Monday, December 28, 2015

Locker Rooms

 


Early in my blog, I did a post called "Naked Male Camaraderie," which has been the most popular post on this blog. A friend recently shared a New York Times titled "Men’s Locker Room Designers Take Pity on Naked Millennials." One of the things I talked about in my previously mentioned blog post was that guys these days don't like being naked in front of each other, which was part of this NYT article. In the article, it states:

But gyms are still unable to provide the one thing younger men in particular seem to really want: a way for them to shower and change without actually being nude.

Each day, thousands upon thousands of men in locker rooms nationwide struggle to put on their underwear while still covered chastely in shower towels, like horrible breathless arthropods molting into something tender-skinned. They writhe, still moist, into fresh clothes.

If you've been in a locker room recently, you know how sad and true this is. When I was in grad school, I used to frequent the gym there. In the locker room they had the gang showers (which was supposedly a major gay hook up area), three private showers, and a sauna. I never saw anyone use the group showers unless they kept a swimsuit on and most guys kept a towel on in the sauna, the only exception being Asian guys. Except for the swimmers who'd shower in their swim trunks the guys who wore speedos tended not to have a problem with being fully nude. So with the exception of swimmers wearing speedos and Asian guys in the sauna, most other guys did the towel dance. 

According to the NYT article, this is because:

Showering after gym class in high school became virtually extinct in the ’90s. And if Manhattan’s high-end gyms weren’t riddled with ab-laden models or Europeans (or both), there would be few heterosexuals under 40 who have spent any naked time with other men.

A generation ago, when most schools mandated showers, a teacher would typically monitor students and hand out towels, making sure that proper hygiene was observed. In schools with pools, students were sometimes required to swim naked, and teachers would conduct inspections for cleanliness that schools today would not dare allow, whether because of greater respect for children or greater fear of lawsuits.

In a striking measure of changed sensibilities in school and society, showering after physical education class, once an almost military ritual, has become virtually extinct. This is beginning to change, especially with athletes in schools, as health officials are increasingly warning that not showering after gym class leads to MRSA infections, the potentially deadly staphylococcus infection that is resistant to most antibiotics. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has practical advice on preventing staph infections. Showering right after exercise is at the top of the list. 

If showering can help prevent a deadly disease from spreading to school children, why aren't more schools making showers mandatory? There are several reasons, which seem as varied as insecurities about body image, heightened sexual awareness, and a lack of time in a busy school schedule. The lack of showers in schools leads to a shyness about bodies that is virtually nonexistent in older generations. Old men seem to have no problem walking around locker rooms naked but young men do.

In March 2015, Men's Health had an article about locker room etiquette called "Are You the Gym Locker Room A**hole?" in which they outline their do's and don't's of locker room etiquette. Here's the problem with this article, they asked a woman about male locker room etiquette. What does a woman know about men's locker rooms? (No offense to the women who read this blog.) Two of the things she warns against are nudity and conversations in the locker rooms. Really? According to her, men should not be nude in the locker room nor should men talk to one another. I find that utterly ridiculous.

Nudity in America is so puritanical that it's nearly nonexistent. The NYT article makes some interesting observations about what gyms are doing to attract more members. The main thing is providing more privacy. Men are afraid to see each other naked. They are afraid they won't measure up, whether that is with whether they are a shower or a grower or whether they are just insecure about the way their body looks as a whole. Men need not fear being naked in front of one another.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

From a European point of view, this behavior in adults' locker rooms seems utterly strange to me. In many years of frequenting gyms I've only ever once noticed a guy putting his undies on under a towel, which is a secure way of attracting attention, as would be showering in boxers, which I have never witnessed at all. I don't know anything about schools, though.
Maybe it is an all American hang-up?

Loftyone said...

Ditto. From the UK - totally weird. The only time I see guys or women doing towel gymnastics is on a beach.

Lenny Ricci said...

