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Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

January 22 2012 at 8:55 PM
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Noel1835  (Login Noel1835)

 
Here is a long post I made to the Yahoo group, Shirtless Life, in response to a member who suggested some photos of high school and YMCA nude swimmers were fake:

Below is an excerpt from a long post by "Jumper" on a thread on another forum
about the history of and rationale for nude swimming. My impression is that
it's very well-researched, factual, and trustworthy. "Jumper", in his early
60's, swam nude in institutional settings growing up. The excerpt challenges
the claim that photographs were never taken, and privacy was strictly guarded at
all times:

"Now as for YMCAs and nude swimming. If one researches this Nation's newspapers,
one will find that when YMCAs ran ads for learn-to-swim, it was stated in both
the display ad and in the reporter's commentary that boys swam nude and only
needed to bring a towel. In a few cases, the boys were photographed swimming
nude and the photographs published in the town newspaper. It was a socially
expected practice since they were men and boys and had nothing to be ashamed of.
(And, I recall hearing that as a child.)"

If you're interested, I highly recommended the full post. Go to "Jumper".

http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=13275&page=2

Why is this relevant to the "shirtless issue". Most people today who didn't
practice nude swimming---frankly, I wish I had been "required" to---find the
practice and acceptance of it astounding. Many required to do it found it
liberating and pleasurable, others found it creepy, wrong, degrading and unjust.
Most people today probably side with the latter.

Do young people today see the open communal showers I took with the same
amazement that I see nude swimming? Do they think I was humiliated? (I
wasn't.) Do they see being required to be a "skin" in a ball P.E. ball game
similarly degrading? (It wasn't for me.)

If nude swimming is beyond the pale, why isn't shirtlessness? Indeed many today
apparently think both are unacceptable.

Why is institutional nudity or communal showers or shirtlessness okay or not
okay from one "polite society" to another? And how do you explain how nudity
could be so accepted in a society so much more conservative in many ways that
today's?

End of SL Post. Some further comments:

I can't remember who or where, but somebody said on a forum that from communal showering to nude swimming was a short step. It personally seems like a pretty big one to me. If I'd had to do it, would I have been nervous, even terrified? If so, for very long? Would I have adjusted quickly? Or not?

Before my first communal shower in P.E. at 13 I had no idea that it would be required. There were no "dark rumors" about it in grade school. It was never mentioned.

I have no memory at all of being nervous or traumatized about it, in fact, I can't even remember "my first time" at it, though I have scattered memories of it throughout the years. The whole process took about 5, maybe 10 minutes, absolute max. There was no hurry, but no lounging around either, by anybody that I saw. Of course there were no towels around wastes, to or from. You picked up the towel on the way out, I THINK.

We weren't all herded in en mass in a regimented way. We came and went, with, I don't know, 1, 3, 6, 12 in the open shower at any given time. No rough housing, horse play, no singing.

Yeah, I was a little nervous about erections, but I can't remember ever getting one. The only one I remember was "the big man on campus" voted "best looking". Gay? Bi? A fantasy about a girl? Who knows? Who cares?

Thing is, I've always been pretty modest. But communal showering was pretty uneventful and untraumatizing. But I read recently on the Net about a teenager on the swim team who'd heard he might have to do it, and it was a major crisis for him. So maybe this shows how relative these things can be.

Noel

 
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BlueTrain
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Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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January 23 2012, 6:47 AM 

We certainly had communal showers when I was in junior high and high school some 50 years ago. Some things about it I recall quite well.

The junior high school I attended had been a high school before the new high school was built in the late 1950s and in fact, my mother graduated from there in 1932. So the building had been around. The changing room was a narrow low room with pipes overhead and peeling paint everywhere, which also described the shower room that was down the hall and around the corner. This school was in the middle of a small town and had no parking lot. The gym was entirely underground.

The high school was virtually new. The changing room was just a large room with chairs around the walls where you left your clothes. The shower room was at one end and actually smaller than the one in junior high school. In both places, everything was done in great haste. I have no memory of soap being used in the shower. All of this was done and over with inside of two minutes. That is at least one big difference between taking and shower and being nude in a swimming class for 50 minutes. The other was that there was no supervision, the assumption no doubt being that you knew how to put on your own clothes.

I did have a group nude swimming experience when I worked in Amherst, Massachusetts, with other teenagers doing summer work on farms. We got to make two visits to the UMass pool, where nude swimming was the rule (although there was no rule you had to go swimming). Again, there were no strangers around and it wasn't a class or anything; just a recreational swim. I do know the nudity bothered some of the boys, even though we were all from the country in West Virginia where boys are supposed to go skinny-dipping all the time, which wasn't so.

Nude swimming at the YMCA? Never set foot in a YMCA in my life. The only thing I had trouble believing is that a high school would actually have a swimming pool.

I don't know that the 1950s were any more conservative than now; they were just different. But they had a highly developed sense of ignoring certain things. Homosexuals certainly existed then (but gay wasn't the term), though that wasn't a subject for polite conversation. So most boys grew up totally ignorant of things like that, along with a lot of other things, as has often been the case throughout history. You might say we were "protected." That's not the case anymore and all of the school scandals and Catholic church scandals, along with fear of gays, killed off any pretension of innocence. People still pretend about some things, though, and imagine things that aren't so (and never were). For instance, if such and such a thing doesn't bother me, why should I assume it doesn't bother anyone else?

 
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Noel1835
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Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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January 23 2012, 6:30 PM 

True. Just because communal showering didn't bother me doesn't mean it didn't bother other boys or girls, and I suppose I shouldn't dismiss their discomfort with the practice. But I think there may be some larger questions involved.

When we're in school or in other institutional settings, we're "required" to do all kinds of things. They're not always appealing. A couple times it was a requirement that I give an oral presentation in front of the class. This was 20 times scarier to me than taking a communal shower. From about 8 to 13 my Dad absolutely made me and my older brother and sister go to Confession three times a year. This was absolutely BLOOD-SWEATING traumatic for me, 100's of times scarier than my communal showering. These are just a couple of the worse "requirements" I had growing up. If I hadn't been "required", been "pushed", to do these things, and dozens of others, would I have lost out on something valuable, and regreted it to this day? Would I have lost the opportunity to confront my fears? I know a young man in his twenties with a liberal mother who sent him to some "hippie" school, where he never really had to do anything. By the time he was in his late teens, he felt rudderless.

