September 09, 2003

Consumer guide for sexually active Barcelona guys

Unlike Madrid, the gay scene here is far more spread around town, so it´s not easy to get from one place to another. So we didn't really explore the commercial gay scene, as I was more interested in the historical aspects of this harbour city, cos we all know that sailors and seamen want some good times while ashore.
The Raval district, which is on the bad side of the Rambla in the old city, used to be a notorious haunt with gambling dens, whorehouses and dodgy dealings galore. Like every city, it seems, they now want to renovate it out of existence, so out go the drug dealers and the whores, and in come the designer flats and, of course, gay households. So it was a bit of a search to find what we were looking for. But we didn't have to wait very long to see that the district still lives up to its former self. When having a coffee on a terrazza, a thief stole the handbag of the woman at the next table. Her boyfriend went in hot pursuit and retrieved the goods with luckily nothing missing. If it sounded like a bad chapter of "A Thief´s Journal", it probably was.
Jean Genet was a resident of this area. The Time Out guide describes him as the district´s most famous rentboy who robbed his clients and who dressed up as a girl to perform in some of the clubs. Of course, he got away with it, since every punter knows that when you go out on the town, you take the amount of cash that you are prepared to lose. (In that sense, going to the whores is no different from going to the casino). Genet is one of my all time favourite gay heroes, even though he would recoil at that description, and I was pleased to see that they have named a square after him where he had his adventures. The whorehouses in the 20s and 30s were described as catering for all sexual tastes, including necrophilia. I say we live in less enlightened times, because I can´t see any references to those kind of tastes in Tim Barnett´s prostitution law!
Speaking of taste, the only nightlife we tried out was the local branch of The Eagle, mainly because it was within walking distance from our accommodation. A standard looking 1980s leather bar with cruising area, but it’s much bigger than its Madrid brother. The doorman said they didn´t open during the day cos the locals don´t cruise in the afternoon! No, they all go shopping instead for furnishings of their Eixample Gaudi flats.
Catalonia has one of the most advanced gay relationship recognition laws so gentrification of that aspect of gay life is well advanced too. No wonder there is little left of the underground subculture.
And the meat? Well, my catch was called Miguel, a hirsute snake-hipped hillbilly who came down from the Catalan mountains for the night for some R&R (he was really a Catalan civil servant who lives with his sister in the mountains and drives a late model car, but hey, S&M is based on fantasy play anyway). The hospitality (even in the dark) is without equal. He even gave us a lift home after we had all been invited to the after-party (that´s when the fossils have been sent home and the staff can join in the fun).

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