I’m not going to lie; I was beyond scared going to my chosen excursion spot. Going to something like a gay bar is certainly way out of my comfort zone. But its mystery and slightly dangerous element are what ultimately enticed me to choose the place.The gay bar that I was expecting was a bar which featured funny drag queens and transvestites, not a hub of dancing macho men trying to seduce the guests. It’s not a gay bar because the performers are gay per say- it’s a gay bar because many gay men frequent the place to view good-looking, buff men to their hearts contents. It’s not just for gays of course- many women, particularly older, rich ladies are regular visitors.
Finding the place was not too difficult but it was hardly a place that would scream attention at the passerby’s. Its sign was dimly lit and the entrance was small. These attempts of discretion were not very reassuring. After all, this particular bar was raided by police not too long ago for its more than questionable reputation. It certainly did not help my nerves that my companions and I obviously were “outsiders” to what seemed like a dark, new world. I’m more than sure that they were not used to having a large group of nervous and somewhat confused looking teenage students (some who looked younger than what should be allowed) visit their vicinity.
We huddled outside the entrance, making the other customers (whom I presume visit the bar far more often than we do) slightly annoyed at the racket we were making. The employees and the staff on the other hand were far more accommodating. While waiting, we were also reminded not to take videos which initially confused me since I watched some of the “performances” right before leaving for the bar. But I believe that their reasoning is to respect the privacy of the male dancers. “What happens in Adonis, stays in Adonis.”
We were then lead inside to our tables. The interior was very dark with the lights dimmed. This probably ensures the audience and visitors a sense of privacy. It was not a large place and I was not sure at that time whether or not that was a good thing. It certainly made the place less foreboding, though. The most attention grabbing part of this whole place was of course, the stage. It was the only part that was lit which ensured the utmost attention of the visitors. There were already a couple of “dancers” performing.
Viewing them in the flesh was honestly shocking and I could not look at them longer than five seconds. They were wearing unbelievably tight polo shirts and even more constrictive shorter than normal shorts. Their routine was awkward as they danced to a really cheesy, radio love hit. What I was viewing was typical “macho dancing” in the flesh. This kind of performance was then repeated over and over again until it got to the point where I was more “comfortable” viewing their whole performances.
The huge group of Atenean students made up the majority of viewers. As I got over my initial shock and discomfort with the “sexy” and display, I was able to observe my surroundings more closely. There were about 6 or 7 other visitors in the club. There was a group of 3 middle-aged East Asian ladies seated at the couches on the front, a middle-aged man near us who did not look very happy and a couple. It was quite disappointing as I thought that since it was a Saturday night, more people would be in the club. But my initial questions would then be answered by one of the staff in the club.
The performances are divided into two parts: the first is the “slow dancing” portion, which would grow monotonous as there were probably 25-30 dancers doing similar things again and again. The second portion was far more risqué and daring: this part is when the clothing becomes virtually nonexistent and the flirtation factor rises to its maximum level. This part would happen after 12 midnight, which would explain the small number of people in the club. The “fun” hasn’t truly started and will come much, much later.
The one thing that most of my fellow classmates and I noticed is the look on the dancers’ faces: expressionless. Their eyes were almost blank. While I got over the discomfort of viewing scantily clad men gliding on the floors with their knees, I did find their facial expressions very disconcerting. It was plain for everyone to see that most of them did not really enjoy what they were doing. I felt a twinge of pity for them. Obviously, many things can explain why they looked this way. Maybe it’s because this was their interpretation of looking “seductive” or perhaps they were just going through the motions and can’t be bothered to look at least a little interested. What was in my mind, though, was that most of them were desperate to earn some cash so ended up in this dingy little place. Grinding and sliding and caressing were probably not what they had in mind as ideal career choices. Whatever the reason may be, it made me pity them, not find them amorous.
Perhaps this “desperation” to earn money is not exactly an accurate explanation on why these men do what they do. Many of them can earn as much as P80,000 a month, a far greater amount than what many “decent living” Filipinos earn. That amount could even be greater with the tips they earn from more than willing patrons. One man even impressed someone so much that he was tipped with a car and condominium. This is when I realize that this is not exactly the human trafficking scandal that I was expecting. But again, many things are based on assumptions and my own observations.
Two friends and I decided to sit at the couches by the stage to gain a clearer perspective on what was going on in the bar. So going away from the huge group of Ateneans, we sat right behind the 3 middle-aged ladies. Our timing was almost laughable; the second performance after we moved to our new seating arrangements was the one performance that I would most probably never forget. A lone man made his way onto the stage, with a towel wrapped around his waist. The form of his male appendage was clearly visible. I was in shock. I thought that this part of the night would come on at a later time? I was clearly not ready for this.
The performance was almost torturous. Was he bare naked underneath that towel? Would he remove his towel to reveal his family jewels for all to see? My questions would soon be answered. He took off the towel and I thought I saw everything so I quickly looked away, ready to hit my friends for putting me in this situation. It turns out that he was wearing something underneath the towel but that wasn’t very reassuring. The tiny piece of fabric wasn’t really hiding anything. Our fear and nerves could probably be sensed by everyone in the room that one of the promoters quickly went to our table to reassure us that if in case any of the men (towel guy especially) does try to catch their attention (as is part of the job) that we can say no. Right after this, the towel man goes down the stage and makes his way to the ladies in front of us. My friends and I were not the only ones freaked out- the ladies squealed and inched away from the man as he whispered God knows what to their ears.
After that mind-boggling performance, we observed that the number of visitors slightly increased. Next to us was another group of middle-aged ladies who seemed very comfortable to be there. A little further away from us was a woman who was introduced to one of the male performers who then sat down at her couch as they shared a conversation. This particular “couple” confirmed my theories. Their job does not just require them to dance but to fraternize with the guests. Some would be persistent in sharing a table with you while others would be called on by some of the guests themselves if the visitor has taken some particular interest in the dancer.
Adonis is not a hostel so I am almost assured that nothing illegal is happening inside the halls. However, outside it, everything is free game. A conversation with a man of your liking could lead to many things once you both leave the premises. Granted, I did not partake in such so I cannot speak from personal experience. It’s safe to assume, however, that many of the visitors are not just there simply because they enjoy watching some well-muscled men dance. Perhaps they wanted to seek company or just have a great time with some men that they would not be able to normally in their day to day lives.
Needless to say, the word interesting would not be apt enough to describe my feelings for that trip. But I suppose it was worth it, to get a clearer understanding on why such establishments exist and possible reasons why people frequent these places.
Natasha Hawkins, SA21 – A