Saturday, May 20, 2006

Naked Time

I realize that, in the locker room at the gym, it is sometimes necessary to get completely naked. For most people, this sort-of-public nudity is mildly unpleasant, and the normal thing is to do it efficiently. What I still cannot understand is guys in the locker room who prolong their nudity for no apparent reason. I have seen men walk the entire length of the locker room in the nude--no towel--with no clear direction or purpose. It's as though they just decided to go for a naked walk. All I ask is, if you must be completely nude, that you keep your "naked time" as close to zero as humanly possible. If the truth is that you don't want to put your clothes back on because you have nudist tendencies, find a more appropriate environment.

The most baffling, though, is when two men decide to have a full conversation, standing just a couple feet apart, both naked, and they act like there's nothing unusual about this. It's as though they do not know that they are naked.

(Adam and Eve, Albrecht Durer)

In Annie Hall, Woody Allen tells Diane Keaton that he doesn't change at the gym because, of course, he doesn't "like to get naked in front of another man...You never know what's gonna happen." The implication, I assume, is that locker room nudity is better for gay men than straight ones. I think the exact opposite is true. As a gay man, you can never be unaware of the sexual overtones of a completely naked guy walking directly up to you and standing one foot away in order to get to his coincidentally very-close-to-you locker. Only as a straight man could this bearable.


Blogger Matthew said...

Hm. Weird and wrong. Quite the combo.

2:34 AM  
Blogger Michael H said...

They're just air-drying. Gotta be some wierd, repressed stuff going on in your head.

8:47 AM  
Blogger Ruth Anne Adams said...

Perhaps it's a throw-back to childhood? What is more freeing than being bare-nekkid, running down the hall at top speed, to get to the parent waiting to bathe you in the bathroom?

I allow my little ones a little nekkid time on bath nights. It's brief. But I like that they have no shame.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Tonya said...

It's one thing to get naked in front of strangers at the gym. It's another entirely to get naked in front of one's close friends. I found myself doing so recently when I went to a fancy spa with some female friends. There were four of us. Two were completely comfortable with their nudity and had no qualms about being naked in front of the rest of us. The third chose to remain wrapped in a towel or wearing a robe at all times and passed on the opportunity to soak naked in the purification pool (not quite a hot tub and not quite a swimming pool). I was somewhere in the middle -- feeling extremely self-conscious but wishing I had fewer hangups. Also wishing that I had a flat stomach and slimmer thighs.

My approach to these situations is to try to maintain eye contact at all times -- except when my friends aren't looking. Then I sneak a peek.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Wade_Garrett said...

Annie Hall is my all-time favorite movie, and that is one of my favorite lines. You left out a couple of words that, in my opinion, make the joke even funnier: "I never like to get naked in front of another man of my gender."

11:44 AM  
Blogger Maxine Weiss said...

Why is it "necessary" as you say?

"When two men"......

Well, for heaven's sake, don't interrupt them.

If there were three men, you could enter the conversation. Three is an odd number. But groups of two, four and six---don't bother.

Peace, Maxine

11:46 AM  
Blogger Maxine Weiss said...

I like Massaccio's "Adam and Eve: Expulsion from the Garden of Eden."

Sees to more reflect how you feel.

Peace, Maxine

11:52 AM  
Blogger Maxine Weiss said...

I can't resist....

"I have seen....."

Interpretation: I wasn't looking. I just happened to "see".

Things floating in your eyeline, that you can't help but to see.

The difference between taking an actual look, versus, simply seeing.....


Peace, Maxine

11:55 AM  
Blogger Christopher Althouse said...

Michael: Air-drying? Haven't they ever heard of a towel? That sounds like an excuse to me.

Maxine: It's necessary sometimes, if you're about to go swimming, for instance, and you need to change into your swimsuit. And these are never guys I have any desire to look at naked.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Peter B. said...

Last summer I was teaching ballroom dance class ata health club when major thunderstoms moved through the area. Everyone was required to take shelter in the locker room. The 50-or-so men in the locker room with me were standing around the big-screen TV, watching weather reports when one man stepped out of the shower, dried off, walked around some more, then walked the full length of the room, *through* the huddle of 50 men, to the water fountain (bubbler) next to the TV, bent over for a long drink, then walked back to his locker, walking *past* three more bubblers on along the way. Just thirsty I guess.

One of the men in my class was from a different culture that made him quite apprehensive to be standing in a group that included several nearly naked men. When the drink-taker sauntered through, my pupil became visibly upset and walked quickly away around a corner.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Palladian said...

I could never, under any circumstances, get naked in front of strangers (in a public, non-sexual way, that is). I remember what a trauma gym class was when I was an early teenager, back when they forced the boys to change and shower after gym class. I think my discomfort was partially due to my not-yet-understood gayness and partially due to my terribly introverted nature. The combination made for a very difficult, stressful situation.

