Main Street's sex club: Eros celebrates 21 years in business

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Porn shot within Eros' walls, in front of Eros' walls.
ALL GUARDIAN PHOTOS BY CAITLIN DONOHUE

A few things that you may not know about Eros, the 21-year old sex club with the unassuming, rainbow-flagged façade that stands across the street from the Castro Safeway strip mall. One: it is hosting an art show on Thu/11 open to all to attend (perfect for female-identified folks interested in checking out the space, or at least the front room). Two, boundary-breaking trans-cis male porn is made there.

"Transmen were not being reached out to with the safe sex message," says Eros' owner Ken Rowe, a snuggly looking bear sitting on a leather couch in the club's comfy front room. T-Wood Pictures, the club's in-house porn company, now shoots new content once or twice a month with varying combinations of trans and cis men.

New elliptical machine!

Another point of fact: "The original founders wanted this to be a community center sex club," he says. Co-founder Buzz Bense wanted a "Main Street sex club," says Rowe. "Not with neon lights going 'LIVE BOYS.' They wanted it to look respectable, shame-free. Now we're much more like a spa -- we're a traditional bathhouse. It's not dark and dirty, poppers wafting through the air."

Eros opens at noon seven days a week, and the first few hours of the day management promotes it as more of a "sex-positive day spa," says Rowe.

>>LEARN MORE ABOUT EROS' TRANS PROGRAMMING IN KELLY LOVEMONSTER'S SFBG INTERVIEW WITH EROS STAFF MEMBER (AND RECENTLY NAMED TRANS 100 HONOREE) NIKO KOWELL

Today, male-identified customers can take yoga and tai chi classes before hitting the club's sauna, showers, and steam room. Elliptical machines sit nearby us, the club's newest attractions. Community groups like Homobiles hold business meetings in the space. Potted plants sit happily on a cute little smoking deck on the other side of glass sliding doors.

A licensed massage therapist provides much-needed muscle work to customers, which was especially important back in the early days of the club, when the Police Department was in charge of licensing massage therapists in sex clubs (that duty has since been transferred to the Department of Public Health, though SFPD still must approve licenses.) Eros is the only sex club with a licensed massage therapist, to the best of Rowe's knowledge, in Northern California.

"They wanted the club to be about more than just sex, they wanted a space where you could learn about safer sex in a non-threatening manner. You know, without being jumped on," Rowe tells me.

 

One of Loren Bruton's "Bathhouse Men"

Loren Bruton's drawings line one side of the common room, aggregations of the Eros clientele that he sees every day as the club's general manager. Eros hosts a yearly staff art show, an event that reflects the overlapping communities of artists and sex workers in the hyper-expensive Bay Area. This week, a reception will be held to celebrate Bruton's collection that doubles as a birthday party for Eros' decades of community involvement.

"I like that I can be myself here," Bruton says. "It's nice to have a sense of community someplace that is sex-positive. I wanted to represent that this is a diverse group in terms of age, race, sexual identity." For a club that's spent years reworking our vision of what a Main Street business can be, the renderings make for perfect poster children.

"Bathhouse Men" Eros birthday celebration

Thu/11, 7-10pm, free

Eros

2051 Market, SF

www.erossf.com

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