San Francisco Gay Sex Clubs and Bathhouses Guide

••• Club Eros, in the Castro District. photo by Andrew Collins

San Francisco essentially created a ban on gay bathhouses back in the mid-1980s as a response to the devastating spread of AIDS. A result is that in San Francisco, establishments where gay men meet for sex no longer rent private rooms or have the sorts of "spa" facilities typical of bathhouses. These "gay sex clubs" continue to thrive and are arguably the most popular such venues in the country. All of the facilities mentioned here except for Nob Hill Adult Theatre are private clubs, but they welcome visitors; you just have to buy a temporary membership to gain access (long-term memberships are also available).

Blow Buddies

In SOMA, 6,000-square-foot Blow Buddies (933 Harrison St.) is highly popular among the city's gay sex clubs, and this place definitely has an enthusiastic attitude, its website eagerly welcoming "all you horny dudes," and the staff knowledgeable and helpful. As with other venues around town, the management here stresses safer-sex practices. The club has a number of regular theme nights geared to different styles and fetishes (naked buddies, blow buddies, underwear buddies, golden shower buddies, leather buddies, bear buddies), and this incredibly popular hangout is a major supporter of the annual Folsom Street Fair in late September. Amenities include a very large outdoor area that's heated, a locker room (there's also a clothes-check), a bunch of group areas that include mazes, glory holes, and the like, video booths, and lots of "inspiring" artwork.

Eros Sex Club

The long-established, locally owned Eros Sex Club (2051 Market St.) in the Castro, is another favorite option.

This 18-and-older club has many of the features of a full-on bathhouse, including a lounge, steam room and sauna areas, showers, and a playroom with slings, a maze, bunk beds, and other areas for cruising and sex. The difference here with a typical bathhouse is that there are no private rooms; sex is always out in the open (albeit in some darkly seductive areas, particularly the play room).

There's also a team of very talented massage therapists at Eros. You can book an appointment ahead, although walk-ins are welcome, too. Eros has a strong track record when it comes to encouraging safer sex practices, being friendly and helpful with patrons, and generally creating a space that's comfortable and accepting. You won't encounter a lot of attitude here, which is one reason it's so popular with so many types of guys. It's open until midnight most days and until 3 am Friday and Saturday nights. The Market Street location is convenient to many area gay bars, restaurants, and gay B&Bs. Here's more information about the club from the official website.

Nob Hill Adult Theatre

Another very popular hangout is Nob Hill Adult Theatre (729 Bush St.), which is close to downtown and Union Square, books appearances by noted porn stars for live sex shows and has a 75-channel adult video arcade. On Tuesday, this de facto gay sex club hosts "naked nights" with complimentary clothes check.

Bathhouses

Across the Bay in Berkeley, there is a full-service gay bathhouse, Steamworks Berkeley (2107 4th St., Berkeley), which is part of the same chain behind Steamworks Chicago, Steamworks Seattle, and others.

And down in South Bay, in the city of San Jose, the Watergarden (1010 The Alameda, San Jose) is another very popular and nicely maintained gay bathhouse.