WILD BEASTS

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.

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36 Responses to “WILD BEASTS”

  1. Arslan Says:

    Ed it would seem you're not following the proper behavior of what Hollywood has told us is that of a proper "man!" Remember, we're supposed to be a bunch of dumb manboys who will go to any length to see "boobs," or in a pinch, "sideboob." But I'm sure you can discipline yourself and thus there will be no need to report this distraction to Seth MacFarlane.

  2. Dave Says:

    I find the whole shower argument to be more than a little narcissistic when it comes from an athlete. I don't know Michael Sam personally, but assuming he's into the athletic type seems presumptive. There are all kinds of sexy dudes who'll never come close to playing in the NFL.

  3. Ed W. Says:

    In a lifetime of showering, getting changed, etc. in locker rooms, I have done a pretty good job of avoiding having penises and rectums (rectii? recta?) show to me, as I have done a pretty good job of not showing mine to others. I imagine most guys would report a similar lack of rampant locker room private part exposure. Aside from Charles Haley (http://kissingsuzykolber.uproxx.com/2008/08/charles-haley-would-like-you-to-watch-him-masturbate.html), who is clearly a crazy person, is there something bizarrely unique to the NFL locker room where this happens all the time?

    Not that it matters. I understand this is just a way for homophobes to rationalize keeping the icky gays far, far away, ew gross. Mainly I just wanted to write the words "rectii and recta", and put up that Charles Haley link. Really, the man is certifiable.

  4. VCB Says:

    So, I think the medical school, where I wasted many of my golden years, is a decent analogue. Everyone asks, all the time, about doing an exam on an attractive patient. Nudity, maybe! How can one handle it? It could be "I'm sorry, but you appear to have ulcerative colitis….." and then boom-chicka-wow-wow and so on, is the idea. But in reality, while I was not in the profession long enough to become totally numb, at no point was an attractive patient a danger zone where I was going to go crazy, rip the gown off, and yield to the hypothetical overwhelming primal urges. It never came up as anything to worry about, just like Michael Sam will never seriously be in danger of turning a post-game shower into a porn scenario.

    (on re-read: this comment got dangerously close to something Victor Davis Hanson might write about Putin)

  5. Xynzee Says:

    I don't quite get the argument myself. Since middle school most of us have had to take mandatory showers after PE. So that guy who's gay didn't just wake up at 20+ and go, "Hey, I'm going to be gay now." Meaning we've been showering with "them" the whole time, and made it through without having our arses grabbed—in fact, it's the guys who are hyper-male (jock/football players) who feel the need to commit something akin to sexual assault on other guys. How many guys finish their NFL careers then come out? Wait?! What?! You've been showering and prancing around nude with this guy and didn't notice/care?

    So the only difference is that you know that he's gay ahead of time.

    To my knowledge, I have only ever encountered one gay man who was so socially f+++tarded, that it was blatantly obvious he was staring at my tackle at a urinal.

    The only thing I can see that motivates these guys is that they live in a world of male privilege. Because they feel they're entitled to get away with anything, sexual assault, rape, etc. they don't like it when the shoe's on the other foot.

    Unpack this: "…and it just so happens he looks at me. How am I supposed to respond?"

    Oh, I see, if it was you—and your mates—doing the checking out of some girl talking about how you'd "destroy that". It's ok. However, now that it's you who's the subject of such attention, not so nice.

    So to answer his question, I'd suggest he go ask a girl how she handles all the unwanted attention he and his mates give her. It's when predator becomes the prey.

    As Deckard says in Blade Runner: "I'd rather be a killer than a victim."

  6. Major Kong Says:

    My fear is that the gay guys wouldn't hit on me. My self esteem is bad enough as it is.

  7. Sarah Says:

    There are male gynecologists and obstetricians. The last time I had a massage, the massage therapist was a dude, and he was very professional. (You'd have heard me all the way up there if he hadn't been.) That whole "dudes can't control themselves" whether straight or LGBT is a tremendous logic fail.