I don't know how valid or compelling the "hygienic rationales" for showering or nude swimming were, from say, the 50's onward. I think they were valid before then, but lost there force at some point. But could there have been some "social value" that society "intuited" but was too tin the value of group nudity, though it was too taboo to articulate?

I was terrible at P.E. and yes, it "bothered" me, a lot, that I played so badly, and was so humiliated at team sports so often. But in retrospect, I'm glad I was exposed to them. If I hadn't been "required" to, I really think I'd feel a loss for it today. One problem is, adults---parents, teachers, administrators---can never really know how a child's going to feel about what he or she's made to do, or wasn't given the opportunity, requirement or encouragement to, after they grow up. Sometimes being "made" to do something "let's them off the hook" because they're not responsible for the decision. Being made to be a "skin" helped me work against my shirtless-phobia, because it was "okay". It was "required".

Maybe there's a value in helping a boy (or girl) overcome inhibitions that many have, which are just as valid as exposing them to the social cohesion involved in team sports, or in any other "socialization" process. Maybe there's greater kindness in "requiring" some things---and MAYBE, non-sexual group nudity is one of them---than enabling inhibitions to fester. Here and there I see comments which reflect my own feelings---that some envy what others were "required" to do, and wish they'd've been. Maybe all this cloying "sensitivity" is more for the convenience of the adults than the children. Maybe they're creating emotional cripples.

I'm against homophobia. Let's not blame kids who may've been gay, bi or just uncertain about their sexuality for all this. It's probably never going to happen, but if required communal showers and nude swimming were ever to make a come back, there would need to be a new ettiquette. A kid's sexuality should be his own business and not a matter of discussion at the pool or showers. If somebody gets an erection, politely ignore it. Boys have hormones coursing through their vains and, and gay, straight or bi, they're always going to get erections. (I remember when I was 14 and it seemed like a had an erection in class fully clothed and as far as I remember, for not particular reason. It could be VERY uncomfortable!) In a word, teachers, coaches, etc., should skillfully teach and enforce civility.

I've read comments by many gays who said they treasured the experience of nude swimming just as much as the straights, and gays who wished they could've swam nude. And many straights, who weren't uptight about the possibility of being admired by a gay.

Maybe I over estimated total showering time. We did have soap dispensers on the shower head posts and I and I think everybody else used them to lather up. You couldn't hurry too fast. There were guys coming and going. If you tried, you'd probably be running into them and stubbing your toe on benches and everything.


 
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BlueTrain
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Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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January 24 2012, 6:56 AM 

Nice posting. It covered a lot of good points. Here are some more.

Some of the people, virtually all guys, who like to talk about how great things were back when they all took showers together in school or swam nude at the Y like to imagine that's the way it always was. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everything had a beginning somewhere.

And another thing is that we tend to apply present day values (concerning almost everything) to the past. I suppose that is unavoidable but sometimes it leads to assuming things were done a certain way in the past that weren't exactly done that way.

First off, everyone going through high school is a relatively recent thing. My father never attended high school and in fact never finished grade school. He lived in the country. All of this business of casual group nudity would have been a complete mystery to him. Some have said when I pointed out this fact merely said, yeah, well, you lived in the sticks. So what? Is what people talking about then only about a few people or what? It's another case of if a person does something, they assume everyone else did it, too. And as far as I know, my father had not only never been to the YMCA, he had never heard of it. I don't think he was ever in a swimming pool in his life. And the last time he was in water over his knees was when he went ashore at Salerno in 1944. He was in the army and believe me, there is a certain group nudity (also rushed) there, too, but (believe me), there is no casual nudity in the barracks. On top of that, he was 29 when he went through basic training, which coincidentally was at the same place both me and my son went through basic training (Ft. Knox, KY). But he was ten years older than me and my son when he was in training.

There was some validity to the progressive thinking about hygiene, which was the original idea behind the showers at school, although you for sure don't get any cleaner with another person in the shower. This progressive trend goes back to before my father was born. But even when I was little, the Saturday night bath was still the custom and my father managed to survive into his 80s with no more than one bath a week. We never had a shower. Funny how after we get some mod con, we suddenly are unable to survive without it. The power goes off and it's the end of life as we know it.

Smaller kids of grade school age tend to be more forgiving and accepting of differences (not necessarily understanding, however). But somehow by the time they are in high school they seem to pick up ideas about not being different and so on and so forth. It must be learned behavior. The question is, who taught them? Which reminds me of a story.

My wife and I went to a Christmas party with her co-workers, all of whom are school teachers. The subject came up about how the kids are so aware of sex and stuff, more than is being taught in school (which wasn't taught at all when I was in school). Someone asked the question, "Where do they learn this stuff?" Another answered, "In the bus on the way to school."

Right away another teacher commented, "No wonder I was a late bloomer. I walked to school!"

 
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Noel1835
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Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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January 25 2012, 6:49 PM 

Thanks, Blue.

I think I know what you're alluding to. On the Nude Sleepers Forum the spiel goes something like this:

Back in day just about every boy, teenager and college student swam nude. Everyboy over the age of 6 slept shirtless or nude because just about every Dad did, because they were real men. And all the young stud-hunk college dudes hung out buck naked with total non-chalant confidence in their dorm and when they happened be hangin' out at the beach if they weren't already nude they stripped down for the shere hell of it and broke out into spontaneous games of beach soccer which they played with exquisite masculine skill. The very few who slept in a shirt, or worse yet, pajamas, were wimpy, immature, effeminate mama's boys whom no girl ever liked.

Okay. I've been kind of ignoring all that.

Thing is, many of us had very different experiences, grew up in different regional and FAMILY cultures. I slept in shorts and a T until I was about, I don't know, 13 or 14 I guess. I got some pajamas for Xmas and tried them out. I guess I thought they were "high class". Anyway, at some point I started wearing bottoms with a T. There weren't really any opinions by my Dad what was good or bad to sleep in. It was a non-issue. But he never slept shirtless. My uncle and cousin did, and when I stayed over night there my cousin insisted I sleep shirtless too, which I did.

