A new memoir shares secrets from this hidden gay male subculture. Jameson Farn previews his book, Bathhouse Babylon, below.
In the middle of March 2021, announcements continued to be made practically every week in regards to what restrictions were about to be added or stay the same for us in France due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This meant our curfews were going to stay in place and most of the shops continued to be closed again for an extended time period along with a 10km radius for travel. Basically, the government wanted everyone to stop movement as much as possible to protect against the spread of the virus while vaccinations continued to increase.
Fortunately, my work has kept me busy taking care of clients’ requests from around the world, if not for now, then in the near future once borders start opening up again. Although I work a minimum of 12 hours a day, pretty much every day of the year, I still felt like I had some time to take on another project, and what better time than during a pandemic? This book has been in the back of my mind for years and had always been encouraged by others to pursue, so that is what I have done.
Bathhouse Babylon tells a true, in-depth account of my former work and life in the gay saunas of North America.
At that time, I managed three gay bathhouses as they are called here in Europe, over an extensive number of years. I wanted to tell a story that is more of a behind-the-scenes, insider’s scoop on the inner workings of the bathhouse industry.
During various times, I kept diaries as a way to navigate what was taking place, no matter the emotion (and there were plenty), and as it was happening. I had a gut feeling it would at some point be useful in the future, most of all to see how I have grown as an individual.
You can’t have a bathhouse without sex so of course, there are extraordinary sex stories in the book but there is more to bathhouses than just the sex.
When you work in bathhouses, the bullshit is stripped away, quite literally at times. There is a whole social dynamic about it all that much of the outside world is not privy to and which is absolutely fascinating to observe and be surrounded by at all times. You see how men maneuver in that environment on a daily basis, for the most part simply because of their unending sexual desire, which motivates men, whether it is to their benefit or not.
I wasn’t sure how I would feel working on my first book, but it’s been one of the most enjoyable projects in my life and seemed to flow naturally, which is easy to do when you’re telling the truth.
Writing the book has brought back every emotion of that time, both good and bad, and it’s felt extremely cathartic in many ways. It’s given me the gift of clarity in being able to see how I was then, how I have grown, and to be able to realize how much of it has actually helped prepare me for my life in France and my work in the luxury real estate world.
It’s taught me how to observe everything at all times, negotiate better, navigate scenarios through strategic thinking, know when to speak up, know when to have decorum, and best of all, know how to deal with bullshitters. There will be things in this book that will shock people but also make them laugh, feel sad, infuriated, or entertained. But it’s all part of our history.
Read a few excerpts from Bathhouse Babylon below!
We had this one customer everyone thought of as a total sweetheart, who was also quite the opposite of the image he was projecting. He was into fist fucking sessions, and we were to learn he was more so into getting fisted than doing the actual fisting so we called him, “Five-Finger Charlie.”
Five-Finger Charlie used to come into the bathhouse early on Friday evenings or Sunday afternoons. He was about 6’1”, was probably in his mid-forties, had been around the block a few times so he could look about 55 years old. Average body, and had a Daddy/Leatherman look, wearing subtle, cheap-looking colorful bracelets, a receding hairline, a long, dark greyish goatee, and had a following of men that seemed to admire him.
At first sight, you would think he’d come off all gruff and tough, even by the way he walked but as soon as he opened his mouth his voice was very light and airy. Like butterflies were fluttering out of his mouth.
He was always polite and got to know us very well so he would stop and have frequent conversations with members of the staff at the snack counter while drinking a cup of coffee and of course like most chats in a bathhouse, the talk always leads back to sex at some point.
Five-Finger Charlie fancied himself as a fisting expert and for some reason would feel the need to either verbally give us a fisting lesson of sorts with his hands or tell us fisting stories, whether we wanted to hear about it or not.
We gave him the nickname “Five-Finger Charlie” as he would always start showing us his version of a fisting lesson with his arm coming towards us in the air the same way, while telling us how you have to slowly open a man up with lube, with lots of love and intention.
Five-Finger Charlie would tell us you have to really feel the man, learn to move with his body, go in with one finger, then slowly graduate up to two fingers as he continues to dilate, throw in some twirling to increase the circumference until you got your whole pointed hand of fingers, including the thumb, tucked in towards the palm, then you’ve really worked your way in to give the participant the ultimate in orgasmic pleasures.
Both shocking and amusing, somehow the way he told his stories made you want to hear more even while placing your hand over your mouth while wondering… What the fuck?
If you just arrived on shift, you always knew if Five-Finger Charlie was in the house, because eventually, you would hear him shouting demands from his favorite Room 118 to his new lover while getting fisted with some high-pitched screams thrown in for good measure over the music in the club.
Drag Queen Story
One such morning at about 4:30 am, one of the well-known local drag queens showed up. Still half in her gear, she quickly transformed herself into her rented room and emerged with just a towel on, followed by removing her makeup at one of the sinks with the remnants of the evening smeared across her towel barely draping around her thick waist.
The drag queen’s first visit was then to the steam room where she was followed inside by a group of admirers, after she had enough of that room, a small team of men followed her into the big jacuzzi where another show of sorts was to take place. Here, sitting on the edge of the bubbling pool of hot water, wet, naked, enamored men were climbing over each other (which then led to more sex acts) while basically getting as close as possible to ravage the drag queen’s huge cock until he busted his load on to them.
Leave it to a drag queen to get the party rolling. The place was finally coming alive with the party even trickling down into what was previously a largely vacant gloryhole area most of the evening.
You could see the look of relief on men’s faces after their release as they were finally feeling like all this time spent in the place was worth it, even if the sex was not the greatest, at least they got off in some regard and now they could all zip up and head home for the night, as per the routine.
Bathhouse Babylon is available on Amazon and other major online book retailers.
About the author:
Originally from Canada, Jameson Farn resided for a number of years in the Cote d’Azur region close to the Principality of Monaco. For over the past decade, Jameson has contributed articles for several European and North American online magazines along with his blog, Gay French Riviera, aimed at those in the LGBTQ community that either lives in or are seeking to travel to this region in France.