:: Article

My Visit to the Gay Sex Club

By Peter Papathanasiou.

From the front, it looked like a nondescript shopfront in an industrial area of town normally overrun with tradesmen in their hi-visibility shirts through the day. But what you couldn’t see from the front was how far back the shop extended and what lay inside. The sun was out, the sky cloudless, mid afternoon on an unseasonably warm autumn day.

My accomplice and I were met at the front counter by Bruce, in his 40s, one of the owners. He had muscles like raw spaghetti. He informed us that the other owner, Karl, in his 70s, was waiting for us upstairs. Bruce and Karl were a committed couple. Bruce walked us through the sex shop at the front – shelves of DVDs, magazines, toys – and took us up a wooden staircase. Karl was sitting in a large, air-conditioned room with several desks haphazardly arranged, washing machines and dryers on full bore, and piles of hardcore VHS videocassettes, both straight and gay – which he explained he ‘couldn’t get rid of for love or money’. He had white Santa Claus hair and a nose like a rotten strawberry.

Karl took us back downstairs and started to show us the area beyond the sex shop. On a wall before a corridor, there were piles of fresh towels on several wooden racks. The locker room was further down the corridor. The lockers themselves looked like something a high school might’ve thrown out. The next room was long and narrow, tiled, with three showerheads; Karl explained that the room was intentionally narrow to facilitate interactions between those who were showering. ‘It’s hard to get to the end shower without bumping into someone showering at the first or second showerhead.’ There were no cubicles for the showers – it was just one open room. Next to the shower room was a single toilet. There were pink pump packs with hand soap on every wall, next to small sinks. Bowls full of condoms and boxes of tissues were also omnipresent.

We walked out of the showering area and started down another long corridor, this one darkened. Natural light disappeared behind us; the only light was artificial and came from a snack food vending machine on one side of the corridor and a display case on the other side. The display case had some of the more exclusive items on sale, all sparkling stainless steel. ‘Exquisite manufacturing,’ said Karl, ‘German.’ Cock rings of all sizes, anal plugs, chastity cages, something called a ‘humbler’, even apparatuses with electrical stimulation that Karl thought were ‘ridiculous’. The walls were covered with large posters of naked men, their muscles bulging, their cocks long and erect, their glares steely. It is then that I caught my first glimpse of a large man wearing only a towel. For a brief moment he appeared as if he’d leapt straight off the wall and into real life. I couldn’t say what he actually looked like because I found myself unable to look him in the eye as he casually walked past. Instead, I kept my eyes on his towel, making sure it stayed exactly where it was.

We were shown into a small lounge area, dimly lit, with a large TV in the corner playing a hardcore gay porno. ‘This is Bruce’s mother’s lounge,’ said Karl, pointing at the floral furniture. ‘He couldn’t bear to get rid of it.’ The coffee table was covered in magazines. On one side of the room, running the length of the wall, was a long desk with six networked computer monitors. ‘A lot of the men feel they can’t surf the net freely at home,’ Karl said, ‘so they come here where they can look at whatever they want. I would hasten a guess that seventy per cent of our clientele are married with children.’ There was a small bar fridge in the corner. We were offered tea and coffee.

The next room to which we were taken was a small cinema room. There were no seats, just three floor levels at varying heights. The entire wall nearest the entrance was taken up with a TV showing another porno. ‘That was once the most expensive TV in the world,’ Karl informed us, ‘it cost us $33,000.’ The room was so dark that I could barely see a thing, even with the TV flickering an enormous amount of synthetic blue light. I couldn’t tell how far back the room went or if anyone was in it. Before I could think further, a thin man with long hair cascading down his back entered the room wearing a bra and G-string. He lay luxuriantly on one of the levels and started playing with himself. I was suddenly very self-conscious, feeling as if I was interrupting him, like I was a stranger in his home.

