When it comes to talking about gay saunas and their history, we often run into a lot of clichés that are not always very positive. Yet the history of gay spas around the world is one of the most important in the emancipation of men of all sexual orientations. As part of the major issues of the magazine, I decided to invite Mathieu Guy, general manager of the Oasis Montreal sauna, to give us his vision of a modern sauna and the future of this type of establishment in our communities.
But first of all, it is necessary to put in context the gay saunas that do not date from the seventies in Montreal as many think, but more than a century. At the beginning of the 1900s in Montreal, there were already more than 15 establishments, spas, saunas, popular baths reserved for men according to the schedule of the week. Very popular, they have diversified and some have specialized only for a male clientele to the point where in the greater Montreal area, in the 80s, there were 22. « When I started my new job at the Oasis 8 years ago, I came up with my preconceptions and clichés about what I thought was a men’s sauna, but I soon realized that I was far from having a clear picture of the establishment. I thought that the activities and the clientele were very sexualized, a bit like a gay bar where everyone would go for a towel, but no, I discovered that the sauna was a place of socialization and human exchange for the vast majority of customers.
Some people come here to relax after a long day of work, take a hot whirlpool bath or get the toxins out of the steam bath, and others come squarely during their working hours, during the day, to socialize, chat with friends or regular , talk about everything and nothing while being in an environment that promotes relaxation « , explains Mathieu Guy. « Others come to the Oasis to meet, to flirt and it is the security aspect of the places that interest them », as explained by the boiling and passionate manager of the place, since the advent of social networks and dating apps, many men are reluctant to give their address to strangers. The Oasis becomes even more relevant in 2019 when it offers the possibility of meeting in a sort of private club with controlled access, in security, while allowing anonymity.
Mathieu has done many transformations at the Oasis, partly thanks to a dedicated customer service staff, his oldest employee has 34 years of service, and when I ask him to tell me what would be an ideal sauna according to him , he replied that his dream would be to provide an ultimate experience to the customers who would find in his establishment all the necessary services to a total relaxation like a bar, a restaurant, a hotel service, a complete spa section, a little like if the customer boarded a luxury cruise. « We are slowly moving towards this with our renovations and our work, there will still be changes to come that will make the Oasis a sort of exclusive club, » adds Mathieu.
More than ever, gay men’s spas provide personal fulfillment for men who can not always fully experience what they are, for a variety of reasons. « I’m very happy to have been able to talk about this topic in Gay Globe Magazine, and to have been able to help store old clichés about our type of business, » concludes Mathieu, who has been a member of the Gay Globe Magazine family since several years.