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Time Out's sauna etiquette guide

Stepping into a gay sauna for the first time? Get schooled up before you put out with our top sauna etiquette tips

By Time Out editors |
Shirtless man wearing a towel in a sauna

Whether you are a first timer at a sauna or an old hand who has let his manners slip, let our difinitive guide to sauna etiquette get you on the staight and narow. Well, not so much straight.

Cone of silence
Saunas and sex-on-premises venues are quieter than a Marcel Marceau fan convention held in a library. Apart from dance music being pumped through the venue like elevator music, patrons rarely speak. Most communication is carried out through body language and when verbal communication is required keeping it brief is essential.

No one wants to hear your thoughts on Celine Dion's transition from songbird to vanilla-rock goddess. Save it till you're swapping numbers.

The awkward run-in
There's about two degrees of separation between queers in this town so the chances of running into your neighbour, boss or dad at a sauna are pretty high. While blanking someone completely is a not good etiquette, running towards them screaming and hugging them like they've just returned from war is not advised either. Making eye contact with a simple nod or smile is more than enough acknowledgement. Save the hysterics for the day Madonna dies.

Feel your way
If someone feels like Bert Newton in the dark, it's probably because he strikes an uncanny resemblance to him in the light. A stakeout near the entrance to a dark room is a great way to ‘eye before you buy'.

Once you enter the dark space always make like Helen Keller and let your fingers do the walking before the rest of the body follows.

No means no... thanks
At some point during your visit you're going to be propositioned by someone who looks like your mother – and by 'propositioned' we mean 'felt up'. Your immediate reaction may be to flick their hand away faster than you can say ‘Miley Cyrus is going to be a has-been by 2018.' A friendly ‘cheers mate, I'm fine' is so much nicer than ‘I'd sooner fuck Joffrey Baratheon.' Remember, you're going to be that 68-year-old man everyone is avoiding one day too.

Three's a crowd
Walking into a private room with a gentleman may attract the eye of a third party. If you are not into prime numbers this situation can be tricky.

Slamming the door on number three's face is plain old rude, unless he is a telemarketer. The old ‘thanks for the offer, but two's company' followed by a wink is a civilised way of saying 'back off bitch, I put the hard yards into bagging this guy and you ain't cutting in.' Always play nice.

While our tips our aimed at guys who are curious about the way sex-on-premises venues work, we know these spaces are not everyone's cup of decaf skim latte. Without sounding too much like a bumper sticker, we hope awareness is the key to tolerance and understanding about this important part of queer culture.

Now put your skills into practice