I envy you your locker room

I’m suddenly seeing all these people talking about their locker rooms, and how it wasn’t anything like the locker rooms Donald Trump is talking about. They didn’t talk about women, or how they want to grab them, or other such crudities — they just wanted to take their shower and get out. I believe them. Personally, that’s how I dealt with being afflicted with the shower ritual in high school.

But I was not so lucky in my environment. The locker room I experienced was a hell hole of machismo, strutting athletes, point-by-point explicit ranking of the anatomical bits of women at school, and lots of bragging about sexual conquests. I didn’t have a nice locker room experience.

There was a reason for that. It was Coach. This locker room was run by a swaggering, bullet-headed lunk with no boundaries — he’d stroll through as we were taking showers and comment on boys’ penises. He’d ask for details of Friday night make-out sessions, and would laugh if you “scored”, and tell you which girls were “sluts”. He set the tone. He approved of the worst of behaviors, and mocked you if were a “nice boy”…which made you a “fag”.

Does this remind you of someone?

We have a presidential candidate who reminds me a lot of Coach. I see a nation acting like a tribe of monkeys, with many people following the lead of the coarse vulgarian and becoming worse themselves. That’s what people do.

I could do without the daily reminder of those years of misery from the media.


  1. Rich Woods says

    I see a nation acting like a tribe of monkeys, with many people following the lead of the coarse vulgarian and becoming worse themselves.

    Is it monkeys or baboons which show obeisance when the alpha male bares his arse at them?

  2. cartomancer says

    We were all so shy at school, and unwilling to undress in front of one another, that nobody took a shower after PE. We just took our rugby shirts and shorts off, put our uniforms back on over our pants and vest, and got through the rest of the day a little bit sweaty. Mind you, rural Somerset always smells like that, so nobody noticed.

  3. chigau (違う) says

    Is it monkeys or baboons which show obeisance when the alpha male bares his arse at them?
    That doesn’t happen anywhere in the real world.
    baboons are monkeys

  4. says

    We didn’t have a choice about showering. If we were caught not getting naked and in the shower by Coach, he’d bring out one of his paddles (they looked like this, and he had a collection of them because he’d frequently break them on our butts), and he’d make us strip and get a swat while naked, and then we’d have to shower.

    I cannot tell you how much I hated that man, and how much misery he caused. Nowadays, I think he’d be sued and fired for his behavior, but back then, in the ‘good old days’, it was regarded as normal.

  5. cartomancer says

    Yeah, in England in the 90s that kind of behaviour would have got a PE teacher so fired it’s not funny. I’ll say one thing for a culture of rampant paedophile scares, they at least got me out of awkward post-PE showering situations.

    I’m beginning to see how that horrid Jerry Sandusky rape thing kept happening…

  6. says

    I never had such a horrible experience with locker rooms, but maybe that’s because I did everything I could to avoid them entirely.

    To me, “locker room talk” basically means being a masculine asshole, only it’s okay that you’re an asshole because [reason not stated].

  7. says

    We thought our PE teacher was joking when he told us with a laugh that he had a different sized plimsoll for each year. Turned out it wasn’t funny, and it wasn’t a joke.

    Cartomancer, greetings from Taunton! And yeah, we all did the same after PE.

  8. Rich Woods says

    @chigau #3:

    That doesn’t happen anywhere in the real world.

    You’re right. I got it the wrong way round.

    Anyway, I’m only talking about baboons because I don’t want to talk about PE and showers.

  9. A Masked Avenger says

    My experiences were nothing like as severe as yours, but similar enough. I actually pointed this out some time ago, when people were fainting at the thought of trans people in gym locker rooms: the locker room itself is the problem, not who’s allowed in it. It’s perfectly tailored for bullying (and worse). The bullies strut around naked as a dominance display, and everyone else is put in their place with body shaming, intimidation, etc.

    I mentioned this on a forum heavy with right-wingers, and the reply was, “Ha ha U must have tiny dik.” So I pointed out that this was itself an example of the kind of bullying I was talking about, which invited an infinite regress of course: only small-dicked people object to mocking small-dicked people. I could find no way whatsoever to break that particular loop…

    But I also pointed out the irony that the locker room is not only the most homophobic environment I’ve ever been in, but also the most homoerotic. Why, exactly, do homophobic bullies want to display their junk, and look at others’ junk? The reply, predictably, was “ha ha ur gay.” But anyway yeah, the weird way that male bonding in our culture is often based on homoerotic activities, like showering together, seems to be very deeply ingrained.

    It’s all intertwined somehow. Forced public nudity in locker rooms is a feature, not a bug. It’s needed in order to establish a pecking order. And the pecking order is established by homoerotic activities that suddenly become terrifying to the bullies if any participant might not be a humiliated straight man. And one of the compensations for undergoing this humiliation is to project it onto someone else, in the form of misogynistic boasting — which also serves the purpose of reaffirming that the participants in this ritual sexual humiliation are all suitably straight.

  10. cartomancer says

    chigau, #3

    Does the real world include gay porn? It certainly happens there! Well, certain specialised byways of it at any rate…

    Daz, #8

    Greetings from sunny Glastonbury.

  11. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I heard “locker room talk” as a euphemism [only Drumph’s ] for our euphemism “shooting the breeze’ or “trash talk”. He was trying to be “hip” with that Bush guy, to sound so cool and so celebrity, that he played it up as much as possible to the point of falling for it himself. And now trying to defend it, not realizing how offensive such talk is. His attempt at euphemism he thinks [euphemism again] everyone uses, really bit him in the a$$; from all the trash talkers he ‘thinks’ talk that way, people who actually use locker rooms for their intended purpose, and not just as a place to trash talk. Locker rooms are not where anyone shares their imaginative sexist fantasies, especially not to share descriptions of their sexual assaults.
    He keeps setting the bar lower. first his excuse for saying stupid remarks was “it was sarcasm”, now “it was locker room talk”.
    Thinking it’s just fine for a POTUS to occasionally speak like a ~~~~ *burp*

  12. anbheal says

    Wow, what a sucky locker room experience. My sympathies. I didn’t like the locker room for a few years because I didn’t hit puberty until the end of tenth grade, so everyone was bigger and hairier and schlongier, but at least there were six or eight other five-foot hairless boys in the showers.

    But nobody ever talked that sort of shit in the locker room, even the big popular asshole jocks. I just never heard boys talking trash about girls in that environment. It’s just a short-hand description for being a jerk.

    I did hear boys on Monday mornings in high school or out at pubs in college talk some nasty crap, about some conquest or another. And most of the rest of us rolled our eyes, not believing a word of it. But if they used certain language or images, we might force a laugh if they were popular, but cringed inwardly. Then, by our mid-to-late twenties, we’d tell them to put a sock in it. We don’t want to hear about what you did with whom last weekend. By late twenties into thirties, these guys who had no filter began to be ostracized. They might have been smart, witty, cultured, interesting….but they were seemingly incapable of making it through a cocktail party without saying something really inappropriate. And you’d start hanging out with them less. And then your girlfriend or wife would say “nope, no more, we’re done with him”. And then he’d treat you resentfully when he found out you had people by or met a group at a bar and he wasn’t invited. And then…..crickets.

    So that’s the evolution from tittering at some 8th grade classmate telling you he made it to 2nd base with Julie, to some high school jock saying he porked Brenda, to some 23-year-old cubicle neighbor saying he took Sheila up the ass……to not having these friends anymore. But after about age 35, anybody who still does that is either a total prick (Trump), or totally lacking the social antenna to see how people cringe away from him, and his social circle is dwindling to nothing (which would also be Trump, were he not rich enough to attract hangers-on).

    It has nothing to do with locker rooms. It’s about behaving decently. If some weaselly acquaintance asks “so, didja get any?”, just a none of your business or a thin elusive smile and shrug are the best responses. Any verbiage beyond that has landed you in the icky camp since age 14.

  13. says

    Mostly my high school locker room divided itself into the sportsball players, and the runners/ultimate frisbee/bicyclist/swimmers who did anything to stay away from the sportsballers. There were lots of “rat tail” sessions where the sportsballers would run around flogging everyone else. It took me walloping one of the frosh/soph with a sock with a padlock in it, to get them to leave me alone; from then on I was “crazy” which was fine with me.

