Jonathan Higbee's picture

LGBT Activist Says Bath Houses Should Be Shut Down Because They're Holding Gay Rights Back

James Wharton, a former soldier and LGBT rights activist in the U.K. (above right), has found himself on the defensive. In an editorial penned for British gay mag Winq, Wharton argues that bath houses promote drug use and risky behavior. 

“Sex saunas need to be history," Wharton writes. "The time has come to close them down. ... If we don’t, we feed the haters and we hand the bigots who remain a vocal minority ammunition with which to attack us."

Wharton insists that gay men cannot be accepted into mainstream society as long as there exists the “thorns in our side that mark our community as different for the wrong reasons.”

“For me as a gay man, the notion that there exist within our communities a series of places that actively promote the convening  of gay men for participation in sex of shades various and in groups of all sizes rather revolts me—and I've been round the block a few times, believe me," Wharton adds. "I’m no prude, not even close, but the days when we gathered in clandestine fashion for the want of a network or a sexual outlet are surely long gone."

Fellow prominent activist Peter Tatchell criticized his colleagues editorial, writing, “It would be very wrong if the gay community became proscriptive and moralistic over consenting adult behavior. Plenty of gay and bi-sexual men use saunas without resorting to drugs or unsafe sex. A small minority may act recklessly and that should be challenged but it would be wrong to penalize the majority."

What do you think, Instincters?

(Source: Independent)

Comments

The drag queens that started the stone wall riots would fit into his description of "thorns in our side that mark our community as different for the wrong reasons." I say let people be who they want to be. Thorns and all.

well if you don't like it don't do it and if enough people  stop doing it  eventually they will go out of business anyway I personally seen this behavior bring many bad results but they are adult decisions and anyone who complains about getting a disease or any std at a bathhouse should pretty much deal with it and not complain cause well you put yourself there you acted on it and you made choices that did not include protecting yourself  all you can do is move forward  I don't care for them but I can see why some people enjoy them  not to much different than paying for an escort or taking a girl to a hotel for an evening of sex what ever floats your boat do it just be smart about it and protect yourself no one els is going to 

After whom will this moralistic asshat go next? Drag queens? Leather enthusiasts? Rubbermen? Other fetishists? BDSM afficianados? Trans* folk? Bisexuals/polysexuals/pansexuals?  People who look "too butch" or "top femme"? Some other groups that doesn't measure up to his tortured, constricted notions of bourgeois propriety?  This guys arguments are as old as the hills. He wants conformity to his notions of the "good gay." May he rot in his own self-created hell. 

Bath houses are stupid and gross. But so are the massage parlors, strip clubs and all sorts of other venues that straight men frequent.

There's that third-world fucking dipshit in Uganda using gay fetish shock porn to suggest to the world that gay men are deviants. Which is ridiculous, because the abundance of straight fetish porn dwarfs the amount of gay porn. Now we have to be concerned about the existence of bath houses somehow defining us as a culture, even if very few gay men actually patronize these places? Bullshit.

What I'm saying is that we cannot permit bigoted assholes any sort of platform on which to stand and spew such hyperbole. For every one gay watersports video, there are likely twenty straight golden shower/scat videos. For every gay bath house, there are likely hundreds of straight strip clubs and massage parlors. Yes I’m guessing these numbers, but the straight sex industry is much larger than the gay sex industry. We can't allow our culture (gay or straight) to be defined by fetishes. If gay bath houses should be shut down, then so should every straight “Gentlemen’s Club” and massage parlor.

And, to be clear, I’m saying that none of them should be shut down. 

As a lesbian I find bath houses kind of gross, but wouldn't shut them down.  Boys will be boys and will behave in this way whether gay or straight.  As for marriage I don't see why any women lesbian or not would want to adopt mainstream values.  Women have been oppressed by marriage and the roots of marriage are based on property rights and legalized prostitution.  

 People like him are holding our rights back by trying to shut down bathhouses and thus put the people who own and work at them out of a job but also to take away a place where some enjoy going for their pleasure. This is a free country!

why the hell do we want to be in the main stream ?

While I respect this man opinion, I don’t believe the bathhouses and saunas should be shut down.  I am a single, 48-year-old, Latino male, born with cerebral palsy and out for 27 years and the bathhouses and saunas provide a needed outlet for me.  I would love to be in a relationship with a Latino/Hispanic man, however it has been my experience that a good number of my Latino?Hispanic peers have some cultural  and sex-shaming issues which puts me off.  With this in mind, I welcome the presence and visibility of bathhouses and saunas in the GLBT community.

Does this mean we are to hold back the rights of the heterosexual community because of Swinger's Clubs? They exist and are as notorious as said Bathhouses or Private Men's Clubs - People of all ethnicities, creeds and orientation frequent clubs that cater to the carnal instincts. I have been to these clubs, co-ed and male-only - and, yes, drug use happens - I do not partake because I choose not to do so - And it is just as risky to pick up a trick in a clean, well-lit environment as it is to - - - wait - - - all the clubs of this nature that I've visited were clean and well-lit - I don't see how incandescent lighting promotes safe sex and fidelity - Maybe this guy just keeps picking up losers and cheaters...or is a cheater, himself - 

I am sick of these born-again celibate gays telling us to give up sex to appease the religious right. Wait till the honeymoon is over and his new husband grudgingly gives him semi-annual sex.  Then he'll be happy that they are there. From the look of him, that could start any day now.

Exactly why I still oppose gay marriage and support civil unions. He'd rather we parrot the mistakes of the straight laced rather than parade in a new open era.

You oppose gay marriage on the basis of bath houses...you realize bath houses have been around since the Greek and Roman times when they were a part of natural life. Why don't you say what you really mean and say it's because you're intolerant or just don't like seeing other people happy. Please explain to me how me marrying my fiancé effects you in any way shape or form? 

I did. I support civil unions. You speed read? Civil unions are successful at legally protecting partners (outside the US).  If you want a marriage, go to a church.

I don't agree with him but I do believe bath houses are known for drug use (meth) and extremely perverse sexual acts(fisting) , (ws) and others.

I've got no beef with bath houses, having enjoyed them aplenty in my youth, but I got quite a few chuckles reading these comments.  Too many trying to portray their reasoning as deeply important and/or profound when it's all just a cover for not wanting to be slut-shamed. Live it up, have a great time, but please do not act like our having bath houses is in any way liberating and/or essential to our community's identity. 

Having all the anonymous sex you want is great until a new perhaps even deadlier sexual infection comes along and 3 guesses where it will probably start.

What a bunch of crap. Read the following Wharton quote:

"Sex saunas need to be history...The time has come to close them down...If we don’t, we feed the haters and we hand the bigots who remain a vocal minority ammunition with which to attack us."

Now replace the word "sex saunas" with any of the following:
1. Nude beaches
2. Raucous dance clubs
3. Pornography
4. GLBT parades
5. Gay cruises
6. Polyamorous behavior
7. Men's Resorts
8. Sex between two consenting males

What's the difference between them now? Very little actually. Same premise and target, different venue or action. This may come as a surprise to you - but not everyone wants to get married, adopt kids, or play the 'til death do us part' act. Some people even celebrate (or get pleasure from) a wide array of uniquely gay venues and activities. 

How about instead of lamenting the differences in gay and straight culture - and telling others what consensual actions they should (or shouldn't) engage in - you climb down off your pietistic soap box and tell everyone - yourself, gays and those you're trying to impress - that individuals should have the right to do whatever the hell it is they want to do, so long as it doesn't infringe upon the rights  of others. No one's judged or criticized you for adopting heterosexual customs and practices...how about you extend that same courtesy to others?

 "Wharton insists that gay men cannot be accepted into mainstream society as long as there exists the “thorns in our side that mark our community as different for the wrong reasons.”

I wonder how Wharton feels about very out and proud flamboyant gay men and butch lesbians? How about gay men who are feminine? Aren't they outside the mainstream? 

