April #69 : 04.09.84 The Waters of Babylon - by Patrick Califia

POZ - Health, Life and HIV
Subscribe to:
POZ magazine
Newsletters
Join POZ: Facebook MySpace Twitter Pinterest
Tumblr Google+ Flickr MySpace
POZ Personals
Sign In / Join
Username:
Password:

Back to home » Archives » POZ Magazine issues




Table of Contents

Geography Lessons

Mo' Money, Mo' Trouble

Cold Sore Comfort

THE BIZ OF AID$

Living Large on Small Change

Living Large on Small Change

Living Large on Small Change

O Pioneer!

Going Dental

Vax Attack

¡La Emergencia!

Monette & Merrill

Normal, New Jersey

Briefs

Milestones

Quickies

Money Pit

Cryptic 'Script

Don't Meth Around

AAT Ease

Two Strikes

LTNP? UB2

Is N-9 Deep-Sixed?

Action Zero

Mary MAC'd

Murphy's Law Breaker

Editor's Letter

Mailbox

04.09.84 The Waters of Babylon

Conflicts in Pharmaland



Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle

Shingles

Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV


email print

April 2001

04.09.84 The Waters of Babylon

by Patrick Califia

Puritanical, self-loathing gays vs. suicidal advocates of extreme sex: Much mud was slung in the San Francisco bathhouse wars of 1984. The gay Mecca became the first U.S. city to shut off the steam when, on April 9, just weeks before the discovery of HIV as the cause of AIDS was announced, Public Health Director Mervyn Silverman, MD, told the press that he was banning sex in these sex emporia to stop the spread of the disease. The fate of Animals (the vanilla bath for fucking and sucking), the Slot (fisting, leather, S/M), the Hothouse (three floors of dungeons, jail cells and bondage) and many other lucrative locales beloved by the queens of public rut floated in the balance.

At the last minute, Silverman delayed the actual closing, claiming legal technicalities. Having previously insisted that a ban on baths was unlikely to change the behavior of their clientele, he finally pulled the plug in October, after 50 local gay leaders signed a petition saying that the sex spots were killing gay men. "These establishments promote and profit from the spread of AIDS," Silverman announced. "They are not fostering gay liberation. They are fostering disease and death."

As someone who had gotten off on the thrill of cruising in public for sex with strangers and performing for a rapt but faceless crowd at the Catacombs and Sutro baths, the end of the baths felt like another kind of death to me. I had lost friends and lovers; now I was losing a realm of sexual possibilities. The intense erotic encounters to be had in the baths were a powerful balm for the wounds gay men endured in a world that hated us. These steamy trysts enfolded us in a web of shared identity and values that was a forerunner of AIDS activism. Others, of course, viewed the bathhouse closure as a triumphant first step toward our treating each other better, including safer sex.

The clubs were padlocked 17 years ago. In January the city health department announced that the rate of new infections among gay men in San Francisco has doubled since 1997, while effective prevention continues to take a bath.




[Go to top]

Facebook Twitter Google+ MySpace YouTube Tumblr Flickr Instagram
Quick Links
Current Issue

HIV Testing
Safer Sex
Find a Date
Newly Diagnosed
HIV 101
Disclosing Your Status
Starting Treatment
Help Paying for Meds
Search for the Cure
POZ Stories
POZ Opinion
POZ Exclusives
Read the Blogs
Visit the Forums
Job Listings
Events Calendar


    dversescott
    Baltimore
    Maryland


    july8th69
    brooklyn
    New York


    Heartland4now
    Tacoma
    Washington


    RayOctober
    Richmond
    Virginia
Click here to join POZ Personals!
Ask POZ Pharmacist

Talk to Us
Poll
Are you a regular coffee drinker?
Yes
No

Survey
Pop Watch

more surveys
Contact Us
We welcome your comments!
[ about Smart + Strong | about POZ | POZ advisory board | partner links | advertising policy | advertise/contact us | site map]
© 2014 Smart + Strong. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use and Your privacy.
Smart + Strong® is a registered trademark of CDM Publishing, LLC.