04/30/2017 09:30 am ET

The Musical Legacy of Gay Bathhouses

Sex usually comes with its own soundtrack, natural or synthesized, but the music of gay bathhouses, saunas and sex clubs in the 1970s has had an uncommon pull on contemporary dance music. Dropping its little terrycloth towel at the intersection of classic disco, extended funk jams, smooth vocal R&B, spacey jazz and early electronic experimentation, and now streaked with the nostalgic gleam of outlaw sexual liberation, the cruising culture of the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS gay era has become a free-floating metaphor of sorts for unfettered physical communion, subcultural freedom and wild, wild nights. When gay men steamed up, society’s shackles slid off.

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