WILD BEASTS

Posted in Rants on February 13th, 2014 by Ed

It didn't take long for an NFL player reacting to the coming out of Michael Sam – you know, the best defensive player in the best conference in college football – to bust out the old Shower Time chestnut. You know, that the fundamental obstacle to having a gay guy in professional sports is that he will be ogling all those studs in the shower. In fairness, the player who said it seems to have an idea of how stupid it was, appearing on CNN to clarify that he is "A-OK" with having a gay teammate. But this is the original statement:

"I think that he would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted," Vilma told NFL Network. "I don't want people to just naturally assume, like, 'Oh, we're all homophobic.' That's really not the case. Imagine if he's the guy next to me and, you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me. How am I supposed to respond?"

He started out so well. It's absolutely true that, "he would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted." Certainly he's going to encounter people who don't want to accept him during this saga. But dammit, we all knew that the Shower Time thing would be brought up. It was just a question of when and by whom. Here's the problem with the whole "How can we let a gay guy be around naked straight guys? Or even clothed ones? Won't he be checking us out, like, constantly?" line of thought.

This is the exact same argument made by people who think that if a woman is dressed a certain way or behaves a certain way, it is all but impossible for a man not to have sex with her. The claim that "men will be men" and "you know how men are" is made by men who presuppose that all men are devoid of self control. It's an argument that is made to justify sexual assault yet somehow it ends up being even more insulting to men than it is to women. If a women flirts with a guy, how is he supposed to not have sex with her? Most of us realize that, despite the ironclad logic in play here, it's remarkably easy.

You know what I do for a living. In this line of work, I am constantly in proximity of young women. Many of them are quite attractive and/or in various states of undress (Perhaps that is just the Old Person in me being shocked at what The Kids wear out of the house these days). According to Shower Time theory, I should not be capable, as a Man, of keeping my eyes and hands to myself and my mouth shut. I should be pinching asses and catcalling (I'm not really sure how; maybe a Sideshow Bob-esque, "Capital knockers, madame!") because how can you expect otherwise from Men when you dress like that?

Oddly enough, however, I've spent a decade as a heterosexual male in this profession and somehow I – and 99.9% of my male colleagues – manage to avoid ass-grabbing and Hey Babying and all the other things that according to victim-blaming logic we should be incapable of avoiding around women. It's a miracle. Somehow I understand that there is a particular manner of conducting myself in a professional environment that is expected. It's almost like I'm not a tiny child or a drooling sex-crazed animal!

The Shower Time hypothetical assumes that, as a man, Michael Sam is incapable of controlling his sexual urges; that if he sees an attractive man (plenty of those in the NFL, obviously) he will be overcome with lust and end up grabbing asses, making suggestive comments, and staring in abject wonder at the naked bodies around him. It's easier to assume that a gay man in a locker room will be like a kid on (sexy) Christmas morning than to pause, think for a moment, and realize that he is an adult who is capable of understanding basic concepts like "Don't fuck your co-workers" or "I am here to work, not flirt" or "This straight man would not appreciate it if I told him he has a sexy wang."

So to anyone losing sleep at the thought of showering or undressing in the vicinity of a gay man, take comfort in the fact that he's seen a lot of male bodies in his life and somehow, some way, he has managed to not have sex with the overwhelming majority of them.