From various sources:

  • Naked Guys in the Locker Room: Why Men Aren’t Nude at the Gym (Quinn Myers, 2019): https://melmagazine.com/en-us/story/naked-locker-room-guys
  • On Being Naked In A Locker Room (John Garry, 2019): https://medium.com/humungus/locker-room-nudity-in-america-71a40e847682
  • Why is it almost always old men who are naked in the men’s locker room of my gym? (various, 2018): https://www.reddit.com/r/AskMen/comments/77izq0/why_is_it_almost_always_old_men_who_are_naked_in
  • Hollywood has a male nudity problem (Lillian Andemicael, 2017): https://dbknews.com/2017/02/21/male-nudity-movies
  • On the Loss of Nudity in the Men’s Locker Room (Dr. Barry Miller, 2016): https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00332925.2016.1134213
  • If You Are Not Comfortable Being Naked Around Other People, You Are Not an Adult (Mark Joseph Stern, 2015): https://slate.com/human-interest/2015/12/locker-room-nudity-is-healthy-and-normal-fear-of-it-is-irrational.html
  • Men Are Much Harder: Gendered Viewing of Nude Images (Beth A. Eck, 2003): https://www.jstor.org/stable/3594705

 

(Naked Guys in the Locker Room: Why Men Aren’t Nude at the Gym): Daniel became desensitized to nudity when he joined the Marines at 18. “I had to shower with dozens of dudes,” he says. “I’m over it. I just lost the shame we build around our bodies when I realized that nobody cared and a body is just a body. It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect or if it’s flabby or how big your dick is.”

Now 32 and living in Washington State, Daniel’s “naked in the locker room all the time.” But his millennial peers, he’s noticed, stand facing the wall, struggling to slide their underwear on under the towel tightly wrapped around their waist. They’re “just less experienced” in the “process of becoming comfortable with themselves,” he says. “I hope by dangling my balls in the locker room, I help young men to see the light and live a better life.”

(On Being Naked In A Locker Room): In the second episode of Euphoria, HBO’s drama about naughty teenagers, hunky football player Nate, played by Jacob Elordi, is shown fully clothed in the middle of a boisterous locker room filled with his naked teammates and their exposed penises.

While the other bros wag their dicks about in slow motion, Nate looks straight ahead, desperate not to be caught staring at a flailing phallus. “He hated how casual his teammates were about being naked,” the show’s narrator, Zendaya’s Rue, says of Nate. “He made a concerted effort to always maintain eye contact… Every now and then he’d forget, and accidentally catch a glimpse of someone’s penis.”

 

(On the Loss of Nudity in the Men’s Locker Room): It’s an evolution of our culture into further and further seclusion … At my local gym here in West Hollywood, nudity is not a question anymore — the issue now is, do people even talk to each other? It’s so quiet, devoid of human expression, becoming a kind of dead space. Privacy has gotten to the point where people are on their phones not even looking at each other

To stop caring about the presentation, about who you’re supposed to be — if one manifestation of that is just walking around naked, that’s great. But it should also be about opening to what you can talk about, what you can say, what you feel free about.
(Why is it almost always old men who are naked in the men’s locker room of my gym?): [rapiertwit] Bury a few friends and watch a few dreams sail over the horizon forever and then see if you care about who’s wrapping a towel around their ass in a changing room.

You’re at the gym working on dem gainz, I’m there to fight my daily battle in an inevitably losing war against decline and death. Mortal combat, you dig? Doctor’s orders and shit. Your puerile latent homophobia isn’t even on the waiting list to submit an application to enter the queue to be on my radar.

[TerminalOrbit] I haven’t given a fuck for the last 30 years (I’m 44). Homophobia got way out of hand… Give it up.
[IndyDude11] I think part of it is not giving a fuck but I think some of it is cultural, too. Back when they were in locker rooms at school it was very common to be naked with the other guys. You just get used to it after awhile. Younger generations never had that experience growing up, so are more conservative about the whole thing now.
[TheActualAWdeV] … very much a regional thing. Most dudes walk around naked to and from the shower here.
[babieswithbigdicks3] Meh I’m 25, it’s a men’s locker room it’s what it’s there for: to change and shower. You have to be naked for those things. I remember one time my older brother asked me why I was naked when we were in locker room once, I told him… well you don’t have to look at me.