Karl quickly escorted us into the next room, which was even bigger and darker. All the walls were painted black, the only light available was that creeping in from the corridor. I could hear noises but couldn’t see their source, my eyes continually adjusting to the darkness. It was then I realised they were human noises: several men grunting as if in pain, or overwhelmed with pleasure. ‘Oh I say,’ Karl said nonchalantly, ‘bit of a group enjoying themselves in here, what!’ More bodies appeared then disappeared into the shadows. Karl explained this was the orgy room, fitted with two king-sized beds. It smelt of stale sweat, like an old gymnasium. That I could only hear what was going on and only make out fuzzy, writhing silhouettes was more disconcerting than actually being able to see everything. My imagination ran wild, as did my fear, unable to see what was in front of me or behind. I lost sight of Karl who had raced off ahead, keen to show us something he called ‘the suckatorium’. My accomplice would later thank me for wearing a white T-shirt: in such a dark room, he always knew where I was. As Karl started calling – ‘Where are you guys, are you still here?’ – another man scooted past and lightly brushed my arm, as if introducing himself to me gently. I could not see his face and as quickly as he appeared, he was gone again.

My heart was racing. I felt like I was caught in a laser tag arena where people whizzed past and shot you dead with their computerised guns before you knew what happened.

Karl finally returned to find us, and my breathing and pulse rate slowly returned to baseline. He led us into a narrow passageway. ‘Here’s my pride and joy,’ he declared, ‘behold… the suckatorium!’ It was another black room that Karl illuminated with a small red lamp. There were wooden partitions against one wall much like would be seen in a bank, inviting each customer up to the teller’s window. Except there was no window. Instead, there was a long, rounded vertical slot cut into each wall. ‘You can’t quite appreciate it from here,’ Karl said. ‘Just wait here a second.’ He disappeared, leaving us alone, huddled in a dark corner with our claustrophobia. The air was thick, the muffled grunting continuing in the next room, people shuffling back and forth, adjusting and readjusting their positions. It took an eternity for the red lamp to appear again on the other side of the wall; it was Karl’s finger (thankfully) at the height of his groin, demonstrating how the elevated wall on the other side allowed for both the sucker and suckee to stand comfortably while the fellatio effortlessly took place. ‘We had to measure the heights,’ Karl explained. ‘I was once an engineer in the army, you know.’ Karl said that an associate was so impressed with the design that he returned to America and copied it in his own club. ‘We decided that a small glory hole was too restrictive,’ Karl said, fingering the slot. ‘With this long rounded slot, you just reach in to play with the other man’s balls, or reach around and easily finger his arsehole.’

Karl recounted a story of a man who once fell asleep in one of the partitions. The night staff manager who was locking up noticed the sleeping man and shook him awake. ‘Now if there’s one thing I learned in the army,’ Karl said, ‘it’s that you don’t wake a sleeping man by touching him.’ The sleeping man awoke and punched the night manager in the face, who promptly called the police. On arrival, the police found the customer staggering off into the night wearing a business shirt, tie, shoes, and no pants, and a distraught night manager who had to be talked out of pressing assault charges.

The darkness enveloped me, the spaces disorientating. I could not tell how big the establishment was or how far it extended as Karl led us from one darkened room to another. It momentarily occurred to me that I had no idea where the fire exits where, something that rarely concerned me. Out back, we finally emerged into an expansive open area flooded with natural light. There were planks of wood and sheets of plastic and power tools all over the floor, along with more piles of DVDs and an old massage table in the corner. ‘As you can see, this is a work-in-progress,’ Karl said. ‘We’re still thinking about what to do here. I’d like to put in a steam room, tiled, like an old school Turkish bathhouse, that we can hose out easily. We’re always having hygiene issues, there’s too much wood in the areas we have already. But we need to get some plumbing put in out here. At the moment, it’s all at the front of the shop, where the showers are. I’d love to put a small area out the back where we can have BBQs, where people can relax and smoke. But we’d need to enclose the area properly. Even today, we’ve got a neighbour, a curious Asian truck mechanic, who keeps peering over the fence. I’ve invited him to join us but he refuses.’

