Why Old Men Love Being Naked in the Locker Room

What is it with old men in the locker room? If you're a man, and you've been to a gym, or the Y, or the JCC, you know what I'm talking about. In locker rooms, there's a nearly straight-line correlation between a gentleman's age and the time he enjoys spending chatting with other people, or merely walking about, with his junk on display for all to see. Not long ago I was in a locker room and saw two men talking, one of whom was a 60-ish fellow standing completely naked, holding forth on something or other. I left, worked out, and came back 45 minutes later to find the guy still standing there in the altogether; the only thing that had changed was that his previous conversation partner had managed to slip away, and he was now having an animated discussion with someone else. I don't know whether this is a particularly American phenomenon or it's world-wide, but it's been true in every multi-age locker room I've ever visited, and apparently I'm not the only one who has noticed. Here's Max Ross, writing in The New York Times:

As always, a spirit of competition hovers in the locker room — a game is being played. I haven't figured out the rules, or the ultimate goal, but I'm pretty certain the main action is to carry on as many arguments as possible without acknowledging the fact that everyone is naked. With few exceptions, the older men — professors emeritus, mostly — have the best endurance for it (there is, however, a Frenchman in his mid-20s, a candidate for a Master of Fine Arts, who has proved himself precociously skilled). They stand at the sinks and sit on the benches for what seems like hours at a time, gabbing.

I'm sure some sociologist somewhere has written a master's thesis on this. So what's going on? Here's my theory. In an earlier age, there were lots of spaces where men could be with other men without any women around—the office, the social club, the golf course, and a hundred others. As time has gone on, the all-male character of those places has disappeared, and so the locker room is one of the few places left where women are literally locked out. And then you get whatever you get when a bunch of men are left all in one place: a faint homoerotic buzz, existing just under the surface of most of their consciousnesses. Just like you find on, say, a submarine.

For the older men, that little thrill they get from standing naked in front of another guy for 45 minutes is safe, because when they grew up, homosexuality was shoved so far out of public view that for straight people it was almost an absurdity. So they can dip their toe into that pool, so to speak, without having any kind of complicated thoughts about their identity. Just a guy, standing here naked in front of a bunch of other guys. For some people it's obviously liberating.

Comments

The only American phenomenon I see here is the complete (hyporcite) prudery of the american people. People are born naked, it's their nature. Some enjoy being naked, because.. well... it's their nature. Get over it.

Oh and the next time you complain about breast feeding.... there you have it. Your nation is prude.

Yeah, yeah. I'm American and I hear people from other countries say that Americans are both prudish and slutty at the same time. It is freaking ridiculous. Everything is nuanced and subtle. People just harp on Americans and American culture because it dominate the world media.

*dominates

Only an American would make the remark that American culture dominates the world media.

This may be one of the most ridiculous commentaries I have ever read on The American Prospect. Is this meant to be a joke?

My opinion of TAP just dropped 30 points reading this claptrap.
Is this guy for real? Is prudery the Progressive ideal?
Has PC gone completely off the deep end?

I agree with the previous comment and would add this: Paul Waldman has nothing constructive to offer, sees what he wants to see, and is an ageist bigot.

Guys in my generation (boomers) grew up in a time when homosexuality wasn't a very public issue. It is today. I've seen young adult males in locker rooms put on their underwear while wrapped in a towel. I guess they worry that "exposing" themselves might signal being gay. For my money, that's more weird than walking from the shower to the locker without a towel. Chatting with others before dressing is only unnatural to 6th graders and people with hang-ups.

I'm a Brit, pretty well travelled, now living in Sunny CA, and until I came to the States I'd never seen anyone wearing "clothing" in a men-only Sauna! I sauna naked, always have, always will, and the first time someone tried to "pick-me-up" it took quite a while for me to catch-on; I remember thinking, "Good grief, he thinks I'm gay just because I'm sitting here naked, in 120 degree heat, minding my own buisiness!"

I've seen guys walk out of the SHOWER wearing shorts(!), wrap a towel 'round themselves, struggle to peel the sopping wet shorts off, dry themselves, then pull a dry pair on, all while hanging on to that towel for dear life!!! The first time it happened I couldn't help myself and laughed out loud; the poor guy looked so ridiculous... I also know guys who WON'T shower at the gym, they'll pull on a "clean" tee, jump in their car and drive home! (I'm guessing they have some industrial strength air fresheners hanging in front of their vents! LOL!)

