I walked past the entrance a number of times. Its inconspicuous, black façade helps with discretion … almost too well. When I entered the gay sauna on my fifth night of traversing through Europe, now in Brussels, I handed the man behind the glass my money and he didn’t say a word. Neither did I. He simply gave me a locker key, towels and pointed me downstairs. The music was mellow, European house music. There was a constant thumpa-thumpa, without being overbearing. In fact, it was oddly soothing.
This space is called Macho Sauna, and it’s the first gay sauna I’ve ever been to in my life. To say it was life-changing would be slight hyperbole, but I will say I have a much better sense of how cruising culture was prior to gay apps and the closure of dark rooms and saunas in many parts of the United States.
Macho is the biggest gay sauna in Brussels, with a whopping six floors. The first floor is comprised of locker rooms. The second includes a pool, bar (where you can order food and drinks), a Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and showers. Floors three through five have private rooms for hooking up. Many have gay porn on the walls. Most have little beds without any sheets. Some rooms are bigger, for playing in groups. There are also rooms with gloryholes, a leather swing and a doctor’s office setup. The final floor is an actual gym with equipment and an outdoor deck to lay out when the weather warms up.
This place is truly heaven. From the moment you walk in, eyes are on you. Hands are gently grazing you as you stroll by. The men are friendly. In fact, after having sex with an older Belgian man in one of the private rooms, he thanked me for “sharing this moment together,” and gave me a big smooch on the lips.
How nice is that?
Most of the time on gay apps in America the men finish, zip up and leave without saying more than a word. If you’re lucky, you get an awkward, “Yeah, OK, see you.”
Guys were also talking in the lounge area, ordering drinks and kiki-ing in their towels (which I swear to god they make purposefully tiny so everyone’s junk is always showing). Nevertheless, despite the men not pretending it was anything more than what it was — a brief sexual act, fleeting intimacy — there was still respect. It was more than simply orgasming into a human vessel.
So while I went in thinking the gay sauna was strictly about getting your rocks off, I quickly learned it’s much more than that. It’s about sexual expression, embracing one’s gay — or in my case bisexual — identity and about feeling you’re part of a community.
And, yeah, also about getting a foot job in the Jacuzzi by a cute couple, which may have been one of the most arousing things I’ve done in my life.
Zachary Zane is traveling through Europe for the month of March for Hornet, documenting gay nightlife, sex, and LGBT culture in each of the cities he visits. Find the entire travel series here.
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