Here we go again. Thousands of people who choose to live in the vicinity of Cheshire Bridge Road are once again clutching their pearls and praying for their children because the street that has been a sexual playground for 50 years may soon be adding another fleshy ornament – a spa named Atlanta Bath Haus.
Alfred Jay Nault, one of the owners of the constantly harassed Tokyo Valentino, purchased the building formerly occupied by Rhodes Bakery at 1783 Cheshire Bridge last winter. In February, he submitted a detailed application to the City of Atlanta’s Office of Zoning and Development to grant a “special administrative permit” to proceed with renovations. The request was formally made at an April 26 hearing, and a decision has not yet been announced at this writing.
WABE Radio and Atlanta News First have both reported on the drama. The charge to waylay the project is being led by the Piedmont Heights and Morningside-Lenox Park neighborhood associations. A petition on Change.org includes almost 2000 signatures and comments.
The comments are the usual. I particularly enjoyed this one: “On numerous early mornings, on my way to school, my 5-year-old asks why there are naked men on the sidewalk, or why they are doing [that] to each other. A bath house by the same owner as [Tokyo Valentino] will make all these already daily occurrences even more frequent. This bath house will do nothing for our community except to bring more crime, drugs, and prostitution to the neighborhood.” An apparently extremely slow driver commented, “When I drive my son to school at 7am we have witnessed numerous drug deals and sex acts in broad day light.” It’s always the innocent children, isn’t it? Just wait until your children open those laptops, mama!
Okay, there’s this: It’s true that the rear parking lot of the old Rhodes building backs directly up to residential properties on Windermere Drive. It’s also true that the abandoned parking lot is already an unregulated gathering place for the Deplorables. It’s true too that the proposed spa likely does violate zoning regulations. It’s short on parking and, despite Tokyo Valentino owner Michael Morrison’s denial to WABE, it’s certainly an adult entertainment business, which is prohibited by the zoning code.
The annoying thing about laws regulating consensual sex is the way they force people into idiocy. It’s absurd to say that a building featuring massage rooms, Jacuzzis, a theater, a pool, and a DJ booth might not be targeting customers who are into sex play. It’s conventionally stupid – that is, even stupider – to say people who enjoy swapping sex partners in a spa are a danger to children. The problem is not the behavior. It’s the puritanical attitude so ingrained in our pointy little heads that we continue to make supposedly unconventional, open sexual expression a crime, a psychological malady, and, of course, a sin, even when consensual. Gay people are especially used to this psychodrama, since our entire identities were damned by the church, the state, and psychiatry for years.
And that attitude is back. Idiots with actual power like Ron DeSantis are determined to exploit sexual insecurities by conflating supposedly unconventional sex players with groomers. Principal targets now are trans people and drag performers (because they have always antithetically made such a liberating impact on the imprisoned mind, including the gay mind). It is interesting, by the way, that most people presume Tokyo Valentino is only patronized by horny faggots. It’s clientele now includes as many mixed-sex, bi swingers and trans peeps. I’m sure they’d love to be bathing one another at Bath Haus at the expense of the sanity of parents who would never dream of trysting in public with a trans dominatrix who might free them for an hour from the tedium of diaper changing.
We all know why people want to suppress sexual libertines. The Bible couldn’t be clearer. A behavior is a sin because it’s so freaking compelling. Whenever I see people trying to shut down other people’s sexual fun, I remember the good old days when televangelist Jerry Falwell raised a historically huge amount of money by sending donors video cassettes of wild times secretly filmed in gay clubs. That’s right. If you gave the founder of Liberty University enough money, he’d send you porn you could self-righteously watch with a Bible covering up your erection. (And, of course, Liberty fired his son a few years ago after we learned that he spent seven years watching his wife fuck a pool boy he helped to buy a hostel.) Here’s a secret I learned quickly from listening to clients: everybody is a pervert. If you want to know the real story about someone, ask them to tell you about their most memorable sexual encounter in real life or in a dream. Freud wasn’t altogether wrong.
I’m sad that Cheshire Bridge and its side streets are not as hot as they used to be. I can think of three sex clubs that have closed, along with several other scandalous venues. The real solution is to abolish all laws that regulate adult consensual sexual interactions, whether commercial or private. Instead of calling 911 and your therapist because you see a prostitute giving someone a blow job, go give someone a blow job yourself, because we know that’s what you really want to do. Instead of tormenting your child with your own feverish condemnation of public sex, trust that your kid isn’t going to go half as berserk as you are in the face of the inherent lunacy of sexual expression. Here’s a bonus, a complicated secret: the hottest sex often includes what I call a homeopathic dose of shame – just enough to make you feel like a perverted beast. Just don’t let the shame completely dominate you. Play with it.
By the way, 20-plus years ago as part of my doctoral program, I presented a paper at a conference that was a defense of sex in public places. In my research, I learned that the only thing that made sex in public restrooms, “tearooms,” public was the presence of police cameras. There were no scenes of anyone having sex in front of other people. The hidden cameras showed men moving into stalls whenever someone came into the bathroom. The ongoing argument then, as now, was that children who stumbled upon such scenes were traumatized. In fact, I could not find a single police report of a child witnessing a sexual interaction in a restroom. To add further insanity to the story: the city with the highest number of arrests for sex in public restrooms was West Hollywood – the only city in the country with a gay city council. Alas, many gay people at that time wanted to be as “normal” as puritanical straight people, even banning drag queens from Pride parades because, you know, they made the rest of us look so sick.
I hope a miracle allows the self-described “high-end” Atlanta Bath Haus to open. God knows, Tokyo Valentino has remained in business by fighting the city’s relentless efforts to close it for years, so who knows? Meanwhile, you neighborhood puritans need to get laid. Several times. By several strangers.