Public Policy Regulating Private and Public Space in Gay Bathhouses

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Summary:Public policies prohibiting either public or private space in gay bathhouses vary across cities. New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago all have different policies. The objective of this study was to assess reported risk behavior as an indicator of success of one policy over another. Data are from a telephone survey of a probability sample of men living in the four cities who reported having sex with men. Analyses focused on city differences in behavior of adult men who, in the past year, were sexually active with a male and visited a bathhouse (n = 827). Respondents reported numbers of sex partners, one-night stands, visits to bathhouses in the past year, and casual sex partners with whom they had engaged in unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) as well as whether they had UAI in a public setting. Among men who visit bathhouses, no significant city differences were observed except that there were city differences in where UAI occurred—i.e., San Francisco men were significantly less likely to report UAI in a public place than were men in other cities. The data suggest that different city policies may affect where, but not whether, UAI occurs.

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