(If You Are Not Comfortable Being Naked Around Other People, You Are Not an Adult): 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.

This is absurd. What, exactly, are these men afraid of? Other people seeing their genitals? If so, why? What is objectively frightening about that possibility? Are they afraid of being judged? If so, that distant (and pretty benign) possibility certainly does not justify modifying their behavior. 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.

Gyms, and well-adjusted adults, should not let these childish anxieties dictate their decisions. Fear of nudity is a socialized trait, and it can be resolved by forcing yourself to be naked in a locker room. Once you’ve dared to remove your towel for a few moments on two or three occasions, you will stop being an apprehensive child and start being an actualized adult. You will be freed from the illogical chains of body consciousness. And, best of all, you will no longer be one of the breathless trembling molting arthropods who want to force their pubescent insecurities on the rest of us.

Our ideas of masculinity are in continuous evolution, devolution, and reformulation. Collectively we experience these shifts through the troubling, exciting, dangerous, and creative ways in which we encounter the “masculine” psyche. The reflections here are based on personal experience in the arena where masculinity is responding to itself: in the experience of primary contact when observing the bodies of other men. The observations focus on tendencies being manifest currently in the behaviors men are exhibiting in private space for men, exploring the ways men feel and do not feel comfortable being seen and seeing others. This very fundamental experience, observing and being observed, is (considered in the context of all male environments where nudity had been and might be implicit in the encounter. The men’s locker room is the setting for these observations, spaces that historically have been arenas for open male association and are now increasingly becoming spaces of modesty and distancing between men. Current themes of feminism and gay liberation are also looked at as concurrent influences and factors in these collective movements.

 

(On Being Naked In A Locker Room): If we’re never forced to deal with the reality of our nude bodies, their mystery and shame become an insidious mold. I’m ready to take out the Clorox and get to work, but locker rooms are now built on a foundation of toxic gymnophobia and we need more than a bottle of bleach to fix the problem. We need to normalize nudity where we see it most — on-screen.

Let’s demystify the dick together. I know it’s uncomfortable changing underneath that towel. I know the nagging voice of shame, however loud, is annoying to hear. Fuck it. Walk to the shower naked. Next time you’re in the locker room, be part of the change you wish to see in a gymnophobic world.

 

(Hollywood has a male nudity problem) The Motion Picture Association of America has tackled accusations of sexism and homophobia for widely inconsistent rules on nudity, coming under fire in 2010 after the association added the term “male nudity” to a list of descriptors that warranted an NC-17 or R rating, as this solidified the idea that nude female bodies are simply more acceptable in film.

 

(Men Are Much Harder: Gendered Viewing of Nude Images)

Abstract – Drawing on 45 interviews, this article addresses how heterosexual men and women respond to and discuss opposite and same-sex nude images in distinctive ways. Viewing both female and male nudes provides an opportunity to observe the sexual and gender identity work men and women perform when confronted with this cultural object. Both men and women have access to shared, readily available cultural scripts for interpreting and responding to female nude images. Neither men nor women are culturally adept at the interpretation and use of nude male images, particularly the man in the soft porn frame. Men respond to this male nude with overt rejection and stated disinterest. Women are more likely to reject the seductive advance or welcome it with attached feelings of guilt.

 

Why Don’t Guys Go Naked in the Locker Room Anymore? The Reasons Why Are Surprisingly Complex

We talked to the experts — and the locker-room nudists themselves. It’s not as cut-and-dry as you’d think

Daniel became desensitized to nudity when he joined the Marines at 18. “I had to shower with dozens of dudes,” he says. “I’m over it. I just lost the shame we build around our bodies when I realized that nobody cared and a body is just a body. It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect or if it’s flabby or how big your dick is.”

Now 32 and living in Washington State, Daniel’s “naked in the locker room all the time.” But his millennial peers, he’s noticed, stand facing the wall, struggling to slide their underwear on under the towel tightly wrapped around their waist. They’re “just less experienced” in the “process of becoming comfortable with themselves,” he says. “I hope by dangling my balls in the locker room, I help young men to see the light and live a better life.”

Those old naked guys in the public locker room may be a dying breed. According to Bryan Dunkelberger, a founding principal of S3 Design, a firm that has worked for the upscale gym Equinox, younger generations’ expectation of privacy is so widespread, it’s starting to influence the design of new gyms.