Now wait just a minute! Comments above seem to be proving Waldman's contention that there's a story behind this odd behavior, and the fact that it's being systematically ignored is part of that story! It has nothing to do with gayness or straightness. It has everything to do with men everywhere feeling the erosion of their patriarchal status. Standing naked in the company of other men is very clearly an unconscious flaunting of their privilege, even unto the last gasp of patriarchy's rule. I think it's significant, and as a woman, take it as a sign that male privilege is quietly on the wane. That bright thought is followed quickly by the uncomfortable realization that the patriarchy's Distinction-Without-Merit scepter will only be wrenched from their cold, dead noodles when a stiletto heel is planted firmly in the groin of tyranny. We've tried every other appeal, God knows. Only a real man knows this, and will admit it, even if cluelessly, as done here by Mr. Waldman.

Nonsense. The reason for the disparity has nothing to do with the erosion of status. Men of a certain age, typically over the age of 50, were taught in gym class and while playing inter-scholastic sports that a shower was necessary after each activity. Look at most high schools today, the showers don't even work, at least around here; my two sons were not able to shower after an activity even if they wanted to. Walk into that same locker room and see who are those taking a shower after their workout and you will see the age divide writ large.

Demfatale - You sound like a Feminazi to me! What is this nonsense about "patriarchial status" and "privilege"? What does simply being comfortable have to do with status or anything of the kind? There is nothing wrong with anyone, male or female, being nude and comfortable. In Scandinavia both men and women use the saunas nude in a relaxed manner. They should do the same here. I think your anti-male stietto heel should be planted firmly in your mouth, milady!

He actually makes some suppositions based on his own point of view, but ignores some other important options. First being older people tend to have a lot of opinions they like to talk about and will tend to pontificate whenever they are given the opportunity. In most of the world, outside of the locker room, they tend to be ignored, while in the locker room they have a captive audience, so to speak. As far as being nude it is more likely they are at the point in their lives that they no longer care, rather than some sort of "thrill". They are more likely "thrilled" that someone is actually listening to what they have to say. These are the same guys that will sit on the toilet next to you and hold on a conversation as if they we sitting across from you at the coffee shop.

Or, here is the other obvious point that did not seem to be mentioned, maybe they just like being nude and the only safe place for them to be that way is in the locker room. Liking to be nude has nothing to do with anything sexual, ask you friendly neighborhood nudist. It also follows the trend that a disproportionate amount of nudists are older gentlemen. Maybe after years of having to be pent up in their lives, they finally want to have that freedom.

In either case it also has nothing to do with women invading their space.

Here's what's really going on. Nudity for boys used to be required in high school gym class -- as far as the parents were concerned, for hygiene reasons, and as far as the boys were concerned, to avoid "b.o." (yeah, I know that sounds incredibly old-fashioned, but "having b.o." was one of the WORST things a kid could be accused of). I remember my ex-Marine high school swim coach shocking us the first day of swim class when he told us in anatomical detail exactly how we would wash which parts of our front and back crotch every time we showered before entering the pool area.

Were we boys ashamed of our bodies? Maybe a little, but we got over it. More important, we got used to it.

Over the years, parents became more concerned about ex-Marine swim coaches ogling naked boys than they were about their sons being clean, or developing healthy attitudes about their bodies. The boys' natural initial shyness came, somehow, to be more important than b.o., and so that shyness was never challenged. No one wanted to shower nude any more. So boys skipped the shower and just stank. The schools, worried about lawsuits, stopped requiring them to be clean.

So when you see a naked old guy hanging around nude in a locker room, he's doing what has been natural to him for decades. Younger guys, who don't want anyone to see that their bodies aren't perfect, see this (as the article author does) as some kind of statement, because to them covering up as soon as possible is natural and requires no explanation.

Too bad -- spending time naked with people increases emotional bonding, something that happened without any of us realizing it as we horsed around naked with other boys. This was not a gay or a straight thing; it was a human thing. I'm sorry that parental prudery made this wonderful tradition appear to be a contest to the younger generation. And it's a generational thing only in the U.S.; in Europe casual nudity like this among men is still common.

Many high school and college swim teams swam nude, by the way. The point was, if women weren't present, why would anyone WANT to wear a bathing suit? You wore a suit at swim meets, the smaller the better. But during practice? During gym class? At the local swimming hole? Of course not.

If you haven't swum nude, by the way, you're missing out.

From 7 to 17 swam naked in YMCA pool every Saturday as required. In high school went naked with friends to a glen that had natural pools with rocky ledges to dive from. Even skipped class one to go the city water supply located in hills to swim on a hot day. Had to position ourselves to see police if they came up the long drive. College had three roommates. We had to use a common bathroom on the entire 2nd floor we shared with other guys from other rooms. Showers were open as were those in gym. The local YMCA there also required nude swimming. In military had to wait naked all day with other guys to go through long physicals all done in the open; had to piss in a cup right along with the others as well as "grab your knees and bend over" to check our rectums. Live in a 100 man barracks with open showers ,sinks, and yes, toilets that were fixed without stalls and piss in long urinal. Guys sunned in the nude (but could get a court martial if sun burned so as to have to go on sick call).