What about Transgender who still sadly aren't even fully in the "mainstream" of the gay and lesbian community.

I still await the battle from out bisexual brothers and sisters (p.s. Bi is more than a cute porn title insert)

The problem with people like Wharton and those who support his views is forgetting the old "First They Came..." which highlights just how subjective the ideas of who is a problem outsider.

Do people like Wharton think that if we stigmatize and shun the people who do not match mainstream values that somehow we will not be subjected to prejudicial attitudes by people who blindly hate gay people?

If not - who is the population Wharton is talking about? if it really is the mainstream - I hate to tell him this but he is arguing in favor of our acceptance after the fact by the majority. So maybe it is less mainstream then certain cliques within it.

The problem is then arguing the validity of one subgroups values of what is acceptable over another all in the name of mainstream - a false argument from the getgo.

We didn't fight Stonewall and the decades of battles since so that people like Wharton could be saved some unimaginable embarrassment of being aligned with a group of unsavory types. 

The push for LGBT equality was not to be allowed to be considered "ok" and "acceptable" just so long as we mimic the larger culture, but to be allowed our legal protections regardless of what the larger culture thinks of us.

I wonder how Wharton feels about very out and proud flamboyant gay men and butch lesbians? How about gay men who are feminine? Aren't they outside the mainstream?

I don't know (nor do I care) what Wharton thinks of mannerisms on the extreme fringes. He's entitled to "feel" whatever it is he chooses, provided it's not accompanied by preaching to others about toning it down in order to assuage the fears of those who eschew diverse and differing lifestyles. That being said, I've never fully understood the reasoning behind:

What about Transgender who still sadly aren't even fully in the "mainstream" of the gay and lesbian community.

I know the old credo, 'strength in numbers,' has merit -- but the alliance between gays, lesbians & bisexuals vis-a-vis the transgender community is still a head scratcher to me. The G, L and B side of the equation share a common sexual orientation, whereas transgendered people have an identity different than their biological sex. Seeing as I have more in common with the former than I do with Chaz Bono, I seriously question a mainstream allegiance with the transgender community for one simple (and admittedly selfish) reason: It blurs the line between same-sex attraction and sexual identity issues. The same reluctance holds true for the asexual community, who are lobbying to bolt an A onto GLBT. Fact is, the gay community has less in common with asexuals than the straight community does. I'll fully support - and lobby for - your rights as an individual, but I question your close association with a community with a completely different set of issues and grievances.

Funny since I AM a prude, I have NOT "been round the block" by any means, and I think this guy sounds totally moronic and needs to get over himself. People having consensual sexual encounters... I don't give two craps what they're doing. They are not harming me. And if you think ant-gay bigots and the legislation they pass makes any distinctions about whether you're a "good" gay or not, you're out of your gourd.

And the winner of Miss Moral World is..............child shut the hell up. Straight people do twice as much in their saunas but we never hear about it. Get off your high horse bitch

Hell, if that is tranvesites need to go also, because everyone thinks you you must have dress and heel in the closet.  Live and let live.

I disagree with his editorial. Don't penalize the majority for the small percentage that break the rules whether it is at a bathhouse or elsewhere 

-Bob 

This is what shows like Looking do....

I agree with him. As the older I've gotten and the more I look at the community everyday I am almost ashamed to be a part of it. it isn't bowing to the enemy. There isn't an enemy except ourselves. We do things just to do them and say that it's our right and blah blah blah. Why do we need bath houses and all of that as a community? What purpose does it have?  

I am ashamed at the community because we pick fights in places where there isn't one. We fight for things that don't matter but don't look at the big picture. 

You are so right. Gays just want the right to have "the right" cause most are White entitled idiots. As well who's to account for who is following the rules in bathhouses? No one really knows who is acting accordingly. So if someone has a drug habit or some other disturbing issue, the bath house welcomes that type of behavior because no one is really held accountable.

He sounds like he is changing his behavior to please his enemies.  Fowl play.  Please don't penalized the majority because of a few bad examples.

bathhouses have been around since ancient times...it's only over our generations that the stigma has been attached and a large part of that was due to the AIDS outbreak in the early 80's.  If that hadn't happened there'd be bathhouses galore...