“Younger generations tend to prefer more privacy in locker rooms,” he tells MEL. “This can manifest in private changing areas, private shower compartments or even younger family changing areas. And because the shift is happening, more people are expecting to have many of these options available to them when they join a club.”

So where did this generational divide come from, and is it really as stark as it seems? We talked to the experts — and locker-room nudists themselves — to find out.

The Lost Art of Locker Room Nudity

The first reason people find for older men strutting nude around locker rooms is that it’s just what they’re used to. In the old days, dudes were just naked in locker rooms, and that was that.

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Paul Waldman, writing in the the American Prospect, puts forth a theory that older generations saw men’s locker rooms as sexuality-free safe zones. They were spaces where guys could be dudes (what’s better than this?) without any homoerotic undertones.

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.

In the ’90s, with the help of the ACLU, mandatory after-gym showering died off. “These guys don’t want to undress in front of each other,” said John Wrenn, a teacher in suburban Chicago, in a 1996 New York Times article by Dirk Johnson. “I just don’t get it. When I started in ’74, nobody even thought about things like this. The whole thing is just hard for me to accept.”

Privacy in the iPhone Era

Dr. Barry Miller, a psychotherapist in West Hollywood and author of the article “On the Loss of Nudity in the Men’s Locker Room,” argues this is a cultural divide — technology has driven younger generations to be focused more on themselves than looking outward.

“It’s an evolution of our culture into further and further seclusion,” he says. “At my local gym here in West Hollywood, nudity is not a question anymore — the issue now is, do people even talk to each other? It’s so quiet, devoid of human expression, becoming a kind of dead space. Privacy has gotten to the point where people are on their phones not even looking at each other.”

Miller says this shift is “a deeper evolution or transformation that is going in the collective unconscious.” Nudity in the locker room, or lack thereof, is “one little manifestation” of the overall shift, he says, so it’s not a matter of old men being more comfortable — “it’s about culture.”

Dunkelberger tells MEL that older generations are coming to expect the same privacy, too. “It’s not limited to gender or other demographics, and as more people desire it, the older generations are getting to points where they have a need for it,” he says. “The difference is [millennials] have grown up with nicer things than maybe some of the older generations did, so their baseline expectations are higher.”

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Fear of the Male Gaze

Locker room nudist and Reddit user u/TerminalOrbit, a 45-year-old man, agrees with Miller that there is a cultural shift “at the root of this divide.”

Younger generations, he says, “have been socialized to accept same-sex attractions as ‘normal’ and ‘common,’ and that’s great,” he tells MEL. “I suspect that the same thing also sensitizes them to that potential, and that makes them more self-conscious in the locker rooms: ‘Somebody might be ogling me right now,’ you know?”

A 2012 study published in the British Journal of Criminology backs his theory. The study recorded complaints of men and women coming out of public bathrooms. While women mostly complained about cleanliness, writes study author Sarah Moore, men were “worried about being surreptitiously watched by other men — inadvertently encouraging others to look and being mistakenly perceived to be watching others.” Moore theorizes that the absence of women in men’s locker rooms subverts the gender hierarchy, and the “male gaze” turns to other men. “The temporary suspension of the usual gender hierarchy,” she writes, leads men to the “perceived possibility that they will be forced to take the place usually filled by women — that of being the object of sexual interest.”

So do men say they prefer privacy when really they just don’t want other guys looking at them? Dr. Miller argues it’s not necessarily homophobia, but a “phobia of the psych.”

Certain male “experiences with each other that were permissible, expected, important and ritualized,” he says, have recently been categorized into sexual identity. As an example, he brings up his Jewish upbringing: “In the Jewish tradition, men got into the communal bath together naked. That’s for centuries and centuries. But that doesn’t happen anymore. The movement that has occurred in the last generation has fixed the identities into binary experiences of heterosexual or homosexual. But sexuality is not fixed.”

Nudity in the locker room, he continues, “brings us more than we think we can handle. It’s not just a sexual feeling: It forces [younger men] to question their personal identity, their political identity, their entire classification. We’ve made great important strides [in gay rights], but at the same time it’s having an impact on the general culture that’s not necessarily the intention.”

Our Elders Have Seen Some Shit

But if that’s why younger guys are shy dressers, it still doesn’t quite explain why old dudes still walk around hanging dong like it’s their job.