I go to water aerobics twice a week at a local community pool and there is usually a class of swimmers there... kids in their early teens... I see the same thing. They all shower with their swim clothes on and are deathly afraid to change in front of each other in the locker room. One enterprising young man ties one end of his towel to a locker door and then tries to wrap himself around the other end while juggling to take his suit off holding the other end. He usually drops his end once or twice, or the door swings open dropping the other end and the kid scrambles to complete his underwear exchange without arising suspicion. This usually takes about 10 minutes compared to the ones who just do a quick drop and swap. But you are right.. it seems to be a really big deal with them not seeing each other naked; although the suits they wear leave pretty much nothing to the imagination. They do do a lot of talking however.

Lenny from Denver

Michael Dodd said...

Interesting that something once thought of as "modesty" is now more likely the result of pride, the fear of looking less perfect than others. Much as I enjoy photos of men with great bodies and handsome faces, our culture has now saturated us with male images that are as unreal as the female images that have long created problems for young women. I suppose it is a move toward equality, but pretty much in the wrong direction!

As for not showering after gym class, that must be fun for kids sitting next to one another in classes later in the day ...

Joe said...

Michael, it's definitely not fun for the teachers. This was a major complaint by the teachers at my school who had students after PE. Some of them just smelled bad others would spray themselves with so much Axe body spray that it would make your eyes water.

By the way, I know I post sexy men with beautiful bodies all the time, but I know you are right about it contributing to body issues.

Amanda said...

Well having never been in an all male locker room I can't say what's normal or not. However, women are pretty much the same in the locker rooms I've seen. And, like it's been mentioned before, thanks to objectifying women's bodies for years to reach impossible standards without surgical help women are not confident in being seen by others nude. (Women can be vicious not just with each other but on themselves.) Unfortunately for men it seems this trend has finally reached them. I love all our differences though. It's what makes us unique. And, I can empathize with you Joe on the axe spray...I have teenage sons...

:)

mistress maddie said...

I wonder if by area it is different. The gym I go to the guys don't seem at all bashful about being naked. Sure there are some, but the higher percentage don't seem to mind it. But I don't get why the same sex would be bashful about nudity. We all have the same parts. My group of friends are all close. And when I have overnight guest, they think nothing of sleeping naked, or walking naked to the bathroom or another room to get dressed. In the summer or always swim naked and have even gone to a cloth in optional camp ground. I find it very bonding, and have no problems with getting nude. Interesting post.

mistress maddie said...

I also agree with the first commenter...it's definitely an American hang up, like everything else. When I traveled Europe....it didn't seem a issue anywhere. Like everything else here...we are getting so uptight and wound. Were all too serious about everything.

djc314 said...

What is even weirder is while they are so shy in the locker room they have no problem using their iphone to send pictures or videos of themselves naked that ultimately end up on some website...

Joe said...

That's exactly what my post for tomorrow is about.

Mike said...

Maybe for me, I like being a gay guy showing off. Of course, in high school and middle school I wouldn't have dared shower. No one did.

nikki said...

As a teenaged girl, I was horribly self-conscious about undressing and showering for gym. I grew up in a puritanical Methodist family and southern culture that kind of crippled my body image. I've often envied men for what seems to be an ease of being nude around other men. It's weird to think that's changing.

jimmo said...

I worked out at gyms in the 1990s and early 00's and still saw a fair share of male nudity. Many men still took naked showers then. And most guys checked out each other, to varying degrees. I think some male-male sex (including group activity) also still occurs in inner sanctums of gym locker rooms--saunas and steam rooms, etc.

The all-male locker room is still one of the last bastions of society, apart from prisons and all-male schools, where even so-called "straight" males have an excuse to be naked around each other and have anonymous physical interaction. Some guys take full advantage of that freedom, while others are more reserved about the opportunities. Had I to live my life over again I would take more advantage of those male nudity opportunities, as one is only young once. I think more guys than not would pounce each other (or allow themselves to be pounced) if they weren't so hung-up about self-image and societal stigma, as males between adolescence and mid- 20's are simply raging with hormones.

Once, when I was showering in a private shower stall at a YMCA, a guy in the next stall told me he had no soap in his stall and asked me if I would bring some of my soap over to his stall. Like an idiot I handed it over the stall dividing wall, when I think the soap message was perhaps just a euphemism for something else. I have always regretted my decision of modesty that day in the YMCA shower stall.

November 5, 2016 at 3:35 AM