Sevdaliza Syncs With Super Blue Moon On New Track ‘Soul Syncable’

Dutch-Iranian singer, songwriter and alt-pop star Sevdaliza announced today that she’s embarking on a world tour and shared a first taste of her forthcoming sophomore album: a track called “Soul Syncable.”

Her next music project will follow her debut effort, Ison, which brought us such spellbinding tracks as Human, Marilyn Monroe, and Bluecid.

Listen to Soul Syncable below and on all streaming platforms here.

Turns Out Coachella Co-Owner Has Donated Even More Money to Anti-LGBT Groups

Coachella co-owner Philip Anschutz is back under scrutiny for his donations to anti-LGBT groups. News about his donations first broke earlier in January, and now music news site Pitchfork has obtained the latest tax filings of the Anschutz Foundation. The filing details the dispersal of $63.7 million in grants, some of which went to known anti-LGBT groups. Pitchfork reported that the foundation did, however, stop giving to the groups that were at the center of the first controversy Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Research Council and National Christian Foundation.

Pitchfork found that the foundation gave $40,000 to the Navigators in November 2016. According to a 2013 document on their website lists being LGBTQ along with incest and sexual abuse as behaviors leading to “sexual brokenness.”

In the same month, $50,00 went to Dare 2 Share Ministries founder Greg Stier, who wrote in a 2008 blog post that “homosexuality is a Satanic perversion of God’s gift of sex.”

The group gave $185,000 twice in 2016 to Young Life, a Christian youth ministry who restricted anyone who is “sexually active outside of a heterosexual marriage relationship” from working or volunteering for them. They gave $25,000 to the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, whose founder Star Parker equated the LGBTQ pride flag with the Confederate flag. Parker has also said same-sex marriage and legal abortion show that the US is “sick.” The foundation also gave $25,000 to the Movieguide Awards, which reviews movies based on their “homosexual worldview.”

In a statement to Pitchfork, Anschutz’s lawyers reaffirmed “the commitment we made at that time that The Anschutz Foundation would not knowingly fund any organization that would support anti-LGBTQ initiatives.”

The statement said the foundation is in an ongoing review of the organizations it supports. “The Foundation receives requests for donations from thousands of organizations every year and donates to approximately 800 entities annually. If our systems have failed to identify some activities that we do not support, we will stop funding those organizations as we learn more,” the statement reads.

Kathy Griffin Says She ‘Loved’ Anderson Cooper, Past Tense

Kathy Griffin opens up about her relationship with Anderson Cooper for the first time in months (or maybe days or yearsI don’t even know anymore, this feud has a timeline all its own) in an intimate new profile in The Hollywood Reporter.

Going behind the gates of Griffin’s “secluded” Bel Air mansion, Senior Writer Seth Abramovitch finds out what the self-identified “D-List” comedian has been up to since she posed for those photos where she’s holding a mock-Donald Trump’s mock-decapitated mock-head and was thrust into months of fallout from the decision, which led to cancelled gigs and ruined friendships.

Griffin, rightly so, believes that the reaction to her photos was both over-the-top and sexist in degree.

“I didn’t commit a crime,” she told Abramovitch. “I didn’t rape anybody. I didn’t assault anybody. I didn’t get a DUI. I mean, my God, there are celebrities that fucking kill people.”

“When you’re a woman, you get one fuckup, and it’s over. When you’re a guy, you get chance after chance after chance,” she said.”

One person who didn’t give Griffin a second chance was news anchor Anderson Cooper, her longtime friend and co-host on CNN’s annual New Year’s Eve broadcast special. The two have not spoken since last May, according to Abramovitch, and it doesn’t look like they’ll make up any time soon.

“We were close. I loved him,” she said, emphasis on the past tense. “I really loved him.”

On the upside, Kathy and her boyfriend, Randy Bick, had a lot of fun hate-watching her replacement, Watch What Happens Live’s Andy Cohen.

“We turned it on, and she was like, ‘This is a dumpster fire,’” Bick said.

Head on over to The Hollywood Reporter to read the rest of the profile, which includes incredibly off-topic but vital information like the fact that convicted murderer Erik Menendez painted a portrait of Griffin, mailed it to her from prison, and now it’s hanging on a wall in her home.

A Different Kind of Cabo – Ditch the Parties, Hit the Spas

For those of us on the west coast, Cabo San Lucas is one of those destinations we are all familiar with. Either a friend had a destination wedding there or you spent spring break there partying on the beach.

For others, it’s a yearly tradition, which is why vacation ownership in Cabo is one of the most desired places to own in this part of the world. For my trip, I was looking forward to the food, the beach, and, of course, the famous Arch of Cabo San Lucas.

And what I was most looking forward to avoiding were the massive beach parties and crowds, that’s why I chose to head down in late fall, when things are still busy, but party season isn’t in effect.