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Another leading theory, at least on Reddit, it that experience — typically manifested in old guys — leads guys to just flat-out stop caring. Lucio Buffalmano, a sociologist and social skills coach, subscribes to this theory, telling MEL experience “indeed plays a role.”

“After one has seen more in life, or even more of the same, the bar raises on what’s ‘embarrassing’ and what’s ‘whatever,’” he says. “And nudity is one of those aspects that just becomes more of a ‘whatever, it’s just a body.’”

Reddit user u/rapiertwit personifies this, as he explains in a thread asking why old guys are always naked in locker rooms:

You young hard-ons like to boast, “I’m all out if fucks to give,” but you can’t deal with a glimpse of my wrinkly ball sack. Laughable, man. Bury a few friends and watch a few dreams sail over the horizon forever and then see if you care about who’s wrapping a towel around their ass in a changing room.

Daniel, whose military experience taught him not to waste time feeling ashamed of his body, echoes this. “It doesn’t matter if your dick is perfect or if it’s flabby or how big it is,” he says. “I’ve had to take a dump in full view of my platoon before and while it isn’t preferred it wasn’t considered a noteworthy occurrence. Shame surrounding exposing our body is a cultural thing, and in my case the military jars you into a very different culture.”

Dr. Miller’s solution for younger generations? Stop categorizing your feelings and lose the shame. “It would be good for all of us to let go of that self consciousness as we age, since it is one of the critical transformational possibilities in aging,” he says. “To stop caring about the presentation, about who you’re supposed to be — if one manifestation of that is just walking around naked, that’s great. But it should also be about opening to what you can talk about, what you can say, what you feel free about.”

That being said, the impulse toward seclusion and privacy makes Miller skeptical. “It’ll be very interesting to see if that happens as today’s generation gets old, or if there will even be locker rooms,” he says. “It goes deeper and deeper. What I see, particularly with men, is that really what’s wanted is to be in one’s own world. This is not me as a professional [saying this], but just me as a lunatic living in today’s world.”

Maybe in the future we’ll all be exercising in total isolation with virtual-reality headsets and cloud-connected smart weights. But for now, there’s nothing wrong with showing a little sack. Just don’t touch it on my side of the bench, bro.

 

On Being Naked In A Locker Room:
How HBO’s ‘Euphoria’ tackled a fear that many men have

In the second episode of Euphoria, HBO’s new drama about naughty teenagers, hunky football player Nate, played by Jacob Elordi, is shown fully clothed in the middle of a boisterous locker room filled with his naked teammates and their exposed penises.

While the other bros wag their dicks about in slow motion, Nate looks straight ahead, desperate not to be caught staring at a flailing phallus. “He hated how casual his teammates were about being naked,” the show’s narrator, Zendaya’s Rue, says of Nate. “He made a concerted effort to always maintain eye contact… Every now and then he’d forget, and accidentally catch a glimpse of someone’s penis.”

I’ve never felt so seen.

I too have had a contentious relationship with locker room nudity. If you’re an American male under the age of 35, chances are you did as well, or probably still do. It’s no coincidence that the word describing a constant fear of nudity is, after all, gymnophobia.

My gymnophobia began in sixth grade when I was told by my father, the athletic director of my school district, I had to change clothes before gym class in front of my peers. I seethed with resentment. Didn’t he know I had to shield my little-boy body from scrutiny at all costs? While everyone else seemed to be growing like trees, sprouting razor-thin mustaches, and developing bushes of pubes (or so I imagined), if you put me in a wig, I was a dead ringer for that pint-sized definition of 90’s femininity, Polly Pocket.

It was the end of 1999. Everyone else was waiting to see if Y2K would kill the world’s computers once the Ball finally dropped, but I could only think about the balls dropping between my thighs. Thus, I concocted a foolproof plan to avoid disrobing in the locker room. I’d wear athletic shorts underneath my perfectly pleated school khakis, and before gym class began, drop my drawers faster than a Broadway chorus boy in a quick change and bolt out of the locker room. I kept up this charade up throughout high school. If I lingered among changing males, I thought I’d accidentally look at someone the wrong way, be seen as the faggot I knew I was, and meet my untimely demise — social or otherwise.

As a result, the only naked male bodies I saw until adulthood were mostly on film and all related to sex. These bodies included Kevin Bacon’s at the end of Wild Things (yowza), my father’s when I accidentally walked in on him and my mom once (yuck), and gay porn (yum).

