clean.” While slightly manipulative, it was tactful, and most clients were agreeable. I kept unscented Ivory soap on hand in case there was concerns of their wives or partners smelling a foreign soap on their men. It made the sessions take a bit longer, but I was never one to try to rush them in the door and get them off quickly — a high volume of clients was not a big part of my business plan.
Transsexual escort friends of mine, who were my mentors, had different tactics. One of them told me, when I asked her how she dealt with odour: “If they stink, then I make them jerk off.” She would just refuse to go near their cocks saying “if they don’t have the respect to clean before seeing a service provider, then they don’t deserve my mouth on their cock.” Another friend said “I just tune it out. I think it’s just a woman thing. Straight guys are often smelly. I wanted to get them in, get them off and get them out. I didn’t want them messing up my shower so I just dealt with it by training my nose.”
Running a nightclub that has sex parties and cruising has brought this topic back into my thoughts. In bathhouses, people rarely stink, because it’s easy to take a shower. But when we first started doing sex parties at my club — which does not have a shower — I was concerned that people would come in stinky and ruin the atmosphere. Oddly enough, foul body odour isn’t often a problem. But the times that it is, it has created awkward situations. I buy these little Glade air fresheners for my staff and I to carry in our back pockets. We discreetly wander through the club and spray them as needed. It’s essential that nobody sees us do this, because I don’t want to centre someone out.
Before coming out to the club, some people take showers and apply deodorant, and then the nerves of being involved in a sex party for the first time causes their sweat to break through. But others show up, reeking of old, stale sweat and there have been times when I’ve had serious conversations with my security about how we can appropriately ask somebody to leave. It sounds cruel, but if it’s so offensive that it turns everyone else off, I think it’s fair. Luckily so far the offending people have left on their own before we could ask them to go — probably after getting a lot of rejection.
What about those who fetishize scent? I had a client who would try to get me to go three days without bathing. I refused, but once the lure of extra money caused a compromise — I worked out for three days in the same underwear, and I went to see him immediately after the workout. He was in heaven — the dirty crotch smell was his aphrodisiac. But that was consensual. I think that people have a responsibility to be generally clean when they are in public spaces. It’s one thing to agree to a hook-up online with someone who loves piggish scenarios and wants to shove their face in your stinky armpits, but it’s another to inflict it upon the unwilling.
This is a touchy situation. As someone who has dabbled in the leather and bear scenes, I know that it’s seen as “manly” to not wear deodorant. I have heard numerous people celebrate the “natural” scent and scorn perfumes and colognes. So in some cases it is about understanding the culture. It would be as fair for someone to accuse me of “offending” their senses at a bear party by wearing strong cologne as it would be for me to accuse someone of offending me by being stinky.
In the end it’s all about etiquette and not being too extreme. I wear cologne, but I keep it subtle if I’m going to the Black Eagle or a leather circuit party. If someone takes a shower right before they leave and then carries a bit of a fresh stink at those type of events, that’s okay. For an intimate sex party, perhaps the rule should be if you can smell someone from more than two feet away, it’s a problem. If you have the kind of smell that lingers when you leave a room, it’s a problem. But if someone standing within your “bubble” can smell you, it’s probably fair game.
I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this topic. I don’t have all the answers and one of the benefits of writing for an online publication is the ability for some discussion. Comment below!
Todd Klinck is co-owner of Goodhandy’s nightclub (www.goodhandys.com). His column appears on Xtra.ca monthly.