Many bathhouses are, for legal reasons, "membership only", though membership is generally open to any adult who seeks it, usually after paying a small fee.
Some bathhouse owners tried to prevent sex between patrons while others, mindful of profits or prepared to risk prosecution, overlooked discreet homosexual activity.
In Florence, Italy, in 1492 there was a purge against the "vice of sodomy".
American precisionist painter Charles Demuth used the Lafayette Baths as his favourite haunt.
His 1918 homoerotic self-portrait set in a Turkish bath is likely to have been inspired by it.
In the short period from April 1492 to February 1494 they convicted 44 men for homosexual relations not involving violence or aggravating circumstances.
In France the first recorded police raid on a Parisian bathhouse was in 1876 in the Bains de Gymnase on the Rue du Faubourg-Poissonnière.
In the first two it was frequently possible to indulge in what the Spartacus Guide coyly describes as 'action', but behaviour at all times had to be reasonably cautious.
In the Grange Road baths in Bermondsey, however, all restraint could immediately be discarded with the small towels provided to cover your nakedness.
Sexual activity, if it occurs, is not provided by staff of the establishment but is between customers, and no money is exchanged.
Many gay bathhouses, for legal reasons, explicitly prohibit or discourage prostitution and ban known prostitutes.
26 men were arrested and 12 brought to trial on sodomy charges; 7 men received sentences ranging from 4 to 20 years in prison.