Aug 16, 2009

Why are IDs required in bathhouses?

In this year-ago blog post by Trey (aka theTripper), there is an implied side question about the necessity of requiring an ID when going to bathhouses. (That blog post’s main topic is not really about that, but the tangential thought is worth exploring.) I’ve also wondered about that and so I hope this blog post can become a discussion point (especially since a bathhouse owner occasionally reads this blog :-)).

So, why does one need to present an ID when going to a local bathhouse? And why does one need to sign for a membership? Every bathhouse that I know of in Metro Manila requires membership. Why is that? In Club Bath’s FAQ we have the following Q&As providing clues:

Can I visit The Club anonymously?

No. In order to comply with city ordinances for private clubs we cannot allow our customers to purchase memberships without identifying themselves.

What do you do with the personal information I give you when I purchase a membership to The Club? Will I receive anything in the mail?

The Club is highly respectful of member privacy and we understand the need for discretion. The information you give us is for our records only and is never shared with third parties. You will never receive anything in the mail.

That actually leaves me with more questions. Why does having to visit a bathhouse be in a form of club membership wherein you have to disclose your personal information (as required by the supposed city ordinances)? Local gay dance clubs, gay bars, and gay massage parlors don’t require membership, so what’s so special about bathhouses? I’ve been to a bathhouse outside the country (I’ll talk about that in a future post) and the only requirement was the entrance fee. For ultra-discreet guys, such form of membership is a big turn-off. What does membership really accomplish?

The first possible answer that comes to mind is that the membership is for security purposes. The problem is, I have no idea what the bathhouse needs to be secure about. Does it ensure that the place doesn’t get raided or that prostitution (which is illegal) is avoided? Well, the incident at QP shows that raids are possible, even if ultimately the reason for the raid (suspected prostitution in the case of QP) is baseless.

So what do you think? Does the thought that you have to show your ID and have your personal details stored in the bathhouse’s database scare you?

Update: Check out rudeboy's comment below. It practically answered everything you need to know! And a clarification: I personally have no issues with the ID requirement but I figured that asking it would benefit those who are apprehensive about such things. :-)


rudeboy wrote on August 17, 2009 at 7:10 AM:

Interesting post, Vince.

As you mentioned,"security" is the oft-cited reason for the need to provide a valid ID when applying for membership in a local bath house.

While the raid on Q was ultimately revealed to be a case of mistaken identity (the cops thought it was a casa), it's still a sad fact that gay establishments are easy prey for local law-enforcement agencies.

I'm unsure if you remember Red Banana - it was a gay dance club not unlike O-Bar, which stands where Red Banana used to be. Aside from the usual hazards of having your cellphone or wallet stolen, Red Banana was often infiltrated by police operatives, who would routinely drag out any clubgoers who were "caught in the act", which was broadly defined as anything from heavy petting to all-out sex on the premises. The charge was usually "public scandal."

While no one in a gay dance club would probably be "scandalized" by such goings-on, the fact remained that Red Banana was a bar open to the public. Hence, the "public" in the "scandal."

Bath houses, on the other hand, require membership, which implies understanding and acceptance of the particular rules and goings-on at these places. Being "membership-only" entities removes the "public" aspect, which to a certain extent negates any "public scandal" charge.

However, just because something is a "members-only" establishment doesn't automatically make it legal. Belaboring the point, one could put up a "members-only" opium den, and all its members on-premise could be rounded up if caught in flagrante committing an illegal act, i.e. smoking opium.

I understand that there are no laws on the Philippine books specifically outlawing homosexual sex between consenting adults (somebody correct me on this if I'm mistaken). By that token, bath houses are not illegal. Some bath houses forbid the use of illegal substances on-premises, though, which I believe is a wise move (all you poppers users out there, be informed that my local police contacts consider amyl nitrate to fall under the "Controlled Substances Act" which means they can bust your chops should they smell that distinctive metallic aroma.)

Bath houses, like any other
establishment,remain subject to other existing local laws and ordinances. This is also why most bath houses ask for your ID: to establish your age. Why? Obviously, having sex with a minor is illegal.

To a good extent, entering a "members-only" establishment affords some measure of protection for gay men. You run less risk of "infiltration" and being "set-up." You also run less risk of being held-up by a hustler or worse, being murdered by him.( All bets are off, naturally, once the both of you leave the premises.)

Of course, common sense should still prevail, even within the confines of a "members-only" establishment. You can still be charged with "assault" should you harass a fellow member, or prosecuted for "vandalism" should you be caught sabotaging a club's facilities.

However, very few "incidents" are ever brought to police attention , not because we as community already do a well-enough job of policing our own ranks, but because of the level of discretion one expects to find in bath houses versus the all-out gay fabulousness to be found in "open" gay venues such as O-Bar, BED, Government, and others.

Yes, one can be nervous about entrusting one's real identity to the membership requirements of a bath house. But any bath house that makes its member list public, by error or design, would only be hurting itself, and surely the proprietors of these clubs are fully aware of that. Hence, the most one gets are annoying text updates which can easily be deleted or ignored.

We're still a very long way from enjoying the same rights as heterosexuals, but even they have to perform their sexual acts in certain designated places.