Plenty of men, as manly as any other, slept in different kinds of sleep wear. I didn't see many sleeping nude, but again, I never paid much attention. Hey, I think it's great to sleep nude and shirtless, and I do myself and like it, but I don't think the less of those who don't.

In a way, as a non-parent, it's none of my business whether kids do shirtless PE, communally shower, or swim naked. That's ultimately for the parents, kids, teachers, etc. to hash out. I do suspect they may be missing out on something and feeding hang-ups that might make them unhappy, but as you seem to suggest, maybe I'm projecting my regrets onto them.

My HS didn't have swimming pool and I was 20, 25 miles from the nearest possible YMCA (if that close, I lived in the "sticks" too). I never learned to swim. Nobody had time to teach me. (I just inner tubed, dog paddled, underwater swam and splashed around, suited, of course, like everybody else.) I regret I never had the nude swim experience, but life is what it is.

Maybe only a few young people regret not having what I and others have. Maybe most don't care that much.

I imagine kids have learned about sex for decades from TV, and more recently from the Internet.

 
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Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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January 25 2012, 9:47 PM 

Noel writes > Back in day just about every boy, teenager and college student swam nude. Everyboy over the age of 6 slept shirtless or nude because just about every Dad did, because they were real men. And all the young stud-hunk college dudes hung out buck naked with total non-chalant confidence in their dorm and when they happened be hangin' out at the beach if they weren't already nude they stripped down for the shere hell of it and broke out into spontaneous games of beach soccer which they played with exquisite masculine skill. The very few who slept in a shirt, or worse yet, pajamas, were wimpy, immature, effeminate mama's boys whom no girl ever liked.

I agree, Noel, that it probably wasn't like this everywhere back in the day, although for some people who knows. When I was growing up (I'm 49 and grew up near New York City), I think it was generally expected that guys ought not to be afraid or ashamed of being seen naked in all-male settings for "utilitarian" reasons ... showering, changing clothes in a locker room or camping situation, etc. Girls were expected to have modesty, but not guys, at least not in those kinds of settings. I never swam regularly in all-male settings ... swim lessons at the Y circa 1970 were mixed gender, Scout camp was in a public lake ... although there were occasional "skinny dipping" opportunities in remoter camping locations where pretty much everyone got naked without much fanfare.

At the same time, it was considered a bit unusual to actively want to be naked beyond the utilitarian context. I slept naked on Scout camping trips, but hardly anyone else ever did. It may have been seen as "different," but not as "weird" or "perverted" or "gay," as it probably would be today. At least not that I remember anyone saying to my face. :-) Likewise, I slept naked most of the time in college. I never had a roommate who did, but (with one exception) they didn't care that I did, or that I'd be naked in the dorm room for a few minutes while getting ready for bed or while getting organized in the morning. And even in these situations, I always felt that it would be pushing limits to be naked when just hanging out, as opposed to getting ready for bed, coming back from the shower, etc. I guess these situations were close enough to being "utilitarian" nudity to seem appropriate, or at least not inappropriate.

I'm not sure why the frankly non-utilitarian nudity that some people tell stories about never seemed appropriate, at least not in the social settings I grew up in. It's not because being seen naked, or being naked, around other guys was somehow problematic ... when there was a reason for it, the socially accepted thing was to be nonchalant about it. Perhaps being naked for no particular reason -- or because one actually liked being naked -- violated the "nonchalance" rule.

I'm pretty sure that, if I had grown up in a setting where truly casual nudity was more accepted, I would have gone naked a lot more than I did. I have the sense that some of those settings still existed when I was growing up in the 70s, but I never really stumbled upon them.

 
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Noel1835
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Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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February 7 2012, 8:08 PM 

Thanks, David.

My understanding from a 3-part YouTube documentary on nude high school swimming, that in a few rare cases, girls were required to swim nude. There was such a clamor from the mothers that in most schools they put an end to it, though a few continued it for a while. But yes, it was a rare exception.

Also, girls communally showered nude just like the boys back in the days when that was required, so in that respect they weren't any different. Strange, when I hear a lot angst and horror about communal showering these days, it seems to be mostly from boys. I never hear girls say, "Oh God, we I might have to take a communal shower! What will I DO?!!!"

I don't have any problem with the guys who hung out naked in their dorms, I just think it's a little ridiculous when they seem to employ EVERYBODY did it, and if you didn't you were really WIERD.

My understanding is that nude swimming was done only in some states, mostly midwest, southern and east coast, not in others, but maybe all the facts aren't in.



 
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Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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February 8 2012, 6:17 AM 

Well, it is my understanding that nude swimming in schools was more common in the north and north central states. Like I mentioned earlier in this thread, my group nude swimming experience was in Massachusetts and almost 50 years ago. Among other things, anyone who experiences such things as an adult, either by being involved in school or at the YMCA (including women), will really be getting along in years now. So there won't be a lot of first hand experiences from that age group to hear about.

I personally don't understand what people are talking about when they say real men sleep nude or at least that they don't wear pajamas. For most boys, how do they know what other fathers wear in bed. My experience is naturally limited to my family and relatives and I assure you, they were all men. None of them had college and in fact, my father never even finished grade shool. They all had some sort of manual occupation. Half of those I knew worked for the railroad.

Let's see, of those of whom I have personal knowledge, I count two PJ wearers and one who slept in his underwear. There was another father (of a boy I spent the night with once) but I have no recollection of what he wore. I have no personal, first hand experience of anyone else's bedroom habits. I don't think any of them that I knew had any group nude experiences at the time. They were also a once-a-week bath crowd, too.

Once, a couple of years ago, I asked a lady here, probably in her 40s, if she had to take showers in school. Don't worry, I'm always asking her all sorts of odd questions. But anyway, she said showers were required but she faked the shower (she just went in the shower room with a towel around her and came back out). I didn't ask why she didn't actually take a shower. But speaking for myself, I know you don't necessarily sweat that much taking gym in February, depending on what you happen to be doing.