Since my trip would mostly be focused on luxury resorts and spas, I didn’t want to spoil myself alone, so I enlisted fellow INTO travel writer, Miles, to endure a torturous week of hotel suites, massages, and cabanas.

At the start of the trip, I’m pretty sure he was convinced that he would somehow get me off property more than once, you know…to go and explore the town or do something adventurous. His initial efforts failed and by day two, he wasn’t even asking anymore.

When you’re staying at some of the best resorts in Cabo that have everything and anything you need, why would you ever leave? In all seriousness though, there are great things to see and do outside of the resorts, but for the sake of factual reporting, I decided that we needed to stay put, outside of a quick private boat trip to the arch one morning. Below are the properties that played host to our time down south.

Hacienda Beach Club & Residences

After landing, the drive is about an hour to Cabo San Lucas, and I couldn’t wait to arrive at Hacienda, as the property only has “residences” which come in one to four bedroom layouts, as well as four bedroom villas.

Our one bedroom ocean view residence was extra large and included a full kitchen, dining area, and living space. The bathroom came with an impressive tub for two and a hidden washer & dryer, which is always my favorite comfort in a hotel.

The spa at Hacienda is quaint, in a good way. The services were just as described and the attendants were experienced and accommodating. Next door, the fitness and movement rooms, where Miles spent his time, are equipped with up to date equipment and offer complimentary fitness classes.

We also happened to be in town during the Los Cabos International Film Festival and since one of the main parties was held on property, as guests, we were allowed to attend. The evening of the big party, the resort was transformed and by midnight, it was the place to be and be seen.

We decided to go because although we were looking to avoid the parties, this one was in another league, and we spent time there looking for celebrities (our radars failed us) while guzzling mezcal cocktails, which conveniently became the liquor of choice for the trip.

Esperanza

One of two Auberge Resorts in Cabo, Esperanza was our second stop and boy, did they step it up for us. The arrival to the open-air lobby (in all fairness, all the properties we visited have open-air lobbies) left us breathless.

I walked out of the private car and after being handed my welcome drink, I shut out the world around me and just walked towards the edge of the property, where I took in the view of the ocean below us. We were then informed that our suite wasn’t ready just yet, so we were escorted to a poolside cabana where we indulged in mezcal and guacamole because…Mexico.

Once our suite was ready, much to our surprise, we were led to the Penthouse Suite, a 2,000 sq. foot indoor/outdoor space with private elevator, infinity edge hot tub, 180-degree panoramic ocean views, as well as butler service. In our minds, at the moment, we were in heaven.

That is…until we went to the spa.

We each had separate treatments but spent time together pre and post massage in the incredible outdoor relaxation space. Before leaving, we jumped in the hot tub with our fresh fruit smoothies and compared notes about our services.

The only thing we could think of to do afterwards was to continue the hot tub party on the penthouse balcony, so we did. We were escorted back to our suite by our butler who then popped a bottle open and set up a lovely experience for us to enjoy before our late-night dinner.

Chileno Bay

Next up was the second Auberge Resort, and also Cabo’s newest resort. The vibe here was definitely different from Esperanza, where things were very private and relaxing.

At Chileno Bay, the music was turned up and TnT (tacos and tequila), the poolside bar, was anxious to keep everyone happy with their incredible menu of food and drinks. It also happened to be our first stop after checking in.

The infinity pools at this property seemed endless as there were layered, one above another. The guest rooms were large in size and modern in design. Minimalistic but with everything one would need, each with a private terrace and sliding glass doors that opened up the space beautifully.

Not to be outdone by its sister property, the spa at Chileno Bay was also remarkable. The outdoor space included a pool and tranquil relaxing area. If those tacos at TnT weren’t so good, I’d have spent more time enjoying the facilities, but alas, my stomach led me back to the tacos.

And speaking of food, COMAL, the resort’s signature restaurant had me in a food coma after my experience there. I’d best describe it as overportioned Latin American comfort food, hands down, the best meal of the trip.

The Resort at Pedregal

Another extremely private property, we were thrilled upon arriving but a little disheartened, only because it was the last stop of our luxury tour of Cabo. We may not have seen any celebrities at the film festival party, but we just barely missed one at The Resort at Pedregal.

An A-list celebrity, once married to another top gun A-lister, who was in town to receive an award, had just checked out hours before, and we were going to be staying in the same suite!

The three bedroom ocean view suite was large enough to accommodate a massive family, yet it was all ours. The living room led out to a balcony with a barbeque, dining table for six, and private hot tub and plunge pool, which overlooked the resort.

The highlight of this place was the afternoon delivery of complementary guacamole, chips, and beer each day, something we looked forward to each day. There are two incredible restaurants to choose from, Don Manuel’s and El Farallon, the latter being built into the famous cliffs that make up the property.

The local catch is displayed each night for guests to select from, which helps make it one of the best sea-to-table experiences in Cabo.

