My reader continues:
One of the things I’ve heard, and come to believe myself…is that that feeling of brotherly masculinity, of being a guy among guys without looking at them or thinking of them in terms of excitement or sexual gratification, only comes with actually throwing yourself into their midst and being around them…When I think like this, it sure sounds reasonable to just jump in the shower, stop thinking, and simply not worry about it as long as I avoid dawdling.
So…which is it, then: sound reasoning or rationalizing?…I don’t know how…if I have to sacrifice either my integrity and respect for my fellow men’s dignity or else my own convenience and masculine self-image/feeling of fitting in as a guy.
First of all, I totally agree: if you don’t feel like one of the guys, avoiding the guys isn’t going to help.
I still remember the feeling of surprised pride I experienced when, during a game of pickup basketball, I found myself sweatily and shirtlessly pressed up against another guy’s rear end, and realized that the only desire in my mind was to get the f★cking basketball out of his hands.
The reason I remember the moment is not because OMG That Dude Was So Hot And I Was Totally Touching His Butt, but because, Bam, all of a sudden I was relating to this guy not as someone to be envied, not as an unassailable gatekeeper of The Boys’ Club, not as the paradigm of some transcendental masculinity, but as a guy. Like me.
I don’t think any of the things my reader mentioned — pool, locker room, shower, sauna — are to be absolutely avoided. You could approach a locker room, or shower, or steam room with the express intention of getting an eyeful, and that would be wrong. But you could also approach them without any such intention, or with mixed intentions.
As for mixed intentions, I can’t, by force of will, keep the wrong intentions out; if some part of my stupid lizard brain wants to lust, then it’s going to go ahead and keep wanting. But I can choose whether to indulge it, by controlling where my eyes and thoughts go. And the less you feed the lizard,1 the weaker it gets.
That being said, it’s not somehow sinful for me to see a naked man. If I’m in the locker room and I’m quickly darting my head away every time somebody isn’t wearing pants, that’s going to be nearly as weird as staring.
More than that, it would probably reinforce in my own mind the idea that Bodies Are Sinful or Bodies Are Always Sexual or Nudity Means Sex, which is a dangerous way to feel about bodies in general but is an especially dangerous way to feel about the bodies of people of the same gender as you.2
As for me, I feel free to hit the shower and steam room both. I don’t stare. I do find that people in the sauna sometimes want to chat, which is great and goes a long way toward diffusing the tension. Then again, some people think it’s weird to chat with you if you’re naked, OR if they’re naked, or EVEN if somebody nearby is naked. People are complicated and, to paraphrase Ford Prefect, naked people doubly so.