 
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Good Link to Post by 'Jumper'

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February 9 2012, 5:53 PM 

Thanks, Noel, for the interesting link to the article by 'Jumper' on the master's swim website. He certainly does present an articulate and well-written piece which I'd say is the definitive history of men's nude swimming in the United States. The social history and medical history come together in a fascinating fashion: of course there was river water and lake water contamination which migh spread serious untreatable disease. Swim suits which had been in such water should never be allowed to incubate in heated indoor pools. Nude swimming was a sensible handling of that issue.

I think of how I have sat still and nude in the forest and, free of all the contaminating and fear-generating smells which ride in my clothing, small animals such as chipmunks and rabbits would come very close to me, much closer than they ever would if I were dressed.

The medical/sanitary issues caused by importing contaminated swimsuits are gone and technology has improved water purification and filtering to a high degree. That need for nude swimmers is gone. Now we have social and psychosocial issues to deal with as well as implementation of gender equality. Many people have yet to accept that we are all on a continuum from 100% same sex attracted to 100% opposite sex attracted. Yes, I'm saying we're all potentially bisexual. And those guys who consider themselves 'straight' may not yet have fully examined nor accepted that part of them which might not be straight. And until they do, being with other nude guys may fuel a fear, anxiety and uncertainty within them which they are unable to handle.

In my case I've found that the same-sex attracted part of me is much smaller than I might have thought it was back before I examined it and accepted it as part of my make-up. Now that I can relate well to all the different parts of how I'm put together I can do that with all my brothers as well, and am at peace. I know that all of you other guys have the same issues, we need not fear each other but can get along and build good relationships. And someday, someday, maybe we can start going nude swimming together again without it being such a big issue. I would really enjoy that -- bet you would, too!

 
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Peter K.
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Found this site - you may find it interesting!

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February 14 2012, 7:04 PM 



https://sites.google.com/site/historicarchives4maleswimming/home/archives---mid-20th-century-to-current/photographs

 
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Noel1835
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Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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February 15 2012, 6:17 AM 

Thank you Peter! Very informative. This may answer all/most of the questions I have on NSF and and may keep me quiet a while ;).

 
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BlueTrain
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Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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February 15 2012, 7:21 AM 

I was just re-reading through this thread and was thinking about some of the questions here and thought I'd through out some more miscellaneous rambles.

Regarding the 1950s, I'd say that in most ways, the 1950s were not as conservative as we imagine they were. In other ways, more so, of course. The problem is giving something a label. Once a label is stuck to something, you begin assigning all sorts of characteristics to the thing. Some will be accurate, others not. Nude swimming--for boys, of course--was common in some places but was that liberal or conservative or none of the above. It was simply the way things had been done for the previous-thirty to fifty years. In institutions, it doesn't go back much beyond the 1890s. So much for tradition.

You might also recall that in the not too distant past, though it was before I was born, both men and women wore much more clothing when on the beach to go swimming. I would say conservative but that wouldn't be quite accurate. The bathing outfits covered more skin but were unlined and could be quite revealing, if photographs are anything to go by. Men, of course, wore sleeveless shirts and at one time, women even had to wear hose.

 
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Noel1835
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Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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February 16 2012, 9:14 AM 

Thanks Blue.

Maybe my use of the word "conservative" wasn't quite accurate, but it's the best I could think of at the moment to try to describe the "zeitgeist" as I have always perceived. Unlike you, I didn't grow up in the 50's. I was born in 58, but my growing up and clearer memories didn't really start til the early or mid-sixties and on into the late 70's. It's true, if you didn't live during a certain decade you're not aware of it's cultural complexities and nuances. You only get a very simplicist and incomplete view of it from shows like I Love Lucy or Leave it to Beaver, which I did watch plenty of in re-runs. It was certainly a pretty, maybe very, different time than the 60's and 70's, and yes, from what incomplete glimpses I saw of it, it did seem, for lack of a better term, more "conservative", more "proper". It certainly wasn't "Sock it to me baby let it all hang out!"

In a scene from LITB, Wally, in pajamas (which both he and the Beav always slept in), knocked on his parents door in the middle of the night. Ward came out in PJ's with his PJ shirt tucked and buttoned to the very top, hurriedly putting on his robe as if even as he was already dressed, still felt "indecent" without it. I guess this typifies my and my generation's concept of the 50's standard of modesty as we saw it in TV and films of that period.

So, when I learned, pretty much by accident just this fall, that kids, teens and college-aged men were required to swim nude at the Y and school, it just didn't jibe with my "big picture" of that era. We'd never, ever heard or seen a thing about it in the media, not a single mention. Also, setting aside the 50's, schools themselves, even today, have a certain "vibe" for lack of better word, of "proper officiality", similar in some respects like a government or even business office, which for those of us who'd never heard of mandatory nude swimming, is a "striking" juxtoposition. Many are disbelieving. Others shocked, outraged and offended. Others, like me, surprised, fascinated, and frankly, envious.

Anyway, hoping not to get all boring intellectual on you, it was a practice, especially the (alleged but maybe quite true) mixed spectator nude nude swim meets, that's (excuse the term), "pregnant" with psycho-social-cultural interest.

 
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Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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February 16 2012, 10:12 AM 

It is always difficult to make intelligent comments about conditions in the past based on your own experiences or even those of your parents and relatives because one's experiences are (usually) so limited. Often we realize our experiences amounted to no more than what someone else told us. Still, living through a given period is helpful in judging that period, at least if you can look through the propaganda, advertising and hearsay that everyone is subjected to. That all still happens today, sometimes taken to hysterical ends. In the case you mentioned about Leave it to Beaver, which I never watched because it was on a network we didn't get, you have to remember that it was television. They had their own standards (rather externally imposed), and after all, it was supposed to be entertainment, not reality. You may remember that on Ozzie and Harriett, Ozzie always seemed to wear a necktie at home. My father did, too, but only on Sunday, when he would wear a suit all day. But I didn't know any other father (of the three or four other fathers I knew that well) who did.

The funny thing is, mostly the same people lived through all of these decades. But I suppose we change, like it or not.

Of all things about nude swimming, the thing that gets me the most is trying to imagine that a high school actually had a swimming pool. None of the ones I attended did and there was also no YMCA in my hometown. See how much I missed out on? Yet later, in Massachusetts, when I was working there with a group of high school boys, we did use a university pool and we used it nude. We thought it was something at the time but two days later, it was ancient history.

 
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Noel - glad to hear from you again

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February 16 2012, 7:21 PM 

Noel, I'm glad that the link I found and posted proved interesting -- I especially thought that the old newspaper articles with photos of nude swimmers were fascinating! But I am especially glad that it didn't make you quiet as you had predicted. Enjoy hearing your thoughts and what you have to say.

About your being amazed that the nude swimming existed back in the more tradidtional time of the 50s and 60s: as I had said my first experience with it (apart from an evening at a boy's overnight campout when I was 10) was when I went off to college. Both my dad and my uncle had gone to the same college and early on one of the times I was visiting home I mentioned the nude swim test and classes to my dad. He said that yes, he and his brother had gone through the same experience and was interested to see that it was still going on. It was just part of how things were -- you think he would have mentioned it to me! But somehow the fact that he hadn't made me all the more comfortable with the experience and that it was part of a long tradition -- ultimately going back to early humans who hadn't gotten around to making clothing yet.

I'm sure that more thoughts on this topic will bubble to the surface -- and can be posted here by me, all of you and others coming along.

 
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Noel 1835
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Comments on Historical Archives--Nude Male Swimming

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February 21 2012, 3:49 PM 

The Historic Archives—Nude Male Swimming site Peter gave the link to on this thread is very interesting and well-researched. An excellent resource. I hope it gathers even more information and verifying photos.

But though it’s well done, the author seems to have a negative view of the practice. As I’ve written before, I wish I’d have been required to do it myself, so I’m biased in favor of it, but I’d like to address a few of his implied criticisms.

Forced vs. Required.
In Jr. HS and HS we are required to read certain books which may be morally offensive to our religion or belief system (Catcher in the Rye, Moll Flanders, etc.) We are required, probably even today, to wear certain dress codes we may find restrictive. When you are given an assignment to do a book report, requirements might include that it be typed, a certain page length, paper size, etc. No one wrestles us down and “forces” us to do these things. Same with nude swimming. Nobody grabbed anybody, ripped off their clothes and forced them into the pool. Your graduation depended on your taking certain classes and abiding by certain rules in doing so. If you didn’t want to follow them, you could choose to fail the class. Also, as the HANMS site revealed, there were schools that did not require nudity in swim class (about 1/3). If one really felt strongly about it, couldn’t one transfer? Yes, that may have involved some difficulty or inconvenience, but if you strongly object, you have to pay a certain price for your principles, don’t you?


Girls & Boy’s, Double Standard.
In a Mister Poll, “Forced to Swim Naked” (http://www.misterpoll.com/polls/282706/results), in answer to the question of whether it was fair that males were required to swim naked but girls weren’t, 47% said “yes”(it was fair), 27% said “no, guys should wear swimsuits too”, 34%, “no, girls should be naked too”.
One question is, assuming it’s acceptable to require nudity in swim class at all, do males and females, generally, have significant differences in their comfort levels with same-sex social nudity? Just looking at the male domination of nude-related forums, and from a statement in Wikipedia’s “Issues in Social Nudity” which said most nudists are men and wive’s and girlfriend's of same prefer to be clothed at nudist clubs, the answer would seem to be "yes", females are generally less comfortable being nude than males. So, again, if required nudity per se is okay, respecting the greater discomfort of girls in being nude, maybe a *judgement call* allowing or requiring them to wear suits would justify a “double standard”.
Even though I seem to see this challenged every once in a while, most sports teams are gender-segregated. There are men’s and women’s basketball and other teams. Presumably this is due to physical differences between men and women. But is it really chauvinistic or misogynist to suspect there may be psychological differences between men and women, and to base school policy decisions, like swimwear requirements, on that surmise? If men must swim shirtless in a pool, is it a “double-standard” in a school that women may not or shouldn’t be required to?
Taking the whole double-standard issue to it’s logical conclusion, and not wanting to “force” women to go topless or naked against their strong wishes, but still maintain strict equality, I guess men may no longer swim shirtless. (I understand there are full-body swimsuits some male pro swimmers prefer and advocate.)
What I’m trying to say is that a little thought leads me to strongly question the absolute gender equality behind the double-standard objection, as I think it tends to lead to very repressive, gymnophobic policies. And I don’t think that makes me a misogynist, chauvinistic pig.

Should there be nude swimming classes and swim meets?
Hoping to keep a short leash on politics on this forum, I feel I need to reveal I’m a libertarian. I believe ideally in private institutions, the YMCA being a perfect example, setting their own policy on dress codes, rules, etc. on their premises. Same with private schools (not all of which are religious, exclusive, elitist or conservative, some are liberal.) Public schools unfortunately are too controlled by conventional society, which has become extremely gymnophobic.
If I were on the board of a private school or institution with a pool, wasn’t hindered by pre-existing government laws or ordinances, and had a decently plausible “rationale” for it, I’d vote for mandatory nudity in the pool and at meets, and allowing mixed-gender audiences just like in the old days. Problem is, the old rationales (hygiene, filtration systems, etc.) just weren’t very convincing after a while. I think I’d steer clear of “camaraderie and male-bonding”, one reason being, not all of us wimps and klutz’s were really welcomed into these cliques in our PE years, and indeed, there was a lot of rivalry and marginalizing too. It wasn't all “bonnie prince charlie” and everything.

But I think such a rationale would have to be something a little more utilitarian, even though, when you think of it, any sort of curriculum requirement or dress code could be objected to and questioned as absolutely necessary. Why red shorts, a t-shirt, a jock-strap and tennashoes? Hey, why a “uniform” at all? Why not let us wear what we want to, to express ourselves as individuals? Safety? If long pants are unsafely encumbering, why aren’t shorts? Why not require just a jock-strap? And wouldn’t a T-shirt tend to snag on exercise equipment? And so on, and so on. All such requirements would seem to be arbitrary in the final analysis.
But some sort of rationale in "proper, succinct officialese" would have to be offered to the "private education consumer", and it would have to be convincing and at least implicitly deal with all current gymnophobic reservations.

