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Feb 25 2014

My sordid history of showering with gay men

Jack Burkman is a lobbyist who is trying to get a congressperson to support his idea of a good law: one that would ban gay people from being in the National Football League. It doesn’t sound constitutional, and although it wouldn’t surprise me if some of our congressvermin wouldn’t approve, it’s so toxic that I’d be surprised if they wanted to touch it. But it’s still a bizarre peak into the mind of a homophobe.

We are losing our decency as a nation, Burkman said in a statement. Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man. That’s a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?

I should call up my mom and ask her. I took showers in high school with every guy in my PE class; not only am I statistically confident that some were gay, I knew specifically that some were. I was unconcerned. They never caused me any trouble or embarrassment, but you know who did? The aggressively macho asshole of a coach who would stroll through the shower area and make comments on the size of the kids’ penises, or how much pubic hair they had. That guy was loudly heterosexual, and a real perv. There were also more than a few towel-snapping swaggering jocks who would disparage us nerds, but it is unimaginable that any of the gay kids would do anything but shower up and get out as quickly as possible.

I suspect my mom would be more horrified by that story than about the nice young man who respected his fellow students.

If the NFL has no morals and no values, then Congress must find values for it, Burkman said.

I hate to defend the morals of an organization that profits on traumatic brain injury to men, but…I think Burkman’s “morality” would only make the NFL worse.

Some people are speculating that this is just obnoxious noise to stir up interest in his lobbying firm, JM Burkman & Associates, which signed up 70 new clients last year, as the article at the link discloses. I would hope that those clients would only see that Burkman is poison to work with, and drop his firm immediately.

But my hope is tenuous and unlikely to be fulfilled.

62 comments

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  1. 1
    Randomfactor

    He should add a provision that yanks the NFL’s nonprofit status over this calamity.

  2. 2
    cervantes

    BTW Burkman was in the DC Madam’s address book. See Wonkette for the details.

  3. 3
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    PZ:

    There were also more than a few towel-snapping swaggering jocks who would disparage us nerds, but it is unimaginable that any of the gay kids would do anything but shower up and get out as quickly as possible.

    I never played sports in middle school or high school, largely bc I was afraid of people discovering that I was attracted to men. I was convinced that if I showered with other guys that I’d get aroused and get my ass kicked or be made fun of.
    True story: I forged a note from my parents in middle school stating that I had “a psychological aversion to football”, so I wouldn’t have to play (my memory is hazy on whether or not it was mandatory, but I’m leaning towards “yes”). Though I had no love of football, it was fear of showering with other guys and being found out that prompted the forged note. I hadn’t heard of the word gay nor homosexual and I was unaware of anyone who felt like I did. I felt really alone.
    Looking back, I could care less that I didn’t play sports, but I hate the fact that homophobia caused me to feel like such a freak that I had to hide my feelings for fear of getting beat. Teens go through enough turmoil without having to add bigotry on top of it.

    Incidentally, the coach fell for the note.

  4. 4
    Gregory in Seattle

    This, from the party of “small government.”

  5. 5
    Larry

    Congress must find values for it

    Stop it! You’re killin’ me. Can’t breath. Laughing too hard.

  6. 6
    ChasCPeterson

    I would hope that those clients would only see that Burkman is poison to work with, and drop his firm immediately.

    “The four-lobbyist firm specializes in helping companies secure contracts with the federal government.”
    hmm, ethics or money? that’s a tough one.

  7. 7
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Straight doods are the most sexually vain people ever. Disproportionately they’re convinced their dick is SO DAMNED GOOD COCKGOBBLERS WILL STOP AT NOTHING TO GET IT.

    Cue #NotAllMen! #NotAllStraightPeople!

    Yeah, I know.

  8. 8
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Tony, me too. Locker rooms are *terrifying* places for young gay men and boys. Terrifying.

  9. 9
    exi5tentialist

    PZ’s experiences in the shower make me wonder if gay/straight are remotely useful descriptions. Repressed / comfortable seems to be the more relevant continuum. Where’s Jack Burkman on that scale?

  10. 10
    anuran

    Josh, most straight men could not survive a single weekend in the cut-throat appearance-obsessed gym-obligatory world of gay male dating :)

  11. 11
    anuran

    It’s a gamble. If he can actually get this to the House floor he makes a fuckton of money because of his power and influence.

