A new lawsuit filed by a heterosexual, single dad in a New York City court claims that an Equinox gym didn’t do enough to address his complaint of men leering at him and masturbating in front of him in the gym’s steam room. The Equinox lawsuit identified the gym as the one located near 20th Street and 5th Avenue, just outside of New York’s gay Chelsea neighborhood.
According to the Equinox lawsuit, the man (identified only by the initials GB) went to the steam room for a quick lunchtime break sometime in November 2017.
Then, GB told the New York Post, “The steam clears … and I look across from me. This gentleman, sitting pretty close, his towel is open, his legs are spread and he’s looking right at me, and the guy next to him was rubbing [the man’s] inner thigh. He’s looking right at me, his towel’s off and he’s masturbating.”
He then realized that a third man was also staring at him masturbating.
GB says he complained to the front desk but claims the workers refused to revoke the memberships of the alleged masturbators. In a tape of GBs conversation with the gym manager, the manager reportedly said, “It is a problem, and it’s something that every gym in New York City, not just Equinox, has an issue with.”
GB’s lawsuit alleges that Equinox “had known for as much as 10 years prior that similar wrongful acts were occurring in its steam showers.” Meanwhile, an Equinox spokesperson claims the gym thoroughly investigated GB’s complaint and has “a zero-tolerance policy for any inappropriate behavior in our clubs.”
Mutual masturbation in gym steam rooms is nothing new. Gay sex in gyms dates as far back as Ancient Greece, all the way to the golden age of gay cruising in 1970s New York City. In fact, The New York Times wrote a piece about it in 2005 quoting LGBTQ sports journalist Cyd Zeigler as saying, “[Masturbators are] infringing on my right to work out at the gym. … I don’t get the full benefit of my membership.”
While many gyms post signs on their steam rooms forbidding “inappropriate behavior,” few gyms use employees to constantly monitor steam rooms. The New York City Health Department can shut down gyms that don’t try to curtail sexual behavior, but The New York Times reports the department rarely receives such complaints — only about four per year.
In 2007, six janitors sued a different New York City Equinox location, alleging the gym did nothing to discourage masturbators. In 2013, a 66-year-old man sued a Bally’s Fitness in NYC for the same thing.
In order to win his lawsuit, GB will have to prove the gym didn’t follow its own policies for addressing the sexual behavior alleged in the Equinox lawsuit.