On the above mentioned Mister Poll, when asked if they were embarrassed to swim naked, 20% said "extremely humiliated", 35% said "embarrassed, but that’s how it was", and 20% said "not really, I’m comfortable with my body". So, what about boys/college men being “humiliated”? I would counter with, "Why should I be “forced” to play basketball for 6 years, when my incompetence at it “humiliated” me every time I did? What’s the “utilitarian” reason for requiring team-sport participation at all? (Though personally, I’m glad, in retrospect, I was required to, just for the exposure.)

If shirts are prohibited in pools, in class or meets, could this also humiliate boys when their sisters and moms see them? Many boys do have “issues” with being shirtless. Even I did, in some contexts. (I guess they don’t even have boxing bees anymore, where boys “had to” box shirtless in front of their family, at public matches.)

But in a climate where required nude swimming may be making a come back in a few places, there’d be plenty of institutions, ironically, the YMCA itself, that would require suits, and bend over backward to be “sensitive” to boys and girls in all ways. Suits (maybe even full-body) would be allowed in most places by far (or even required, to avoid double-standards), so nobody’d be “forced” to swim or publicly compete naked (if they ever really were).

 
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(Login BlueTrain)

Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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February 22 2012, 6:08 AM 

Great post! I have comments.

I keep wondering just how many schools had swimming pools in the first place. There were none in the county where I grew up and there were no YMCAs either. No wonder so many people have doubts about these practices. If it weren't for my own first hand experiences of swimming nude in a college pool, though not the college I attended, I'd probably have my doubts, too.

I don't think I've given my impressions of that yet. I've mentioned in several places of my experiences of school showers in junior high and high school. So when I happened to be in a situation where nudity was required for swimming, I was sort of used to it. Not many of the other boys seemed to have a problem with it, though it was entirely a recreational swim. There was no coach or anything. That was probably a big difference. Some guys, of course, were show-offs but not because they were nude or particularly different. They were always the show-offs, class clowns and so on. But this group was from the hills of West Virginia and we were all from working class families. Public school wasn't like that, even where I went to school.

I think women's athletics are a good thing but I have reservations about mixed athletics, though only because boys and girls are always interested in each other. The fewer clothes they're wearing, the greater the interest. You can try to talk me out of that attitude if you like. It isn't as though I spend a lot of time thinking about this. But I'm not so sure the physicial differences are always there. I mentioned that I came from a working class background. That included the women, too.

Yes, public schools are controlled by conventional society but so are private schools, virtually all of which are to one degree or another, quite elitist. Such is the nature of things. Yet many apparently have reservations about all schools in the first place. They home school. Others think public schools are too liberal or something and send their children to more regulated private schools.

Can you imagine a time when there were no public schools? They are, after all, a relatively recent development. In some places, one-room schools were still being built in the 1950s.

I do think your comments (I'm jumping around here) about the myth of male bonding hits home. I wasn't particularly athletic and was never interested in playing games (usually referred to as "sports") but it wasn't like I was unpopular or a social misfit. If the school is large enough and most are anymore, there are groups within the school that are barely aware of the existance of any others at school. The jocks (along with the cheerleaders) were one such group.

Finally, I never heard of boxing in school either.

 
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Noel1835
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Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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February 23 2012, 1:11 PM 

Thanks Blue.

I don't quite remember when I watched it, but there was a scene on It's a Wonderful Life where they were having a dance at the high school and the automatic floor/cover to the swimming pool opened and Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart fell in while they were dancing. Maybe it's this scene that "habituated" me to the idea that well-endowed HS's had swimming pools, long before I'd heard of nude swimming in high school. I also along the way accepted as common knowledge that some schools were rich and some poor, and that ours was poor, and so, for that reason, HS SP's seemed plausible and unsurprising.

When I was in second grade some men came to class recruiting for the boxing bee. The gave us boys a consent form to be filled out by our parents, but my mom wouldn't let me. She meant well, but I regret she was being so over-protective. They had public matches where the boys boxed and they did that shirtless, like the pros.

It's true private schools and their rules will be influenced by current gymnophobic culture, but if they don't accept gov. money then there's at least a chance for a little more flexibility and freedom from Department of Education control. There were two schools in CA when I was living there, both liberal/secular/"hippie" and a Christian school all in the same county. I'm sure there were others as well. I suspect that gymnophobia matters much more to those of us who find ourselves on forums like this one, so it's not likely that anybody's going to start a school just to counter it, but at least there's a slim chance with a private school, and virtually none in a public.

On a NS video, I think it was called "The Jerry Show", the maker referred to the new co-ed PE where they did things like "interpretive dance", so there already is co-ed P.E. and I heard they play basketball and everything, but they're well covered, just like pro BB players are today. And, I guess, showers aren't mandatory, even segregated, so they've done a lot to "de-sexualize" it.

 
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Peter K.
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Maybe some movement towards co-ed nude PE

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February 23 2012, 1:38 PM 

Thinking about having co-ed PE classes might not be that strange. In schools one of the purposes of PE would be to encourage healthy behaviors which would carry over into adult life and many of them involve both genders. I know that high school was where I was first introduced into weightlifting, something I still enjoy regularly more than 50 years later. That class was, of course, all boys then but the gym where I work out now has both men and women. More guys than women, but still a mix.

Then to add the nude card: at the nude beach I've been talking about on this board there are of course both genders. Again, guys outnumber the women but both are present. Volleyball is the most common organized co-ed nude sports at the beach. But there are others, one of which gave me an amusing insight. I saw two guys tossing a football back and forth to each other, seeming to be having a lot of fun. I did think that one of the guys' shoulder development was a lot less robust looking than the other's. Walking closer to them on my way by I discovered that the one with the smaller shoulder build was actually a woman! At that point I realized that without clothing it can often be harder to distinguish male from female when the person is nude. Think about that for a moment -- despite the obvious external differences, the basic humanity is what you notice first!

So with the swimming, volleyball and hiking which are done by both genders at the beach while nude it isn't too far a stretch of the mind to imagine a society someday where that could happen at school. Not in our lifetimes, to be sure, but looking at the cultures of the world there are amazing variations -- and our current day set-up doesn't have the market cornered on all the good stuff, to be sure!