I managed to escape locker room nudity until I moved to New York City for my post-collegiate career. Going to the gym in my new home, however, provided a host of unforeseen challenges. Most notably, it necessitated on-site changing and showering. I quickly mastered the art of towel changing. This magic trick, I soon learned, is practiced ubiquitously in male locker rooms across America. Even in adulthood, I was like a chaste Catholic school girl in the changing room. My towel becomes a pleated skirt as I slip off undergarments like a clumsy burlesque performer. The act is done with my back to an empty audience, desperate to protect my body’s most vulnerable bits from someone who isn’t actually watching.

Why are young men still so reticent to show skin in a culture that shares so much?

There are those, like Euphoria’s Nate, who avert eye contact in the hopes their feigned disinterest in cock will mask their true penile preoccupation. If their eyes are windows into a queer soul, they make sure to use blackout curtains while disrobing around men. Then there’s the self-obsessed heterosexual character who fears a gay man’s lust-filled gaze. Pompously assuming he’s worthy of sexual attention, he’s terrified homosexuals will eat him with their irises. The Golden Globe for Most Insidious Gymnophobe goes to the man who initially seems unabashed by flashing his booty. Only after unrobing, he shows his true colors by slapping asses, snapping towels, and making crude gay jokes as a means to mask his underlying insecurities.

Unlike these self-conscious archetypes is The Grandpa, who struts around locker rooms without worry. He droops and dangles as he walks the length of a locker room floor with the carelessness of a runway model. He chats openly about the day’s banalities and actually takes time to dry before putting on his clothes. He’s a soldier of manhood with an unsheathed trouser snake, standing unapologetically nude with his arms akimbo. But this character’s sitcom will soon be canceled. Young men don’t act this way.

Internalized homophobia isn’t the only reason we fear nudity. Psychoanalyst Dr. Vanessa Sinclair says, “When you think of the phallus in a metaphorical sense…it’s more about who has the power, who has the answer, who has what everyone is looking for. The reality, of course, is that no one has it. No one has the answer or the power, ultimately. They only do when others believe they do. As long as you are not fully exposed, you can keep people thinking that you have it.” Is it possible that 21st-century towel-changers never get naked in front of other men because they don’t want to be exposed for their lack of power?

The penis is equated with a man’s self-worth, and exposing it to the world is a dangerous and vulnerable act.

We are, after all, obsessed with dicks. The Power Thesaurus counts 517 synonyms for the word. Cock is an inextricable part of our lives. But for an appendage so small, we expect so much. The male sex organ isn’t merely something we describe scientifically. The host of words we use — machine, mickey, one-eyed monster, schlong, pee-pee — call to mind masculinity, virility, and weakness. We venerate men for large endowments and chastise those with less exemplary stats. The penis is equated with a man’s self-worth, and exposing it to the world is a dangerous and vulnerable act.

None of this Millennial gymnophobia is innate. It represents a cultural shift that began in the 1990s and changed the landscape of modern American locker rooms. In 1993, Bill Clinton signed the antigay military policy Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Commander Craig Quigley, a spokesperson for the Navy at the time, said “Homosexuals are notoriously promiscuous,” and if they were present in group showers, heterosexuals would have “an uncomfortable feeling of someone watching.” DADT effectively barred homosexuals, or at least ones living out and proud, from service.

In 1994, the ACLU threatened to sue a high school in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania over its mandatory shower policy. Desperate to avoid a lawsuit, the district decided to drop their shower requirement. Schools around the country took note, and in 1996, the New York Times reported that shower-free gym classes were becoming the new norm. Kids still got sweaty, but rather than lather post-gym, they’d cake on deodorant for the rest of the day. An eighteen-year-old quoted in the article said “Standing around together naked? Oh no, man — people would feel really uncomfortable about that.”

By the time I entered middle school in 1999, the tiled rooms meant for group showers were obsolete. They’d been relegated to the same dark corners as telephone booths — forgotten places drunk people illegally use as public toilets. For Millennials and Centennials, the days of showering together are history.

Maybe this isn’t so bad. My father, who began teaching physical education in public schools in the 1970s, notes the cases of harassment, bullying, and general discomfort felt by students when group showers were common. I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with the trauma in 1999, and I’m thrilled young people don’t have to deal with it now. I wonder, though, if this lack of nudity is truly helping our youth. If we’re never forced to deal with the reality of our nude bodies, their mystery and shame become an insidious mold. I’m ready to take out the Clorox and get to work, but locker rooms are now built on a foundation of toxic gymnophobia and we need more than a bottle of bleach to fix the problem. We need to normalize nudity where we see it most — on-screen.