Luna y Mar Spa offers 10 private treatment rooms, some which open up to a private swimming pool for spa guests.

Beginning with a foot washing ritual in a circular room, the spa experience here is one that you wish would never end, and it doesn’t have to, as the relaxation area comes with an array of areas to enjoy afterwards, including restaurant service (sans alcohol), which encourages guests to stay longer.

Everyone I know who loves Cabo has a different tale and experience to tell. There are the regulars who enjoy their vacation ownerships, massages in palapas on the beach, and dining out in various local restaurants.

Others love to party it up in crowded clubs or rooftops. And then there are those who only sleep in Cabo while spending the rest of their time venturing out beyond city limits to see more of nature and local culture. Then of course, there are travelers like myself, who want to be pampered in luxury resorts, never having to leave them.

No matter which way appeals to you most, Cabo San Lucas is one of those places that everyone should experience and discover for themselves. I’d personally recommend the luxury route, but to each their own.

If anything, at least pop by for some spa time.

Indonesia May Outlaw Homosexuality in Proposal Banning Premarital Sex

Conservative lawmakers in Indonesia are weighing an update the country’s criminal code critics say could enforce harsh punishments on homosexuality.

A proposed bill would amend the Indonesian Criminal Code to outlaw sex outside of marriage, a longtime wish of local Islamist groups. The existing code does not prohibit cohabitation or premarital relations, although adultery is forbidden in some states. The Indonesian Supreme Court rejected a petition to ban relations between unmarried persons in December.

The punishment, if the new code is enacted, would reportedly be up to five years in prison.

Advocates warn the update may adversely affect the LGBTQ community. The Indonesian government does not recognize same-sex unions, meaning that all gay sex is conducted outside of marriage.

Lawmaker Arsul Sani, who co-authored the new criminal code, confirmed in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the policy changes would apply to LGBTQ people. He claimed homosexuality would be “considered the same as adultery, where men and women having sex outside marriage can be considered a crime.”

Sani refers to same-sex relations as “basically a forbidden act.”

Local activist Dede Oetomo claims that under the new criminal code, law enforcement officials would have an unprecedented license to raid the homes of anyone suspected to be LGBTQ or any space where queer and transgender people congregate.

“The police can actually go into any place they think has a ‘sex party’ or an ‘orgy,’ and they have a reason to detain them,” Oetomo tells INTO in an interview.

“If you’re in the wrong room at the wrong time, you might end up in jail,” he adds.

Under Indonesian law, sexual relations are currently legal between consenting adults of the same gender except in four circumstances: 1) the intercourse involves either violence or threats of violence; 2) the encounter is broadcast to the public; 3) it’s sold as pornography; or 4) the interaction takes place in public.

Even under the standing guidelines, police are often known to target queer and trans people under vague claims of violating “morality laws.”

Law enforcement officials accused 58 men arrested in an October 2017 sting on a Jakarta bathhouse of “pornography” and “prostitution.” The detainees, which included several foreign nationals, were charged with up to six years behind bars.

LGBTQ advocates say any action on the part of Indonesia’s government to further stigmatize local queer and trans communities could have grave effects.

“It’s going to fuel the rise of intolerant conservative groups using morality narratives to attack the LGBTQ community, including transgender people,” Amnesty International Indonesia Director Usman Hamid tells INTO. “Conservative politiciansat all levelsmight issue policies or bylaws criminalizing LGBTQ people for being gay, for how they look, and how they love, not committing crimes.”

“It’s going to undermine the state of freedom and democracy in Indonesia,” he continues.

Indonesia’s population likely can’t afford any more discrimination than it already faces. Oetomo cites statistics from Human Rights Watch claiming that more than 400 LGBTQ people have been arrested in the past year and a half as the government, which historically tolerated queer and trans people, has taken a hard turn to the right.

Should the new code be enacted, the advocacy group estimates “millions” risk detention.

“Getting arrested by the Indonesian police is not a pretty sight,” claims Oetomo, who cites widespread reports of police brutality in the Muslim majority nation. “It’s not a good situation.”

Debates over an update to the Indonesian Criminal Code coincide with the arrest of a dozen transgender women in the semi-independent province of Aceh. The women were apprehended over the weekend in a raid on beauty salons, one of the few vocations open to the country’s “waria” population (the local term for trans people).

After cutting off their hair, police forced arrestees into a conversion therapy program intended to teach them “how to behave like men.” Called “Operation Anti Moral Illness,” the lessons include chanting “until their male voices [come] out.”

“We want to change their mentality so they can be better people,” North Aceh Police Chief Ahmad Untung Surianata told media.

More than 200 people were caned in Aceh between the years of 2015 and 2016 under the province’s harsh enforcement of Sharia law. Last year, two men were publicly flogged more than 85 times after locals accused them of engaging in same-sex intercourse. During their punishment, onlookers screamed to beat them harder.

