I was 18, in school and desperately trying to save up for tickets to Hong Kong.
I had just broken up with my toxic ex-boyfriend and I wanted to desperately go on a vacation. I’m closeted so there was no way I could convince my parents to sponsor my trip. Also, I did not want to drop out just to work too, so I started applying for night jobs to support myself. Back then, most part-time jobs were offering an hourly pay of $7-$8 with a midnight shift. They were labor intensive or in F&B outlets that barely had time for rest. I kept looking for openings online and found a job listing at a Gay Sauna online that was located at a shophouse in Chinatown.
The manager explained to me that it was a private all-men’s club with a sauna, cinema room, and a bar.
Everything about it seemed too good to be true so naturally, I just applied for the position. I went down for the interview in the day and was offered $12/Hour. All I had to do was:
- Every 1 hour, go down to the sauna level and do a cleanup.
- I could choose the shifts I wanted without clocking in minimum hours.
- Food and drinks were covered too.
For those who don’t know what a sauna is, it basically is just a men’s club for men to hook up with one another. The first level is equipped with a steam room and common shower while the second level is where the main ‘action’ happens. It’s essentially a maze with mirrors, ambient lights, and false-walled rooms.
Every room had a lube pump and a condom dispenser too.
My job was to sanitize this level and each room to make sure they were always hygienic for our fervent guests. I was equipped with tissues, a flashlight, and a spray. Let’s just say each shift was messy — sweat, bodily fluids, and used condoms. We had to zoom around and clean them up while naked men hovered around. There was no ‘intermission’, as we periodically would check in and ensure everything was always clean before the next wave of patrons. So each journey up the stairs was an unpredictable one.
My whole job was to keep the place as sanitary as possible. And the truth is, none of the customers cared to clean up after their business.
This one time, I bumped into an orgy session. They were standing in a corridor and moaning so I stood aside and let them finish. When they were done, I remember stepping in, and the first thing I felt was stickiness on my Birkenstock sandals. It was pitch black so I did not realize the whole floor was literally wet with puddles of c*m.
I don’t know how much they ejaculated or how many people were having sex at the place. But I had to literally get on my knees and crawl on the floor while spraying and wiping away.
I had to work fast each time too because during peak hours, it got crowded and we were very careful to ensure that patrons did not come into contact with bodily fluids lying around. My whole job was to keep the place as sanitary as possible. And the truth is, none of the customers cared to clean up after their business. They were there to indulge and have fun and they unapologetically left their mark each time.
Another unsaid thing that came along with my job: harassment. I mean, people were there for a reason so I did have to deal with some patrons hitting on me.
Besides, I was young, and pretty much looked like the ideal twink back then. When men are horny they don’t use their brains so my being a staff, did not protect me from being ‘targeted’. I just had to be careful and protect myself. Some of my colleagues were a little more liberal and adventurous so they took the opportunity to engage in the occasional ‘fun’ with customers during their breaks. No judgments though, there’s nothing wrong with adults engaging in consensual sex. But I was there to work and I never partook in any of that.
I think a gay sauna is a safe space for queer men to meet our needs since our activities have been ostracized and surveilled for so long.
I know the whole concept of a ‘gay sauna’ is a rude culture shock to most heterosexual people but they’ve actually been around in Singapore for decades. I think they’re safe private spaces for gay men to meet their needs since our sexual activities have been ostracized and surveilled for so long. At the same time, I don’t condone the normalized toxic behavior of some patrons there. There were so many times I felt uncomfortable being catcalled by other men who thought they were entitled to my reciprocation just because they were attractive. I always kept my boundaries.
I was closeted and being in that space helped me come to terms with my identity more.
The whole time I was working there, I earned enough to pay the bills and splurge occasionally. It’s not a job I would ever take up again but there is no shame in it. In fact, part of me felt like I could express my sexuality more because everyone there was so openly gay. I was closeted and being in that space helped me come to terms with my identity more. Of course, I never told my parents or friends about it though. I just told them I was working at a café. I think now, society is very open and accepting.
Have you ever worked in a job that most people would consider taboo? What was your experience like?