After a popular gym in Cape Town recently placed a sign on their sauna door, “No lewd conduct allowed”, I was asked to write about the reasons many gay men cruise and indulge in anonymous, ‘quickie’ sex – sexual interactions that occur in the gym sauna, for example. My initial response was an obvious “because we can” (duh!), but that didn’t go down too well and I was sent off to explore the topic further.
Exposure and exhibitionism
Gyms provide an ideally rich and fertile space for the build-up of sexual energy – we naturally become increasingly aware of our own bodiliness while also being visually bombarded with images of other bodies. Mirrors, posturing and posing, straining muscles, working bodies, subtle elements of exposure and blatant exhibitionism in the showers conflate with our endorphins to create a ritualised worship of narcissistic bodiliness. And for many men, whether gay or straight, this translates into a complex worship of masculinity.