The Male Locker Room

An amusing discussion over at Andrew Sullivan’s blog on John Amaechi noting that in NBA locker rooms guys "check each other out" all the time. One reader writes Andrew:

I don’t get this whole "taking a shower with your gay team-mates thing." I am straight.  Straight as an arrow. I like women. I like boobs. I do not find the penis sexy. Very, very straight …

And I check out guys in the shower. I am always curious what other guys look like. I am always comparing and contrasting. Any guy who tells you he does not sneak a peak is full of crap. If you shower in a gym, it does not matter if you are showering with gay guys, straight guys, Chippendale dancers or the Dalai Lama himself … everyone is checking everyone else out.

I work out at the Flatiron Athletic Club, which was last year named the best gym in America, and my routine is workout, shower, hot tub. I now hot-tub about six days a week, and it’s awesome.

The spacious locker room dynamics are fascinating. You have some guys who are all-towel (minority). Some guys who are towel-less but comfortable (majority). Some guys who are towel-less but slightly uncomfortable (they just happen to hold the towel in a certain location). And some guys who are totally brash and aggressive in their flaunting (minority).

Regardless of the category, I can vouch for the emailer’s observation above: everyone is sneaking a peek while maintaining a base level of maturity and professionalism. And as Andrew says, if you’re someone who, a) feels "violated" if someone else gets aroused in your presence or, b) you’d feel uncomfortable showering with gay people, it’s your own insecurity that’s the problem, not anyone’s orientation.

8 comments on “The Male Locker Room
  • I don’t understand why people don’t make the logical, simple, real analogy. The correct analogy is like this: Being a gay man in a locker room or shower situation in a gym or teamsport is like being a straight man in a locker room or shower situation of a woman’s team.

    Imagine for a moment that you (if you are a heterosexual man) were for some reason allowed to shower and change in the same facilities as 30-100 women on a sports team (a basketball team, a track team, whatever). What would your reaction be? Would it be crazy to suggest that you would be more than “sneaking a peak?” That you may become aroused? Would it be out of line for some of those women to feel uncomfortable?

    Okay, so maybe it’s okay for some guys to not feel so great about the possibility of a gay man to be in the locker room with them. Then what?

    You CANNOT disallow gay men or women from participating in team sports. That’s discrimination. You CANNOT demand that gay players use separate but equal “gay locker rooms”. That’s crazy and discrimination.

    It puts a lot of responsibility on both the heterosexual player to not imagine things in his or her mind about what is going on in the homosexual mind regarding them and their body. And it is imperative that the homosexual player recognize and maintain a strict code of asexual behavior inside of the locker room, and I would say, with any teammate.

    This might be crazy, but perhaps it would be smart to have players sign a “code of conduct” that would say they would not date, sexually approach, or hit on a teammate with repercussions of being kicked off the team if they do. Kind of like the rules regarding NFL Cheerleaders and NFL Players. You would have to be careful, that heterosexual players don’t make false accusations in that case to get gay players kicked off the team.

    In elite teamsports where “team chemistry” is a misunderstood and at times undervalued piece of success, the lockerroom drama that would erupt from even the accusation of a player being hit on by a gay teammate, is a problem that no owner, coach, or player wants, including the gay player.

    This firestorm regarding Tim Hardaway’s comments about John Amaechi have missed the mark. Of course Hardaway is a bigot and his remark’s were politically incorrect. But Dan Le Batard asked him the question to gain insight into the professional locker room, and that insight was shared honestly. That is why Amaechi didn’t come out during his career. I’m sure multiple players in each locker room in the NBA share Hardaway’s core value- disgust at homosexual behaviour, and an inability to separate an action and an orientation from a person, a problem I believe that many people in this world, including the majority, if not all, of the gay population share.

    The bottom line is that in a population as large as the NBA, there is going to be the same spectrum of opinions regarding gay people as in the world at large, but it may be skewed to the right more than you’d find in the world at large for a few reasons. In the world at large, I’d argue you find people falling into four camps regarding homosexuality.

    1)”enlightened” cosmopolitans who embrace the person and the sexual orientation as “right” and a legitimate option (not saying homosexuality is a choice, I don’t know)

    2)Indifferent to someone’s orientation. What happens in the bedroom stays in the bedroom.

    3)Disagreement with homosexuality as a legitimate sexual activity, but separate the orientation from the person, able to support the person as a friend and colleague, while disagreeing with the sexual activity.

    4)Disagreement with homosexuality, an in ability to separate the activity from the person, which can manifest as disapproval to hatred of the homosexual person, sometimes bleeding into generalization of the entire gay population. Tim Hardaway.

    I would argue that Elite Athletes (NBA/MLB/NFL/NHL)will skew right (or, in the above, higher numerically).

    Here’s why: Elite athletes have usually been coddled, protected athletes from high school on up, living an aggressive alpha male lifestyle where athletic achievement, heterosexual exploits, and, in some places physical intimidation, are rewarded.

    These athletes were not asked to develop their minds, and most did not do so. As Colin Cowherd said last week on his radio show, the professional athlete makes money with his body, and his mind is as undeveloped as the average lawyer’s body is, who makes his money with his mind. You don’t see very many 35 year old business men with good to great bodies. Because the physical body is neglected. And you don’t see many deep thinkers in the professional athletic leagues either.

    To get back to your original point, Ben, if sexuality doesn’t matter, then why not have full coed bath and locker room facilities? Take the Ally McBeal bathroom to it’s fullest, most enlightened extent. Isn’t it the same thing as gay teammates in a same sex locker room? I don’t think it’s right to blame any discomfort on an insecure man. No, it’s deeper than that, and more serious.

