Steamworks is easily the most popular bathhouse in Toronto. It's a destination for local and visiting gay men during Pride Week and Halloween. There are line-ups during holidays. Don't even bother trying to get in on New Year's Day unless you have a reservation. I have also found sweaty summer afternoons to be a good time here, spending time with four different guys in the span of two hours, if not more. Why not get my money's worth?
The first time I climbed the flight of stairs and paid $8 for my keys and towel, I went to a locker area where I discovered glass door upon glass door and then a wet area with showers and a hot tub. Next to the showers are a bathroom and two saunas, one dry and one wet. I chose the wet one and met Pete. Since neither of us had a room we resorted to the public areas. We left the locker area, moved to the main area where the rooms and the halls are — and where clothing is optional.
We found our way to the middle where the S&M room is. I call it that because of the sling, but there's also a semi-open double bunk bed. The top part of the bunk bed gets most of the action. It's fun climbing it but it's even more fun to do it there.
After Pete was a shorter guy that I share the same name with. We went to the dark room, which isn't ideal because I like knowing what the guy I'm having sex with looks like and no time span will make my retinas adjust to that darkness. But then again I came with him to the area. I know what he looks like. I should be fine.
After him I decided to leave Steamworks and say goodbye — although he told me to stay because the party had just started. That was at 2 a.m..
Because I'm neurotic, I wanted to do an inventory of the other interesting places and people within the establishment. On the third hallway from the lockers are bathroom stalls where people go to clean up. The stalls have faucets but you have to buy a hose from one of the vending machines where you can also buy lube, chips and bottled drinks.
Anyone can technically have sex anywhere they want with the exception of the gym and the balcony. Away from the private rooms and beside the lockers is the glory hole/army room. Its outer walls are lined with mirrors that are only useful when your eyes get used to the relative darkness.
There are also one or two semi-private rooms that look like jails. I once saw a guy here dressed in a leather super-onesie with a tag on him the read URINAL. Private rooms can be rented for as cheap as $13. There's a mattress with sheets and bottom compartments where you can hide your clothes. There's also a TV and a full length mirror where you can watch yourself with your lover.
The standard rooms are good for a quick post-coital cuddle session or to smoke a cigarette. Some of the larger rooms have more mirrors and, sometimes, their own slings. Those rooms are often bought by the older customers.
The employees at Steamworks are spotless, like this adorable boy from God Knows, Ontario who convinced me to get a membership and took his equally adorable girlfriend there. There's a custodian who drives his cart through the hallways politely saying Aiwa so that the customers would move out of his way. There's also a handsome tanned guy who helped me use my membership to get discounts on rooms.
If you're a member, the front end staff will ask you if you want to put anything in a box to keep for safety. I should tip them - there's a box on the cashier's desk beside the door before the exit. If only the customers were just as perfect. The worst of humanity comes here, like a guy who told me to go back to my own country and slapped me, people who slam doors in my face, who try to slam me into stalls and force me to have sex with them, use abusive foreplay, use drugs and the hottest guys who caress their tongues to my ear telling me about the benefits of unprotected sex.
There are guys of every shape, age and ethnicity. It's probably my bias talking but I keep seeing my ideal man here, 30ish, tall, bulkier than me, Mediterranean/white guy with a tan and scruffy. There are more bottoms than tops but every guy with every kind of preference is here. I tend to sleep with older guys here because they're the ones who respond to me more.
I've also been lucky by how nice they can be. There are two guys (not at the same time) who ask me before or after if I'm using protection and avoiding drugs, PSA style. There are also guys who stay here until the subway starts running again. I come here once every three months and the good guys are the kind who keep me coming back for more.
Writing by Paolo Kagaoan. Photo by Dennis Marciniak from the 2011 Tight Whities car wash.