During a recent visit to the down-town YMCA, I saw something I had hoped never to encounter in this lifetime: men queuing for the "privacy" cubicles in the shower room. There they were, three guys with towels wrapped modestly around their waists, waiting patiently for one of three curtained stalls to become free, though there were many shower heads available in the public area. To have showered there, however, would have meant that other men would see their wieners and their bums. That this should be an issue for a growing number of men is a new - and, I have to say, deplorable - phenomenon. I blame homosexuality.
The men who wait for a private shower cubicle are almost always young. (A friend of mine who attends York University reports that after a workout there most students don't shower at all - they just change and leave.)
To my practised and discerning eye, they are also straight men. These young straight men have clearly bitten into the apple of the knowledge of good and evil and, sensing the latter (that would be me), they are as quick as Adam at the exit from Eden to hide their tempting bits.
This is new. I have watched the behaviour grow slowly over the years. And, god forgive me, I feel responsible.
Item: the old Y back on College Street, where police headquarters now stands. As I recall, public showers were the only option. If you couldn't wash your wiener in public, you didn't wash it at all.
Item: the new Y on Grosvenor Street, pre-renovations that were completed just a few months ago. There were two privacy showers, but they were off to one side near the toilet stalls, and there seemed, to me at least, some acknowledged sense of shame in a decision to use them.
Item: the new Y, post-renovations. There are now three privacy showers, and they are flagrantly and unashamedly partitioned within the main shower area. It now seems "normal" to want to use them. One can even queue.
Need I mention that more and more men's washrooms have modesty panels between urinals? It has also come to my attention that young men don't share beds in the casual way they used to. I recall, during my university years in the 60s, that guys frequently slept in the same bed. (I shared a bed with my roommate for a full academic year, and no one thought it remarkable or indicative of anything but poverty.) I am told that guys today in their teens and 20s would as soon apply lit cigarettes to their eyelids as share a mattress.
I blame homosexuality. Some 40 years ago, homosexuality didn't exist - at least not as a visible, discussable social activity.
Even for homosexuals, like me, it scarcely existed. You didn't much know what it meant, except that you wanted to do certain almost unthinkable things with guys. Since such acts were barely imaginable to gay guys and off the radar for straights, men showered together, swam in the nude together, slept in the same beds and... well, sometimes those barely imaginable things actually happened, but not so's you'd notice or actually ever talk about them.
And then homosexuality, in the guise of gay lib, actually happened.
I, and a growing number of men and women like me, decided that it was time to end oppression, harassment, heterosexism and all those bad things. It was time to put those formerly unthinkable acts on our agendas.
Problem is, we succeeded. The formerly unthinkable has become, for far too many people, the far too thinkable. Now, it seems, if you show your wiener to someone - even if you just happen to be washing it - he might think it's because you want him to see it. Which could mean only one thing about you. Which, for all the social acceptance of gayness we think is out there, is still not really cool.
So, god forgive us, we made cocksucking easier and casual male bonding harder. And - when it comes to far too many young straight guys - naked city? Not.