 
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(Login BlueTrain)

Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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February 23 2012, 3:38 PM 

Volleyball is pretty much the only organized game that you see at a beach anywhere. So far, I haven't seen anyone play football on the beach. Unfortunately, there's no officially nude beach anywhere I'm likely to go. In North Carolina, where I used to go at least once or twice a year (the family even has a cottage there), you used to be able to go far enough to find an empty beach but signs have been put up in the last few years specifically prohibiting nudity, so I guess it really bothered someone.

The dance scene in "It's a wonderful life" was filmed at Beverly Hills High School, which still has a swimming pool today, though I doubt it's the same one that appears in the movie. As you might guess, Beverly Hills High School is large and has a lot of everything but otherwise it's still a public high school.

 
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canadian100
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Casual nudity in showers

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March 28 2012, 8:28 PM 

I am a little too young to have been compelled to swim nude at the YMCA or in high school or university but I remember from childhood onward when it was acceptable to be nude in a locker room after swimming or working out to take a shower, usually in an open shower room. It was expected and accepted that you would overcome your natural modesty and go nude to the shower.

Today I believe there are too many cultural reasons for nude swimming to return (fear of pedophiles, body issues, the forced nature of it etc.) even with hygeine as a new consideration, but I dont see any reason why more acceptance of casual nudity in a locker room related to cleaning up after exercise will not return. But there are conditions when casual nudity is more acceptable.

One of the major conditions is trust. For example in situations where people know each other such as team members, or even guys who play a game of pick-up ball in a gym. The fear level diminishes and theres more tendancy to do what makes sense and clean the sweat off with a shower after the game and do so nude. Ive experienced it myself and feel its natural to be naked in the presence of those I know better.

I also noticed that when there are open showers and people know one another casual nudity is more acceptable. Some of the community centers I use have grown lazy about fixing the shower stalls that were put up in the last 10-20 years due to lack of money and take them down leaving the showers an open space. Some guys then take advantage of the opportunity to overcome their social fear of nudity and shower naked alone or with their friends after a game.

Those stalls encourage fear and towel dancing because they imply that modesty is highly valued, but when the stalls are taken away the message is that modesty is not highly valued where appropriate (showering). Theres a freedom and satisfaction in being comfortable with your body that a lot of younger guys have never experienced and some seem to be alright with it when they try it, and older guys seem to have less fear of nudity in these situations.

Of course I also see fear where some guys dress after a game without showering.





 
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(Login TubaDawg)

Nude swimming, etc.

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April 13 2012, 7:52 AM 

If I had a private back yard or patio, I would make good use of a pool or hot tub sans clothing. The relaxation would be excellent. Some years ago I was a member of a gym for gentlemen. The membership was diverse and cordial. We had guys who were straight, gay, bi, single, etc. Everyone respected each other's space and were quite professional in their workout routine. There was a huge hot tub, steam room, and other nice amenities. No one did the towel dance. Those using the facilities (hot tub, etc.) did so without clothing and everyone got along well. The level of cleanliness was incredible. The owner/manager took great care in the place being warm, inviting and sanitary. That was in the late 80's. I don't know if they are still in business; however, it was a great gym. Since moving, I miss the place.

 
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Noel1835
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Forced Vs. Required, Gyms and Me

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April 18 2012, 10:45 AM 

I agree the culture's too gymnophobic for a return to required or even optional nude swimming outside of naturist venue, but I have to again take exception to the use of "forced" with respect to YMCA/JHS/HS/College swimming. I wasn't "forced" to communally shower, but if I chose to take PE, it was required. I could have quit school or found another or maybe gone through the embarrasment of getting special permission to avoid it.

When I was growing up, believe it or not, I knew of a whole bunch of pedophiles. I was even fondled by one. (Yes, it was wrong of him, but it wasn't a big trauma for me, he did it to a lot of kids.) The peds I knew were as normal as normal, good ole boy, handsome wholesome young men with wives and girlfriends, as could be. I have no memory of their activities ever taking place in a "required nudity" setting or associated with it in any way.

I'm not dissing gyms, but I don't do them. I've worked in lawn & garden for years and it keeps me in pretty good condition. Not an adonis, but I'm trimmed and well toned. I know weight work is good for the health---muscle and bones, but my vocation's left me with signicant joint and muscles wear, so I'm leary of adding to it, and don't want to do it just so I can go communally naked in a share. Biking also keeps me in pretty good shape.

I don't understand why the guys you play sports with in a gym and the gym director who organizes such activities are any more trustworthy than teachers, coaches and classmates at junior/high schools past? I'm not sure what the difference is. I was unathletic and awkward, socially and physically, all through school PE. There were some decent "alphas" who stuck up for me and treated me with respect, but I didn't bond with most of them, and I saw as much conflict and rivalry as bonding, but it pretty much ended at the showers, which weren't rowdy or lascivious at all. We knew about pedophiles and homosexuality. This was the mid/late seventies. I just have my doubts that this was that much of an issue, at least back then.

I honestly don't understand what all the paranoia is about. But then I guess I haven't walked a mile in the younger generation's shoes.

 
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Noel1835
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Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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April 19 2012, 8:04 PM 

Just a couple typo corrections.

It should be "I'm trim" not "trimmed". I don't trim my pubes or genitals. I do shave my torso, front & back, but that's all.

It was probably clear by context, but it should be "communally shower", not "share".

That's all.

 
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Butch Bartlett
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Showering Etc after Football Practice

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April 25 2012, 7:14 PM 

Hi Guys -- Your posts about nude showering take me back to the summer when my folks had moved to a new town just before the start of my sophomore year of high school. One late summer morning I went down to the school for the first day of tryouts for the varsity football team. We were all crowded into the locker room as parental consent forms were gathered, medical checks were made and equipment was issued. After we had changed into our practice uniforms coach called us together for a talk before we went out to the field for our drills. He said those returning would already know but for those of us who were new he wanted to tell us his philosophy about handling our still-growing bodies. He said that when we came back from practice, took off our gear and headed for the showers some of us could have hard-ons. And that some would get hard in the showers. That was perfectly normal and was to be respected. Then he went on to say that the best way to handle that situation was to soap it up, pump it out and just get on with your day.

