In the inner-suburban streets of Melbourne’s north side, there’s a local gay bar and club called Sircuit, known for trading all throughout the weekend, offering nights filled with cracking combos of drag queen cabaret and beer-swigging burly machismo.
What is slightly less known about this northern venue, however, is a curious event that runs on Monday and Tuesday nights: ADAM at Sircuit.
ADAM is a mens-only homosexual soiree that describes itself as “our take on the Fitzroy local pub”, with a key element that sets it apart from the rest: It’s a naked gay bar. Not too long ago, I had a job there as a cloakroom attendant.
The premise of the night was simple: You would walk in; pay your entry (a smooth $10), before stripping down, entering into a social atmosphere involving more dick than an episode of Queer As Folk. I would stash your clothes in a bag, throw on some tags and stow them away. And yes, I would do this all in the buff.
The concept of nudity at gay venues is no novel idea; in the pursuit of gay sexual liberation, many a queer bar has seen exposed rear ends (and other parts) fly free in the interest of sexual expression, whether partially unclothed or even entirely.
Where ADAM presents an alternative, however, is in the inherently social element of the event. It doesn’t offer itself up as a sexual experience, or a sex party—though there’s most certainly a backroom for if one desires a frisky hook-up. What it does offer is an opportunity for gay men to converse with one another, offering liberation through a unique experience – being entirely unclothed.
Nudity isn’t for everyone. Many men feel afraid the first time they visit ADAM. As they line up to pay their entry and take the bags in which they’ll dump their gear, they often quiver, asking if they can get undressed in the bathroom, whispering “Do I have to be all the way naked?” (The answer is yes, by the way. Everything but your shoes.)
More than that, many worry about their bodies. They fret over them.
Am I attractive enough to be here? Am I gym-fit, buff-and-ripped, body-beautiful enough for this scandalous gay scene? Will I be judged, stared at, mocked?
Will anyone find me sexy?
So many men brace for this rejection, only to find that it’s unfounded. Soon, their shoulders drop and their rears unclench, the initial anxiety of complete exposure falling away with every pint. Their faces soften as the fear dissipates, and suddenly the idea of being naked in a room full of strangers comes without expectation or the drive for procreation.
What makes working in a socially-nude environment so fascinating is witnessing the inhibitions of strangers fall away. Not just through the consumption of alcohol, but also through shedding their clothes. I’ve watched so many men undress and ease into ADAM, and realise that there’s no reason to experience anxiety around other nude bodies, and come to learn that the naked body isn’t inherently sexual - unless you wish for it to be.
Our community is awash with nightclub advertorials depicting muscled bodies and “the ideal man”, but what the removal of robes reveals is that all bodies are in some way flawed. Every gym-fit body, sculpted to perfection, still possesses its own series of flaws. I would know, because I’ve seen them all. I’ve laid eyes on all kinds of bodies – and found that no matter what society might deem as “impediments”, they’re all perfectly okay, just as they are.
To enter the gay community is to acknowledge a culture that often prioritises the body beautiful over a sense of belonging – yet at ADAM, patrons are met with kindness. They’re met with eyes that never dare to leer, in favour of a social atmosphere that welcomes and unwinds.
Through working at a naked gay bar, I’ve come to realise that our boundaries—those that confine our propensity for warm-hearted interaction—aren’t always social. Sometimes they’re physical; sometimes they’re psychological. Sometimes they come right down to the clothes on our backs. As author and presenter Padma Lakshi so succinctly said in an interview with Page Six in 2009, “When you put clothes on, you immediately put a character on. Clothes are adjectives; they are indicators. When you don’t have any clothes on, it’s just you, raw, and you can’t hide.”
And as I watched nude patrons make sweet conversation under heaters with cold pints in hand, I realised that I was witnessing another form of camaraderie. Not through community struggle, pain or anguish – but through complete and utter freedom from judgment, as every spot, freckle and bruise stands there, proud and unapologetic, on complete and utter display.
If you ask me: There’s nothing sexier than that.