Health Department Hopes This FAQ Sheet Will Clear Up Your Confusion About Gay Bathhouses
You've probably also noted that there's much confusion around the topic. For instance, some people had no idea that bathhouses were in fact legal in San Francisco, in large part because their definition of a bathhouse isn't the city's definition of a bathhouse. And there lies much of the problem.
Back in the 80's when the AIDS epidemic hammered the gay population, a court ordered an injunction on gay bathhouses, forcing them to get rid of the private rooms in the bathhouses and to make sure everyone there was having safe sex. Many of those bathhouses opted to close down rather than follow the new rules -- and so bathhouses became somewhat obsolete in San Francisco, but not illegal.
The issue has resurfaced as the sex club Eros is applying for a permit to have a bathhouse, according to the Bay Area Reporter.
"I support elimination of the ban on private rooms in bathhouses," Supervisor Scott Wiener told the Bay Area Reporter. "This ban doesn't have a basis in public health and is arbitrary. Gay men have various ways of meeting other gay men for sex, whether in bars, bathhouses, or online. To claim, as this rule does, that having sex in a private room in a bathhouse is somehow riskier than going to someone's house or having public sex in a bathhouse, makes no sense to me."
Now it's up to the Health Department's Director, Barbara Garcia, to decide whether to do away with the minimum standards of no private sex and no unsafe sex. The department hasn't totally weighed in on the issue, but it did release this handy fact sheet, which will hopefully tell you more than you ever wanted to know about gay bathhouses.