Naked Male Camaraderie

_0piggybackfightAfter my rant yesterday about finding the right man, I thought I would lighten things up before I got to my next post which for me is a bit of a downer. So let’s talk about naked men…
BOTD-081310-002 For the past three decades, America seems to be getting more prudish than ever where nudity is concerned. Take the Janet Jackson episode during the Super Bowl a few years ago. Has America always been this prudish? In television and movies, yes, but in everyday life, I don’t believe the evidence supports it. John Quincy Adams used to get up two hours before sunrise to go skinny dipping in the Potomac River, and he was not even the only president to enjoy skinny dipping. Rumor has it that Harry Truman enjoyed swimming au naturel, and that Billy Graham went skinny dipping with Lyndon Johnson.
vintage_Harvard_rowing_crew_naked_5_13_09_wcmUntil the last three decades, American high school boys took showers after PE classes. Nudity in gyms showers was quite normal. Guys didn’t do the towel dance. If you were in the steam room or sauna, you went naked. You took your shower in the open, but now most guys wear towels in the steam room and sauna, and shower in private stalls.
Columbus,OhioYMCA1930s What’s so odd is that 40 years ago, nude swimming was the norm. It’s what was acceptable. Below, you can see that they even used to shower in groups before they jumped in the pool.
nude-guys-showering-at-pool
A paradigm shift has happened and I’m curious as to why? I really can’t help but wonder — of all the factors that have gone into this shift. The YMCAs used to enforce nude swimming and many, like the one below, even gyms right above or next to the pool. Between laps, guys would just head over and lift weights — yes, completely nude.
nude-men-working-out
From the 1890s to the 1930s, men who swam at the YMCA did so in the nude, apparently wool swimsuits (the fashion of the time) clogged up the pool filters. An excerpt from the history of the Seattle YMCA gives a reason for the change:
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An early casualty of gender equity was males-only nude swimming in the downtown pool. Men and boys had been accustomed to swimming au naturel at the YMCA, not only in Seattle but in Ys everywhere, since the 1890s. The practice may have evolved from problems created by the long, wool swimming suits then in fashion, which apparently shed so much they gummed up the pool filters. Later, nude swimming was justified on the grounds of hygiene. A handbook in use at the Seattle Y in the 1920s required that “A good soap bath must be taken before entering the swimming pool” in the same paragraph that specified “The wearing of swimming suits or supporters will not be allowed except by permission from the director.”

ghp-442807-ymca-pool-1YMCA2 Is gender equality the only reason for the change in nudity in all-male arenas? I doubt it. Women are still not allowed in boys locker rooms. Public baths have largely closed because of the AIDS scare, but also because of a crack down on “morality.” Could the movie Caligula be made today? It is doubtful. One of the major changes has to do with the Reagan presidency. Many Republicans venerate him because of his ushering in of patriotism (which had declined since the l_400_323_723b4073-feb0-4d8b-af3e-067fcff6b715Vietnam War), deregulation, and the Christian Right. Did the resurgence of prudish behavior begin with the Reagan administration, or did it begin before then? The Puritans supplied us with a large number of our founding fathers. Yet, as prudish and “pure” as the Puritans were, they still had more illegitimate births per capita than any other group in American history. Why? Because most of them lived on the frontier, and they could not wait to have sex until after the next time that a minister would travel through to marry them. Puritan ministers were not a populous group, so communities shared ministers, only getting a minister every few months. The same is true of the rural South during colonial times, when Anglican priests were few and far between.
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The ultimate question is, with the resurging popularity of porn and the internet, why is America so prudish?

More after the JUMP.

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About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

25 responses to “Naked Male Camaraderie

    • bj4u2.69

      oh is so agree with your thoughts here Crotchdiver…..indeed!!
      Would love to of joined them back then……Take care man! ❤ John.

  • JoeBlow

    AMEN, crothdiver. You are preaching to the choir.

  • djc314

    Neat post..good questions..maybe we started coodling our kids so much that there is a bad man on every corner and a pedo in every gym…and the catholic priest may also be a factor…I am sure the media has something to do with it too…on the other hand there is an epidemic of sexting…and it is my guess that every teen boy has had some fun with the cam connected to his computer…so who knows…?

    • bj4u2.69

      Hi Djc, you say this:::: and it is my guess that every teen boy has had some fun with the cam connected to his computer…:::: and i totally agree with your thinking……guessing personal experience…but i must say i love this article and the photos….who would of loved to be there with so many of these men…wow what a day that would be! Take care and thakn for sharing your thoughts here. Take care<3 John.

  • JoeBlow

    DJC, I think America probably has gotten too sensitive about nudity. We are too worried that kids will feel insecure about their bodies. I think, obviously from this post, that we should be less prudish and return to some of the simpler things in life, like swimming naked.I think you are totally right about the webcams, LOL.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, in my experience, conservative Christian men have no problems with locker room nudity; after all, the old YMCAs were created on old-fashioned Christian principles. There are many reasons for the new prudishness; strangely, in part it results from our hypersexualized society, where nudity is common in pop culture but there is little or no differentiation between sexual and non-sexual situations. Also, because of ACLU lawsuits, most schools cannot force students to shower after gym class. And there are many other reasons, including the diminished presence of fathers in many households. Anyway, thanks for raising the topic.