    If he doesn’t he looks silly for a little while. But maybe he’ll still get a few more RWNJ clients.

    I would love to see a bill stripping the NFL of its tax-exempt status.

  12. 12
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    I know that’s right, anuran.

  13. 13
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    anuran:

    Josh, most straight men could not survive a single weekend in the cut-throat appearance-obsessed gym-obligatory world of gay male dating :)

    I think you mean well by this, but please don’t parrot these stereotypes. There are many gay men that don’t go to gym, aren’t appearance obsessed, and aren’t cut throat. There are gay men that are some of those things and not others. There are gay men that sometimes go to the gym, sometimes dress nice, and sometimes are cut throat.

  14. 14
    Travis

    Straight doods are the most sexually vain people ever. Disproportionately they’re convinced their dick is SO DAMNED GOOD COCKGOBBLERS WILL STOP AT NOTHING TO GET IT.

    Looking at the messages my friends get on social networks and dating sites, it seems this is the case. They get an endless stream of messages that imply that their dick makes up for their completely blank profile, or that their cock shot profile pick is surely enough to cause anyone they approach to jump straight into bed with them. Who would not want that?

  15. 15
    Becca Stareyes

    The only time my gym class in school even had time to shower was when I took swimming and we were given extra locker-room time. Even then, it was a matter of ‘hurry up so you aren’t late for your next class at the other side of the school’.

    Granted, I bet NFL players have time for long showers. I would also bet that the NFL can afford individual shower stalls for its players.

  16. 16
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Tony, I think most people of good will know that not all gay men are like that. But having been there? Yeah, that’s a pretty accurate description of the 30 and under dating scene. It is vicious, and it is appearance obsessed.

  17. 17
    Hairhead, whose head is entirely filled with Too Much Stuff

    Yes, what is it with straight men who think they are catnip to gays?

    I spent four years in the Theatre Department of the University of British Columbia during the 1970′s pre-AIDS era. As a skinny, twinkish, athletic male with long blond hair I did not receive a single come-on, eye-fucking, or proposition from any of the many gay men in the faculty and student body in all the years I was there. I was neither disappointed nor upset at the time, but looking back on it now, from decades later, I feel just a *little* slighted.

    I mean, not ONE flirt?

  18. 18
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Snort at Hairhead:)

  19. 19
    Jacob Schmidt

    “If the NFL has no morals and no values, then Congress must find values for it,” Burkman said.

    I tried coming up with a joke about fascism, but I got nothing. It’s so blatant, I suspect Burkman would take it as a compliment.

  20. 20
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    So, just to make sure I have the narratives down, gay men are deeply horrifying to be near, but straight men must be constantly vigilant lest they get lost in their alluring gay eyes and suddenly become gay themselves.

    I’m glad I’m not a macho straight guy. It sounds so stressful!

  21. 21
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Josh:
    I disagree, but I’ll drop it.

  22. 22
    PZ Myers

    Well, Hairhead, clearly the problem is that you weren’t good-looking enough. As a slender (unbelievable, I know!) bookish teen who tended to dress rough, I was hit on, politely, by gay guys constantly. All I had to do was stroll through Pioneer Square and somebody would offer me a good time.

  23. 23
    anuran

    I wish I had a source for this quote…
    “Homophobia: The haunting fear that gay men will treat you as badly as you treat women”

  24. 24
    cartomancer

    At my (rural, English state) school we had a much better system. Everyone was so sexually repressed and appalled by the thought of such unseemliness that nobody took showers at school. Sexuality didn’t come into it – I mean, gosh and blimey, being underdressed and engaging in ablutions in the presence of one’s fellows – simply not done by anyone who isn’t a slavering lunatic. The changing rooms did have showers in them, but nobody ever used the things. We just changed into and out of our PE kits as quickly as possible and got the whole sordid business over without comment.

    I mean, in my case I made so little actual effort during PE that I never broke into a sweat and suffered no ill effects from being out of my school uniform for an hour. I guess everyone else just coped with being slightly sweatier until they went home.

  25. 25
    cartomancer

    On the other hand, once I had admitted to myself that sexuality wasn’t the evil, sordid, steer-clear-from-at-all-costs thing I felt it was at school and university, I tried desperately to develop a sordid history of showering with (other) gay men. Sadly none of them was interested. They were too busy having sex with each other.

