I had never been to a strip bar that had backrooms for the patrons to play – with each other. But this strip club that I went to doubled as a sex club. I got there before midnight, before the cover charge doubled. Greeting two shirtless bartenders on the main floor, I grabbed a beer and wandered as the club began to fill. On the main floor, I found there were backrooms meant just for the strippers and their clients. On the second floor was another bar, impromptu go-go dancing stages, and a backroom for the patrons to get it on together.
Upstairs, a stripper was working a small, raised area, barely a stage at all. He was a college type, but unremarkable looking, and he worked the stage unremarkably. He eventually dropped his pants, revealing a flaccid, unamused cock. After his song was over, another dancer took his place. This man was in his mid-twenties, hot, and very hairy – a major plus for me. You so rarely see a hairy stripper. His bubble butt was very furry and I wondered if he realized that he was very appealing to an underserved market (hirsute lovers).
The club began to fill up, both upstairs and down. But not a single soul ventured into the backrooms. I know this because I did venture forth and found them empty. I watched as men furtively watched the strippers, as if they weren’t supposed to enjoy it or appreciate it too openly. There was a reticence in the air, a holding back. A conservatism that felt dangerously contagious.
I stayed for about an hour, but the place began to thin of people before last call was even anywhere near. And so I swallowed the remainder of my beer and went next door to a leather bar.
Being a Saturday night, the place was busy, on both floors. I bought a beer and bypassing the backroom, I headed upstairs where I discovered that an S&M show was in progress. Shackled to and facing the far wall was Mr. Leather. He was being flogged by a stout woman in glasses. She and he were trading jokes as she flogged him, light banter that had nothing to do with the flogging per se. After she was through with Mr. Leather, she looked out at those paying attention in the crowd and invited someone to have a go at being flogged. A young guy waved his hand to have a shot at it. He removed his shirt and giggled while his friends encouraged him. The mistress joked around with him while flogging him and they had a grand old time. When it was over, the young man jumped up and down, clapping his hands and saying that S&M was really neat.
The display of sadomasochism was missing two vital elements – a sadist and a masochist. What I saw was a pastiche of S&M, not the real thing. It was akin to buying a jacket in a bargain-basement store, knowing that it descended from high fashion but watered down many times over. I wanted to see and sense danger, not the recreation of danger. I saw the Disneyland version of what should have been transgressive.
I went downstairs, hunting for men who wanted the real deal. I headed into the back room. But before I had made three or four steps in, the smell of shit hit me like a brick. Someone back there had had an accident while presumably being fucked. Bracing myself against the smell, I noticed that the pervasive scent of excrement was not stopping the full crowd back there. The place was jammed. Overpowered by the smell, though, I had to leave. I left the bar entirely, feeling that tonight I’d been abandoned by the sex gods. Not every night is going to be a winner. The trick is to accept this and know when it’s time to go. But you know that you’ll return, and that when you do, the sex gods might be on your side and give you the transcendent gay bar experience that you seek. You will return to the hunt, you will return to the night, and it will be resplendent.