It seems both obvious and disgusting: A recent study by the UK sex shop Ann Summers polled 2,000 adults and found that 50 percent "use the gym as a hook-up venue" and that 25 percent have had sex where they squat. The poll also revealed that 20 percent of gym rats have done it with their personal trainers, which 70 percent of women admitted to fantasizing about.
When I asked my own personal trainer about this, he told me about one lady at his old gym: She was married to a muscle-bound gym-goer, but she would always try to hook up with new younger trainers at company parties. She solicited my trainer once, but he said the fear of having his ass kicked by her husband was not worth pursuing it.
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The Ann Summers study also noted that ten percent of people said they carried a condom in their gym bags; many more—66 percent—claimed the idea of having sex at the gym pumped them up during their workout. As far as techniques go, 45 percent of women said they used the cross trainer to attract sweaty sex partners; men commonly used the lat pulldown machines for similar aims.
"I hooked up [at the gym] once and it was random," said John*, a bodybuilder from Northern California. "I saw this girl doing squats in tight spandex. She was looking me up and down and I noticed out of the corner of my eye. That is what sparked it. We went back into the locker room because it was late at night and had a quickie. We did not say much afterwards. I went to take a shower, she did too, and we went our separate ways."
"[The gym] is full of all these people in amazing shape and high testosterone levels," he continued. "Of course [sex] will happen. People in fitness have crazy libidos. I'm a body builder, and when you're lifting hundreds of pounds a day, your sex drive can get immense."
After that incident, the no-sex rule was made.
Tommy Barks has been the operations manager at a gym in San Francisco for almost two years, a position which he said, "means I'm the only person [there] who can read." All the personal trainers at his gym are professional or amateur boxers; one particular trainer named Brandon* was the reason the gym had to implement a "no sex with clients" rule.
"Brandon* lived with a series of women who came to our gym," Barks said. "Rich tech women. He was sort of a kept man. One of the women who used to date him came into the gym, right into a class he was instructing, and started screaming about how he was a liar, that she hated him, and how she hoped he was fucking all his other bitches real good… you get the scene. I had to shoo her out the door. After that incident, the no-sex rule was made."
"I've seen his penis," Barks continued, noting that Brandon changes behind the front desk without thinking anything of it. "I could coil it around my arm."
Barks said he has caught many people masturbating during their workouts, chalking it up to the gym having many "places you could hide." "I opened the door once and found an oily little twerp jerking off and staring so hard at his iPhone I thought it would break," he said. Though, he added, "People shitting their pants after being punched in a boxing session is much more common."
One of the ultimate tales of sex in Barks's gym was when his boss brought a group back for an after-hours orgy. He and another fighter were celebrating a win at the club with bottle service and cocaine, and they met some girls they ended up bringing back to the gym's ring. Yet in spite of all this, Barks laughed at the statistic that claimed a quarter of gym-goers have had sex with other members in the last 12 months.
While risks may seem plentiful—the biggest issue is getting caught by staff, practitioners say, or, of course, passing out from the heat during a sauna session—there are plenty of gyms rumored to be known as hook-up spots. In LA, there's the 24 Hour Fitness on Santa Monica Boulevard or the Crunch on Sunset in West Hollywood.
"The shower at the 24 Hour Fitness in the Castro is just men jerking off, and everyone knows it," Barks said, laughing. "My brother actually got fired for complaining about it. I forgot about that."
At the ripe age of 14, Ricky Paul* used to get his father to drop him off at his local gym in his eastern Canadian town. He would get high and hang out in the sauna and showers, cruising for older men. "[Gay men] are better at non-verbal cruising because we've had to create this kind of subterfuge," Paul explained. "Our sexuality is stigmatized and was criminalized for such a long time."
When you're lifting hundreds of pounds a day, your sex drive can get immense.
"I had a ravenous sexuality by the time I was 12, and I wasn't out of the closet at school or amongst my peers," he continued. "I couldn't find anyone to hook up with at school like everyone else did. The gym is a public space where lots of gays hang out, and then you have the semi-privacy of the locker room, where you can actually hook up. Steam rooms and saunas. And some gyms have much better facilities… opaque shower curtains that are flush to the floor." Paul now regularly works out at a gym near the gay district of town, which he say is a "total meat market."
"If you aren't looking for it, it's invisible," he said.
Jake* agrees about other people's obliviousness. Although he has only hooked up at the gym once, he says the fear of being caught was intense. "It's amazing how someone can just compartmentalize and focus on the pleasure in the moment so it gets done quickly without the fear of being caught ruining the moment," Jake said.
Jane* too has only had sex at a gym once, after hours. She was on a date with an old high school friend who had always had a crush on her. After a lot of drinking, he wanted to take her back to the gym he had just bought. "We ended up in the hot tub, and all I could think of how was many other people had had sex in that hot tub."
Besides admitting he has had sex in every single place he has owned keys to (an idea that makes sense the more times you read it), Barks insists he only had sex with his girlfriend at his gym once, when the doors were officially closed. "I have no idea how anyone would have sex at the gym [while it was open], to be honest," he told me, adding that his gym does not have a group shower area. "A fact I am thankful for everyday."
*Names have been changed.