  26. 26
    Hairhead, whose head is entirely filled with Too Much Stuff

    Not good-looking enough? What do you mean! I had 3% bodyfat! My skin was soft and clear and I couldn’t even grow a beard! I cycled 250 miles per week and wore shorts 12 months of the year! They should have been slavering at my feet! (pouts)

    I am now feeling — DRR (delayed romantic rejection)! (sniffle)

    Seriously, though, fuck all those guys who think they have never showered with gays. (And no, not fuck them literally, just metaphorically).

    And addressing all of the gay men I was around for all those years, I hope I treated you well and respectfully.

  27. 27
    nich

    ZOMG! When I was in the army this one guy had this one friend who was in the same unit as this one dood who had this gay roommate who totally spiked his pillow with chloroform and then took pictures of what he did to his unconscious body and like this other friend totally swears he might have found them somewhere on the internet once but they got deleted before he could show me.

    #totallyhappened

  28. 28
    lochaber

    eh, I grew up in a small, conservative town.

    Most of their ‘values’ didn’t stick, but I had a lot of heterosexist attitudes and such that took some exposure to get rid of.

    Went to a really liberal school, and ran X-country one year. there were a handful of openly gay guys on the team.

    Aside from some humming/chanting thing, about the only thing they were doing in the showers was, well, showering/cleaning. Pretty much the same as everybody else.

    And the humming/chanting thing wasn’t just the gay guys, it was most of the team. I didn’t quite get it, I think they claimed it was some Tibetan thing?

  29. 29
    Crimson Clupeidae

    Does the congress even have the authority to do this if they wanted to?

    Oh yeah, party of small government.

  30. 30
    Olav

    Tony #3:

    Incidentally, the coach fell for the note.

    Tony, just curious: is it possible that the coach understood why you wrote the note and decided not to make an issue of it, letting you think he fell for it?
    Either from some sort of compassion for you or because he just felt you were not worth his time and trouble – I could see that both ways.

  31. 31
    Alex the Pretty Good

    But don’t you see PZ .. he’s totally right about teh evulz of showering in the presence of teh gay! You said it yourself … you showered in their presence and now you are a Liberul Gawdless Evilushinist!!!1!!Eleventy!!

    Won’t Somebody Please Think Of the Children!!!
    - “JM Burkman & Associates – We take the reason out of unreasonable ideas.”

  32. 32
    Rob Grigjanis

    cartomancer @24:

    At my (rural, English state) school…

    At my (urban, English grammar) school (sixties), we had a communal bath after games. Seemed reasonable, after rugby, football or cross-country running in the mud. I don’t remember any perceived ‘unseemliness’. Maybe because most of us were working class?

  33. 33
    Trebuchet

    We can only hope Burkman will succeed in convincing some TP Republican to introduce such a bill. The results are bound to be hilarious and embarrassing for them.

  34. 34
    David Marjanović

    Yes, what is it with straight men who think they are catnip to gays?

    They don’t so much think it as fear it: anuran beat me to it in comment 23.

    Seriously, though, fuck all those guys who think they have never showered with gays.

    Well, I never have… because I’ve never showered with anyone. :-)

  35. 35
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    I’ve spent plenty of time in communal showers, between athletics and dorms and military service. There was one time in my life, back when I was in the Marines, that I was pretty sure that there was a homosexual Navy hospital corpsman in the showers checking everyone else out, and it was really fucking creepy. Entirely because he was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt and stood under the shower head for well over an hour facing away from the wall.

    We sort of suspected he was gay, but until that shower situation no one made any fuss about it as far as I know before the shower thing. I’m sure there were other gay guys in my unit, but generally no one really gave a damn. We were usually much more creeped out by people masturbating everywhere…

  36. 36
    rorschach

    “We are losing our decency as a nation,” Burkman said in a statement. “Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man. That’s a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?”

    Well, if he is religious and from Arizona he might even get away with his ban.

  37. 37
    Forbidden Snowflake

    Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man.

    People are forced to play in the NFL now? You nutty Americans.

  38. 38
    yubal

    When I was younger, some of my female friends referred to me as their “gay friend” because I showed no sign of interest in any of them nor was I seen alone with any woman at that time. I learned that much later, after that time when many male friends of my female friends invited me to hang out or for a few drinks or just being persistently nice to me. For a socially awkward person as me it can be a delight to be invited to do something but in the end it caused quite some situations and problems. It also helped me to understand that other people can have a much more pronounced sex drive than me. Or more in general, that people have sex for other reason than procreation.

  39. 39
    Snoof

    Forbidden Snowflake @ 37

    Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man.

    People are forced to play in the NFL now? You nutty Americans.

    It’s the same way pharmacists are forced to dispense birth control.

    In Authoritarian Hyperbole-Land, “forced” means “is given the option to either perform duties which are in no way onerous or dangerous, or to cease being paid”.

  40. 40
    Owen

    nich @27 – are you sure it was really chloroform on the pillow? Did it smell sciency?

  41. 41
    chuckonpiggott

    Jack appears regularly on the Fox station in DC in staged debates with a Democratic strategist.
    Jack is a first class asshole. He even Looks the part. Think of GWB’s smirk mixed with Mitt Romney’s earnestness. Noxious blend.

  42. 42
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Olav:

    Tony, just curious: is it possible that the coach understood why you wrote the note and decided not to make an issue of it, letting you think he fell for it?
    Either from some sort of compassion for you or because he just felt you were not worth his time and trouble – I could see that both ways.

    I never thought about it that way, and it’s entirely possible that you’re right. I’ll likely never know either way, but thanks for widening my perspective!

  43. 43
    left0ver1under

    Such stupidity can happen another way. I’ve encountered peurile straights who got the notion that I’m gay (my preferences are my business), probably because of my choice of workout and street clothes, and assume(d) I was “checking them out”. I have never been assaulted, but have heard plenty of stupid comments and insults over time.

  44. 44
    anuran

    @43
    And a fair number of women have referred to me as “that nice gay friend of yours” to my (female) wife even though I’m not sexually interested in men and am attracted to women. Human (mis)perception is a strange thing.

  45. 45
    Robert B.

    That bit about “your son” and “forced” – am I imagining things, or is Burkman trying to make people think of public school locker rooms rather than professional sports locker rooms?

  46. 46
    carlie

    Robert B.- oh, absolutely. Because if they were to sit and think about a room full of grown adults (huge ones, at that) who are trained to beat each other up, there wouldn’t be so much sympathy over one of them being “forced” to be in a room in the presence of the others. Because then people might realize that grown adults are supposed to be mature about such things, and even if they aren’t, that they ought to be able to puzzle out alternatives like waiting 10 minutes to shower after everyone else if they are that uncomfortable with the group.

    For the record, I am a mom, and I am not horrified by the prospect of my sons being on sports teams in which they have to shower in the presence of gay team members. I’m horrified by the prospect that people ever have to shower together in the first place (divider walls are not expensive!!!), but that has everything to do with personal privacy and nothing to do with gayness.

    I mean, seriously. This is the NFL. They make literally billions of dollars. You’re trying to tell me that with all of the money poured into stadiums, all of the money poured into the enterprise itself, that they can’t afford to build nice private shower stalls and changing rooms in the locker area?! Any underfunded state campground I’ve ever stayed at is civilized enough to have separate shower stalls in the bathroom. If he’s worried about showering, his bill should be about forcing the stadiums to have private bathrooms, not banning people altogether.

  47. 47
    carlie

    That would be pretty funny, actually – it would be great if someone else in his legislature introduces a counter-bill that only forces private showering and dressing areas for NFL stadiums, and watch to see how he tries to contort himself around to oppose it in a way that doesn’t make his homophobia screamingly obvious.

  48. 48
    randay

    Congratulations Burkman, you are perhaps the only person in the country who thinks Congresspeople have morals and values! As for individual showers, how many people–cheerleaders or gays or both–could you fit into one?

    A reminder of locker rooms from the 60′s group, The Fugs:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPVgKoruWdA&list=PL2A0BF7EC6CC5607C

    Their other songs are also worth a listen like Kill for Peace.

  49. 49
    U Frood

    This strange idea of showering after Gym class. Our locker rooms had showers in them, but we were never given enough time to actually take a shower after class. The gym teacher sent us back to the locker room right before the bell rung and we had to dress and run across the building to the next class. I don’t think I ever saw anyone use those showers. (I guess the basketball team used them after games and practice, but not for gym class)

  50. 50
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Burkman wants to inject morality into the NFL? He does realize that the league wants to ban the use of the “N” word on the playing field while at the same time insisting that “Redskins” is a term of endearment?