Absolutely not. If you don't like them, then don't go. The baths have a significant part of our history and freedom -- and some owners have really done a good job with remodeling and putting in great amenities. Anyone who claims people who go there are "sluts" or "whores" is really someone who has serious issues of their own in regard to their own sexuality and it's freedom. You don't have the courage to be free in your own skin so you place those ridiculous labels on others who are as a way of attempting to get back; when you really fail miserably. As for this idiot who wants them shut down, don't go. The problem we're seeing with marriage equality is that the GLBT is loosing it's identity and individuality. We're sacrificing our sexual liberation all for "equal rights", and why? So we can 'be like everyone else'. Sorry, I find that highly uninteresting. So we, too, can have the house in the suburbs with the dog, the pool and white picket fence; that, too, makes me nauseous. Gays, you're getting boring. Very, very boring indeed.

yep! preach it!

I think he's projecting way too much. Clearly a case of internalized homophobia and shame HE has around sex.

Getting homophobes to accept you because you've convinced them you're just like them isn't acceptance. 

Oh, and, btw, since when are bathhouses exclusively gay? Ever hear of swingers clubs? Me thinks Mr. Wharton is entitled to hold whatever morals he likes. He should not try to force them on everyone else. Otherwise, he's just as bad as the religious right. 

I think he's projecting way too much. Clearly a case of internalized homophobia and shame HE has around sex.

Getting homophobes to accept you because you've convinced them you're just like them isn't acceptance. 

Oh, and, btw, since when are bathhouses exclusively gay? Ever hear of swingers clubs? Me thinks Mr. Wharton is entitled to hold whatever morals he likes. He should not try to force them on everyone else. Otherwise, he's just as bad as the religious right. 

Being authentic is where I stand, and that includes the slutty part of me that attended baths in my younger years.  I'm proud of who I am fully and that includes all sides.  If I am not loved at my lies of who I am, I am loved for all of who i am! Those days are long gone!  You get me, all the time and all of me!~ 

Most straight folk don't even know they exist. Sure, they're kinda gross, but so is Craigslist and Grindr when you really break it down. Guys like sex, some like anonymous sex...it's life. To each his own...just as we don't want others dictating our right to marry, we needn't dictate someone else's desires because we disagree. This is right along with how so many "straight acting" gay guys like to blame effeminate men for giving gays a bad, promiscuous reputation, when in reality it's usually the straight acting ones that are in denial and resort to being creepers that insist on trying to "turn" straight guys. Let's all leave well enough alone, especially if it doesn't have a negative impact on your own personal existence. Maybe that's it...perhaps someone he was in love with used to sneak to bathhouses all the time?

I disagree with that. Bathhouse is the gay equivalent to whorehouse in the str8 world. Not everyone is looking for a meaningful relationship. Some are just looking for a good time and there is nothing wrong with that. Plus most heterosexuals don't even know that bathhouse even exist. It's not like they advertise who they are and where they are located. They are a part of society without standing out.

I totally agree with him. Shut down the whore houses, please.

Who the f**k says that EVERYONE wants to be "accepted into mainstream society".....just because he wants the white picket fence and 2.5 kids and a dog doesn't mean that the rest of us do. And, I've never been able to muster up a lot of energy for same sex marriage because I consider marriage an archaic heterosexual ritual that I don't really want to have anything to do with. It's fine for all those that feel the desire to do it, but leave me out. I don't feel that I have to "blend in" with straight society to be accepted...and if I have to, then I don't want to be.

exactly! conformist who learned nothing from history at military school.

I agree with him.  

If we don’t, we feed the haters and we hand the bigots who remain a vocal minority ammunition with which to attack us

So naive.  So what else do we need to change to appease the bigots?

No ones trying to appease anyone, we just keep proving them right time and again. 

There is a new online gay bathhouse called Grindr. Good luck shutting that one down.

Grindr is not new. It's been around for a couple years at least

Add new comment