Advocates questioned, however, whether increased punishments against LGBTQ people would be supported by members of the general population.

A recent survey released by the Saiful Mujani Research Centre found that while Indonesians almost universally oppose homosexuality, they are supportive of protections for queer and trans people. Eighty-seven percent of respondents claimed LGBTQ people are a “threat to private or public life,” but a majority felt they should be treated equally under the law.

Oetomo believes the debate over a revised criminal code has only generated increased support vulnerable gender and sexual minorities.

“It has rallied people who were basically humanistspeople who work on HIV, people who are pluralists, people who fight racismthey’re now more vocal in defending sexual rights,” he says, adding with a chuckle: “People tend to accuse me of being too optimistic.”

Hamid, though, argues the new code is “very likely” to passespecially given the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019.

The legislature is set to debate the proposal Monday, which is allegedly supported by every single one of Indonesia’s major political parties. If the lawmakers elect to move forward with adopting the revisions, the new language will take time to enact: Legislation has to be introduced in Parliament a year before it can be put into effect.

By that time, the revised Indonesian Criminal Code may not be the only proposal on the table.

There have been early discussions among lawmakers about adopting legislation identical to Russia’s 2013 law forbidding the spread of information on “nontraditional sexual relationships” to minors. The bill would forbid LGBTQ rights advocates, Oetomo claims, from any action viewed as promoting “homosexuality,” “cross-dressing,” or “transgenderism.”

After the bill was unanimously approved in the Russian Duma five years ago, bias attacks against LGBTQ people have nearly doubled. An HIV/AIDS advocate was fined last September under the law for posting links to news articles on Facebook.

“Organizations like mine might be shut down,” says Oetomo, who founded Indonesia’s first LGBTQ advocacy group, GAYa Nusantara.

“It’s still talk at the moment, but we cannot be complacent,” he adds.

Photo credit should read Sijori Images / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

What Is the Role of the Bathhouse in the Age of Apps?

As 2018 was about to ring in, patrons at Man’s Country, a gay bathhouse in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood, filled its rooms and dancefloors body-to-body for one last blowout. 2017 was about to close, and so was Man’s Country.

Men shed their clothes and stuffed them into white paper bags that, laid out in rows on the floor, constituted a coat room. The night’s unofficial attire by consensus was harnesses and jockstraps. As 2018 began, speakers thumped music until noon on January 1, drag queens sashayed on stage and patrons fucked the pain of 2017 away.

Among those in the crowd was Jason Jackson, a 40-year-old black gay man living in Chicago. Though he’d lived in Chicago for the last 12 years, he’d never been to Man’s Country before. He wasn’t really a fan of bathhouses. And, among the Chicago set, the club carried a stigma: only older gay men went there.

Jackson was surprised at how cavernous it was, the dance floor’s immensity, and the grandiose labyrinth of penises that flopped out of their owners’ pants. Because it was January in Chicago, Jackson wore a flowy winter wool coat to the venue. The paper bag coat room was full, so he stashed the coat in dark corner. Later, after a half-hour search, he found it, untouched. Now that the space is gone, Jackson said, he wishes he and it had had more had time together.

“Would’ve kind of been nice to save it and have that as an option for people to go to,” Jackson told INTO. Jackson said that, in the weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve, when Man’s Country held a series of themed closing parties, his Chicago-based friends took to Facebook to share their regrets that they had not appreciated the space before its demise.

“It’s a loss to the community,” Jackson said. “It still had dive status, I find charm in dives. You could’ve had skating parties, that’s how big it was. Now I’m really mad. We could’ve had skating parties, it would’ve been so perfect!”

It might be a bit odd to hear Jackson speak about the potential of a queer-owned business open since 1972. Man’s Country, to some, had perhaps lived more lives than Super Mario. It innovated to stay alive, morphing from bathhouse to performance space to dance club, with more identities in between.

Despite the many hats the physical space has worn, it was still set to close. Another queer space gone with more party and less alarm. But why?

Gentrification Of Queer Spaces & History

In the 1970s, according to USA Today, nearly 200 bathhouses operated inside the United States, with the number plummeting down to 90. The number of establishments has hemorrhaged down to about 70.

Before bathhouses were gay, they were a place for people of all genders and orientations to show before the advent of indoor plumbing. As toilets and showers became common, bathhouses became places for male rendezvous. As usual, gays made paradise out of the leftover scraps.

Man’s Country opened in 1972. It was founded by Chuck Renslow, a leather man icon and founder of the International Man of Leather competition. The business survived open hostility towards queer-owned businesses, the Reagan Era, and the AIDS crisis, but couldn’t live past the first day of 2018. Gentrification, a lack of general upkeep, and Renslow’s death led to the business’s demise. Soon, Man’s Country, sold to developers, will be gone. Construction crews will re-plough the plot and start to build luxury condos.