  51. 51
    Raging Bee

    If the NFL has no morals and no values, then Congress must find values for it.

    So this lobbyist wants the NFL to slash ticket prices across the board, then use the resulting drop in revenues as an excuse to drastically cut spending on protective gear, medical care, scholarships, charitable operations, etc.?

    I guess if US soldiers in Iraq had to buy their own body armor, and rape victims in Alaska had to pay for their own rape kits, it’s only fair that NFL football players be forced to buy their own helmets, padding, hospital care, etc., amirite?

  52. 52
    Jackie the wacky

    I’m more worried about the MRSA and foot fungus in locker rooms than the orientation of the boys my sons might shower with. Do these asshats assume their revulsion of being near homosexuals is universal? Cuz it ain’t.
    I agree that the straight male fear of gay men comes from fear of being viewed “like a woman”. If someone sees you and they find that sighting a little arousing, so what? That’s not your problem so long as they don’t think their boner (or lady boner, as the case may be) means they can letch all over you. It’s like this guy knows there is rape culture in sports culture and that’s only a problem when men might treat other men the way they treat women. How’s about we teach our kids what consent is and how to respect the boundaries of other people even when we’re nude together?

  53. 53
    dianne

    If I were a macho, sexist, MRA type straight guy and I thought gay guys were looking at me the way I looked at women, I’d be horrified and want to stay as far away from them as possible too.

  54. 54
    nich

    Owen@40:

    nich @27 – are you sure it was really chloroform on the pillow? Did it smell sciency?

    The funniest thing about it (well about the moron recounting it, the rumor itself is pretty fucking vile) is when the re-teller of the myth calls it chlorophyll instead of chloroform.

  55. 55
    barbyau

    And the guy has already been fired as a lobbyist for one company.

    For the most part, commercial enterprises would love to not have to weigh in on highly controversial topics. They would like to be able to appeal to an entire market, not just half of one. It always strikes me as odd when businesses decided that, no, they’d rather offer an unsolicited opinion and hurt their marketability. And it doesn’t take a genius to realize which side of this a business should place their bets these days and going forward. It isn’t concern about gays that is going to lead to Arizona’s “religious freedoms” law to be repealed.

  56. 56
    Pseudonym

    So are we supporting co-ed showers as well now?

  57. 57
    ChasCPeterson

    Mad-Libs!
    If ___[institution]___ has no morals and no values, then Congress must find values for it.

  58. 58
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    If the NFL has no morals and no values, then Congress must find values for it

    … SMALL GOVERNMENT!!!elebenty!!

  59. 59
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @ChasCPetersen

    If Congress has no morals and no values, then Congress must find values for it

    I enjoy how the guy apparently hasn’t considered the possibility that the NFL simply has different morals and/or values than his own.

  60. 60
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @pseudonym

    So are we supporting co-ed showers as well now?

    Who’s this “we” you speak of? Speaking personally, I don’t have a problem with them. As Jackie said @#52:

    If someone sees you and they find that sighting a little arousing, so what? That’s not your problem so long as they don’t think their boner (or lady boner, as the case may be) means they can letch all over you.

    If I were feeling uncharitable, I’d be tempted to suggest that your comment was some sort of “gotcha” meant to trick us into saying something you would view as inconsistant.

    If I were to oppose them, it’d be on the grounds that I might get an uncontrollable boner at the sight of a woman showering; which would obviously be embarrassing. But by that logic, it’s the gay man who should have a problem with showering in a communal shower… but it isn’t. It’s some straight old white dudes. Shock horror.

  61. 61
    mischi

    I lived in Denmark for a year as an exchange student (I’m german). The first week all exchange students from YFU (the organisation I went to Denmark with) were together in a school. At times, we played football (that’s soccer for you americans) and would shower afterwards. All of us would just undress, but not the two americans exchange students. They actually showered in their underpants. Is that normal in american group showers?

  62. 62
    Hershele Ostropoler

    Another one who didn’t shower after gym in HS. Did change clothes, though, and Wikipedia specifically says one of my classmates is (and so presumably was) a gay man.

    I mean, almost certainly more than one, but one I’ve found documentation. In an case, I was not damaged by the experience.

    As seldom as women evince interest in me, I wouldn’t expect to be hit on by men, given the relative numbers of men vs. women who are into dudes to begin with.

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