February 3, 2014

"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."

From an essay titled "Men, Manliness, and Being Naked Around Other Men/A culture that tells people to 'man up' when it comes to nudity invites strange problems."

58 comments:

mccullough said...

I think these facility designs and rules were developed by homosexual pederasts. The same reason the ancient Greeks competed naked. Now that homosexuality is out in the open, you get more privacy.

jacksonjay said...

"One of my worst experiences was being forced to swim in the nude in high school."

I call bullshit!

What in the Hell is wrong with this man?

Michael said...

I belong to a club in New York City that was once a men's club and where swimming was always in the nude. Not my thing, actually, but when the club went co-ed, was coerced into becoming co-ed, the practice stopped. Much rejiggering of the physical plant was accomplished to accommodate the women who found that contrary to their deeply held beliefs no business was done at the club. They quit coming.



Sorun said...

"A culture that tells people"

Big whiney baby. Still tormented by high school nakedness. Our culture is probably the least naked in human history.

For a pre-bootcamp physical, I stood bent over in a line of boys/men while a doctor walked by spying our buttholes with a flashlight. Good times ...

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

New Trier HS, Winnetka IL, late 1950's. Yeah, nude swimming. Didn't think anything about it - except that the balcony doors were locked during the girl's PE classes.

jimbino said...

I grew up on Chicago's South Side, and in the 50s there was a serious polio epidemic. In the Summer, we could swim at The Pump; boys swam naked on TuThSat and girls clothed on MWF. I didn't witness any self-consciousness or any pederasty. I did think it funny to see the little peckers flip up and down when a boy took a dive off the 3-meter board.

Nowadays, I seek out nude beaches around the world, and I find it a pleasure to swim naked. Folks who haven't had that experience are missing out on a lot.

When I taught physics at a German boarding school, my students, aged 14 through 18 invited me and my girlfriend to join them in FKK skinny-dipping. The students drank wine and beer starting at age 14 and were sexually active earlier then Amerikan kids. It was fine indeed to spend some time in a country not made "safe for children."

chrisnavin.com said...

I'm starting to feel so much empathy for this man, that I'm becoming traumatized too.

This poor, poor man.

Lucien said...

While I believe in general, and in the abstract, that modesty is a virtue, and that boastfulness of one's accomplishments is rude, the value of physical modesty, which I think is involved in such issues (as well as other things, such as whether TSA screeners can "see me naked") is lost on me.

I wonder whether any of Ann's posters can make a cogent case for physical modesty, including what its limits ought to be?

SOJO said...
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FleetUSA said...

In the 50's my grammar school included swim lessons. We (all boys) jumped in naked and had to swim. All of us.

No one thought different of it. Just do what was told.

Alex said...

Why does it seem that 80% of the male Althouse commetariat either went to the military or were in a high school that they had to use communal showers?

I did neither...

Alex said...

Lucien... the burden is on those who want to expose themselves.

Oso Negro said...

The Boys Club in Springfield, Missouri had what they called "freestyle" swim periods back in the 1960s. All naked. I figured it was because some kids couldn't afford bathing suits. It would have been pederast heaven, though.

Darrell said...

All Chicago Public High School had ball washers, too--a 3" diameter piper with small holes raised couple feet off the grounds that you had walk over while it sprayed between your legs. I guess some Board of Health doctor determined how long that pipe had to be to provide effective washing--about 10-12 feet, by recollection.

Patrick O said...

"Why does it seem that 80% of the male Althouse commetariat..."

Age. Commenters skew older here.

I didn't experience either either.

Darrell said...

The girls didn't have to use the washer and they got to wear a maillot swimsuit the schools provided. They were washed after every class so the next girls could wear them. They had big washers/dryers in the pool area for that purpose. The suits were worn through almost because the BOE didn't have funds to replace them often. The girls said they were not sexy, but that only shows what girls know--the thin fabric and holes made them super sexy and clung to them like skin.

jacksonjay said...

Maybe it's cuz we played football in Texas!
We didn't do no skinny dippin at skool!
Or could be that homosexality was late comin to Texas!

jimbino said...

BAAAA. MOOOOOH.

Homosexuals always had a lot of competition in Texas.

Sam L. said...

My jr. and sr. HS's had gang showers for the PE classes. Basic training, too.

jacksonjay said...

Those was sheepboys not cowboys!

jacksonjay said...
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jacksonjay said...
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SGT Ted said...

The guys locker rooms had communal showers back in the 1970s in CA public schools. The high school didn't have a pool and all events were done at the City Pool.

