Steam Room Etiquette 101? 

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Dear Audrey,
I like to use the steam room at the gym after I work out. And by "use" I mean sit in the steam, not have sex. I'm a (gay) married man, so my days of gym cruising are behind me. However, I've got no problem with other guys using the steam room for that purpose—I've often walked in and interrupted other men doing their thing in the steam. When they see I'm planning to stay, some guys leave and other guys wait a minute and then get back to business. Generally I just close my eyes and enjoy my schvitz. I ignore them and they ignore me. But sometimes I feel like it's awkward: they're not sure if I want to join or what. Is there some kind of signal I can send that would clear up the confusion without making it weirder? I don't want to mess up anyone's good time, but I do want to be able to take a steam without worrying that I'm offending someone, or someone thinking they're offending me. You know?

I hear you. I am the queen of being awkward in situations, though I can't say I've ever been in that exact one, seeing as how I'm a chick and also I HATE steamrooms and saunas. They make me feel dizzy. Hot tubs, too. I know, I'm no fun. Tell it to my vascular system!

I'm sure there are places where ladies gym cruise, but it seems like a way less common thing. Or I dunno, maybe I'm just going to the wrong gym. I will say the Chelsea location of my gym has the cleanest, nicest, emptiest women's locker room I have ever used, so if any of you ladies out there are looking for uncrowded locker space, choose the dude-crusiest spot you can find.

Anyway, it sounds like you're doing the best you can to be communicative in that situation. Giving off the energy of being disinterested in joining but also not hostile to what's going on and then just kind of keeping to yourself sounds to me like the most realistic option. It's not like you're going to introduce yourself and tell them your life story. It may be sweet but I doubt some guys who are just trying to get gym laid want to hear about how much you love your husband. It's my guess that most guys don't really give a shit about you as long as you're not going to freak out and call the management.

There will always be men who are uncomfortable having you there and leave, and there will always be men who will enjoy having you there, and try to make you a participant. That's just life, I think. Speaking of life and steam rooms, and I'm trying not to be overly judgey here because I'm aware I'm a bit germ-phobic (like I said, no fun), but that place has to be absolutely CRAWLING with germs. Not because of the sex, but because of all the sweaty gym-dude asses and feet. Sorry, but that just seems to me like yuck city.

In any case, I am nowhere near a sauna sex etiquette expert, for the many reasons enumerated above. Readers, are there any signals our chaste friend should be sending while enjoying his steam? Is there any kind of complex gym code of conduct that I should be aware of? Email me.

for questions and comments, the natural redhead can be reached at sex@thelmagazine.com

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