Recently an article was written by the Associated Press detailing the decline of gay bathhouses across the U.S. It must of been a very slow news week as this article was picked up by several mainstream outlets. From ABC News to USA Today to The Guardian in the UK. Add to that almost every news and sex blogs on the web. It leaves the impression that the baths are dying a very slow and painful death.
That is far from the truth. Like any business, there are ebbs and flows. Sure they are having problems. But not to the extent detailed in the article. What is not mentioned is how the baths are viewed from a generational stand-point. Gay men in their 20s and 30s equate the baths as the type of sex taking place in a back alley or a toilet. In their minds the baths are a filthy, disgusting and dirty atmosphere. Conjuring up images of sexual diseases flying everywhere. It is a preconceived notion of gay sex. Yet when you ask these very same men if they have ever gone to the baths, 99% of the respondents say no. So how can you comment on something you have never experienced?
That is why the baths are steadily declining in popularity. Bathhouse business owners must attract those younger customers who stick their nose up at the thought of going to a place like that. They must market the baths as a fun sexy place to visit. To court that next generation. If bathhouse owners fail to do that, then their existing clientele will literally die off. Once that happens, more and more younger gay men won't know what a bathhouse is. The bottom line is that while the bathhouse businesses is cyclical, it is also generational.
Photography credit: Chris Femat