  8. middle seaman Says:

    It's not the sex; it's insecurity, fear of change and fear of the unknown. As Ed says, sex is in the air, but neither sex seems to go on a rampage. Privacy, politeness, good behavior and loyalty prevail.

    Sexual attraction does prevail sometimes. In an academic department of less than two dozens, two colleagues are married to former students. The weddings were decades ago. A former dean and a faculty member did invite a young female student for a weekend. The student said no.

    No one jumps anyone, though.

  9. anotherbozo Says:

    In graduate school I had a gay roommate. (He was simply the most interesting person in an otherwise rather dull group and we had become friends.) Though he once paid me a casual compliment about my build, he could have cared less what I looked like. His focused the great part of his attention, not on looks, but on whether other men were gay or not, i.e., available. We straights were just hors concours.

    He claimed he once saw Paul Newman, late at night, cruising, and thus that Paul was a closet queen. This was just a happy fantasy, but showed his mind set.

    The NFL shower room is safe for straight players. Of course what Ed doesn't address here is that straight men are BOTHERED by the IDEA of gay men surveying them as sex objects. (A thought crime!) Why? Because it somehow makes us just a little gay to be looked at that way, we think. This is a silliness that somehow will have to be addressed and transcended. And that will be only when homosexuality ceases to be anathema, to be feared like some infectious disease.

  10. ixnay Says:

    Tell me that no straight guy has ever, ever checked out the equipment of the guy in the shower or urinal next to him. I'm not talking blatant "checking," just the brief glance.

    And then there's the whole "female sports journalists in the locker room" thing.

    My husband was a long-haired musician in Provincetown. He was occasionally hit on, but a simple "nope, not me" always sufficed. Ask how many women have found that answer sufficient.

  11. c u n d gulag Says:

    Jayzoos, for those male athletes who are afraid of showering with gay men because the gay guy be so overcome with lust for your manly-man special-snowflake self, 'Get over yourselves!'

    Or, is the problem that you're afraid that YOU'LL be attracted to HIM?
    Hmm?

    Also too, if you think the next time you shower with a gay male is the first time, you're delusional!
    There have been gay athletes in showers ever since athletics, and athletes showering together, first began.

  12. Rich Says:

    It's analogous to the bathroom fears that helped sink the Equal Rights Amendment and has been used against trans rights. Basically, both are "fear of random 'perverts'", when the people most likely to be predators are in plain sight–family, friends of family, teachers, clergy (and not just priests, clergy often are good examples of what happens to unworldly people on whom authority is placed at an early age).

    I'm a gay guy and I know there are gay men who fall for straight guys, but shower rape is not how that sort of thing goes down–more likely a clumsy pass that can be quickly ended with a polite comment. I've always blended into the straight woodwoirk aand I there are plenty of passes that go nowhere among straights and no one bring them up–because they're equally embarrassing and uncomfortable, esp. when you are the one who's been rebuffed.

  13. queenrandom Says:

    Right on, Ed. I mean, jeez, I'm sure the FIRST thing on his mind when he's getting prepared for a game, or exhausted after a game, is getting laid. *eyeroll*

  14. Anonymouse Says:

    Even in the military–where there is a well-known, well-documented problem with sexual assault–I've been in situations where we young, healthy, heterosexual adults ended up sleeping and changing in front of each other…and nothing untoward happened, because we were professionals with a job to do. I guarantee at some point in my life I have showered next to and bunked next to a gay person and had absolutely no idea. The notion that football locker rooms will turn into instant orgies because it's now known that there are gay people in them is just absur.

  15. Jacquie Says:

    …And Vilma got cut yesterday. I can't help but assume his comments may have played a role in that.

  16. Anonymouse Says:

    Ooops, that last word should have been "absurd", not "absur".

  17. CaptBackslap Says:

    Your statement that 99.9% of your male colleagues manage to keep their hands off the students seems…a touch optimistic.

    Also, I still remember this statement from a friend during a dorm-room bull session that touched on this topic in the mid-90s: "It's so conceited to think that [gay guys] will want you…I figure, girls don't want me, why would guys?"

