Locker Room, Part II: Lizard Brain

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.

1 You in the back, quit giggling.
2 This is one of the reasons I see homosexual attraction as intrinsically problematic in a way that heterosexual attraction isn’t. It makes sense to feel one way about yourself and another way about your mate. Doesn’t homosexual attraction necessarily involve a certain tinge of autoeroticism? And isn’t autoeroticism always, well, a little weird?

8 Comments on “Locker Room, Part II: Lizard Brain”

  1. Sarah says:

    “You in the back, quit giggling.”

    Sorry, that was me. 😉

    Your second foot note addressed something I had always kind of wondered about gay relationships. So, if you really prefer tall blonde guys, but are yourself a 5’8 brunette, well, what exactly does that mean? (rhetorical question, unless you have an actual answer)

    1. Alicia says:

      me too!! I smugly like to think I’m now on the “inside”, being an avid follower of this blog, and knowing that it’s likely a reference to Lewis’ The Great Divorce.

  2. ocryan says:

    Sarah, it might be a subliminal eroticization of the masculine qualities I perceive as lacking in myself.

    Oh, wait, I don’t believe in reparative therapy.

    Maybe it means nothing more than that I have a “type.” No one thinks it’s particularly weird if a straight guy has a taste for tall women. Or busty women. Or dark-skinned women. Or… you get the idea.

    1. Sarah says:

      Well, what I mean is, men and women are so different that we rarely compare ourselves to members of the opposite sex. It’s apples and oranges, something inherently “other,” and wouldn’t make any sense where sexuality is concerned.

      Of course, who and what we are attracted to says something about all of us. There’s a study that says that we are most likely to be attracted to people who share similar features to the ones we first encountered at birth, which is why people are less likely to be attracted to an ethnicity not their own. So, what a straight person is attracted to in the opposite sex might say something about their culture, their upbringing, or their personality.

      But, when you’re attracted to someone not “other,” well, I feel like that says additional things about that person that which would not apply to a person attracted to something “other.” There are just whole other implications. What those implications are, I probably can’t say, and I realize that not having experienced attraction to the same sex, I might be really wrong… but it just seems to me that this would have to be the case.

  3. Paul says:

    I couldn’t agree more! I have found such “healing” in the weight room, locker room and yes the steam room and shower.


  4. Alex says:

    Great stuff as usual. One of my favorite things about this blog is how often it discusses topics that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and makes me think about them in a different way. At the same time I get the “oh my gosh, he gets it, it’s like he’s reading my mind!” and also the “huh, I can’t believe I’ve never thought of it like that before, but that’s a really good point.” Both are super awesome things that help a lot.

    And yeah I started giggling too.

  5. Christine says:

    I’m probably missing the humor in “feed the lizard.” I’m guessing it’s a double entendre of some sort? What it did remind me of was that scene in The Great Divorce where the man allows his lizard-lust to be killed and it is resurrected into a stallion that serves him. It’s one of the most memorable scenes from one of my favorite books.

  6. Jerome says:

    I can deeply identify with this, Steve! As a gay teenager wrestling with (and slowly coming to accept) the Christ of my childhood, it’s struck me as a hard dilemma -trying to treat my relationships with guys as honorably as possible, without going into lust and suchlike. On a hand, I am very aware that contrary to conventional gaydom, not everything going shirtless with chest hair tempts me: I don’t think of friends that way, though I am well aware I can. The struggle comes trying to know what limits they are comfortable with. I’m out to most of my closer friends. I know how much I can handle honorably, but for a friend who (A) understands so little about being gay and who (B) can only take my word for it, I risk undermining the trust we have built up. I’m not making much sense, I suppose, but it’s a fine line to toe. I don’t want to overstep my own boundaries in areas they’re TOO comfortable with, and yet I don’t want them to constantly doubt my intentions in places they’re overly uncomfortable with. Good fences make good neighbors? I don’t know. But it is exciting, I suppose, to be part of a culture that is rapidly creating new, healthier norms for gay people -Christian, celibate, Vegan, or otherwise. 😛

    God be with you,

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