In a column today for Salon.com, “Who’s Really Getting Naked at the Gym,” Paula Young Lee responds to a recent New York Times article about the re-design of gyms, and how millennial men evidently want more privacy in the locker room.
Working within a 30-minute deadline, Paula contacted me to get my response to the Times article (which I had just read early that morning) and my observations and opinion on the situation, as I see it, in gym locker rooms today. Like all of Paula’s articles for Salon, this one is super-smart, bitingly funny and thus a great read.
Paula is the author of the best-selling, award-winning, Deer Hunting in Paris (2013). Here’s her take on the naked millennial male body:
The naked body is vulnerable because it’s stripped of culture. Abject and ashamed, it is reduced to the visible signs of health, musculature, fitness, thinness, and other markers that determine hierarchy inside a group. It is the condition of being stripped of status that is unbearable, prompting the young to reassert the armor of their street clothing as quickly as possible. Their insecurity isn’t lodged in their bodies but in their unstable social positions, which is why more powerful men– the “old guys” who, in theory, ought to be embarrassed by the grizzle and the hoar–don’t care two figs what you think of their butt cracks or belly buttons.
And as she quotes me as saying:
“Old guys have been parading around locker rooms for decades, and younger guys have been less prone to let it all hang out,” Ricco explains. “So this homosocial dynamic of nudity isn’t anything particularly new. But I would argue that there has never been more voyeurism and exhibitionism in the locker room than there is now.” Indeed, he affirms, “I would say that male bodies—and especially young muscular male bodies—are putting themselves on display more than ever.”
Lots more in the article, including where I talk about “halls of narcissistic indulgence.” Enjoy! And see you at the gym.