Sure enough, when we came back from three hours of drill and a scrimmage and took off our uniforms, one of the guys popped a boner as soon as his jock came off. Then by the time we got into the gang shower room two more had sprung. One of the guys was the team captain, a real nice guy who was big all over and he seemed to take the lead for the three of them who quietly stroked themselves to resolution. Not a word was said about it.

As the weeks went by there was the usual wet-towel snapping, name-calling and teasing — but there was never any comment made about anybody's size, how fast they came or how far they shot. And there were at least two different guys after each practice who needed to beat themselves off. That matter was still private even though it was in plain view of all of us. My first time came around one day when undressing I notice that the ribbing of my jock had embossed itself on my somewhat enlarged dick — it continued growing on the way to the showers. So I just did what needed to be done while a couple of others did the same thing. Usually we would face a wall while doing it or aim at a drain although sometimes a couple of guys would look at each other and have a crooked smile. It felt a little funny cumming but I was glad to have it over and be more a part of the group. I would need to do the 'soap and pump' every now and then, usually on days when I hadn't had a chance to take care of myself before I left home in the morning. I don't think any of us ever planned to be shooting in the showers, it just happened.

And the pumping only took place after practice, never after a game when there were newspapermen in the locker room along with other teachers and well-wishers. And our team really did well each year I was there for a school our size. Many of us thought later on that our winning on the field went back to all that semen spilled on the shower room floor which had forged such a strong brotherhood of trust and interdependence among us.

As we used to say on the team, "it never hurts to shoot some spurts" — it's natural, it's just part of life.

 
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Bob (in USA)
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Re: Nude swimming, Showering and Some Personal Thoughts

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April 29 2012, 12:23 PM 

I have some memories of the communal showers at camps, summer programs, etc. By the time I got to high school (and we had returned to the southern states), the showers were there, and no one ever used them. That was the case at 3 schools. Also, I remember that the communal showers were no big deal. We just took a shower and moved along. Occasionally, there was a little horseplay. The funniest thing I remember was one of the fellows had finished his shower, the exit flooring was fairly wet, and he started a "contest" to see who could slide the furthest on their butt. It was funny as hell!

Back to the part of new location of living and upper grades... I don't know what the change was, actually no one ever spoke of it; that was the most unusual part. In college, the showers were communal. The guys walked down the hall wearing towels. It was a morning routine and that was that.

Much like some of the posters, I've observed the level of openness and comfort with the body (regardless of physical conditioning) go from open, then to semi-concerned, then to very concerned, and of course presently the state of affairs.

When I was in the period of what I termed "quite open," no one was talking about nudity in showering or swimming being "bad," and no one had a problem with that aspect of life. As a younger person, I never witnessed the "witch hunt" mentality for perverts. Further, I didn't have cause to think in that frame of mind.

Yes, I am a modest individual. I enjoy casual nudity at home, hot tub at the gym sans clothing, and sleeping nude. I do not have a "six pack," (or even three - HA!), I am not the picture of fitness for a magazine cover, and I am quite fine with my natural self.

Many say that the pendulum of history seems to repeat itself in some varied forms. If one of those elements "reset" itself, it would be fantastic for the regeneration of the human natural body to be celebrated, thought of as a thing of beauty, and to see the movement back to a more natural, relaxed, enjoyable style of living. That may be optimistic, but I am an optimist and don't wish to abandon hope.

 
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Noel1835
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Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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April 30 2012, 5:22 PM 

Butch,

I guess just because this wasn't my experience I can't say it wasn't yours, but this sounds more like a fantasy than reality.

Nude swimming and mixed-gender viewing of classes, practices and meets is one thing. Your coach or teacher urging you to masturbate in the shower is entirely another. Not necessarily that I disapprove, but there were fairly serious Christians in team sports in my school and if anything like that'd happened I don't know if they could've kept quiet about it. And if they'd told their parents, it'd make the "scandals" we did have back then & there look pretty puny by comparison.

Whether they actually masturbated or not, maybe the football team was rowdier than the PE class, which apart from some joking, the usual locker room banter, and in junior high, a few isolated instances of towel snapping, was never really that rowdy or rambunctious. I remember it all as pretty staid in a non-chalant way. I think everybody was pretty tired out after the workout.

 
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Noel1835
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Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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April 30 2012, 5:22 PM 

Butch,

I guess just because this wasn't my experience I can't say it wasn't yours, but this sounds more like a fantasy than reality.

Nude swimming and mixed-gender viewing of classes, practices and meets is one thing. Your coach or teacher urging you to masturbate in the shower is entirely another. Not necessarily that I disapprove, but there were fairly serious Christians in team sports in my school and if anything like that'd happened I don't know if they could've kept quiet about it. And if they'd told their parents, it'd make the "scandals" we did have back then & there look pretty puny by comparison.

Whether they actually masturbated or not, maybe the football team was rowdier than the PE class, which apart from some joking, the usual locker room banter, and in junior high, a few isolated instances of towel snapping, was never really that rowdy or rambunctious. I remember it all as pretty staid in a non-chalant way. I think everybody was pretty tired out after the workout.

 
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(Login Noel1835)

Re: Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

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April 30 2012, 5:35 PM 

Bob,

I think back in the period of communal showers, nude swimming, etc., we can't really say that "no one had a problem with that aspect of life." From what I've read, a sizeable minority, parents and students, did have at least mixed feelings about it, whether they were justified or not. I think there's always been a huge variation in the way people have semi/nudity, with lots of arbitrary inconsistencies. Maybe even some individuals felt differently about it from time to time, sometimes comfortable, sometimes not, depending on the situation.

Also, even the ones who had no problem or little problem with the old institutional nudity, probably didn't have a naturist's attitude about it. I suspect the particular compartmentalizations of nudity in their day was something they grew up with. They accepted it because authority and most of society did, even though at times even they may have been uncomfortable with it. This is just what I've come to suspect from my own feelings and reading the personal histories of it.

 
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