For Man’s Country’s clientele, the place resembled a queer museum as much as it was a venue for sex. Through the years, Man’s Country morphed out of necessity. It had a large dance floor with four performances a week.

Disco divas like Thelma Huston crooned on stage, while smaller-name performers would appear to garner enough reviews to get them booked at larger venues. During the AIDS crisis, as desire for public sex waned, Man’s Country repurposed about a third of its space as a queer bar that welcomed women and people of color into its fold. Its dancefloor, according to current owner Ron Ehemann, Renslow’s partner until his death in 2017, boasted the best sound system in the city.

“It’s a living piece of history,” Fausto Fernos, who hosts the daily queer podcast Feast of Fun with his partner Marc Felion, told INTO. Fernos and Felion are both artists who have performed in bathhouses, including Man’s Country. “They paved down paradise and put up a parking lot.”

As Michael Musto wrote in the New York Times in 2016, gay bars have waned in the age of geo-social apps like Grindr. But that problem is perhaps less a question of technology and more of economics. Gay bars have closed because of rising rents as gay areas become prime gentrified real estateand that same gentrified fate befell Man’s Country.

But while both gay bars and no-frills sex venues are closing due to queer spatial migration away from “gay ghettos,” bathhouses face a more complex layer of stigmas than most neighborhood watering holes. While gay bars might deal with outside threats, like monied neighbors who resent a bar’s impact on property values, bathhouses face a cultural shift away from public sex, as well.

On some level, yes, it’s policy. In New York, for example, bathhouses like the Mineshaft closed due to stricter laws governing venues offering public sex. Passed in 1994, New York’s Sanitary Code 24-2.2 bans any establishment where “anal intercourse, vaginal intercourse or fellatio take place.” Giuliani’s campaign to clean up New York City shuttered other public sex venues, like porn shops and theatres, in the late 1990s.

They paved down paradise and put up a parking lot.

And while places to have sex may be on the decline, sex is not, no matter how often newspapers report millennials don’t like bumping uglies. As Rich Juzwiak explored in Jezebel, major cities like New York City have a thriving underground sex scene consisting of hosted parties in private apartments. As upper-crust queers move from marginalized to making money moves, the apartment orgy has, in many ways, replaced the bathhouse. It has its bourgeoisie benefits: its exclusive, people can control the guest list. And, in an economy where you can rent out your car or your physical labor, renting out your apartment for a sex party can also be a lucrative side business.

Put bluntly: spaces for sex are not declining. They’re thriving. What is endangered, however, are democratized spaces for public sex.

Sex parties are spaces over which queer patrons can exert an enormous amount of control. They can restrict people from coming based on height or weight or any quantitative or qualitative criteria they envision. As with any queer space, bathhouses were not exempt from racism, femmephobia or transphobia. But, as opposed to private parties, they were at least meant to be places that were open to those who could afford the fee. Many private parties operate on sexual network nepotism and trimmed guest lists.

This exclusivity is part of a larger trend in queer spaces toward exclusivity. Gentried bastions like Yass, the San Francisco social club, require an average of $150 membership per month. And, oh, it’s backed by gay conservative billionaire Peter Thiel, who helped bankroll the Hulk Hogan lawsuit that took down news site Gawker.

While business like Yass, corporations like Steamworks or gay dance clubs might be able to survive, Man’s Country was too big a business with too narrow a mission to keep afloat.

“I’m not sure that today’s gay culture could support something as big as Man’s Country, supporting it and keeping this old structure in good repair,” Ehemann, the bar’s current owner, told INTO. Amid massive real estate hikes and Renslow’s declining health and eventual death, Ehemann wondered if the space could reinvent itself like it had done in the past. It was a bathhouse, a performance space, a queer bar. Could it, like Madonna, eek out other reinvention? Eventually, Ehemann said, the answer was no.

The latest Yelp review are harsh and buttress the reality that the huge facility had gone full Miss Havisham. A broken sauna, musty carpets, showers malfunctioning: the list goes on.

Gentrification has played a large role, as well, as evidenced by the business’s being replaced by condos. Local outlets have named Andersonville, Man Country’s turf, as one of the most gentrified neighborhoods in Chicago.

Perhaps for some, in the age of Postmates, Uber Eats and Grindr, bathhouses come off as passé. And, unlike slap bracelets or “Wannabe,” they don’t benefit from nostalgia.

Fernos and Felion ascribe at least part of the current bathhouse malaise to latent ageism. While there are definitely some queers interested in queer history and what came before, too many are obsessed with the new-fangled and glitzy. Bathhouses, they suspect, may be too associated with dark, dank sexuality and not the bright screen of a smartphone.

“A lot of it is tied to the sense that this is something in our past and as gay people we have a sense of profound rejection of history because it’s old and old people can’t be trusted, or old people are gross,” Fernos said.

