Main Street's sex club: Eros celebrates 21 years in business

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Porn shot within Eros' walls, in front of Eros' walls.
ALL GUARDIAN PHOTOS BY CAITLIN DONOHUE

A few things that you may not know about Eros, the 21-year old sex club with the unassuming, rainbow-flagged façade that stands across the street from the Castro Safeway strip mall. One: it is hosting an art show on Thu/11 open to all to attend (perfect for female-identified folks interested in checking out the space, or at least the front room). Two, boundary-breaking trans-cis male porn is made there.

"Transmen were not being reached out to with the safe sex message," says Eros' owner Ken Rowe, a snuggly looking bear sitting on a leather couch in the club's comfy front room. T-Wood Pictures, the club's in-house porn company, now shoots new content once or twice a month with varying combinations of trans and cis men.

New elliptical machine!

Another point of fact: "The original founders wanted this to be a community center sex club," he says. Co-founder Buzz Bense wanted a "Main Street sex club," says Rowe. "Not with neon lights going 'LIVE BOYS.' They wanted it to look respectable, shame-free. Now we're much more like a spa -- we're a traditional bathhouse. It's not dark and dirty, poppers wafting through the air."

Eros opens at noon seven days a week, and the first few hours of the day management promotes it as more of a "sex-positive day spa," says Rowe.

>>LEARN MORE ABOUT EROS' TRANS PROGRAMMING IN KELLY LOVEMONSTER'S SFBG INTERVIEW WITH EROS STAFF MEMBER (AND RECENTLY NAMED TRANS 100 HONOREE) NIKO KOWELL

Today, male-identified customers can take yoga and tai chi classes before hitting the club's sauna, showers, and steam room. Elliptical machines sit nearby us, the club's newest attractions. Community groups like Homobiles hold business meetings in the space. Potted plants sit happily on a cute little smoking deck on the other side of glass sliding doors.

A licensed massage therapist provides much-needed muscle work to customers, which was especially important back in the early days of the club, when the Police Department was in charge of licensing massage therapists in sex clubs (that duty has since been transferred to the Department of Public Health, though SFPD still must approve licenses.) Eros is the only sex club with a licensed massage therapist, to the best of Rowe's knowledge, in Northern California.

"They wanted the club to be about more than just sex, they wanted a space where you could learn about safer sex in a non-threatening manner. You know, without being jumped on," Rowe tells me.

 

One of Loren Bruton's "Bathhouse Men"

Loren Bruton's drawings line one side of the common room, aggregations of the Eros clientele that he sees every day as the club's general manager. Eros hosts a yearly staff art show, an event that reflects the overlapping communities of artists and sex workers in the hyper-expensive Bay Area. This week, a reception will be held to celebrate Bruton's collection that doubles as a birthday party for Eros' decades of community involvement.

"I like that I can be myself here," Bruton says. "It's nice to have a sense of community someplace that is sex-positive. I wanted to represent that this is a diverse group in terms of age, race, sexual identity." For a club that's spent years reworking our vision of what a Main Street business can be, the renderings make for perfect poster children.

"Bathhouse Men" Eros birthday celebration

Thu/11, 7-10pm, free

Eros

2051 Market, SF

www.erossf.com

Comments

is in connection with the importance of educating transmen on safe sex. You do understand that most gay men do not go to a sex club to have sex with genetic females - do you not?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

Thoughts

Posted by caitlin on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

more likely to be HIV positive than straights.

A sobering thought.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

i'd love to know where you read this, considering it's complete BS.

Posted by derp on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

That article is referring to transgender women. Not transgender men. Get your facts straight before you post them! Eros is welcoming trans men and this study is not referencing them.

Posted by D on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

discussing people of indeterminate gender (or PIG's, as I call them).

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 4:09 pm

There's a very clear definition of and difference between a transman and a transwoman.

Posted by Hortencia on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 9:51 am

To most people, it's a gender ambiguity.

