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The Gay Sex Club Next to the Vatican Is the Saddest Place on Earth

By Mitchell Sunderland


Screenshot from the Europa Multiclub website

Last month, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica discovered that the Vatican had paid $35 million for an apartment block housing the Europa Multiclub, which calls itself the “number-one gay sauna in Italy.” The media used the story as another example of the Catholic Church being so obviously gay that they should just come on out and admit it. As a former Catholic schoolboy who believed in God till I saw Hugh Jackman in The Boy from Oz, a Broadway musical about Liza Minnelli’s first gay husband, I wasn’t surprised. I remember my school’s baseball coach sexually assaulting students and my first-grade teaching assistant nearly losing her job after she had an alleged lesbian make-out session with a PE coach—Catholics and shady sex shenanigans go together like red wine and wafers.

Naturally, when I visited Rome recently, the Multiclub was on my sightseeing list, though I was a little nervous. The last time I had been in a bathhouse was my senior year of high school, when my friend Diva D and I went to one in Miami. We ran out of the building after 20 minutes because a guy claiming to be Gloria Estefan’s “background dancer” shoved Diva D, naked, into a locker. I’ve never forgotten the horror. Luckily, the sex club, as well as the Vatican-owned apartments, were located in Salustiano, a nice (read: bourgie) area that didn’t seem like it would hold any insane gays.

After a few minutes of procrastination, I swallowed my fear and buzzed the Multiclub’s entrance. A Tarzan look-alike wearing nothing but a white towel appeared and gave me a once-over—to see if I was hot enough, maybe?—then opened the front door.

Inside, I joined the line behind businessmen in suits carrying backpacks—the postwork closet-case crowd was just arriving, I guess—and examined the portrait behind the receptionist of two gay men jerking each other off in an empty disco, until the receptionist shouted at me in Italian.

“I only speak English,” I explained. “I’m an American on vacation.” Silence.

He looked at Tarzan as if I had said I were Amanda Knox visiting Rome to murder a few sodomites.

“So you’re new?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“That’ll be 26 euros.”

The website said the club only cost 13 euros, but I handed him cash, anyway; in return, he gave me a pile of paper thicker than the documents I had presented to enter Italy. “Sign this,” he said. The contract stipulated that to enter any Roman gay club, men must pay a membership fee and agree to keep the identities of the patrons a secret. Each member receives a card and must turn in the card upon entrance. The club returns the card to the patron when he leaves.

Once I handed over the paperwork, an Asian twink in a tank top approached me from across the lobby. He presented me with flip-flops and led me into a locker room blasting the Bee Gees. While the twink sang “How Deep is Your Love” and sprayed disinfectant over any surface he could find, I looked around the room at grown men removing their suits and young guys slipping out of their sweaty boxers. Strangers looking for cocks to suck surrounded me. I had entered a reality similar to the gay pornos I watched as a teen—men gathered here to have sex with other men they didn’t even know—and I felt my nervousness evaporate. I was no longer afraid. I was just down to fuck.

The only question was who. I looked at the dozen naked men in front of orange lockers. A gorgeous jock putting on a wifebeater caught my attention—as did the drop of semen resting above his lip. If only he weren’t leaving…

I ran downstairs in nothing but a towel and flip-flops to search for his equivalent. I passed a man who could have been his clone in the bar that was playing VH1 Classic on a plasma TV, but he looked past my male gaze to assign his male gaze to someone else’s bum. I left the bar, hoping to find a lean twink, but instead entered a dark maze of long hallways leading to more doors—one of them was open, revealing a fat hairy dude lying on a bed jacking off to porn that sounded like Tim Allen screaming at his kids on Home Improvement. I had entered the Bear Zone advertised on the site.

Another door led me into a completely dark sauna. I took off my towel and sat down. A hand rubbed my leg. “No, no, no,” I said. “I can’t see your face.” He moved his leg closer to my cock; I ran out of the room and down another hallway, like a gay Alice exploring a Wonderland of cock.

This hallway led to a hallway full of water: a giant bathtub. Naked men leaned against blue Plexiglas that reminded me of stained-glass windows and Epcot’s the Living Seas exhibit. Again, I removed my towel and headed toward the action, though I could barely see without my glasses and tripped over a stair. I watched the hot clone walk past me and enter the water, which was no doubt at least 10 percent precum. I followed him into the pool, but he shook his head beneath a waterfall flowing from a wall and ignored me as he watched a bear sit on another bear’s cock.

I left the pool and hid in the group shower next door. Washing the dirty water off me, I noticed an old dude checking out my ball sack. I ignored him the way the clone ignored me, dried off, and then collapsed on a beach chair in the hallway. From a speaker hidden in a wall, Penny and the Quarters’ “You and Me” played. Since like Disney’s It’s A Small World ride, hidden speakers blast the same songs in every room, I walked around the club singing along, although the lyrics seemed like a mockery of my situation: “If the stars don’t shine/ If the moon won’t rise/ If I never see the setting sun again/You won't hear me cry... As long as there is/ You and me.”

As late afternoon turned into evening and I continued to fail to find a suitable partner, I saw more men experiencing “me” time than “you and me” time. A fat guy lay on his back in the sauna lifting his leg up and down as he jacked off; in the bar a man sang along with “I’m Like a Bird” as it played on VH1. I would make fun of their loneliness, but I wasn’t any less desperate—soon, I was forsaking my No Fatties rule and heading to the Bear Zone. There, on a couch, I found my beloved clone alone, masturbating because even he couldn’t find a guy he wanted who wanted him back.

I wasn’t getting laid, so I decided to leave, but on my way to the locker room, I saw the back of a guy whose body looked like David Beckham’s H&M ads—needless to say, I followed him through a door.

He sat on a couch naked, touching his seven-inch cock as he watched three different porn movies playing on screens mounted on the wall. I sat down next to him and started to masturbate. He moved closer to me on the couch and then turned toward me, and my dick fell limp. He had David Beckham’s body, all right—and the face of Anna Nicole Smith’s dead husband. Unsure how to reject a naked senior citizen, I continued to touch myself, but my penis refused to cooperate. I shook my head; he jacked off harder. “No,” I said. He increased his wanking speed to the point where I worried his dick might fall off. “No,” I repeated. He kept jacking off and looking at me. A tear formed in the corner of his eye.

Filled with old-school Catholic guilt for hurting a stranger, I fled the room. I needed to confess or cleanse myself. In other words, I needed to leave the club. But as Mary McCarthy said in Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, even lapsed Catholics still act like Catholics, finding pleasure in the pointless and returning to institutions that hurt them, hoping for good to come—I went back to the hallway full of water in search of my ideal young man. But all the guys there were alone and miserable.

Several minutes of fruitless self-pity later, I spotted Anna Nicole Smith’s husband approaching another twink with his erect dick. Right then, I understood why it made perfect sense for the Catholic Church to own apartments next to a gay sex club. Like theme parks, churches and sex clubs both sell fantasies. And fantasies never come true. They just break hearts.

@mitchsunderland

More gay stuff from Mitchell:

Beauty and the Plague

Trying to Understand the English Gays at Oxford

I’m a Homo but I Loved Having Sex with This Robotic Pussy

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