HBO became my generation’s penis pioneer in 1997 when Oz, a drama about inmates at a correctional facility, televised full-frontal male nudity. The premium cable network has been the leading purveyor of dick cinematography ever since, with copious amounts of cock on countless shows — most recently, Euphoria. One might assume Americans would be a little less gun shy with this much exposure to peckers in popular culture, but one trip to the gym teaches us otherwise. Thankfully, Euphoria’s graphic locker room shot of 21 penises of all shapes, sizes, and colors (the most ever seen in one tv episode) is at the forefront of changing the paradigm.

After Euphoria’s second episode aired, Esquire published an article entitled Euphoria’s 30 Penises Scene Was Pointlessly Gratuitous When It Didn’t Have to Be (note the exaggeration in number). I whole-heartedly disagree. In a culture where talking about dicks is commonplace but showing penises is gratuitous, our dick problem is much larger than a few inches. Euphoria made viewers uncomfortable, titillated, and even disgusted by what they saw on screen: the things we’re too afraid to show and see ourselves. I applaud HBO for forcing us to reckon with a dozen pecks of pickles. I wish more tv shows and movies would follow suit so we could see the male form as more than an object worthy of shame or sexualization; to understand that a pecker isn’t powerful — it’s as ordinary as an elbow.

Let’s demystify the dick together. I know it’s uncomfortable changing underneath that towel. I know the nagging voice of shame, however loud, is annoying to hear. Fuck it. Walk to the shower naked. Next time you’re in the locker room, be part of the change you wish to see in America’s gymnophobic world.

 

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German national football team following a World Cup match. None of these people have an irrational fear of locker room nudity.

Photo by Guido Bergmann/Bundesregierung via Getty Images

In a recent disquieting article for the New York Times, Choire Sicha investigates a curious new challenge for gyms: Some men want to shower and change without ever being publicly nude, and they expect their gyms to build locker rooms that accommodate that desire. Drawing upon the experiences of gym managers and architects, Sicha explains that over the last quarter-century, men have grown increasingly uneasy with being naked in the locker room. While older men generally remain comfortable being undressed among others, younger ones insist on maximum privacy, pining for a way to strip, shower, and change clothes without even a flash of nudity.

There are probably all kinds of fascinating cultural and ethnographic factors behind this shift, which I hope others will explore. But to my mind, this problem can be resolved quite quickly—with a gentle reminder that if you are not comfortable being naked around other people, you are not a real adult.

As a child and a teenager, public nudity is scary. Puberty does strange things to our bodies, and we spend much of our younger years fretting about the development (or lack thereof) of our secondary sex characteristics. That is why schools should not force children and teens to take group showers: The practice fosters anxiety and bullying and deprives children of some bodily autonomy. It makes good sense to encourage teens to grow comfortable with their changing bodies in private.

But there is really no rational reason to remain afraid of public nudity once you are an adult. Your body looks more or less like everyone else’s, especially everyone else with the same sex. The fear driving men to slide their underwear on under their towels is rooted squarely in insecurity, an insecurity about one’s body and genitals picked up during pubescence. That’s fine—we all have insecurities—but that doesn’t make the insecurity healthy. It makes it an irrational phobia, one that should be conquered, not accommodated. (Trans people, who may face a legitimate threat of harassment should they disrobe, are the only adults who have a rational basis for avoiding public nudity.)

The process of conquering irrational phobias picked up during youth is typically called “growing up.” Many children are afraid of sharks, but we do not let them veto a family beach trip. Many preteens are afraid of being teased in the classroom, but we do not let them quit school. Many teenagers are afraid of seeming uncool if they don’t drink, but we don’t give them a fake ID and a keg. Instead, we help young people work past their fears and take control of their lives: by wading into the ocean a few inches at a time; by ignoring or reporting the idiot who mocked you; by incentivizing responsible behavior for teens who drink little or no alcohol.

Because adults are mostly free to make their own mistakes, our society permits them to suffer from untreated phobias. We all know people who are scared to fly or pet a dog or leave the house. We cannot force them into therapy—but we should also refuse to alter our own habits to accommodate their neuroses.

