Why Are Old Men Always Naked In The Locker Room?
Sullivan follows up on his original thread (with follow-ups here, here, and here) with e-mails from women readers giving their perspective on the female analog of this vexing and important issue. One reader writes:
As a teenager, I remember locker rooms were fairly modest. No female classmate or teammate, myself included, would go completely nude in the locker room - not due to any fears about perceived homosexuality, in my opinion, but because we were afraid the other girls would judge our weight or our body hair. Adult women (in the community locker rooms of the local swimming pool, for example) did not seem to worry about stripping down. I took this as a signal that the older you became, the less you should care about locker room nudity - a lesson that carries me through to today. Now that I’m a grown woman, I no longer worry about whether a woman is looking at my naked body in a locker room, whether in a judgmental or sexual manner. If they are getting an eyeful, good for them, I say. I’m not ashamed of what they might see.
I’ve seen other women run the gamut between nonchalant nudity and painfully complicated modesty in the locker room, and age doesn’t seem to be a determining factor. And as a queer, I can say that I’m not getting any thrills if I happen to see these women naked. It’s a locker room. You’re in there for maybe ten or twenty minutes, tops. Just get over it, men, if you are all as sensitive about it as these posts make it seem.
There seems to be some consensus around the fact that, for young men, there is a subtle fear of unwelcome homosexual attention occurring during extended periods (read: longer than a few moments) of visible, casual nudity while among other men in an intimate setting. This is a fear that seems largely absent for women in women’s locker rooms. However, to the extent that young women tend to fear locker-room nudity, it seems to be more a function of their worry that other women will judge their physical appearance. Another reader writes:
The generational thing definitely exists for women too. One of my first memories of being a freshman in college (in 2002) is waiting in line for a shower stall with a group of girls my own age while the seniors aquatic fitness class showered happily in the open. Nine years of gym attendance later, I’ve either aged or just seen the advantages of not worrying about it. When I’m exhausted from working out, worrying about how well I’m holding up the towel while I search from my other sock is besides the point.
To the extent that I do worry about it though, I will say lesbians are the furthest thing from my mind. Mostly, I don’t want other (presumably straight) women to see, and potentially judge, what kind of underwear I’m wearing, what kind of shape I’m in, what sags or doesn’t sag without a bra, or whether I put a high priority on shaving my armpits when it’s winter I’m not going to be wearing anything sleeveless anyways.
Actually let me amend that; the fear isn’t really of being judged. The time my two female coworkers and I all decided to go to a dance class together, we split like a bunch of billiard balls the second we entered the lockerroom to avoid having to take our shirts off in front of each other. I really don’t think it was because any of us suspected the others of being catty bitches. Seeing each other topless was just more personal and intimate than we wanted to be - not in a homophobic way, but more in the way that you don’t tell everyone about your love life either.
Does it make me odd that I find this topic fascinating? Also, the Oatmeal is indispensable on this topic, in my view. Special emphasis on the guy all the way to the right, with the mustache.
Nope, not odd. I also find this topic fascinating. It’s not often anymore that I manage to get my lazy ass to the gym, but I used to go quite regularly, and I never understood this whole locker room changing dynamic between the older and younger generations.
In male locker rooms, it’s exactly as it’s portrayed in that Oatmeal cartoon. The older guys walk around and talk to each other butt naked, while guys my age go to ridiculous lengths to ensure that no one — no one! — gets a glimpse of them in their birthday suit. At my gym, the showers have frosted glass partitions between each shower, but they haven’t any doors. So while you can’t make out the guy next to you, you can clearly see the guy in the shower across from you. There is, however, one handicap shower with a curtain. It’s my experience that guys my age will almost invariably opt for the handicap shower (with the curtain closed tightly) or, if that’s taken, they’ll shower in their swimming trunks. Then, when they get back to the lockers, they awkwardly change with a towel around their waist while balancing on one leg. And I just don’t get it…at all.
I’m with the old guys on this one. I don’t worry about who’s looking at me when I change, I shower properly without clothing, and there’ve been times that I’ve walked from the locker to the shower butt naked because the shower didn’t have a place to put towels. There’s nothing inherently sexual about being naked, and certainly not within the context of changing and showering in a locker room. Personally, I think it’s a shame that society has become so sexualized that now something as innocent as not having clothes on is made out to be something that it isn’t. Back in the day, groups of friends would go to the pool or the lake or whatever and go skinny dipping and it wasn’t a big deal. Now, that’s almost unheard of, and that’s silly.
Even among friends it seems that most guys are not comfortable just stripping down. Admittedly, quite a few of my friends have seen me naked at one point or another (and I them), but say for instance I was with a group of guys and we all decided to go for a swim, I wouldn’t feel comfortable just getting naked and changing into my swimming trunks in front of them, not because I’m uncomfortable with it myself, but because I’d probably be the only one and I’d be judged for it. Which is really stupid because 50 years ago guys wouldn’t think twice about doing that and no one would worry about being judged.
I can sort of understand the whole gay thing and guys being concerned that other guys are getting pleasure out of checking out their junk, but my position is essentially this: who the hell cares?! Is it not likely that everywhere you go there is a potential gay dude checking you out? Are you going to wear a bag over your head to protect yourself from the unwelcome glances of gays? It’s immature, and it’s a sign of insecurity. As far as I’m concerned, either you’re insecure about your own body, or you’re insecure in your sexuality — otherwise why would you care?
[And here’s a hint: no one else cares either. Other guys probably aren’t checking you out, and even if curiosity gets the best of them, they’re not taking mental HD video of your dick, so calm down.]
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- laliberty said: I try to avert my junk to abide by the NAP. No one in that locker room wants to see Russel the Love Muscle; so I view it as a courtesy to others to keep my lower appendage’s exposure to a minimum. (Which takes some big towels ifyouknowwhatImean…)
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