Why It’s Okay That I Don’t Like To Be Naked In The Locker Room

When did modesty become a sin?

There’s been a lot of talk about nudity lately. Male nudity.

Not in movies and television—we’re still lucky to see a fleeting glimpse of a male member at the cineplex.

I’m talking about in real life—people moaning about how men are no longer comfortable being naked in front of each other.

Two men talking in locker room

Choire Sicha recounted this apparent epidemic of never-nudes in a recent Times article examining design trends in gym locker rooms.

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.

…”It’s funny, they’re more socially open with everything — Facebook, social media — yet more private in their personal space,” said Kevin Kavanaugh, the president of David Barton Gym.

In a reaction piece on Slate, queer writer Mark David Stern posits than men have become more modest in the locker room because there’s an increased awareness of homosexuality.

What, exactly, are these men afraid of?
…Are they afraid gay men will leer at them? If so, I wish to assure them that we do not care what your nude body looks like. In fact, if anything, gay men are exceedingly self-conscious about not looking at other men’s private parts, since we are often (and unfairly) assumed to be creepily voyeuristic.

In other words today’s men are terrified a gay guy will sneak a peek at their junk, and that fear is not only irrational—it’s downright juvenile.

“If you are not comfortable being naked around other people, you are not a real adult.”

I respectfully disagree.

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Firstly, what’s actually going on here?

A quick survey of older gentlemen confirmed that, yes, decades ago men were more comfortable being naked around each other.

Or, more precisely, were expected to be more comfortable.

You would change and shower next to your classmates (back when students showered after gym class). You probably took swim class in the nude, as well. And any compunction about going starkers would invite unwanted scrutiny.

Back then, nudity within the confines of a single-sex environment was fairly uneventful.

mens locker room paul cadmus

Then, 30 or so years ago, Madison Avenue began fetishizing the male form.

Magnum P.I. was sauntering around in short-shorts. Mark Walhberg was glaring at us with nothing but his Calvins on.

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No longer do we just have to worry about the size of our penises—we have to fret about our buns, our abs, even our c*m gutters.

Did c*m gutters exist before 1998?

Women, whose bodies have been ogled for centuries, are old hands at locker-room modesty.

Despite what you see on Cinemax, ladies locker rooms have never been a parade of Lady Godivas. One friend has a whole routine devoted to getting her sports bra off without displaying her breasts. (We’re trying to get it entered in the Olympics.)

And we gays have only made it worse.

men locker room porn

We’ve helped turned the gym into a sexually charged atmosphere—from the thumping dance music to the actual sex going on. (Ever wonder why the steam room is “out of order” at least once a month?)

To say we don’t care what the nude bodies around us look like is just patently false. Even straight guys care.

I’m not criticizing—it is what it is.

The reality is any time you have a group of men together, gay or straight, you’re going to have a power struggle.

It’s not always the Adonises who win—just ask the naked 60-year-old drying his privates with the hair dryer. He’s not just being comfortable, he’s asserting his dominance. (If there was a fire hydrant, he’d pee on it.)

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For those of us with a smidge of self-loathing about our love handles, this testosterone-fueled gauntlet can be uncomfortable. Like, high-school gym class uncomfortable.

It’s not homophobia that’s leading many of us to cover up, it’s fear of judgment.

Body shaming—it’s not just for women anymore!

So if we can remove all judgements about the human body, I’ll happily parade my bits around the locker room.

Until then, stop shaming my shame.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery