A gay British former soldier has said if LGBT people want equality and respect, gay saunas should be shut down.
James Wharton, a former army pal of Prince Harry’s, have said saunas promote homophobia and undermine gains in equality.
Writing in Winq magazine, he said: ‘Sex saunas need to be history. The time has come to close them down.’
Wharton said if gay people want to be respected and accepted as ‘the new normal’, the community must stop supporting establishments that encourage promiscuity and sex.
‘[Saunas are] thorns in our side that mark our community as different for the wrong reasons,’ he said.
‘If we don’t, we feed the haters and we hand the bigots who remain a vocal minority ammunition with which to attack us.’
He added: ‘For me as a gay man, the notion that there exist within our communities a series of places that actively promote the convening of gay men for participation in sex of shades various and in groups of all sizes rather revolts me – and I‘ve been round the block a few times, believe me.
‘I’m no prude, not even close, but the days when we gathered in clandestine fashion for the want of a network or a sexual outlet are surely long gone.’
Wharton referenced a recent case when a man was found dead in a Manchester gay sauna lying in his own excrement.
On Twitter, Wharton answered his critics after he was asked if whether he also supported the closure of straight saunas. He replied that he did.
Jason Warriner, the clinical director for Terrence Higgins Trust, told The Independent closing saunas could hamper the spreading of safe sex messages while having little impact on behaviour.
‘However it would make it more difficult for organizations like Terrence Higgins Trust to provide safer sex information, supply condoms and deliver HIV testing services among groups at increased risk of sexually transmitted infections and HIV,’ he said.
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said using a sauna was an individual’s choice – whether they were straight or gay.
‘It would be very wrong if the gay community became proscriptive and moralistic over consenting adult behavior,’ he said.
‘Plenty of gay and bisexual men use saunas without resorting to drugs or unsafe sex. A small minority may act recklessly and that should be challenged but it would be wrong to penalize the majority.’