It's strange how, thinking about it all now (and reading your descriptions) it seems super hot and sexy but at the time, it was the least sexy thing you could imagine. Funny about fantasy, isn't it?

Since I teach drawing at an art school, I'm around naked people all the time. I'm quite curious what personal dynamic allows someone to not only be naked in front of people, but have them staring at and studying your body for hours at a time.

Something about this post reminds me of Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut, which seems to have quite a lot in it dealing with the issue of clothed and naked, both literally and metaphorically.

1:26 PM  
Blogger chuck b. said...

I don't mind being naked in front of people (strangers or not), but I don't like being naked *and wet* in front of people. I can take a shower at the gym, or go skinny-dipping with friends, but the second I get out of the water, I'm a fast-moving blur of towel and robe.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Christopher Althouse said...

Peter: Yes, that's exactly the kind of thing I'm describing. He clearly just seemed like he wanted to go for a naked walk, right? There's no rational explanation for it.

palladian: MY description seemed "super hot and sexy"? That certainly was not the intention! Let me just note, again, that guys who do this are pretty much never attractive. The attractive ones generally know that gay guys check them out and at least wrap a towel around their waist. I'm sure you've noticed this, unless you never even go in a men's locker room. But I do think that, if you're gay growing up, it does seem much more uncomfortable than it does to the straight kids, who are able to find it completely asexual.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Palladian said...

"Let me just note, again, that guys who do this are pretty much never attractive. The attractive ones generally know that gay guys check them out and at least wrap a towel around their waist. I'm sure you've noticed this, unless you never even go in a men's locker room."

I never go in a men's locker room.

I guess it says a lot about me that I didn't even consider that the naked men strolling around would be unattractive. You're ruining it for me!

1:46 PM  
Blogger Christopher Althouse said...

Palladian: Trust me, these are almost unvariably overweight, older guys with no sex appeal. I'm not sure how this factors into the equation, but it does.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Christopher Althouse said...

...I mean invariably.

1:56 PM  
Blogger sonicfrog said...

As I read this I contemplated how our lives would be different if humanity had never invented chlothing. You would think that my first thought would be something existential like "There would be less war. I mean who wants to fight while being nekkid???".


The first thing that came to mind was "Just think of the nasty sunburns we would have to cope with!".

Of coarse that might decrease our tendencies for war because who wants to fight while nekkid nursing a nasty sunburn on the naughty bits!

3:35 PM  
Blogger sonicfrog said...

Ooops... put an extra "h" in clothing.

PAlladian, I empathize with the high school gym thing. I must have been a glutton for punnishment because I was on the divng team in high school and college. In some ways I suppose it's like those "pretend to be the opposite sex to get into college" movies, where the protagonists has to shower with the rest of the class and has to find ways to do so without revealing their true identity.

I'm curious. Are straight men, no, men in general nervous because we don't want to be checked out, or because we fear getting caught glancing at someone elses wares? Straight men sneak a peak now and again, not in a sexual way, but more of a compair and contrast type thing. Or maybe it's just the mystery of differences in... OK, perhaps I'm going too far. But I think it's like rubbernecking an accident while driving. You really have to concentrate to not do so.

4:03 PM  
Blogger sonicfrog said...

On my last statement. Here is my proof....

Why does every straight guy of our generation know who Ron Jeremy is, but probably couldn't name more than two of the female porn stars he "worked" with?

Wow. I wandered way off topic. Must be a Saturday.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Maxine Weiss said...

I'm still confused: You can wear your swimsuit under your clothes. The kinds of swimwear that guys are wearing today, also functions as streetwear, (Ann's loathing of shorts---notwithstanding).

I don't believe there's any reason to go near a lockerroom if you really don't wanna. There's always traditional restrooms with closed stall, or one-person restrooms.

As for the weight thing: You've got a double standard. It's ok for someone to do it, in-your-face....provided you think they are attractive. So, this is all about weight, apparently.....and who you feel has a right, based on physical attractiveness.....

Assignment: The Peter Paul Rubens figure drawings. The "Rubenesque" look. Lots of people running around sans clothes, and overweight. Or, I guess, "well-nourished" or "ripe" as Peter Paul Rubens would put it.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

When I visit my mother I use her gym. We have a steam room & sauna in the locker room where other women are often semi-nude or naked - lying on towels.

It's not a big deal; but then again, I haven't seen many people go for "naked walks" through the locker room. Usually we have a small towel wrapped around us.

But it seems kind of silly to get anxiety over nakedness in a locker room.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

eeeek- Brian is my husband.

I've appropriated his computer.

That's kind of funny, considering the topic and the picture he put up. (it's of a famous biologist, i think?)

4:52 PM  
Anonymous geoduck2 said...

geez- I did it again-


4:52 PM  
Blogger Joseph Hovsep said...