The bathhouse may conjure up feelings of shame or stigma, while private parties tout luxury and convenience as part of their allure. And house parties feel more exclusive and communal, like getting an invite to a friend’s open bar work party.

“We’ve Changed”

Culturally, gay sex is now mainstream. In 2011, Saturday Night Live aired a faux-game show skit where contestants asked who between a pair of celebrities was the top and who was the bottom. In 2017, Billy Eichner bent Colton Haynes over on American Horror Story and thrusted into him. Larry David, once again on Saturday Night Live, joked about getting an upset stomach from taking his PrEP.

If gay sex has seeped into our everyday parlance, then why have bathhouses become passe rather than popular? Aside from the availability of exclusive sex parties and apps, the venues themselves carry hefty stigma, both for their sexual nature and outdated attitudes about the human body.

“There is a threshold you need to cross,” Fernos said of going to a bathhouse. “You need to stand there and be naked. You’re wearing a towel. You’re in a space where others can observe you being sexual.”

People also like to be nude in public less than in earlier generations, meaning less people will want to wander down a bathhouse hallway. In a 2015 New York Times article, gym designers said many gym locker rooms have been redesigned to accommodate millennials, who cherish privacy over public nudity.

“Gay bathhouses didn’t change,” Fernos said, “we changed.”

The gay bathhouse has never been defined solely by its sexual nature, though. As recently as the 1960s, Bette Midler was a twentysomething whose stardom was simmering in New York City’s Continental Baths where, backed by pianist Barry Manilow, she made gay men guffaw with her badwy humor and moved them with her big voice. And, as Man’s Country, proved, bathhouses can accommodate more than just men looking for a routine ejaculation.

Those who spoke to INTO said that the gay bathhouse still has a place in queer culture and should, in fact, look past the orgasm as its main draw. Specifically in Chicago, Ehemann said, there is room for another bathhouse outside of the Boystown neighborhood, where Steamworks has its Chicago location. The club would have to be smaller than Man’s Country, but, Ehemann said, “I’m not sure that lockers and rooms is enough anymore.”

With private parties for fucking and bars for socializing, there seem to be fewer ways for bathhouses to move forward. But, these spaces, perhaps even more queer than straight bachelorette-invaded gay bars, can still serve a purpose. Male-identified queers still want to fuck, but maybe they don’t need or want spaces devoted solely to that function.

“Socialization is still relevant and important,” Ehemann said. To that end, he offered that bathhouse owners should remember that they offer a physical queer space that apps sometimes cannot.

But, in order to thrive, queer public spaces will have to continue to offer a worthwhile alternative to what is swiftly becoming a private, network-based sex economy, which can often be exclusive of low-income people, people of color and other marginalized groups. Where private parties boast a controlled environment, bathhouses introduce a number of x-factors that can potentially sour or sweeten an evening.

That unpredictability is something that bathhouses should lean into, Fernos and Felion, who have hosted many comedy nights and variety performances inside bathhouses, said. Aside from being more democratic around sex, Fernos said that the spaces are prime realty for younger performance acts who are less polished.

“The performances that I saw there were wild and crazy and cheesy and crude and sloppy and at the same time, wonderful,” Fernos said. “Everybody is worthy of attention. I think that’s a beautiful thing to celebrate.”

Felion said that the draw should be, more than anything, the opportunity to test one’s own desires and maybe, be surprised at who they find attractive in person.

“You’re going to get rejected,” Felion said. “If you’re not comfortable in that situation, it’s easy to dismiss it.” But, bathhouses reward boldness. People can encounter faces and situations they might not from their own home.

“The thing about bathhouses is,” Felion said, “there’s a lid for every pot.”

__

Man’s Country photos courtesy of Brittany Sowacke for The Chicago Reader

Header photo credit: Fausto Fernós, www.feastoffun.com

Header photo design: Jules Mclean

Let’s Get Physical.

Greetings gentlethots,

We’ve got a gutting episode of Food 4 Thot this week all about bodie-odie-odies (and the issues that ensue). When were you first aware of your body? Why do you love your body? Why do you not? We’re joined in the studio by writer Harron Walker who’s got a lot to say about how people tell us what to do with our bodies. In short, her body is not your party, baby. No one is invited.

ALSO, we play our favorite game Homo-nym, wherein the thots debate the gayness of our favorite cultural iconography. (“I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston vs. “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton) AND Joe gets ~physical~ with a steamy Impure Thot story from the gym.

LYLAS,

Xx The Thots

Sam Jay Is The Black Lesbian ‘SNL’ Writer We’ve Been Waiting For

In its 43 years of existence, Saturday Night Live has had a contentious relationship with most marginalized groups, including people of color, LGBTQs, and women. But in the last few years, it seems Lorne Michaels has finally seen how diverse writers room can offer new and nuanced comedic characters and scenarios that are both specific and universal (read: not just straight, cis, and white). When the room was void of queer voices, most gay sketches or personalities were stereotypical caricatures, making the community the butt of stale jokes. A significant change seemed to stem from the addition of out writer Chris Kelly in 2011, and major player Kate McKinnon (an out lesbian) in 2012.