The race to build nudity-free locker rooms demonstrates the dangers of countenancing and accommodating adult phobias. It normalizes unhealthy behavior (body shame and consciousness) and pressures others to adopt that behavior. Adults who are nervous about being naked around other adults are not rational and should not be treated as though they are. They are scared and insecure—and the only way they can work around their fear is to face it directly. I thought the standard locker room forced everyone to do just that, but Sicha writes otherwise:

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.

This is absurd. What, exactly, are these men afraid of? Other people seeing their genitals? If so, why? What is objectively frightening about that possibility? Are they afraid of being judged? If so, that distant (and pretty benign) possibility certainly does not justify modifying their behavior. 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.

Gyms, and well-adjusted adults, should not let these childish anxieties dictate their decisions. Fear of nudity is a socialized trait, and it can be resolved by forcing yourself to be naked in a locker room. Once you’ve dared to remove your towel for a few moments on two or three occasions, you will stop being an apprehensive child and start being an actualized adult. You will be freed from the illogical chains of body consciousness. And, best of all, you will no longer be one of the breathless trembling molting arthropods who want to force their pubescent insecurities on the rest of us.

 

Hollywood has a male nudity problem:

Considering how often Dakota Johnson’s character is asked to bare all in these films, one could even go as far as calling the lack of male nudity in the series unfair. In fact, Johnson did — comically pointing out a confusing double standard that exists in our film industry.

Operating on the mass media-made idea that female and male bodies have different degrees of sexiness is unreasonable because sexual attraction is such a natural process.

Nudity in art allows the subjects to appear more vulnerable, and unless it is deemed gratuitous, it adds to character development, especially in film. However, the line between gratuitous and tasteful is much more blurry for women. Male actors are rarely asked to display full-frontal nudity. When they do, it’s usually a delicately placed glimpse (see: Gone Girl or Boogie Nights). While female nudity is expected in most R-rated films, male nudity often serves for comedic effect such as in Forgetting Sarah Marshall or Borat. Male genitals are still seen as more taboo, while female genitals are widely sexualized.

It’s widely known women are much more likely to be sexualized in the media than their male counterparts. The female body has been historically sexualized to sell beer, cigarettes and even fast-food items over the years. Women were nearly three times more likely to appear partially or fully nude in movies, according to an annual Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California from Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles that studied the 100 top grossing films in 2014.

The Motion Picture Association of America has tackled accusations of sexism and homophobia for widely inconsistent rules on nudity, coming under fire in 2010 after the association added the term “male nudity” to a list of descriptors that warranted an NC-17 or R rating, as this solidified the idea that nude female bodies are simply more acceptable in film.

That is, until they are catering to something other than the sexual interests of straight men, as heteronormative sex scenes are more likely to receive a tamer rating than films with gay content. Jamie Babbit’s 1999 film But I’m a Cheerleader, which features scenes that suggest lesbian sex, was forced to cut a scene that depicts unseen masturbation by a fully-clothed character in order to receive an R-rating instead of an NC-17 rating, a move Babbit criticized in the 2006 documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated. Babbit suggested the MPAA rating system discriminates against films featuring homosexual sex, citing American Pie, a film literally centered on four boys seeking heterosexual sex, which also premiered in 1999 and received an R-rating despite showing a male character masturbating into a pie.

Female nudity being deemed integral to modern film, while male nudity is used for shock-value, is a symptom of everyday sexism deeply rooted in our culture. As art historian Linda Nochlin explored in her 1971 essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”, the availability of female nude bodies in the arts is no coincidence, but rather a part of a larger, institutionally maintained discrimination against women. Assuming the viewer is coming from a heterosexual male perspective, viewers don’t want to see male genitals because it could make them uncomfortable. Our society sustains this fear by preventing male actors from exposing themselves, while asking women to do just that.

At one point in time, publicly displaying a man’s nipples was seen as overly sexual and a threat to a man’s sexuality. It wasn’t until the late 1940s — after men publicly broke shirtless bans and the amount of shirtless men in Hollywood slightly increased — that a man’s bare-chest became widely accepted.

Getting a chance to see Dornan’s private parts won’t reverse institutional sexism, but it could certainly help normalize male genitals in film. If women’s bodies are needed to advance plots or sell products, isn’t it only fair that men are asked to do the same?