The other day, I went to Century Spa in Los Angeles Koreatown. For those who don’t know, public bathhouses are quite common in Asia, as a place to relax after work or to clean up like in the old days when people didn’t have plumbing. My experience with public spas in Japan, at hotels or in neighborhoods, revolved around that since I was there in winter and my body hurt from all of the walking in the cold. So it’s nice to soak in a warm bath and let the tension in my feet and thighs slip away.
Here in America though, nudity is more taboo and over-associated with sex, so these spas have become gay cruising grounds and Century Spa is one of the most notorious Korean owned ones. I was not unaware of this when I booked the Groupon for Century Spa. In fact, I was curious of how gays cruise for sex. I wasn’t expecting to try anything either. I was more interested in relaxing.
The bathing area itself was smaller than I thought. There was the ice cold bath, the lukewarm larger bath, and the hot bath. I enjoyed going from hot to lukewarm and cycling through to circulate my blood, then shutting it down with the cold. Naked of course. There was also an outside lounging patio and several saunas: marble warm, clay warm, hot wood, eucalyptus steam and Korean steam. Those were nice to sweat in. The eucalyptus was especially invigorating due to the menthol.
Upstairs were the coed sleeping areas and coed saunas that were more decorative. Being up there required wearing a T-shirt and shorts. It was quiet up there since it was Monday, and to my disappointment, the Korean cafe was closed. Otherwise, I could see myself staying the night there easily and just lounging around, as long as I could charge my phone.
The men varied in hotness. In the morning when I got there, some old Korean men were around. Later on, it got more diverse in shapes, race and fitness. The non-Asians were cruising, which became obvious as they circulated from sauna to sauna, stalking hot guys, playing with their junk, and signaling with their eyes. Being Asian, short and out of shape, I was not on their radar.
In terms of action, the eucalyptus steam room was where it was at. The steam obscured views from the outside and it was somewhat tolerable in heat. One blonde tattooed guy sat in a corner jacking off until two other white guys came and stroked near him. The tattooed guy spread his legs in the air and let them finger him while he got off and moaned. An old fat man walked in and started jacking off too. I just sat there kinda stunned at the situation. After coming, they all left and showered.
In another situation, I was in the steam room with this hot bearded guy. I looked at him a lot and tried to see if I sparked his interest, but he seemed ambivalent. A younger black guy with a giant erection was not shy and they started touching each other. Eventually, they took it outside, presumably because the hot steam was becoming unbearable. At that point, I was somewhat disgusted with myself for staying that long around this debauchery, confused at why I wasn’t more turned by all this and embarrassed of my body for being so unattractive, so I left.
On my way out, I saw an old friend there presumably also cruising, and he told me not to mention to anyone that I had seen him. It was odd because I had not seen him in years. Later, we talked about why I was there (relaxing, curiosity) and he said to let him know if I ever came back so that we could go together. I guess misery loves company. I think I’ll try other spas before coming back and working out more to earn the muscle relaxing, and maybe, boost my self confidence.
TL;DR = Men are dogs, I did not partake in the debauchery, and I left feeling unattractive.
A look at the decidedly seedier bathhouse scene as told by @keeptryans. A traditional space reserved for rest and relaxation, the bathhouse in the US has been subverted of its cleansing environment for a dirtier reputation, much
has warped the festivities to a three-day circuit party. Yet, as @keeptrayans points out, this should come as no surprise given the Western cultural heritage of Victorian modesty and oversexualization of the human flesh. Within gay culture, the bathhouse is an ignoble institution where men can find casual partners and remains a fixture of the underground scene in spite of the apps. Gay Asia is no exception. When I was in Beijing volunteering with their LGBT Center, a principal target of their HIV outreach program focused on less scrupulous bathhouses, where men who have sex with men (MSMs) were less likely to engage in safe sex practices. Even the term “cruising” belies a carefree attitude, which is a dangerous mentality that as a community, we must be vigilant and continue to practice and promote safe sex behavior, regardless of the arrangement.