The doors to a traditionally taboo, blacklit labyrinth were opened to curious passers-by last night, revealing the naked truth about “the last and ultimate boys’ club.”

“That’s really what it is,” Steamworks bathhouse manager Clark Cameron said, adding rumours about the 6,000-square-foot rendezvous point are true: “It boils down to sex.”

The Jasper Avenue establishment served as the setting for Exposure: Edmonton’s Queer Arts and Culture Festival’s main event, the Really Big Show.

Wide-eyed curiosity and intriguing visual displays from local artists attracted droves of average Edmontonians to the bathhouse last night.

After wandering through Steamworks’ halls for the first time, heterosexual 40-something Bryan Morlidge said he welcomed the unreserved education on the conventionally unmentionable spot.

“I find it interesting to go to places like this on an open house. I was imagining a bigger version of the locker room at the gym,” he said. “You hear tales about these places, and that’s not what they really look like.”

Its rooms and lockers come at a price, but the bathhouse is legal, as sex is free and consensual.
Though its atmosphere is fun, with thumping electronica and nightclub lighting, it’s moreover a safe haven — a clean, discreet and respectful venue for bringing imagination to reality, Cameron said.

“We still tend to demonize sex,” he said. “People still get uptight about this idea, but there’s a separation between sex and love.”

Steamworks’ rousing success as a main venue for last year’s festival was a testament to its ability to bridge a societal gap, Cameron said.

“This allows people to see the space without misconceptions. This year’s Exposure theme of Queer Bodies and sexualization makes it the perfect fit.”