Karl finally led us up a darkened stairwell, lit only by a small rope of LED lights along each wall, as would be seen in a cinema. Catching his breath at the top of the stairs, Karl stood in a corridor revealing eight darkened doorways. Men were standing in the corridor, loitering, or disappearing in and out of rooms. Karl showed us into the first room on the right. He flicked on the dimmer button, illuminating the room slightly. A queen-sized bed swallowed almost the entire space. In the corner, a bowl of condoms and large box of tissues were on a small table. ‘See that bed?’ Karl asked. ‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘Get on.’ I obeyed the directive and landed on the firmest mattress I had ever felt. ‘These beds are official “prison standard”,’ Karl announced. ‘You can feel the extra reinforcement in the mattress, can’t you?’ I couldn’t argue: it was harder than a pole vaulter’s calf muscles. ‘Of course, we need to ensure our beds can support all the activity that takes place upon them,’ Karl said. ‘And notice the coverings we’ve installed. That’s a heavy duty, synthetic material we can easily clean. If we had sheets or duvets, they would be ruined in an hour.’ Karl stood back proudly, admiring the room. ‘Yes, these heavy duty covers have proven an absolute godsend,’ he said. ‘You can imagine what it’s like with two men going at it sometimes. When one pulls out, they can frequently leave a deposit on the mattress, which depends on what they may have eaten before they came out to see us. We can’t control that… Would you do me a favour…?’ Karl asked. ‘Sure,’ I said. He pointed to my ear and said: ‘Hand me that condom wrapper, would you?’ I then realised what I was lying next to and carefully handed over the two small halves, which Karl disposed of in a nearby bin.

He walked us down the windowless corridor. I tried to keep my eyes straight ahead and not look at what was going on in each room. I felt awkward but also nervous, uncertain of what awaited us. The air was becoming stuffier, the black walls closed in. The only noise I could hear was troubling: another hardcore pornographic film blaring from the end of the corridor. ‘I want to show you the final two rooms,’ Karl said. The room on the right had an intricate series of wooden latticework on the ceiling, with long metal chains hanging down into the room. There was no bed. ‘This is for our more boisterous clients,’ Karl said, ‘and the same with the room opposite.’ That room contained another large TV with the feature film I’d heard grunting earlier. In the middle was a heavy leather sling stretched slung across the room like an enormous spider’s web in a dungeon. ‘Yes, I’ve enjoyed many an evening in here,’ Karl said fondly. ‘Sometimes I participate, sometimes I just watch. But we really must do something about the floor in here…’ I looked down to see the floor covering was chipboard and covered with all manner of stubborn stains that someone had unsuccessfully tried to remove.

We returned downstairs to the main corridor where several new men had appeared, wearing only white fluffy towels. They greeted us pleasantly; ‘Hi,’ I squeaked in reply. One man was leaning against a wall, watching a film on yet another TV screen. He was fully clothed, neat and tidy, as if he was about to go and play a round of golf. ‘This is our local chaplain,’ Karl informed us. The man laughed. ‘Don’t believe a word this old bastard says,’ he replied.

We returned to the front part of the shop where Bruce was sitting behind the counter looking bored. ‘How’d you go?’ he exhaled. We recounted our tales of heroic survival. Bruce smiled knowingly. ‘Glad you liked it,’ he said. ‘Come again anytime, as visitors or customers.’

With the tour over, we thanked our hosts and returned to the blinding natural light of the car park. As we emerged, it was only then I noticed the sheer number of tradesmen’s vehicles that were parked out front. Utes, trucks, vans, panel vans. I wouldn’t be able to look at macho guys in those hi-vis shirts quite the same again.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Peter Papathanasiou was born in a small village in northern Greece and adopted as a baby to an Australian family. His writing has been published by Fairfax Media, News Corporation, Caught by the River, and The Pigeonhole. His debut novel is being represented by Rogers, Coleridge & White literary agents. He divides his time between Australia, London, and a small village in northern Greece. Twitter: @peteplastic

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, November 9th, 2015.