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 12:24 pm

do YOU understand that the reason the connection is made so often, is because Eros is an oddity, in that it's staff doesn't treat it's trans-identified customers like complete shit? it's one of the only gay sex-clubs around (almost anywhere, as far as i can tell) that actively welcomes ALL men, trans or not. Sometimes we're actively barred, or verbally berated, and sometimes physically threatened by staff or other customers in other establishments.

and if you never want to have sex with a trans person, that's fine.... then don't (it's not like it's hard, considering at least 95% of their customers are not trans), but speak for yourself. as a gay trans man that frequents this establishment, i can tell you i have had my fair share of fun there. and i really value a place like this that wont bend to some transphobic jerk insisting that they kick out the "scaaaary tranny!" who happens to just be minding his own business, trying to chill in the steamroom after a long day.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 2:55 pm

Actually, "educating transmen on safe sex" is not Eros's job. They provide condoms and make sure that all men are playing safe. However, in terms of 'educating' Eros is host to the tm4m program mentioned above that Niko facilitates. The events are often educational and sexyfun! Moreso, it's about expanding awareness that, if you are a cis man, and you go to a sex club, you should not assume every man there has a dick, AND when that hot number you just cruised drops his towel, do not freak out and embarrass yourself when his dick looks different then yours.

It's about creating a safe space for ALL self identified men to get it on and have fun!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

if you have a pussy. So yes, it is safe to assume that "all men have dicks." It's a bit confusing to see transmen replicating the septic tank gay male subculture of the 70s in a bid to affirm their masculinity and sexuality, while denying on the other hand that being trans is about sex but instead is based on self-identification of gender - so which is it really? If it's about gender then why go to a bathhouse?

Being a man is not about being sexually promiscuous. Being a gay man is not about being sexually promiscuous either.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

As a born and identified male with a dick, I've been to Eros and played many times when both born-men and trans-men. As far as I'm concerned, what makes you a man is what's between your ears not what's between your legs. You seem determined to lay your narrow view upon transgender people and don't like them being accepted or having a good time. Eros is a great safe space for men of all stripes. Not all of us are shallow when it comes to our understanding of gender and trans issues. All it takes is listening and learning and to stop thinking that you know better than everyone else.

Posted by Patrick on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

I'd wager that a very small minority of gay men would agree with the statement that "what makes you a man is what's between your ears not what's between your legs." That said, perhaps a bare majority would have no problems with trans men in gay play spaces.

What is important here is that nobody should expect that others divine one's own desired gender by observation and interpretation of one's presentation and interact with one as one demands.

Honesty is important in negotiating sex, otherwise it is non-consensual and that is the same thing as rape for most gay men. You can't shame or mislead people into non-consensual sex.

One truism to the hothouse of gay sex is that no matter how hot you are, there is always someone whose not going to want to play with you. There does not have to be a reason. It does not mean that you are hated. it just means that you would do best to direct your attentions elsewhere. To do otherwise makes you a troll. To accuse someone of hating on you for not playing with you is just tacky, unmanly.

You can see into many trans men's souls through their eyes and gaping mouths and get a glimpse into the insecurity and tenuousness of it all for them when they see "the real deal," rock hard squirting cocks in flagrante delicto, at such venues.

Insisting that all gay men as a class accept penisless men in all sexual contexts is simply a non-starter and throwing a fit when they don't is likewise poor form, just tacky.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 11:02 am

Well said.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 11:28 am

Why are you so homophobic?

Why do you degrade a significant plurality of gay male behavior that is prevalent worldwide as "a cesspool?"

When are you going to demand that the Chinese American nonprofits craft programs for LGBT Chinese Americans, especially seniors?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 10:42 am

seniors. It's a cause I struggle on behalf every day. We've got Rose Pak so we're half-way there. Look forward to the coming announcement about the "George Takei LGBT Senior Complex" located in Japantown or Chinatown very soon.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 11:27 am

Just do something, anything about the completely closeted intrusive boundary-less disrespectful objectification perfected by a defined cohort of clothed older Asian male trolls at gay street fairs and parades, some of the most life sucking sex parasites I've ever seen.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 11:38 am

(Nope, I didn't think so.) Marc, you are Asian-phobic and it's disgusting.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

They hate any non-whites who do not buy into the victim mentality.