The public pool didn't have segregation by sex. Everyone wore suits.

It really depends where you are stationed and in what service as to whether or not you use true gang showers in the Military, where you can pass the soap to your buddy.

Lucien said...

Interestingly, @SOJO responded to my post with what I take as an individual liberty (and perhaps) privacy) rationale, allowing that "If you don't have a problem, fine". On the other hand @Alex looked at things from the angle of those viewing others being exposed rather than the perspective of those resisting exposure -- which I had not explicitly considered as part of modesty in my post.

Alex: So that I don't put words in your mouth, are you taking the position that modesty as a virtue encompasses the freedom from observing others in a state of exposure?

Alex said...

Lucien... my point is that modesty is both in covering up and not looking.

SJ said...

Was educated at home by my parents in the 80s and 90s.

So I never experience this.

I did hear a man who attended a regional Public School tell such a story. (I think he attended High School in the 70s.)

Come to think of it, when were bathing suits invented? How many people swam in the nude before that?

I think I remember a story about an early American President who swam in the Potomac, and had his clothes stolen...

gadfly said...

As I see it, this "swimming naked" thing is exactly what we all experienced at my high school every day after gym class when we had to shower together. However, the showering in the nude (as opposed to clothed seemed a good idea!) was not the biggest problem. Gym teachers, you see, stayed out of the wet locker room and the class bullies with wet towels took over for about fifteen minutes. These guys were bigger and stronger and and the Flight 93 "OK guys, let's roll" strategy simply did not occur to us. Instead we observed the "no snitching" rule.

takirks said...

It's a weird dichotomy, with the generations after mine. When I enlisted out of high school back in 1982, nobody gave a second thought to communal showers in the locker rooms at school, or during basic training. Nobody balked, nobody cared.

Starting sometime during the 1990s, all that began to change: One of the big complaints from many young soldiers, male and female, stemmed from their encounters with communal bathing and hygiene. I had a couple of young men who flatly refused to shower under such circumstances, and who had to be written up for not bathing after physical training.

And, yet... These are a lot of the same kids that think nothing of posting half-nude pictures of themselves and their peers on the internet. Seriously--I had to randomly monitor a lot of what they were putting up on things like MySpace and FaceBook, not to mention their own webpages they had set up. One of the young ladies who was most vocal about complaining she had to share shower space with other women was also someone I had to call in and have a little talk with about what she'd put up after a trip to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, which she'd made while on deployment to support operations at Fort Polk's JRTC. Since it was military-related, and since she'd had the poor taste to be wearing uniform items, it was an issue.

Her reply, when I asked her to explain her positions? Wide-eyed bafflement, and a statement of "That's different!".

I still haven't quite figured that one out. Nudity in shower with other women you work with=Doubleplusungood. Displaying full-frontal nudity (raised shirt, dropped jeans) in a picture published on the internet? Perfectly OK.

n.n said...

The purpose of context appropriate clothing is to shift the focus in order to reduce unnecessary distractions. It's the same reason why society places restrictions on otherwise natural behaviors.

William said...

Back then It was speculated that the purpose of swimming naked at the Boys Club pool was to keep kids from peeing in the pool. The thought that pederastry might be involved was never mentioned. The plus side of jay bird swimming is that you don't have to deal with wet swimming trunks. Before plastic bags, wet trunks were a hassle.......In basic training no one complained about communal showers, but the open bay toilets were a problem. On some basic, Darwnian level, people crave privacy when they take a dump.

B said...
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B said...

went to a private all boys prep school. We had a pool and males did swim naked for PE in the 60's. PE was at the end of the day and during their seasons athletes went to the field houses or rink and did not have to take PE. Since I played football, then hockey, then baseball all 4 years I never had to take PE. Then again, since all the sports had gang showering for the athletes with private showers for coaches the question was irrelevant to me both then and later in the service.

paul a'barge said...

Let's see.

You travel to the back woods of some foreign country in South America or Africa where all the people run around naked. Maybe with a string or two to keep the swinging parts from getting bashed about while running after monkeys and birds.

And the folk who read the Atlantic think all that nakedness is very cool and heroic.

Until it comes to ROTC and there's some nakedness involved.

And then it's terrible, just terrible.

These people can't keep their stories straight.

Alex said...

paul - you sound very angry.

David said...

"Alex said...
Why does it seem that 80% of the male Althouse commetariat either went to the military or were in a high school that they had to use communal showers?"