In the end, I think showing your ID is a small price to pay for the measure of protection you get.

line of flight wrote on August 17, 2009 at 10:05 AM:

if you think ID requirements for bathhouses is silly, consider all of the 19th century Spanish laws used against gay people (which produces the need for an ID requirement in the first place). These convoluted requirements are only necessary because we live in a legal system right out of medieval Spain.

Anonymous wrote on August 17, 2009 at 11:53 AM:

Great post by rudeboy! It is exactly for those reasons why IDs are required.

1) Make sure that you are of legal adult age.

2) private club means no public scandal. Also it means that the authorities would need a search warrant to enter the premises.

3) you sign the membership form to basically say that you know what you are getting yourself into, ie. an establishment that caters to gay men.

I actually went to several bathhouses outside the country and most of them also did ask form my ID (to verify my age) and I signed a couple of forms.... the only one where I didn't have to sign in was in Thailand. Obviously Thailand is more open to the fact....

Vince wrote on August 17, 2009 at 9:35 PM:

Wow, rudeboy, that's not a comment, that's an article! Everything you wrote makes a lot of sense. And yes, I remember Red Banana. :-) I guess we're lucky that we weren't colonized by the British or we would've inherited their sodomy laws making (some forms) of gay sex illegal.

You seem to know a lot of things. Care to share some of them in your blog? The LGBT community could use more information. :-)

line of flight, but I prefer the Spanish colonial system over the British colonial system, at least where gay issues are concerned. :-P

Tony, galing ni rudeboy, ano? :-)

Anonymous wrote on August 17, 2009 at 9:54 PM:

when we first visit the club bath, i try to give bribe to the attendant just to let us in without id, but we failed (siguro nakulangan). the incident gave me good impression not only to the attendant but for the whole establishment as well.

a reader from dubai...

Vince wrote on August 17, 2009 at 10:33 PM:

Dubai reader, seriously? You tried bribing yourself in? Hehehe.

taurus top wrote on August 26, 2009 at 6:17 PM:

Why the ID?
May I take this opportunity of sharing real stories inside the bath house in reference to your concern on IDs.

Case 1 = Mr. A & Mr. B (Couple) decided to go together in a bath house...whatever their decision/understanding/agreement of meeting up with other men are their business, right?
BUT, Mr. A got jealous and couldnt control himself upon witnessing Mr B playing up with just anybody inside the Club, Mr A punched Mr B in the nose, in return, Mr B fought back by breaking a bottle of beer and slashed Mr. A with it, Yes a battle of stamina and strenght, but a bloodied outcome for both parties...
So Mr A and Mr B are both banned from the Club (of course, their names were on record.)

Case 2 = Mr T has been a regular and a frequent bath house attendee. The problem is whenever Mr T gets drunk. Mr T always annoys other members
But a thing about Mr T. he gets what he wants no matter what.
One time, Mr T was pursuing this young and handsome member inside the club, but the young lad refused his advances, Mr T doesnt take "No" for an answer so Mr T forcibly fought the young lad leaving the young lad shouting for help, bruised et all. Mr T was banned from the Club. But Mr T kept on coming back to the Club hoping his name would be out of the list. No. Mr T is still banned from the Club.

Security not just for the Club's legitimacy but as well as for the members protection from rude people.

Vince wrote on August 27, 2009 at 1:58 AM:

taurus top, thanks for providing your perspective! Your stories certainly show one good benefit in having a members registry. I'm just shocked that these two incidents really happened.

Just a question: are you connected with E? Your username sounds familiar.

taurus top wrote on August 28, 2009 at 6:15 PM:

hi vince,

is taurus top connected with E?
is my username sound familiar?

Ting!! You won the jackpot!!

i have become an avid reader of your as one of the guests of E introduced and told me about your reviews of E, since then, i have constantly updating my awareness of whats happening in the PLU community. i have always believe in learning from other people's experiences and heart-felt scenarios and it helps when you are living in a colorful world.

keep it up, vince..
perhaps we might have crossed paths somewhere?
lets chat some more because life is beautiful.

Vince wrote on August 29, 2009 at 1:52 AM:

taurus top, who knows, maybe we have already seen each other in E, hehe. Thanks for reading! I always like hearing nice things and encouragement from my readers. :-)

EsTeFaN wrote on August 31, 2009 at 9:21 AM:

wow,nice post!!!!

Jonny wrote on October 30, 2010 at 8:38 AM:

here in the states all bathhouses require a Picture ID to get in.
The only place I have seen make exception to the picture ID rule is a few of the baths in Toronto.
In Vancouver, BC for security one of the gay bars takes your picture as you enter the bar!

Vince (Discreet Manila) wrote on October 30, 2010 at 1:11 PM:

@Jonny, that's interesting. Thanks for sharing! So do they only require an ID? There is no need to become a "member"?

Anonymous wrote on October 1, 2015 at 10:26 PM:

You can never go wrong with clubhouses/establishments that require a Photo-ID (especially a government-issued Photo ID)! Such protocol is second to none (prolly because I haven't tried any outside of The Werehouse and Club Bath, lol). Safety and Security should still be taken into prime consideration when one wants to have black-out fun, if you know what I mean...winks* As for me, Club Bath is still a safe and snug place I frequent whenever I feel the need to chill!