Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Nudity etiquette in gym changing rooms

A couple of years ago, a reader told me that various activities sometimes occur in the men's changing rooms at a certain gym near where I work, and ever since then I'd been looking for an opportunity to find out for myself. So when a friend invited me to attend a group fitness class with her at that gym last week, it was hard to refuse!

I arrived early to give myself time to check everything out before the class. And looking around inside the men's changing room I found what I was expecting, namely a sauna and a steam room inside the locker room itself. Most gyms in London have these kinds of facilities, but they’re not always located inside the changing rooms. The gym I go to used to have such a sauna in the men’s changing room, but unfortunately that sauna was closed a couple of years ago. The advantage of having such facilities inside the changing rooms is that all the users are the same gender. I’m not sure what goes on in women-only saunas, but in my experience men-only saunas and steam rooms can be quite cruisey :-).

Luckily, after the class my host was busy so I had time I had to check it all out for myself. Although I didn’t get involved in anything on this occasion, it was interesting to gauge the atmosphere. Most gyms have rules against activities, and although one’s unlikely to get caught, being someone’s guest would make that scenario particularly embarrassing. But there was no doubt that I could have picked up a guy if I’d wanted to :-). I caught the eye of one of the other guys when I was in the steam room, and after that he kept looking me up and down knowingly, both in the steam room and watching me shower nearby. Perhaps I could have had a take-away! In any case, the guidelines that I drafted almost two years ago still seem to be accurate :-).

It’s also interesting to see how etiquette on nudity varies from gym to gym. In this gym last week, inside the steam and sauna facilities all the guys had white towels wrapped around their waists, and the only guy who didn’t was wearing swimming trunks. But in other gyms that I’ve visited with these kind of facilities in the male changing rooms, there’s been a significant amount of nudity, and even if a guy initially wears a towel he might take it off and sit on it once inside. I always enjoy going naked, and I also don’t mind if all the other guys are more modest than me, however I also reckon that it’s a bit rude for a visitor to ignore the etiquette so I covered myself up.

Unfortunately, the general trend in London gyms over the last couple of decades has been towards more modesty and less nudity in male changing rooms. In the late 1980’s the shower areas were usually completely open, so that it was easy to check out the other guys who were showering at the same time as oneself. But in the late 1990’s glass partitions started to appear between the showerheads, and these days whenever a renovation occurs the glass seems to become less transparent! One of the gyms that I know which had glass partitions then went and installed shower curtains a couple of years ago, whereas previously the cubicles had been completely open at the front.

Straight guys used to think that gay guys were only the effeminate types that could be seen in TV sitcoms, so perhaps it’s no coincidence that this trend towards more modesty has occurred as gay rights have become stronger. I reckon that a lot of straight guys worry about who’s looking at them naked, especially now that a lot of them have realised that gay guys can be found everywhere! Straight guys are always secretly checking each other out too of course and somehow that doesn't worry them. So maybe one day they’ll realise that being checked out by a gay guy isn’t a threat either, it’s simply a compliment :-).


Anonymous said...

Yes indeed GB, one of your most interesting post in a while! You are right GB, i noticed too that you are able to pick up even the most subtle signals and its good to know your observations and connections with each other, reaching a very interesting conclusion. I have noticed this before in changing rooms etc, however i never really put the 2 and 2 together until you did.

SubtleKnife said...

Can't say about the men's sauna, but the women's sauna at my gym is not at all cruisey.

Or maybe it's my presence that kills the atmosphere. It's possible.

SubtleKnife said...

Oh, I never even thought about covering up in there and I don't think any of the other women do.

age appropriate said...

Um, the steam room at my gym in Manchester is located within the male changing room and it's fabulously cruisy. Sometimes, all I want is a nice mellow steam though..!

My gym has a policy of three strikes before you're out.


Anonymous said...

It's interesting that in the women's sauna no one bothers covering up. And there isn't any cruising.
Putting two and two together, I reckon guys are covering up because of the sexual atmosphere created by us gays.
I go to the gym uber regularly, but with purely the intent of working out. I had a bad experience a while back, with a guy STARING at me while I was showering, not subtle or anything. Then he shifts around, taking the shower right next me, and starts staring at my willy. He then timed himself so that he would be showering when I was. Quite uncomfortable for me as a gay person, let alone a straight guy.

To be honest, I like being naked and just being male in the locker room. It just feels real macho :P Maybe it was meeting place for gays in the past, but now with increasing awareness as well as other places to get action, I think we gays need to respect that the gym isn't for sexual encounters, period. Maybe just a little eye candy.

Anonymous said...

The gym I use in Huddersfield has the Sauna inside the men's changing rooms. Most of the guys here dont mind who is looking at them and they find it very comfortable to walk around naked. Inside the sauna most men are fully naked and just sit on a towel for hygine reasons. people just seem to talk to each other and forget about the fact they are talking to another stark naked man it's not an issue. The showers are open for all to see and I personally don't mind another man looking at my tackle as long as they keep themselves to themselves.

Anonymous said...

Checking anyone out -specially at a gym - is invasion of privacy sphere. As an educated man you should realize what you write is actually a crime and sooner or later will become Law.
If homossexuality is fine criminal behavior isn't.