There are high schools where every kid has their own shower? All the showers are individual stalls?

Sounds like a pederast's plot to me, Alex. Get the little nippers off in a corner where nobody else can see what's going on. And no fair cameras in the shower, might be misused.

Alex, I am so old that it never occurred to me that there might be other than communal showers in schools.

I will note that during my entire childhood and adolescence nobody ever tried to molest me.

Only as an adult was I subject to "unwanted attention." But since I didn't want the attention, I never got attended to.

Now I am old and all those worries are theoretical. Apart from the young girl at my breakfast place who flirts because she knows I am harmless (and quite happily married), I get no vibes at all.

Old age has its benefits.

And by the way, believe me, the current times are the most puritanical I have seen. The prudes are everywhere.

David said...

"Or could be that homosexality was late comin to Texas!"

Highly doubtful.

David A. Lunde said...

I went to Madison East High School in the 70's. In boys' swim class, we were all naked except on guy. It was no big deal.

rcocean said...

Boys swimming naked in HS? Never heard of such a thing. Weird,wild stuff. Guess its some Big City thing.

Communal showers in HS. Coaches had their own. Wanted co-ed communal showers but that didn't happen.

Wet bathing suits in locker were always a problem.

rcocean said...

Used to roughhouse in the pool and play "Pool Football" - can't imagine doing that naked.

Alex said...

David... what is this breakfast place? Pics or it didn't happen.

Paco Wové said...

"Boys swimming naked in HS? Never heard of such a thing. Weird,wild stuff. Guess its some Big City thing."

Ditto, my experience in scattered suburbs throughout the '70's. Communal showers, of course... but swimming? Honestly never heard of such a thing until these comments.

Kelly said...

Yes, basic training and group showers. I remember it well. Had group showers at church camp too. You develop tunnel vision and can only hope others extend the same courtesy.

Also remember standing at the MEPP station in nothing more then undies and a bra, in a long line with other woman, while all male doctors strolled past "observing" us. What they were looking for I've long forgotten. I just remember wishing I had worn my best I underware

Freeman Hunt said...

Swimming is fraught.

Freeman Hunt said...

I went to church camp one time. I was seven, and the cabin bathroom was full of spiders, huge clusters of spiders hanging on the walls. I resolved never to pee in there. Everyday was filled with urination strategizing. Always, always go while visiting the cafeteria. There will be a shower at some point and perhaps a swim in lake.

Bearcr said...

I grew up with naked swimming at Y and phy ed--It did not bother me--but looking back maybe it was very bad for guys who were overweight or had not developed or whatever---since i was very average in looks,development etc it was no big deal but i do not think others who were humiliated should have been forced no one likes humiliation!

BlueTrain said...

I'm a little late to the discussion but I swam nude at a college pool in 1964 (UMass Amherst). But I'm always surprised that any high school would have a swimming pool. There wasn't even a YMCA anywhere near where I grew up.

The army was much like high school with the showers, including the lack of time to take a shower. I don't know where anyone got fifteen minutes to mess around after gym in high school.

As far as nude swimming in high schools ending, my theory was that it happened during the period when everyone was questioning authority. Not everyone liked to swim nude by any means. Before, no one paid any attention to either the parents or the kids. Eventually they did. I still find it astonishing that a public school would have a swimming pool. Must have been a rich district.

Trippler said...

Hi Miss Althouse


You posted an article but made no comment about it and I wonder what are your views on its contents.

Yes it is true that boys were forced to swim nude in high school (and men in college did so as well) up until the late 1970s in many locations. MPR did a segment on it and presented transcripts of school hearings in which education officials discussed continuing the practice. Moreover, youtube has several videos which discuss it as well:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGt_HUSSyQQ&list=PLkB2m8Oz9D2hCrV3joRlCmDr31Ak91CBS



Many school districts were largely controlled by women and many school teachers were mothers who had sons in those classes. They say mother knows best and these moms readily approved of the practice. However, other parents did not approve despite the school board's policy:


http://media.vocativ.com/photos/2014/04/YMCA-Nude-Swimming_01524745225.jpg



But it stopped when a mom threatened a law suit under Title IX in which she demanded that her son be allowed to wear a swim suit in gym class - this around 1980 when the practice stopped in most districts.


What is your opinion on this matter?

Would you approve of your son swimming nude in school?



