BENT's own Bear
Everybody knows what bears do
in the woodsthey sit around telling each other their life's
stories and giving one another advice. What else would those big,
hairy beasts do when they get together for their Teddy Bear Picnics?
Inspired by the wisdom of my fellow
growlers, I'm here to give advice, when asked. So, if any of you
have questions you'd like answered by someone who's been around
the block a couple of times, please send them to Bear@bentvoices.org.
And in case you're worried that
you might have to censor your thoughts, please remember that my
walks around the block were often done while dressed in kinkwear
and with a thought or two about who I might encounter along the
So let me know what's on your
mind. If it's a Big Unanswered Question (or even a little one),
let me have
a crack at it. It is, after
all, what bears do best.
coming out of my lurking status, trying to get out again, getting
back to sex. I've been thinking of visiting (for the first time)
a bathhouse, and I wonder if you have any advice or suggestions
about how to proceed and what to look for. Like some other BENT
readers I'm a wheelchair user (Muscular Dystrophy). I called the
bathhouse closest to me and they said that it's wheelchair accessible,
and that a few wheelchair users do frequent the place. I'm still
quite new at this but I think I need more connections, if you know
what I mean, so, I'm appealing to your broader experience.
West Los Angeles, CA
might be shocked to learn that I have had extensive experience with
bathhousesin the past, of course. In fact, I met my partner
in a bathhouse almost twenty-two years ago. So, for those who say
that a bathhouse is not a good place to meet a man, I'll show you
my twenty-five carat wedding ring and the mortgage to the houses
in Malibu and Palm Beach.
been a long time since I've been to a bathhouse and I was glad to
hear that the one you called said they were wheelchair accessible.
That certainly wasn't the case in days of yore, when I used
to go. One disabled friend told me that he had been denied access
to the old St. Mark's Baths in New York City because they claimed
their insurance wouldn't cover them in case he had an accident.
He had CP and with his gait was bound to fall down a flight of stairs.
Of course, that would never have happened to any of the guys who
were either stoned or drunk out of their minds or had no idea how
to walk in ten-inch heels while holding a towel around their waists.
So, maybe things have changed for the better.
could give you the customary warnings about safe sex, but you're
an adult and most likely know all about that aspect of sex at a
bathhouse. I am more concerned about the attitudes of others than
I am about what you will be doing once you reel in that hot
guy. For openers, I'm assuming you will try to get a room, which
will give you privacy and make it easier for men to come to you.
one thing I would not recommend is hiding your wheelchair or pretending
your disability does not exist. Making prospective partners deal
with the issue before deciding to give you a try is the better alternative.
Seeing your chair will let a guy decide if it's a problem for him
or if he'd like to drop in for . . . a snack.
remember this: do not assume that the guy who passes you by does
so just because of the chair and the disability. At the same St.
Mark's Bath that refused admission to my disabled pal, I learned
one thing that still mystifies me. Not a lot of men ventured into
my room, but when I went to the orgy room (yes, they really did
call it that), the same men who seemed earlier to have had blinders
on were all over me. That
experience made me realize that for some, the lure of anonymous
sex was more intoxicating than a one-on-one behind a closed door.
should you look for? Look for someone you like! And don't assume
that everyone has the balls (and other parts) to simply walk into
a room, drop his towel and start playing. Even the guy with the
washboard abs might be insecure about himself and circle like a
hawk going after its prey. Often, guys cruising can pick up on insecurity
and run away from it like it was last night's pizza gone cold. Desperation
also can send a willing member into the limp left field.
the baths I used to like to explore, find out how active things
looked, then try to relax and not seem like I was disappointed if
nothing happened within the first five minutes. If you meet any
other wheelies there, ask them what they think of the place. And
speaking of what to look for, don't look for love everlasting. It
can be found, but the odds are not in your favor on the first tryor
even the second. I will not tell you how many times I went before
I found the man I've been living with ever since.
me, bathhouses were always great places to meet guys, but I never
expected to find perfection in a partner there. Invariably, I had
a better time at places that didn't cater to guys with attitudes,
perfect looks, and all the baggage that comes with those attributes.
bathhouses can be frustrating. They can be ego deflaters, but they
can also make you feel like you've won the sex lottery and gone
to hog heaven. So, Seth, proceed with caution but with assurance.
Remember that lurking in the shadows is no fun. It certainly won't
get you laid.
back to sex. I hope you have as much fun at the baths as I used
© 2003 Max Verga
Let us know what you
think of this BENT feature.
VERGA has been
an activist ever since getting a call from a friend reporting that
he'd been in a riot at the Stonewall Bar only hours before. His
work is featured in "Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their
Stories," edited by Bob Guter and John R. Killacky, Harrington
Park Press, December 2003. For
more about Max, see his longer biography.