This is the most prejudiced if not the dumbest article I've read in a long time. Even the banner "younger men just put on their clothes like normal people?" evokes the idea that the author is living in a parallel universe of ageism, prudeness and lack of self-pride. No, Mr. Waldman, you're at the gym. In a men's locker. Where saunas, steam rooms and pools are there for the health and enjoyment of the body. And showers. I hold that it is YOU who are so self-conscious about your own "shortcomings" that you have to resort to calling prudeness "normal". It is not.

Coming from a military background, nudity is as normal as eating in a single-sex situation. If you're not comfortable at first, you get over it quickly. And if you're traveled through or lived abroad, nudity, even in mixed-sex settings, is commonplace. It is so in Japan. It is so in most of Asia, where common bathing facilities can be the rule rather than the exception. If young people in the USA are so spoiled and prudish that they are uncomfortable with their bodies, it's not anyone's fault.

Four or five years ago, I travel to the ski resort of Katschberg, Austria with friends. Katschberg, a family resort, has a mixed-sex, gym-sized sauna and gigantic artificial light pool area. And nudity is not only recommended, but mandatory, as clothes are considered a bacterial health hazard. Those of us who had lived in Europe, were as naked as jaybirds along with the rest of Germans, Austrians, French and British. Adults, teens, toddlers, you name it. Except a group of American teen-agers who came in with their disgusting looking board shorts and were promptly told that either they lost their garments or could find their way out the door. Last year, at our hotel in Zermatt, the pool, sauna and health area was both coed and nude.

There is a time and a place for dress, and there is a time and a place for undress. A shower or sauna area is one of the latter. Sorry if it makes you uncomfortable, but I hold that it is YOU and not the rest of us who have nonsensical hangups.

I will never allow my children to undress at school gym/swims or at the local YMCA or gym.
These locker rooms are a hangout for old perverted men who stare at all the young, firm & smooth bodies that those young lads display while changing, showering or in the sauna.

I have caught these perverts many times and have even had them kicked out and lost their memberships for this behavior. Some have even taken out tiny cameras to snap the photos/videos of these naked young boys (in those cases we called the police).

My children change behind a towel and shower at home because of my cousin, who works with a
investigative police unit, has told me of all the photos they are finding on the internet of naked young boys and even young male adults taken at local gyms, schools and YMCA locker rooms.

These perverts enter these locker rooms, take a bunch of photos of the boys and then post them on web sites and on certain Yahoo groups and other similar adult blogs. He tells me he has seen boys from age 6 and all the way up to late teens naked in the lockers/showers....and they don't even know that their most intimate & privet moments are posted for all to see.

The only answer is to stop all nudity in public locker rooms, showers and saunas.

If we stop the nudity in lockers, we will stop these perverts from attending these venues. There will no longer be anything there to turn them on and stimulate their interest.

Bill - You are an uptight character if there ever was one. Your attitudes are a classic example of why so many modern young men have such unhealthy hangups. The so-called "perverts" you talk about are a very tiny minority. Teaching young people that normal anatomy is something to be ashamed of is setting the stage for serious problems in later life.

Obviously this writter is ashamed of his own body and uncertain of his sexuality! Please, dont send this ridiculous article to Europa, unless you want to be the laugh of every one! Narrow views like yours fit only in here and some countries where showing some skin is a sin. Hahaha! I am Duth bty, and nudity is normal for me and for my family and for my friends around me. Nothing to do with" homoerotica" like you put it, besides maybe you are the one who is really uncertain of your own sexuality of afraid to show yourself as you are. Hahaha again!

Even in 6 th grade I never had problems getting nude for showers after gym or in shower room at pool or anything. Friends would see something where accidental nudity was shown and Giggle like they were little girls and I'd just say yea I noticed it too but without laughing. I rather have more nudity personally. Well wait I am 34 and now have little naturist place. Who cares if guys standing around nude and talking...i see it all the time and no big deal.

Modern female-dominated young men have been programmed by the feminazis to be ashamed of their bodies. No wonder they are so uptight. Older men are more secure in their male identity and their masculinity. What is this fuss about normal human anatomy? In the old days at the all-male clubs everyone swam nude (which is more healthy, by the way) and no one thought anythinig about it. Now wonder modern young men have so many hangups!

I think that it's because the older they get, the lower they hang, and they want to flaunt their larg*ess, it's all they got left.

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