Decade of Decadence #7: Hot Tubs

In 1968, Jacuzzi unleashed the tub with jets, and in 1970 "family size" tubs hit the market.  And I don't need to tell you what you get when you add 70 million Baby Boomers  hitting their sexual prime with the  simultaneous invention of big-ass Jacuzzis.

Yes, it was the Perfect Storm.  The family size hot tub hit the market at just the right time.  No longer were tubs small (they generally only fit one person) and highly breakable - they often had a pump contraption that you had to hook up which was inconvenient and prone to problems.  The new hot tubs had the patented 1968 water jets, plus, they were made of durable fiberglass.  Now, it was easy and convenient.... and just in time for The Sexual Revolution.

70's Hot Tub

Great Moments in Hot Tub History:  After the amazing successes of Grease and Saturday Night Fever, John Travolta followed it up with the epic box office bomb Moment by Moment (1978).  In the film, Travolta has a steamy romance with Lily Tomlin (who was actually fooling around with the female director in real life), and in one scene she's butt naked in a hot tub.... it was pretty controversial at the time for Tomlin to be baring it on the big screen.

The hot tub phenomenon spread to the gay community and the "swingers" - it wasn't long before bath houses became a regular feature in larger cities. Between the streaking phenomenon and bath houses, public nudity was becoming commonplace in the 70s.

Picture it: in a seedy club downtown, there's a big hot tub, almost pool sized, with hundreds upon hundreds of men and women having sex in it, day in and day out.  One can only imagine the what kinds of microorganisms were floating around in that giant Petri dish!

Bottom line, these hot tubs basically became breeding grounds for Chlamydia, Trichomoniasis, Gonorrhea, and AIDS.  The heyday of the hot tub was near the end.

Hot Tub Party

Not surprisingly, the hot tub sensation ended when the Sexual Revolution ended.  In a small way, the hot tub was a victim of its own success.  The popularity of recreational sex led inevitably to a rise in sexually transmitted diseases, which led to a decline in promiscuity, which led to a decline in hot tubs.  You follow?

Bottom line: The party was over.

Mama Told Me Not to Come

Of course, it didn't fall out of vogue overnight.  The first cases of AIDS didn't start popping up until 1981, and there was enough momentum left in the sexual movement to last several years into the Reagan Era. Take note that both Serial Love (1980) and Hollywood Hot Tubs (1984) came out in the 1980s.

And I would be remiss not to mention Hot Tub Time Machine in this post.  Fairly forgettable and only barely funny, it was a nice tribute to the late great sexual mating ground that was The Hot Tub.


  1. Great images, but I've never been in a hot tub and never intend to...the thought of sitting in other people's bodily fluids and bacteria never appealed to me!

  2. Just a point of clarification, HIV is not spread just simply by being in a hot tub. In fact the chlorinated water would kill the virus.

  3. OMG, that first hot tub especially... like it's in the living room with a fireplace & couches over it! I LOVE it!! Hehe. Too bad this era is over. I'd TOTALLY be into this scene! I was a teenager back in the 70's, so i missed out on this!

    Thanks for the nostalgic journey! What a hoot! Hmmm. That's putting some ideas into my head... Cool hot tub to go next to my mud wrestling pit! Lol! Yup! On my to-do list now! Hehe!

  4. Don't forget the movie 'A Change of Seasons' (1980) with Anthony Hopkins and Shirley MacLaine having mid-life crises and Bo Derek jumping around 'a buffo' in slo-mo in a hot tub (the main image it the film's marketing, as I recall)....

  5. Oddly enough, we still have a business called "The Tubs" on a main street here in town.
    It has been in business for over 25 years, and is the last of the Hot Tub businesses.

    I don't know how it has managed to stay in business, but it has.

    It has private rooms and a large "corporate" room for bigger parties, though I don't know any companies that have scheduled a "business" meeting there.

  6. The dream of hot tubs is alive in North Carolina. Woo!

  7. As much as I've always wanted one, I can't think of hot tubs now without thinking of a hairy Will Ferell and his lover sharing too much information about their sex life.

  8. When I was newly single in the 80s, one of the questions I heard most often from women was whether I was into hot tubbing. When I responded in the negative, I often heard "Thank God!" The complaint was that men at that time equated getting a woman in a hot tub with guaranteed sex.