Public Showers

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Men shower together in public

When I was in high school, our shower room was a three walled enclosure with two rows of showers along the opposite walls. I have no idea how the girls’ shower room was set up. Obviously, I had never been inside and I had never asked any of my female friends.

In the MTC, the showers for the elders consisted of a room with 2 poles running from the floor to the ceiling. At the top of each pole were 6 showerheads. The elders would choose one of the 12 showerheads to use. It is my understanding that the showers for the sisters consisted of individual stalls.

At the gym at the University of Lethbridge, the set up is similar to the MTC. Again, I haven’t asked any of the women I know at the U of L how it set up. At Mary’s gym, however, the showers for the women are separate stalls.

Why is this? Why are men’s showers communal while women’s showers are separate? I could understand why women’s showers would be separate if they were co-ed showers. Have women always demanded separate showers, or was this something that has always been?

Sure, it would be nice to have my own separate stall, but I have no qualms about sharing a communal shower either. I am comfortable sitting in the steam room or in the shower or even towelling off with other guys around. Mary tells me that women never talk to each other in the shower. I talk to guys all the time while showering, drying off or even getting dressed.

What is the difference?

94 thoughts on “Public Showers

  1. As with Bill, I’ve never been comfortable with communal showering. But as a Brit, this is something to do with our culture — we are constantly taught about how we shouldn’t expose ourselves, and so to communally shower, to me, would not feel right.

    Regarding Kim’s original thought. I would purely go along with the fact that women are constantly portrayed as a sexual object — and so it is better to keep them away from one another.

    Something to notice is that men don’t only shower together quite often — they also pee together. Urinals are often no more than 12" apart from each other! There must be something in our culture that makes men pack together, and women feel more individual.

    Also, I liked comment 3, about how men shower communally in the MTC to stop them self-defiling.

  2. Back in the 1970s, my (UK) school had communal showers, at least for the boys. Never asked the girls, just assumed their showers were communal too. Showering was compulsory after swimming and I didn’t notice anyone having a problem with that. Indeed, the swimming teacher often had to come and switch the showers from hot to cold to make us leave the showers and get changed for the next lesson, so I suppose we enjoyed showering!

    In the Netherlands, the showers at my sports centre were communal (and my wife tells me that was true of the womens’ showers there).

    From what I’ve heard, the main reason for communal showers is not so much to help people over their inhibitions but simply that it’s easier and quicker to clean communal showers than a series of cubicles. And there’s less to vandalize (no doors or partitions, probably fewer shower heads and taps).

    Unimaginably to most people in the US, saunas in the Netherlands and Germany are generally mixed and nude (though they often have one “women-only day” a week), and the showers at the sauna are mixed, communal, and used nude. And no-one perceives that as erotic.

  3. Personnally I love showering communally. It gives a great sense of confidence, almost camraderie in being a adult male. Its no big surprise that I have a penis and pubic hair so why should I be ashamed when people see it? I shake it around for them, haha.

    1. When i was living in the high school boarding house in Australia. There was no cubicles in the shower. I went to the shower totally naked with other boys, and everyone in the shower can see each other’s dick. I always got morning wood when I shower in the morning. It was normal and I just got used to have a hardon in front of other guys in the public shower.

  4. Well seeing as how this is the most popular, I guess I will just have to wade into the fray with my thoughts on public showering.

    What’s the big deal? In some countries men and women and children bathe and shower together (communally). In reading every single post on this article I conclude (however right or wrongly) you all are just proving your worthiness as products of your social conditioning.

    Now let us not forget that social constructs are man-made and therefore false. Not unlike the moral chimeras we accept ourselves (as social members) in order to remain group inclusive.

    Alas though these beliefs, founded within our social constructs, are not the truth (innocence) God intended for His people.

  5. It’s true that schools and other institutions installed communal showers for utilitarian reasons; easier to clean and cheaper to build. But the use of communal showers presupposes that all people are comfortable with them and that any inhibitions must be abnormal. When you begin justifying communal showers as “character building” it becomes group nudity for the sake of group nudity. This happens by default, not by design.

    “What’s the big deal? In some country’s men and women and children bathe and shower together (communally). In reading every single post on this article I conclude (however right or wrongly) you all are just proving your worthiness as products of your social conditioning.

    “Now let us not forget that social constructs are man-made and therefore false.”

    You wouldn’t say this about all social practices and mores? If personal preferences are just matter of social conditioning there wouldn’t be any value to them. I agree that cultural attitudes toward modesty tend to be more superfluous than cultural attitudes toward wife-beating. The difference between American and European beaches may be the difference between forks and chopsticks. But how a society imposes itself on people isn’t superfluous. Just because nudists are comfortable doesn’t mean that communal showers aren’t humiliating to other people.

