Body Shame at the Gym
The cultural and (unfortunately) “Christian” taboo that our bodies are shameful and/or primarily sexual is painfully in evidence at the gym where I work out.
Good Ol’ Days
At my high school in the locker room for gym class, guys stripped, showered, and dried off without ever bothering to wrap in a towel. The same was true at the YMCA I joined while in graduate school. But that was 30+ years ago… and times have changed. Today, at my gym, nearly every man quickly secures a towel around himself just to go back and forth to the showers!
It is almost comical to watch. Some guys are so stricken by the fear of someone seeing their bodies that they do a Houdini straight-jacket routine just to change clothes. Before removing pants and underwear the towel goes around first. It sure looks awkward as they undo their belt and zipper, remove their pants, then underwear, all the while trying to keep the towel from falling off. The towel doesn’t come off until they are in the shower stall and the curtain is pulled. When it is time to dress the procedure is reversed.
Gymnophobia and Porn
What gives? We’re all guys! Who cares about nudity in the locker room?
I recently counseled a young man in his late teens who was experiencing sexual identity issues. To help him get comfortable with his own body, I suggested that he go to the shower at the gym without wrapping in a towel. He was appalled! “No one does that!” he said. In all the time he had been going to the gym with other guys, he had never seen another man totally naked. Nor have they seen him.
Isn’t it a little ironic that we have become so guarded against others seeing our own naked body, and yet many will go straight home and purposefully view naked bodies in sex acts on the internet?
Could there be a connection? If we never see an unclothed human being unless it’s a sexual context… or we never allow our own bodies to be seen unless we are interested in sex, might that explain why we are so squeamish about nudity in a non-sexual context like a locker room? No one wants the locker room visit to be a sexual experience, so everyone keeps covered up. Unfortunately, that just reinforces the nudity/sex connection.
What if… what if… we didn’t have such a strong association between sex and nudity? What if an unclothed person was just that… a human being without clothes. What if we could treat a man like a man, and a woman like a woman… no matter how much of their body we see?
Then, maybe—just maybe—porn wouldn’t have the profound sexual impact on us that it has today.
— Pastor Bill
For more on this topic: The Pornographic View of the Body
or My Chains Are Gone
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