  18. Nate Says:

    I came across a pithy comment on this recently. I'm paraphrasing, but it was "Homophobia: the fear that a man will treat you like you treat women."

  19. Margarita Says:

    The best I can tell, the showertime panic is less about fear of inappropriate behavior than just being the object of the male gaze (no pun). Imagine if a male coxswain (pun) showered with a female rowing team. The women could not be faulted, perhaps, for feeling less than completely unselfconscious. That said, no, it's not exactly the same thing, and everybody needs to get over it. But that's the best I can figure out what the issue is.

  20. J. Random Lurker Says:

    Wait, this person is already playing football at the college level? And therefore is already changing in front of other players and showering with other players? All without incidents? Isn't that proof enough for anyone?

  21. Robert Says:

    All very well put, folks. I remember being on the cross country team my senior year of high school ('78/'79) and out. I was not gawking at the cavalcade of penes, I'll put it that way. I'd been in locker rooms at school since seventh grade; it wasn't an unprecedented situation.

    Looking back on it, I think I was the first out gay person most of my schoolmates ever met. Some of them were dickish about it, most were not. It made a difference that everyone knew who I was beforehand, as I had run for student body president the year before.

  22. Greg Says:

    Robert you were out in high school in 1978? I salute you and your bravery!

  23. c u n d gulag Says:

    Ditto, what Greg said!

    Back then, I was in college, evolving from being a HS homophobic jock-jerk.
    And, thanks to my injuries from HS, and inability to continue playing sports, I deciding to get involved with Theatre to get more out of my college experience.
    And I won't lie – to meet some attractive female college actresses.

    And there, in theatre, I met many gay people – and discovered we were exactly alike – except for our sexual preferences.

  24. Townsend Harris Says:

    If the NFL permits homosexuals the locker rooms will become a gay orgy. Just like the scene at Trump Tower in Scorcese's "Wolf of Wall Street".
    Everybody knows that.

  25. sinned34 Says:

    I actually read a couple of posts on a "men's rights advocate" site this morning where the jackasses there were complaining about sexual harassment rules and laws, and that's exactly what they were screaming about: that nothing should infringe upon their inability to control their sexual urges.
    These people have the mentality of a fifteen year old. To them, "professionalism" means looking into her eyes for a split second before checking out her tits.
    Which, by extension, means that they can't have a gay man around, because that'll make them feel like a piece of meat. And we all know that only attractive women should be made to feel like that.

  26. Michael Says:

    Oh, come on, that's an easy statement to get around…it's not that a MAN cannot control himself, it's that a GAY MAN obviously cannot control himself because the very fact that he is GAY means he is a pervert and a pedophile. Duh.

  27. postcaroline Says:

    Thinking of a line from the Buddy Cole monologue "On Outing" from the Kids in the Hall: "Why is it always the big smelly guys that think all fags want them?"

  28. Gerald McGrew Says:

    I think it's what Margarita said. It's not about the possibility of being raped, but just the general discomfort of being naked around someone who might be sexually attracted to you.

    I guess if the argument is "We're all adults here and don't assume that just because I'm attracted to your sex, I'm attracted to YOU", then that kinda begs the question: Why do we have separate locker rooms for men and women in the first place?

  29. moderateindy Says:

    It's exactly what Gerald and Margarita said. For one second put aside the stupidity about the gay guy not being able to control himself. That's a total strawman, and not what anyone is saying would happen. But if your argument is that a straight man shouldn't have a problem being naked in front of someone that is sexually attracted to men, then you shouldn't have a problem if I, as a man, would go into a ladies locker room.
    In college, we had an openly gay guy on our dorm floor. We also had communal showers. So under most people's assumptions, I must be a homophobe because I made sure to never shower when he was also in the shower.
    Instead of falling back to orthodoxy, try actually putting yourself in the same position you are advocating. Would you have no problem being naked in front of a member of the opposite sex, or a gay person of the same sex? Perhaps; if you are a nudist, otherwise it would be a very uncomfortable position.
    If it were a woman being subjected to having to be involuntarily naked around men, everyone would be shouting about a hostile work environment.
    That being said, these guys are already use to having females in the locker room. So while it may be understandable that such a dynamic would make them uncomfortable, as professionals they can certainly deal with it.