    The situation at Washington U illustrates the issue perfectly, it’s the gay teammate who is terrified that something will be misinterpreted, and it is that person’s actions, and the attitude of the team leaders, that will dictate how each situation will go. WashU is a D3 school and a top 10 academic institution. None of these players is going to the NFL. They go to class and have to get a job after graduation. The attitude may very well be different in the big 12, I don’t know. I hope that in each situation, all players can deal with it as maturely as those WashU players have. But there is also a selection factor that no one who is “not-pc” would voice those opinions to an ESPN reporter. The players did agree that some teammates did have at least some problem with a gay teammate. Even if these unenlightened players weren’t good enough to start. The idea that there is a positive correlation with athletic ability and acceptance of a gay lifestyle is stupid, as Tim Hardaway’s comments prove. Tim was a 5 time allstar.

    Generalizations will not hold in any form in this discussion, and each situation will dependon it’s unique elements and players. I believe players will continue to come out in the future until a gay teammate is no longer an issue, but that it will hinge on all team relationships being asexual in nature, at least with the men.

    There are plenty of examples, especially in collegiate women’s softball and basketball of gay teammates and coaches. Sometimes it isn’t an issue, sometimes it is for the heterosexual players. It really depends on the level of respect that each group has for the other, as well as the proportion of gay players. Naturally, as the proportion of gay players rises, they become more, for lack of a better term, flamboyant, which I have seen personally can create some discomfort.

    These thoughts come from my collegiate experience in football and lacrosse, and talking to my friends on the softball and W basketball teams.

  • I just had a debate over this with a friend.

    In my own life, I could care less. Stare all you want. I’ve been hit on by gay men since I was sixteen — though once they found out my age they ran like a bat out of hell.

    Weeks ago at a nude beach in Miami Beach everyone checked each other out. Strange at first, but you get used to it. Did the eyes of men wander at me? I couldn’t really tell you to be quite honest… though it’s certainly happened on the main strip of ocean drive.

    Am I just extremely comfortable in my own skin? (and others looking at it, ha!)

    Perhaps it’s been my upbringing in the “liberal Northeast” (Philadelphia, one of the most gay-friendly cities) that has lead me not to give a shit about sexuality, but it amazes me to see how bent out of shape some people get.

    So, back to the topic at hand. “Friend A” has become quite agigtated at the fact that two gay guys, presumably in a relationship, have moved in next door to us in the dorms. Despite the fact that neither of them has done anything but say “hello” in the morning while waiting at the elevator. It just bothers him for reasons I can’t pinpoint.

    Once again, I really don’t give a shit. Paint your room pink, blast the village people and fuck until your eyes roll in the back of your head. How does this effect me?

    That’s right — it doesn’t.

    I’m a Public Relations major, and subsequently, I work with many women and gay men. I’ve become friendly with many of them on both sides, and it was during one afternoon in the computer lab writing some advertising copy that “Friend B” (a gay man)asked me this:

    “Why are so many straight guys convinced we all want them?”

    “What do you mean?” I asked.

    “You know, they all have this fear in the mind that our mission in life is to fuck them in the ass and bring them over to the gay side.”

    After a burst of laughter I told my friend I honestly had no idea. He shrugged his shoulders and told stories of friendships strained and moronic frat boys / athletes and their equally stupid attitudes.

    “They all thought I’d try and fuck them when it couldn’t be further from the truth. No offense to them but they’re not all that attractive.”

    I laughed some more and finished up my assignment. And yes, I went the whole time feeling remarkbly comfortable talking about sex with a homosexual.

    Maybe someone should write a book entitled “relax, he’s not into you.”

  • “Would it be crazy to suggest that you would be more than “sneaking a peak?” That you may become aroused? Would it be out of line for some of those women to feel uncomfortable?”

    I’m openly gay and I sneak peeks in the lockerroom as little as possible for the obvious reason that I don’t want to be noticed checking someone out. Yes, some of them are very hot, but to be caught doing that would make both of us very uncomfortable. If somebody wanted to ostracize me from the group for an indiscreet glance, I would not blame them. Bring back shaming as a tool of social control!

    Now if I could just get those creepy old guys at the gym to stop leering at me in the showers ….

  • Interesting topic… I look at it from a very simplest angle. People should be thankful if someone enjoys seeing you naked. Take it as a compliment and don’t feel threatened. I admit this can be easier said that done if the person is doing it in a way that is considered creepy or too much. Frankly, many people don’t have “luxury” of being lusted over. Be thankful.

  • I’ve lived in the Bay Area for the past 7 years, and spent a lot of time showering in YMCA locker rooms. Not once have I ever been concerned that someone gay might be checking me out.

    When I was at HBS, my locker was right next to the Dean and his right-hand man. I probably saw them naked more than their wives. This disturbed me a hell of a lot more.

    And no, I did not intentionally check out the Dean; but both he and his friend fell into the towelless category, so it was unavoidable–especially since they would often engage me in conversation while unclad.

    But I’ll note that at no time did any of us say, “So, do you like gladiator movies?”

  • I shower in a public gym and I really dont care if I am being glanzed at. As long as I am not being touched or being told any offensive words, who cares. We all look at each oter, we all compare our selfs to see if we are bigger or smaller or if we are average sized.

  • Hi,
    I am a man and know locker room behavior. I shower in a public gym and I really do not care if I am being glazed at. As long as I am not being touched or being told any offensive words, who cares. We all look at each other, we all compare our self to see if we are bigger or smaller or if we are average sized.



  • Hi
    In the male locker or in showers some times we face very bad situations where the other guys are looking at us and we fell very badly as we are straight and they are not. But these kind of situations are common in these places and all have face them once in a life

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