Since then, Kelly served as Co-Head Writer (with writing partner Sarah Schneider) from 2016-2017 before leaving last season to head his own show on Comedy Central. And with that shift, the show took on its first-ever black co-supervising writer, Michael Che, and also brought on its first black lesbian writer in stand-up comic Sam Jay. (The only other black lesbian to have been a part of SNL in its four decades of existence was Danitra Vance, a repertory player in 1985-1986 who was given stereotypical mammy and maid-type parts to play, which was part of what led to her choice to leave at the end of her sole season.)

Atlanta-born, Boston-raised Jay is a master of observational comedy. She’s the kind of humorist who is crafting a joke about fellow bus passengers or the white woman crying in public. She’s not self-deprecating; instead, self-aware.

“I really hate when they ask me for money,” she says in a joke about “homeless white dudes” asking her for money. “Like bro, I’m a black lesbian–I’m never gonna give you shit. I have too many adversities. I’m not gonna give you money.”

In an interview with VICE in December, Jay said she hopes to bring her specific viewpoints to sketches on SNL.

“Like urban culture stuff, gay culture stuffwomen stuff, that they may not necessarily have their pulse on,” she says. “Just who I am, you know what I mean?”

And so far this season, it appears SNL is trying to appeal to its more progressive audience in a post-Trump era. Jay’s spot in the writers room undoubtedly helps nudge what Kelly and Che have led to move in a much more inclusive direction, and the show is funnier for it.

“I just contribute ideas that are important to me and that make me laugh, you know? And I think, by being black and queer by default, I represent that because that’s just what I am,” she tells INTO.

Jay says she has never felt like a token in the room, though, and that her co-workers don’t come to her for the “gay” or “black” or “woman” POV, and she’s also never had to call anyone out for some homophobic, racist, or sexist ideas.

“Not in that type of direct way,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt the need to be like ‘Hey, this is uncool.’ I feel like everybody is pretty aware and inquisitive to the fact that there’s different people in the world, and I’ve never kind of been offended by anything that anyone presented or brought forth or pitched at the table. So I would say I’m always kind of speaking from that perspective, like I said, because it’s who I am so it’s naturally is the perspective that I bring, but I’ve never felt like I needed to do it in a championing kind of way.”

What Jay felt most at odds with her peers about was that she came from a stand-up background, whereas most of the other SNL writers past and present come from improv and sketch-based schools like UCB or Second City.

“I was scared of it and I tend to try to gravitate towards things that make you fearful,” she says. “It was something I’ve never done and so it was like stepping into the shark tank and kind of being a guppy. Like, these are the best of the best and most of these people have improv backgrounds and sketch writing backgrounds and I don’t. I have a stand up background, so it was an opportunity to kind of you know, swim with the sharks and learn a skill from the best people you could possibly learn it from.”

Stand-up, though, affords her a different perspective on “real life, real world situations,” she says. “I think stand-up is kind of–we’re not as nice.”

Jay says she finds her job “surreal” at times, but just as many other days feel like, well, work.

“I mean it’s a live show that’s live that happens every Saturday,” she says. “There’s a lot of moving parts so yeah, it’s a lot of work and the hours are long because things are ever changing and ever moving around because it is a live broadcast.”

She doesn’t have a particular cast member she likes to write for (“I find it fun and exciting just to be doing it. It’s always fun just to see the cast take these characters and bring their own life and their own ideas to them and to see where they take over and kind of like push it is always really cool.”), she just hopes viewers will know that every line of dialogue and comedy has a lot of thought behind it.

“I think whatever they take from what I do is kind of whatever they take from what I do,” she says. “And of course, I have my own ideas of what should be taken from the things that I’m saying, or the things that I’m creating, but I mean that’s art–you put it out there and people will interpret it however they want.”

Growing up, Jay was a more passive fan of the show than she was a fanatic. She cites Eddie Murphy’s years on the show as the most formative for her (“He was like my favorite person as a child, so any Eddie Murphy sketch I probably know front to back.”), but more recently, she cites Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey as bringing her back to watching the show before she was hired to make it happen.

“I mean, I think it’s a show that like you just go through phases, so there was a time when I watched it, and there was a time that I stopped,” she says. “And there was a time where I picked up and I was watching it again, you know? So I think it goes through phases. I think people kind of pick it up and drop it along the way. It’s kind of depending on where you are.”

Obviously, she’s hoping people are tuned in now that she’s working long hours to make sure it goes off without a hitch. Jay has also popped up twice on the show–once as an audience member in a monologue delivered by host Will Farrell, and as a gender-bending Carlton in a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air spoof during Jessica Chastain’s episode.