  30. Croooow! Says:

    My mother, who graduated law school from the University of Miami in the 70s, swears on her mother's grave that there used to be a professor who, when he saw an attractive co-ed out the window would, no matter what he was doing or in the middle of saying, would howl like a wolf. And somehow it was endearing.

  31. Fiddlin Bill Says:

    There's another implicit thing in Vilma's remarks–it's the straight fear: "what if he seduces me into gaytude?" In fact, I'd say that this necessarily unspoken fear is actually what drives the whole anti-gay attitude. Don't let "them" around me because I might not really be that "straight."

  32. moderateindy Says:

    Again: Fiddlin Bill I call Bulls**t. While I do believe that virulent homophobia often comes from an insecurity about one's own sexuality, that has nothing to do with this case.
    How many women out there would have no problem with having men around in their workplace, if for work they had to undress and shower.
    That is the question pure and simple.
    Is it reasonable, as part of your work environment, that you should have to be naked in front of people that you know are attracted to your gender?
    And Robert, you really expect me to believe that as a teenage boy that was sexually attracted to guys, that you didn't check out other naked guys during your years in locker rooms? I'm sure you didn't gawk, but how long you looked isn't the point.
    One of my best friend's from high school came out in his 30's, and we have had this conversation, and he readily admits that he checked out guys a lot. In fact through football, and wrestling he never actually took a shower in the locker room. He would wait until he got home. I always figured it was because he was self-conscious about his body, but he was scared to death that, god forbid, his hormones might take over, and he might get aroused while in the shower. I imagine that the fear of being found out to be gay would have kept that from happening, but I also realize that as a teenage boy if I were showering with a bunch of teenage girls I would not be in control of my junk.

  33. Croooow! Says:

    If you don't see the difference between men and men, and women and men, then there is very little I can help you with.

    Even assuming arguendo that you have a valid argument, how long do they spend in the shower? Seems like there could be an easy workaround. Here's the bottom line: there have always been gay people in sports. It's just that it's easier for them to come out now. If your solution is that gay people must remain closeted or segregated in the locker room or not play sports, I don't want to be a part of your world. Are you also Icked out by gay men using public restrooms?

    Anyway, the reason you get no respect is that you don't deserve any. Your argument is thinly veiled homophobia covered with a thin veneer if handwringing.

  34. Croooow! Says:

    Also note that the coward comments when discussion has mostly petered out because he's afraid of responses.

  35. Croooow! Says:

    @ Gerard "Why do we have separate locker rooms for men and women in the first place?"

    You think this is an intelligent question. But it just makes you look pig ignorant. Do you know nothing about the social power dynamics between men and women? Sexual assault.

    Another thing, moron: do you not realize that there are overwhelmingly more straight people than gay people? Seriously? It makes sense to separate men and women but little sense to not allow gay men/women to use their gender's locker room. Your argument gets no respect because it's not worthy of respect.

  36. moderateindy Says:

    @ Croooow"Do you know nothing about the social power dynamics between men and women? Sexual assault."

    Now who's the one saying that men are sexual predators that can't control themselves?

    As a guy I wouldn't welcome females in my locker room either, unless of course the trade off was I got to see them naked as well.
    And while I'm not arguing for seperate locker rooms for gay people, or for that matter saying Mr. Sam shouldn't be allowed in his teams room. In fact I said exactly the opposite. However, I am saying it is completely reasonable to feel uncomfortable being naked in front of someone that you would rather not voluntarily be naked in front of.

    As far as when I commented. Yes, I was waiting till the end cause I was so afraid that someone might respond. Seriously, how fracking stupid are you? Is anybody actually afraid of writing stuff in a comment section on a blog? It wouldn't be that I only visit occasionally?…………. no, that would make too much sense, something you apparently lack.