    • William

      I think you are somewhat right. Big problem is fewer fathers in homes of boys & escalated sexualization of mere nudity. Some conflict in Christians. I recall aversion to group nudity prior to becoming highly religious, then when religious, again some aversion to it – intense.
      — Then, praying & researching bible about it, found multiple instances of nudity that was not bad. Seems God is less interested in nudity itself & more interested in state of the heart, spiritually, as well as human needs. Found that going nude was healthful and rather like it. Used to never sleep nude, also, but now as much as possible it seems.
      — Back to boys w/o fathers: a big thing. However, other things, too. Society prior to swimsuits necessitated nude swims, esp. for poor folks. Kids grow fast, so a new swimsuit each year (or less) not practical, back then. Plus, more seclusion, privacy from outsiders. Often no modern tubs or small houses, so less privacy – people got used to it. Then, too, there were multiple wars. In military, no place for prudishness with so many soldiers. Men got used to it, those who made it home were changed, left that impact on sons, too. No place for boys to be like scared girls re: nudity – just change, do what you gotta do.
      — Then, w/o fathers, more privacy added, more cameras, fears of this & that, it all washed away into oblivion, it seems, and I think society somewhat the worse for it, though I also understand as to some of the concerns, too.

  • JoeBlow

    Anon, you are right. The fear of sexualization and a new American prudishness have to do with the striving movement toward political correctness that is gone too far.

  • Sadisticon

    It isn't so much a political thing as an overreacting thing. For every event that makes publicity in America there is an opposing reaction that takes it over the fucking top. Shoe bomber on a plane? Now nobody gets through security without removing their shoes. Cyanide in aspirin? Now every.single.package has security sealing. A dude looked at your we wee in the shower? Now we all forbid nudity everywhere for any reason (I swear – every bathhouse in NYC restricts nudity to the shower). It is American Stupidity at its finest; trying to save us all from common sense under the guise of risk reduction. American Simple Stupidity.

  • Brian

    As an Englishman working in Upstate NY in 1962-3, I think YMCA's must have beeen in transition regarding nude swimming. I was surprised, on a visit to Washington, to find I was expected to swim named, so it must have been that trunks were normal in Poughkeepsie and Kingston Y's, certainly for competitive swimmers.But now, American boys seeem uswilling even to wear proper swimming trunks as "too revealing".

  • Joe

    Compare the number of men who dabbled with homosexual sex acts in the 1940s to the number who do so today. The decline has been huge.Researchers have talked about the rise of anxiety about gay identity. People have increasingly, especially men, been worried about disclaiming gay identity so they don't want to be naked around other men and they don't mess around with them nearly as much as they used to.

    • William

      I think you are right. People can believe as they wish about gay, straight or preferences. However, I think a lot of kids would benefit from nudity and the perception it gives as to the two genders humans and that it would take away some of the curiosity.

  • Anonymous

    Naked male camaraderie doesn't exist any more because, on the misconception of "gender equality", male only spaces have been systematically destroyed, while female ones continue to exist and are actually encoureged. When male privacy is out of the window, you can't expect men to behave as they did when they were largely protected from undesired company.

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  • Anonymous

    Another blog suggested nude swimming was mandatory due to the swimsuits' habit of carrying the cholera infection in the wool. Interesting. I also read that mandatory nude swimming was in Chicago public high schools until 1980.

  • Anonymous

    Important and timely topic.

  • Anonymous

    In the 1970 I swam naked in the red brick gymnasium and pool at the University of Wisconsin.The first time one bought a Uof W towel, and was given a cake of soap (every time.It was mandatror to shower and soap naked, to swim naked and after that, to shower and soap again,and when dressed at he lockers, when leaving, one gave the used towel to the employee in charge and he gave me a clean towel for the next time.This was at Madison.How is all this today?

  • Anonymous

    when showering naked in Madison,at University of Wisconsin University in th 1970's I realize for the first time in my life that all studnts taking showers were cut,I was the only uncircumcised guy since I come from Latin America. Many guys lookd at me starngely, afterwords they confessed they hd never seen an uncut guy:they showed surprise when I retracted my foreskin for washing glans under the shower.I had to give them the show.thay laughed: there was nothing gay about all this!

  • Anonymous

    The photos here remind me of a few years back when men had no issue with being naked with other men. I an all-male environment, no one gave it a second thought.

  • Anonymous

    Rubish of course it was agay thing! and you enjoyed it as much as all the other guys!!

  • Anonymous

    NOT GAY AT ALL!!!Most US guys dis not know an uncircumcised penis ever existed, and when they found out in astonishment, they wanted to know how my uncut penis Works ! Ignorance is not gay, maybe it is for you!

    • bj4u2.69

      Nicely stated here Anonymous. I have yet to find either “a cut or uncut” one that dosen’t work out perfectably for me! Straight ^ Up!! Thanks for your post here and Yes you are right on with your point, Later, John.

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