Interesting that today there are fewer high schools offering boys swimming as a varsity sport. This is why the NY Times reported that some are now forced to swim on girls teams:


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/19/sports/boys-swimming-on-girls-teams-find-success-then-draw-ire.html


Why do you suppose fewer boys take up swimming today? Do coed swim and gym classes discourage boys from doing so? How does society encourage swimming and more exercising for boys?

BlueTrain said...

What makes you say that fewer boys take up swimming today? I know of no reason to say that. When did society ever "encourage swimming?" Boys should be getting enough exercise outside of school, although everything you hear says otherwise. Where I live, a lot of the girls (middle school and high school) look like Amazons, really. They're tall and athletic for the most part and are in fact very active. One local paper featured a girl (tall and athletic!) swinging a bat in a game. Terrific photo. But perhaps some don't want girls to be athletic; only boys. Anyway, my daughter attended college in West Virginia and actually mentioned that she noticed a lot of overweight kids, so perhaps there is something to the fat epidemic after all, if epidemic is the right word.

Regarding the end of nude swimming at the YMCA, girls and women were using the pool at YMCAs for decades before the end of nude swimming. They just had their own period for swimming. Don't ask me to explain anything about the Y. I've never set foot in one. Not all YMCAs had a pool, either, by the way.

Trippler said...

Reply to BlueTrain,


Fewer boys taking up swimming today was reported in that article which, I believe, was well researched before publication.

I do not have enough knowledge of the subject to make a more informed comment and that is why I post questions on the issue (my background is in baseball and softball where I am far more informed).

Hopefully, some day Miss Althouse will find the time to reply with more facts and give her explanations on these issues.

BlueTrain said...

Don't believe everything you hear or read.

Trippler said...

I do not mean to give the impression that I trust everything written or spoken but can observe certain things for myself.

In my particular neighborhood we used to have four teams of 11 year old boys who played summer ball. Today we have only one team for this age group. We have had to merge our 12 and 13 year olds into one team. Same with our 14 and 15 years olds as with our 16 and 17 year olds.

In the past a nearby high school used to have at least 150 boys try out for its hockey team. Today that same school has to recruit players from its former rival team in order to fill out its roster. My neighborhood school no longer has a hockey team despite the fact that it sought recruits from three other schools.

I can understand why boys are avoiding physical sports that may cause injury and which entail high costs for uniforms and insurance. But why avoid swimming which costs little, does not cause injury, and entails virtually no costs for insurance?

Again, not being involved with this sport, I do not have answers for these queries. Perhaps you or Miss Althouse may have the proper answers.

Jacquard said...

I don't understand the emphatic, at times almost hysterical insistence that these "boys forced to swim naked" posts are wrong. I was never a member of the YMCA, but my best friend through grammar and junior high was. I learned to swim at the Catholic Youth Organization summer program. We had bathing suits and towels. My friend only had a towel and swam nude. There was no YWCA in town and the girls who had swimming at the Y had separate hours, not mixing with the boys except at family night. They always wore suits. One of my Yale classmates was a lifelong Y member in Pennsylvania. No suits there, either. In another Connecticut town, the no-suits-for-boys policy was well known. I personally know two women who (as girls) spied on the boys. And yes, they were nude. They estimated the boys' between 10 and 15. At least during their spying. (The window they used had a stack of construction material piled up beneath it, and given the motivation, the girls were happy to take the chance at climbing.) In the late 50s I matriculated at Yale. We were put through a battery of physical and medical tests, all in the nude. Only saw one woman there, a doctor who came to the office of the AD, where she remained while I was in the vicinity. The last part of the ordeal was the set of so-called "Posture" photographs: front, side, and back. All in the nude. They were supposedly to check for spinal curvature. The films were developed and the face and genitals were cut out of the prints before they were put into the phys ed files of the students. In the mid-60s a large set of intact prints were found in the possession of a (male) faculty member at Smith College (for women). He was selling prints to the coeds. More were found in the possession of a prominent member of the New Haven gay community, which was centered at the Payne Whitney gymnasium (Yale University).

Jacquard said...

