I've had a very pleasant occasional email correspondence going with author & cultural critic Mark Simpson for several year--he of the invention of both "metrosexual" and "sporno". So the subject generally tends to be about modern male sexual, social and preening behaviors. Recently dropped him a note about one of our hot button topics: the mutation of male modesty (and vanity) in locker rooms. I found the exchange good and funny enough to ask Mark if I could share it here, and he kindly agreed. J.R.
JR: I've noted a strange inverse correlation between dudes freeballing/boxerballing (Visible Bulge) both at the gym and on the street--the bulges are pretty rampant right now. But then there's the changing under the towel in compression shorts thing---the two coexist in the same men sometimes--is bulge-sportin' the coy flirtation but when push comes to shove for these (mostly) straight boys are just cockteases?! This is prominent at mostly straight gyms. Gay gyms are another matter of course.
But the Hamm effect is rampant in NYC now. If straight guys go the store in shorts, chances are they are freeballing or wearing loose underwear. It's fantastic.
MS:I haven't noticed the same Hamm effect in this part of the world - but then, in this part of the world, the NE of England, I think only three people have ever heard of Mad Men and they all want to move to London.
In this part of the world, lads stand in the street with their hands down their track pants basically wanking. On the High Street.
However, in the gym changing rooms there is this strange mixture of very coy behaviour, shimmying behind towels, and flaunting it. Admittedly, most of the flaunting is by me.
And NO ONE knows how to use the sauna in the men's changing room. Everyone (except me) wears pants in there, and hardly anyone showers before hand. I've half a mind to call Health and Safety.
I think that a lot of guys are anxious that their cocks just won't measure up. Nakedness, even in the men's locker room, is so self-conscious now.
JR: I haven't responded yet cos there's so much here. My friend Justin and I are cooking up a rating system for gym modesty--like what gyms are the most full monty, and which are the most prissy. (I see a little male icon, in various states of towledness). Interestingly, at the 95% straight blue collar, ethnically mixed gym I go to near my apartment in Queens there is never anyone doing the surfer towel change routine--it's uncut cocks and hairy asses everywhere. Naturally I am in heaven. But at any mixed gym in Manhattan there's a huge swath of guys who are prissily changing under towels. I know the fear of being photographed and winding up online is legit-yet, who cares? I've seen celebs at Chelsea Piers doing it, and that I get, But otherwise, my god, if you're hot enough for someone to want to bother to photograph you, isn't that flattering? Weirdly, I bet these guys are doing selfies and sexting and shit. But I guess they think they own that process? It's an interesting wrinkle in the new male narcissism.
And next time you're in NYC I'll take you to that queens gym.
MS:Yes, they may be tarts but they don't want you to think they're THAT kind of tart. They don't want to be giving it away without meaning to.
I hadn't thought about the possibility of being filmed secretly - perhaps I'm not vain/pervy enough. If they are thinking about that then as you say they're probably fantasising about it.
It all gets very confusing. At my all-boys boarding school in the 70s-80s you were 'gay' if you didn't flaunt it - so everyone did. And most of us, regardless of sexuality, had a gay old time in the locker room.
Now it's just a matter of time before you'll be escorted off the premises of a corporate gym and added to the sex offender register for not shimmying behind a towel - or failing to use one of those ghastly changing cubicles. A solitary confinement locker room inside a locker room.
How lonely our world has become.