    The coaches were decent people and stayed out of the locker room unless there was screaming and bleeding. “Boys will be boys” really ought to be “boys will be bullies.”

    And they wonder why I don’t go to my class reunions.

  14. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    Re the opening paragraph: I’m suddenly reminded of the way it became trendy in social justice circles a few years ago to pretend that anti-intellectual/anti-“nerd” bullying never existed and anyone who claimed to experience it was either a bullying misogynist himself or just never bathed.

  15. brett says

    I remember the sophomore football team locker room times being a little better than that, but only a little. Thankfully we didn’t have a coach who cared to ever come into the locker room much, and they also didn’t care if we showered (I never did in the gym shower, although I changed underwear in there).

    I might have showered if they had individual shower stalls with doors, like they do at the gym I sometimes go to. But that wasn’t my high school gym shower – it was the stereotypical “poorly lit open tile room” with the metal pipes with the shower heads on them running through the middle of it, so if you did want to shower you had to do it with zero privacy while standing naked right next to others.

  16. says

    @Professor Myers #5

    I won’t link to it because there is no need. But 30 seconds on the Google yielded several gay eroticas with that “plot.”

    American PE/Sports are generally terrifying.

  17. blf says

    I broadly disliked PE and so tried to avoid the gym, locker room, et al as much as possible (to the point of, e.g., deliberately scheduling Math Club / Society meetings to coincide with PE times). The worse thing I can now recall happening in any locker room was to a good friend of mine. He happened to be Jewish. That provoked questions — though no insults that I can recall — which he answered gracefully, plus follow-up, albeit simplistic, questions (e.g., “Do you wear a skullcap?”).

  18. Matrim says

    The locker room (which didn’t actually have any lockers) up through 8th grade (I went to the same school K-8) was very small and had no showers (well, they had at one point, but they had long ago deactivated them and removed the heads and taps), so there wasn’t a lot of some of that nonsense, though it was still a hostile environment. In high school (which had a larger more traditional locker room) had remarkably little physical abuse, but there was quite a bit of nasty talk in the vein of Trump. However, after high school, even in the military, that kinda died away for the most part. That’s the part all these people trying to defend it as “locker room talk” forget. It’s not just locker room talk, it’s JUVENILE locker room talk. Most people outgrow this shit in their early 20s.

  19. Dark Jaguar says

    Regardless of gender, the locker room sucks. I got lucky. In school, I managed to make gym the last period of the day so I simply went home to shower. Later, I got into a program that allowed “outside credited” PE, meaning I could take a self defense class and use that as my PE credit. Considering how little I value P.E. as a course to begin with, as you can imagine I jumped at that opportunity.

  20. manymistakes says

    It’s good PZ that you’re able to overcome your unfortunate locker room experience and believe others when they say their locker rooms weren’t anything like Trumps bs. I was a “jock” throughout my time in high school, and as you describe, the locker room/showers were a place where we got in and out pretty quickly and I truly don’t recall any type of Trump vulgarities or misogynistic comments in conversation. Maybe it was because of the coach – I was lucky by having a Herm Edwards type coach/teacher (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWI2_VqnE08) And as with all stereotypes, the jock/locker room stereotype, which Trump exploits, is unfair. I was a jock last century 1969-72 (a time when hippies were the superior social beings in my high school) and most of my teammates were thoughtful and very good students… who just happened to be decent kids who were able to run, jump, throw and catch with joy and ease.

  21. says

    My experiences could not be more different. but that is no surprise considering that I had them from 1996 to 2009 and in Germany.
    First grade we did not even use locker rooms, we changed in the classroom (Unisex style).
    Second grade we used unisex locker rooms, after that separated locker rooms.
    Showers where always provided but rarely if ever used with the exception of swim class. So nakedness was not common.
    And the talk was no different to what we talked about when we where not in the locker room.

    Oh, and the teachers rarely even set a foot into the locker room of the same gender students, let alone of the opposite gender, after second grade. There was no reason to do so, they had their own lockers. If she or he would have dared to hit any of us, they would be out of a job faster than they could make us run laps.