“It was a good time,” she says of getting to have some face time. “I’m not against it, but I’m also kind of just in it for the whole experience, so I don’t really feel the need to do anything in particular. I’m not like ‘Oh, I have to get on a sketch or I have to become cast. I just want to like learn and grow in it and kind of wear the suit until it doesn’t fit anymore.”

Jay has already had her own Comedy Central half-hour, and next up, she has an upcoming spot on Netflix in their new round of 15-minute stand-up specials, which she’s shooting in between regular SNL workdays.

“I’m not 100% sure, but it will be new stuff,” she says of what kind of material viewers could look forward to. “It’s a few weeks out, but I have known about it for about a month, a month and a half, so I’ve had enough to prepare. I have a pretty demanding writing job right now, so it’s kind of tough to find the balance between the two things. So I don’t feel as prepared as I normally would feel coming into a situation where I’m about to only do standup the entire time, you know?”

And after the SNL suit grows too snug, Jay says she’s hoping to dedicate more time to her first love: stand-up.

“I want to do all the things,” she says. “I want the hour, of course. I want my own hour special. I think that’s like the bigger goal–the goal that I kind of came in with that still hasn’t been checked off. And you know, as I write more, and even from before SNL–I was writing my own pilot and writing another pilot with friends, and so to see those projects actually come to fruition would be absolutely amazing. So, you know, just keep being creative and keep pushing my ability to be funny in these different directions.”

Follow Sam Jay on Twitter and Instagram.

In A Deeply Unsurprising Turn, Kelly Clarkson Does Not Appreciate Being Told To ‘Step Up’

Remember that time Recording Academy President Neil Portnow blamed female musicians for their lack of Grammy wins instead of I don’t know uhhhhhhh the kind of structural sexism found in basically any institution founded by and dominated by men?

I know it was only a few days ago, but I just wanted to make sure we all remember.

Well, according to Us Weekly, Kelly Clarkson didn’t appreciate that. (Imagine!) The “Love So Soft” singer, who lost Best Pop Solo Performance to *d Sh**r*n at Sunday night’s ceremony, took to Twitter on Wednesday to say why.

“A confused soul said women need 2 ‘step up’ their A-game if they wanna start winning,” Clarkson tweeted. “u know what I’m not even mad at ignorance. I’m just gonna kindly point u n the direction of my A-game album I recently dropped,” referencing her eighth studio album Meaning of Life, which came out last October.

“I Jenna Dewan’d that shit y’all #stepup,” she added.

Kelly’s not the only musician taking issue with Portnow’s statement. (Imagine!) Meshell Ndegeocello dismissed his baseless “step up” claim on Instagram, saying: “What a joke.” P!nk, meanwhile, noted the obvious, tweeting: “women have been stepping up since the beginning of time.” Charli XCX went for the jugularer, face: “ugh bout 2 step up on 2 ur face.”

What’s it like to be so wrong? Neil Portnow, please! Let us know!

Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said that women who want to be part of the industry need to “step up,” after only one woman took home a main award at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards. “I think it has to begin with women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, who want to be producers, who want to be part of the industry on the executive level to step up,” Portnow told Variety when asked about the gender discrepancy among award recipients. 😂😂😂😂 I WAS ASK TO MEET THIS DUDE ONCE AND I HAVE A WITNESS @jahisundance AND WOW! I DONT THINK HE EVEN LISTENS TO MUSIC FOR THE PURE JOY OF IT. What a joke, once I saw behind the curtain I had to laugh but to say women need to step up.

A post shared by Meshell Ndegeocello (@officialmeshell) on

Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz Are SO NAUGHTY in ‘Disobedience’ Trailer

The new trailer for Disobedience does not feature the kiss and spit swap we’ve heard so much about after the film premiered at TIFF, but it does offer a tale of two Rachels (McAdams and Weisz) who are in a tangled and forbidden love affair. I know, I know–stop me if you’ve seen this plot in every lesbian-themed film ever–but this one takes place in an Orthodox Jewish community in London after the second Rachel’s estranged rabbi father dies and she returns home to find her long lost love, the first Rachel, married to her cousin.

We can’t! We mustn’t! But we will!

Disobedience received excellent reviews out of Toronto, and is based on an award-winning 2006 novel by Naomi Alderman. Along with Rebecca Lenkiewicz (Ida), Sebastián Lelio (A Fantastic Woman) adapted the story for the screen and also directed what looks to be another repressive yet sexy film about queer love, starring two actresses whose lip locks help solidify my lesbianism. ConsideringLenkiewicz’s play Her Naked Skinwas a hugely successful take on a romantic relationship between two suffragettes, I feel as though she can be trusted.

While Disobedience doesn’t hit theaters until April 27, the good news is you still have a few months to propose the novel for your feminist book club and watch the trailer over and over again in the privacy of your own home.