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

Clearly Lucretia has a narrow minded view on sexuality and gender identities. It's nothing new and she is not alone. Unfortunately, not everyone understands the trans community and others are simply not open minded and accepting. Some folks still like to put everyone in ticky tacky boxes because it makes their world feel more defined and controlled. Unfortunately, having a dick does not indeed make you a man. If it did then any male bodied person who may lose their penis or balls in an accident would no longer be considered a 'man' and we know that's not reality. BUT a lot of people outside of the trans community also don't realize that transpeople's bodies are no longer just like generic male/female born bodies. Years of hormones create something all their own and transmen do indeed have a penis, they just have other parts as well. So no. They are NOT women. They are men and transwomen ARE women. Regardless...that's Lucretia's personal opinion, not the opinion of a great many others.

To answer her question, being a transman or transwomen is first and foremost about how the person views themselves. How they personally identify regarding gender, but obviously it goes deeper than that and sex is part of every person's life. So it only makes sense that transpeople would also like to find companionship and yes, sex too. Like pretty much everyone else out there. So it's not a crazy concept to expect someone who identifies with gay men to want to be part of the gay male culture. Expecting them to stay out of it because a handful of close minded bigots may not like it is just simple discrimination and I think the community has enough battles to fight OUTSIDE of the community. Picking on each other is just counter productive. I'm glad they have a safe place that fills this need to belong and become part of a community they feel connected to. It's really none of anyone else's business why they go there.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 11:58 am

"To answer her question, being a transman or transwomen is first and foremost about how the person views themselves."

Everyone gets the autonomy to define themselves on their terms and to resist having their definition forced on them by others.

But not everyone must buy anyone else's self perceptions and this is not limited to not buying trans peoples' presentation.

That's the way the world works, people make their best case for themselves, some take them up on it, some take a pass, most can handle that, the weak dwell on it.

It is the height of objectification that anyone would insist that others define themselves in terms favorable to the subject.

And it is the height of disrespect that anyone would insist that others accommodate them sexually under pain of being denigrated as narrow minded and not accepting.

Binary genders are the norm across cultures just as heterosexuality is the norm across cultures. It is okay to deviate from the norm and there is no need to command the norm to change to accommodate the deviant.

All we get to demand is equal treatment under the law, in the public sphere. It is not possible to legislate or shame away the irrational--racism, sexism, homophobia or transphobia.

I recall the trans Mexican puta who popped out into the DF sun one day and pronounced to the world "¡Soy puta y que!" Own it without giving a shit if anyone else cares or you'll never be taken seriously.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

Self absorbed much?

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

You're paid to care, no?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

does not preoccupy much of my time time, nor that of almost everyone.

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

Yes it is insider baseball, but where trans and gay theories and cultures intersect, I become interested.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

we can define it chromosomally - females are XX and men are XY. No amount of external or internal body mutilation is going to change that fact.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:54 pm

If LGB and T are truly allies as trans people say when they want us to do things their way, then we deal with these issues as peers, with respectful negotiating and compromising instead of dictating terms, shaming and and hectoring.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

don't want to have sex with you, for whatever reason, is repulsive. There always exists a rational basis for discrimination in personal relationships of any type - simply not wanting one for any reason whatsoever is a legitimate reason.

You have to wonder about the kind of person who attempts to guilt people into having sex with them and then resorts to shaming when they don't get it. I'm sure there exists a tiny but eager community of those who consider themselves bigger people than the rest of us because they force themselves into having sex with people they don't inherently find attractive and then congratulate themselves on how "diverse" and "broad minded" they are for doing so. I'm not one of them.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 2:40 pm
Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

lil' lilz on the other hand - he's a self-declared virgin.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 3:08 pm
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Posted by Lavada on Apr. 15, 2013 @ 9:10 pm

You speak of gay men like you represent all of us. May I suggest you attend transphobia class at CCSF. There are a lot of us that are into a lot of things and there is so much more than a penis.

I hope to not run into you while playing

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When trannies are beaten to death, I LAUGH.

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