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A gay bathhouse , also known as a gay sauna or a gay steambath , is a commercial space for men to have sex with other men. In gay slang , a bathhouse may be called just "the baths", "the sauna" or "the tubs".
In general, a gay bath is used for having sexual activity rather than only bathing. Not all men who visit a gay bathhouse are gay , some are bisexual. Bathhouses offering similar services for women are rare, but some men's bathhouses occasionally have a " lesbian " or "women only" night. Some houses, like Hawks PDX , offer 'bisexual' nights, where anyone of either sex is welcome. Bathhouses vary considerably in size and amenities — from small establishments with 10 or 20 rooms and a handful of lockers to multi-story saunas with a variety of room styles or sizes and several steam baths , hot tubs , and sometimes swimming pools.
Most have a steam room or wet sauna , dry sauna, showers, lockers, and small private rooms. In some countries, bathhouses are "membership only" for legal reasons ; though membership is generally open to any adult who seeks it, usually after paying a small fee.
Unlike brothels , customers pay only for the use of the facilities. Sexual activity, if it occurs, is not provided by staff of the establishment but is between customers, and no money is exchanged.
Many gay bathhouses, for legal reasons, explicitly prohibit or discourage prostitution and ban known prostitutes. Records of men meeting for sex with other men in bathhouses date back to the 15th century. A tradition of public baths dates back to the 6th century BC, and there are many ancient records of homosexual activity in Greece. Men began frequenting cruising areas such as bathhouses, public parks, alleys, train and bus stations, adult theaters, public lavatories cottages or tearooms , and gym changing rooms where they could meet other men for sex.