Bathhouse Blues

David Holthouse's vivid description of a gay bathhouse ("Slippery Chute," March 16) questions why it is treated differently by the city than heterosexual sex clubs. Gay men meet in bars, bathhouses, bushes and bookstores because we're not permitted to meet in schools, churches and living rooms.

We're not permitted to participate in the dating process that permeates heterosexual teen and young-adult years. Because of that, we often lack the social skills to meet other gay men and develop meaningful relationships.

When we do meet other gay men and are able to overcome all obstacles and construct successful, committed relationships, our life partnerships are denied society's respect and recognition.

Why would Holthouse express chagrin at seeing a man with a wedding ring in a gay bathhouse? You're the ones who have created the social pressure that propels some gay men into sham marriages to avoid being stained as pariahs.

For heterosexuals, visiting a sex club is one of many options. For gay men, it's one of the very few.

Until such a time the community allows gay men to bring their dates to the prom, hold hands and otherwise express affection in public and offer civil recognition for domestic partnerships, leave the bathhouse alone.

Let the Chute stand as a tribute to the breeding community's failure to face up to the human effects of its inhumane policies and the sad result of its oppression and bigotry toward gay men.

Robert Aronin

Thanks for the story on the Chute. Your article does not say whether you are straight or gay, and I'm glad of that because it does not matter. The story was the important item and not the sexuality of the writer.

As a gay male, I personally find the gay sex clubs (and there are at least four in the Valley) to be insulting to all I have had to overcome in my life. These places keep bad stereotypes in front of the mainstream public, which they then use to describe all of us.

When I was an ASU student, I went to another gay sex club to research a story for the State Press which was ultimately judged "too unfit to print." It was an eye-opener. Even as a gay man, I was taken aback by what I saw. From your article, I can see that little has changed in 18 years. Your description painted a picture which I suspect was more vivid for me than for most readers.

The startling aspect of gay sex clubs is that the clientele are almost entirely middle-age, overweight, closeted mainstream white men, and as I also learned, most often married to women.

To break another gay stereotype, I have a real problem with secret sex outside of a relationship -- any relationship -- and that's what most men at these clubs want. It makes me wretch, too.

The part that really hurts is that it is so hard to get out the message that these clubs are not typical of gay culture, especially in these days of greatly increased openness and tolerance of sexuality. I believe these places have probably skewed even more toward the "straight" males who are "curious" or just looking for a cute college boy to nail before going back to the life of the business suit, the country club and the Oldsmobile.

I have mixed feelings on the closure of such places. It is a right-of-assembly issue and more to the point, bashing sleazy places like these will ultimately have the rednecks out there bashing all gays, feeling that because the city is doing it, it must be okay. As one who once had to defend himself against a group that wanted either to rape or kill me (or both), I would urge caution in creating an atmosphere of credibility in "going after" any group.

These places damage all gay people because the sleaze gets on us, too. I only wish your article could have hit harder on the fact that these people are a very small minority.

Michael Ingquist
via Internet

I recently read your article on the sex club Chute in Phoenix, and thought it necessary to correct you on a number of issues. You mentioned that condoms were not freely available. I have been to Chute a number of times; condoms have been available at the front desk and are on the tables in the rooms. There are also safer-sex posters and messages throughout the venue.

It appears you have entered the premises under false pretenses, unless you are gay yourself and have not divulged this for your article and have used the information you learned to write an article which basically has nothing to do with you. If you were a journalist of any worth, you would have gotten the opinion of someone who frequents the venue and given a balanced report.