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Men, Manliness, and Being Naked Around Other Men

interesting read on male gymnophobia

Men, Manliness, and Being Naked Around Other Men

But certain aspects of the tradition of naked competition still existed when I was a young man growing up in Chicago in the early 1960’s. One of my worst experiences was being forced to swim in the nude in high school. This was a common practice in Chicago and other large city schools until the 1970’s. You had a choice: either swim in the nude for four years of high school or take ROTC to get a waiver. Envision 30 young boys at various stages of puberty, with a wide variety of body shapes, lining up so the coach, in his well-fitted swimsuit, could take attendance. There was my dramatically overweight friend with his eyes staring straight at the ground and my other friend, a “late bloomer,” just waiting for the inevitable insults about his manhood. There was also the constant anxiety that a pubescent erection could appear at any time. You could only hope that you were already in the pool when it struck. The reasons for this barbaric and hurtful practice were ill-founded—the need for hygiene, the fear of bathing suit threads clogging the pool or the desire to “build cohesion” between young men. Talk to any man raised at that time and you will get similar stories of shame and embarrassment.

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