I know exactly what Christopher is talking about here and I also feel uncomfortable with it. But I also agree with some commenters that its more our own psychological pathology than anything consciously being done wrong by the naked lockerroom walkers. I don't see rationally why we should be uncomfortable with anyone walking around naked, especially older, nonthreatening types.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Balfegor said...

For me it's contextual. I wasn't entirely comfortable getting naked in a high school gym in the US, but I've not had much of a problem in other countries (Korea and Japan) getting naked in bathhouses and whatnot. Well, "whatnot" being pretty much onsen/hotsprings. Anyhow, the "naked time" there is pretty long, since you soak in the hot water for a bit. With other men sharing the same water as you. I'd even go a bit further; my guess would be that I might not be pyschologically uncomfortable on one of those naked-people beaches in Europe either (only the thought of being naked on sand is icky to me). But if I think about it, possibly my comfort depends on the degree to which there is enclosure. A nude beach might be too "open," so to speak, while an onsen that has walls isn't, even if it's open on top. I don't know.

At any rate, there are certainly limits to this -- I cannot imagine any circumstances under which I would feel comfortable being nude for an extended people of time so people could sit there are draw me. Couldn't do it. And that's entirely independent of how enclosed/unenclosed I may feel my environment to be.

Re: sonicfrog:
Why does every straight guy of our generation know who Ron Jeremy is, but probably couldn't name more than two of the female porn stars he "worked" with?

I don't know what generation you are (I am a millenial), but I know his name because there was a biopic or a documentary or something made about him a few years back, and it percolated through the news. They satirised it in the Anchorman title too. Everyone knows about him!

Are straight men, no, men in general nervous because we don't want to be checked out, or because we fear getting caught glancing at someone elses wares?

I think the latter. People think I'm gay all the time anyhow, and the possibility that some man will think I am scrutinising his genitals is a source of some anxiety, at the back of my mind, when that possibility comes up. I.e. when I have got no clothes on, and am in a room of American men who have got no clothes on either. Young American men in particular, I think -- with older men I don't think there is this anxiety, because older men seem less likely to think "This is a gay man, and he is checking me out!"

11:00 PM  
Blogger Balfegor said...

Chuck B:
but I don't like being naked *and wet* in front of people.

Out of curiosity, do you have any idea why?

11:03 PM  
Blogger Christopher Althouse said...

Maxine: Would there be anything wrong with me wanting the guy who's getting his naked body in my personal space to be attractive? I don't think so. But no, I don't particularly like it, regardless of who it is. It's just an added "bonus" that all guys who do this are unattractive.

12:18 AM  
Blogger Christopher Althouse said...

Let me just note that in saunas--especially all female saunas, it seems--and places where people get fully undressed and relax in the nude, it likely seems less uncomfortable because everyone's naked and everyone understands that you're supposed to be naked. In the locker room, you're often clothed and have people come up to you in the nude, with no apparent intention of getting dressed right away. Much less comfortable, right?

12:24 AM  
Blogger Christopher Althouse said...

One last thing... I never find myself looking at other guys' packages in the locker room. That must be what straight guys do. I'm not even interested in what it looks like limp; what do I care? It's the rest of the body that concerns me.

12:27 AM  
Blogger Maxine Weiss said...

.....would you admit it if you did?


What is this unconsciously/subconsciously about?

It's not just the's also the communal dressing rooms at Loehmanns.

What do these communal dressing rooms/locker rooms bring up such issues?

They are entirely optional. Nobody is "forced" to try on a 30% markdown in a communal dressing room. Nobody forces anyone to enter a communal lockerrom teaming with......I don't even know what.

Where is the force, I ask? These places are entirely optional.

Peace, Maxine

5:27 PM  
Blogger Matt Brown said...

Balfegor: I don't know how Chuck B. will answer about the "naked AND wet" thing, but I can sympathize with what he said.

For me, it feels especially vulnerable to be naked and wet from the shower of a lockerroom - I guess because if I have to run while I'm in that situation, I'm more likely to fall down because of the slickness. I can't imagine a reason for running while in that situation, but that's how it feels to me - "what if I have to make a quick getaway, and I can't because I'm nude, wet, and I keep falling."

6:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see it as a big deal. But then, I'm not that body conscious, in a same-sex environment. In high school the locker room was a trial, mostly do to body issues. More time spent in locker rooms diminished that. However, some military experience (60 guys, ten showerheads, ten minutes to shower, shave, and dress) pretty much got me over worrying about that sort of thing.
Sorry it bugs you. I think a lot of guys who spent/spend a fair amount of time in locker rooms worry less about being nude.
As for gay guys checking me out, I'm probably one of those less-attractive types referred to and heck, I don't care. If I thought a woman was checking me out, then I'd be nervous.

2:43 PM  

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