I don't understand the emphatic, at times almost hysterical insistence that these "boys forced to swim naked" posts are wrong. I was never a member of the YMCA, but my best friend through grammar and junior high was. I learned to swim at the Catholic Youth Organization summer program. We had bathing suits and towels. My friend only had a towel and swam nude. There was no YWCA in town and the girls who had swimming at the Y had separate hours, not mixing with the boys except at family night. They always wore suits. One of my Yale classmates was a lifelong Y member in Pennsylvania. No suits there, either. In another Connecticut town, the no-suits-for-boys policy was well known. I personally know two women who (as girls) spied on the boys. And yes, they were nude. They estimated the boys' between 10 and 15. At least during their spying. (The window they used had a stack of construction material piled up beneath it, and given the motivation, the girls were happy to take the chance at climbing.) In the late 50s I matriculated at Yale. We were put through a battery of physical and medical tests, all in the nude. Only saw one woman there, a doctor who came to the office of the AD, where she remained while I was in the vicinity. The last part of the ordeal was the set of so-called "Posture" photographs: front, side, and back. All in the nude. They were supposedly to check for spinal curvature. The films were developed and the face and genitals were cut out of the prints before they were put into the phys ed files of the students. In the mid-60s a large set of intact prints were found in the possession of a (male) faculty member at Smith College (for women). He was selling prints to the coeds. More were found in the possession of a prominent member of the New Haven gay community, which was centered at the Payne Whitney gymnasium (Yale University).

Jacquard said...

Also in the 60s, one of my wife's classmates (then mid 20s) was teaching at a high school in Connecticut. "I've always been interested in competitive swimming," she said, "and I wanted to look in on the boys' team swim practice. When I stepped through the door, there was a giant splash from the side of the pool (as the boys jumped in the water). Well I didn't know that boys swam nude."

Trippler said...

''I don't understand the emphatic, at times almost hysterical insistence that these "boys forced to swim naked" posts are wrong.''


If anyone still believes this practice did not take play they can readily look up the links I have provided.

BlueTrain said...

I used the indoor pool at UMass (Amherst) during the summer of 1964 and swimming nude was required for the boys but not the girls. I was there for temporary summer employment on a farm outside of town, as was my step-sister. We were all high school age at the time. The boys and girls did not use the pool together. I thought little about it at the time in spite of having had no previous experience with swimming nude. However, there are a few points I wish to make.

One is, there is a huge difference between being nude with people you've known for years and with people you don't know. Even then, I was warned to be careful with strangers. That's why taking showers at school was not such a big deal, although it was a very rushed affair. I also have no memory of soap being required.

The other thing is, I continue to be astonished that a public school would have such a luxury as a swimming pool. I live in moderately prosperous Fairfax County, Virginia, and no public school has a pool. Likewise, there is only a single YMCA in the whole county, which has a population of over a million people. So in the past, relatively few people ever had the opportunity to actually swim in either a school swimming pool or a YMCA pool, with or without swimwear.

As a matter of fact, one-room schools were still being built near where I'm from when I was in grade school. I'm pretty sure none had swimming pools. Some had no inside toilets, for that matter.

Unknown said...

I had a problem in the 60s that nobody anticipated. We went from our Catholic school to the YMCA, six boys I think. If you forgot your trunks(quite common as all families were disorganized, you had to swim naked. It was embarrassing by sixth grade and everyone swan based half the time due to forgetfulness. This was starting to be embarrassing by sixth grade. Once the girls got wind of this they were obsessed with it(as they never even had gym or showers) and were curious as to which boys were the most "developed". One boy in our class had a fraternal twin sister and mentioned that a boy named Nate was the most mature. That spread like wildfire the next day and some girls started calling him Nate the snake. Someone else said "how about Nate the Snake and the 5 little piglets" and the girls starting calling us that. Imagine being 12 and every girl had an image of you naked on a diving board in their mind not too impressive, , also imagine bing friends with Nate and having him be the obsession of these girls. Nothing happened to my knowledge but the "5 little piglets" was a joke the rest of the year. It took me a few YEARS to recover.

Unknown said...

I had a problem in the 60s that nobody anticipated. We went from our Catholic school to the YMCA, six boys I think. If you forgot your trunks(quite common as all families were disorganized, you had to swim naked. It was embarrassing by sixth grade and everyone swan based half the time due to forgetfulness. This was starting to be embarrassing by sixth grade. Once the girls got wind of this they were obsessed with it(as they never even had gym or showers) and were curious as to which boys were the most "developed". One boy in our class had a fraternal twin sister and mentioned that a boy named Nate was the most mature. That spread like wildfire the next day and some girls started calling him Nate the snake. Someone else said "how about Nate the Snake and the 5 little piglets" and the girls starting calling us that. Imagine being 12 and every girl had an image of you naked on a diving board in their mind not too impressive, , also imagine bing friends with Nate and having him be the obsession of these girls. Nothing happened to my knowledge but the "5 little piglets" was a joke the rest of the year. It took me a few YEARS to recover.