    My attitude toward people who voluntarily take group showers at the YMCA, as well as nudists, artist models, and even porn stars is live and let live. But if modesty isn’t a valid personal preference then the concept of personal preference has no meaning.

    1. Males in the US can expect no privacy at any time in their lives. Period. There is no respect, no expectations of respect. This does not toughen US men; it turns them into bullies. If you don’t respect me, why should I respect you. Even US nurses are shocked that any man would want (leastwise expect) privacy. At 18, every boy stands as naked as he does in Parisian bistro toilets with women wandering to and fro, indifferent to any man’s sense of ‘modesty’ or humiliation. I suspect that women’s disinterest in male nudity is at the heart of this double standard. America is a male-dominated female-fixated bullying society. If bullies have to take the humiliation, they can use it as a bullying tactic. If you don’t become a bully America, you become a homosexual. Imagine the new co-ed showers in American schools mandated by Title VII. All that presdsure put on homosexual males not to have unscheduled erections will now be put on bullying males trying to keep their eyes and hands off all those naked girls next to them! What goes around, comes around. Does anybody the movie ‘Wee Georgie’? That’s why I named my penis George. In the US, hospitals are now measuring men’s members which information is sold to condom manufacturers, passed into the files that go on to law offices and court rooms, and available to any floor waxer with a girlfriend who’s a temporary and has access to all our medical files. Wee Georgie, measured by a nurse at 20cm now, is now flashed around the world. Yes, our privates are now public. It serves those bullies right! If they don’t measure up, there’s always a grammar-school nurse or a 1st-form coed who’ll see to it that you are. Is not feminism back to Victorianism? Men always swam in the nude in England and New England; and learning to control Geordie was probably my 1st test of manhood.

      Modesty is no onger a ‘moral’ value, as John suggests. It is now a feminist ethic to be manipulated as women see fit; I think Freud called it ‘penis envy’. Maybe there was something in it.

  6. Very good, yet modesty is a moral value inherent in degrees to the disparate societies in which it is practiced. If we weren’t at first taught to be ashamed of our nudity, than uncomfortable with our nudity we would not feel.

  7. …uncomfortable with our nudity we would not feel.


    I’m sorry but that’s funny because it’s how Yoda talks…

    Amused, I am. Funny, that is.

  8. So I wasn’t conditioned by taking communal baths with my extended family. I’m not “ashamed” of my nudity, just uncomfortable displaying it in public. Shame implies moral guilt as if something is wrong with personal privacy.

    My problem with your argument isn’t about nudity. It’s with your line of reasoning. Dismissing people’s attitudes as conditioning and social constructs implies relativism when taken to the logical conclusion. What you’re saying about modesty could just as easily be said about wife beating and dog fighting.

  9. Ah ha . . .Rick you are indeed intuitive. Yoda was my inspiration for that particular turn of phrase. You see I can’t seem to get my mind around the whole God living on a distant planet revolving around the star Kolub. It makes me think of George Lucas and from there Star Wars and then to. . .Yoda. Do you think God knows Yoda?

  10. You make an interesting argument Bill, yet your conclusion is not taken to it’s logical extreme. There are still societies where wife beating & dog fighting are quite acceptable – because of the social conditioning of the people. However, in our society we have been taught to recognize these as abhorrent.

    There is nothing negative about it when I state a particular element of society is responsible for certain practices. Or do you suppose our individual objectivity, in all our various consciences, might have somehow found some middle ground upon which we (as mere people) formed an organic set of moral values, beliefs, and normatives , universal to us all.

    Of course you are not, because you probably would agree we were taught how to behave appropriately . . .not to mention dress for the occasion (smirk). Don’t make me strip naked, and slap my wife while on the way to take my Staffordshire Terrier out to the pit to kick some American Bull Terrier arse – just to make a point. (listen for the distant laughter . . . wait it’s coming . . . I promise . . . well maybe not with this crowd).

    You are quite correct when you say it is Relativism theory which I place my personal experience upon. Which social theory do you hold as possibly more responsible for our/your reaction to nudity.

  11. Now let us not forget that social constructs are man-made and therefore false.

    What information leads you to draw this fallacious conclusion?

    To come to this conclusion, you would have to assume that everything man-made is false. Casual observation contradicts this line of thinking. Your argument, and line of thinking, has limited depth.

  12. Not everything man made is false, because I am not referring to the tangible. Social constructs are developed in the mind, they are not tangible. Rather, they are ideas.

    We either embrace the ideas or reject them. It should also be understood that social constructs are not static, rather they are in flux. However, changing mores, values, and norms still restrict the behaviours of people (as free agents), to the extent that these same mores, values, and norms permit certain behaviours.

    They are what they are because we have developed a society which accepts them as that. However, both society and mores, values, and norms are not irrefutable (natural/organic) laws (such as, oh lets see I’ll give you an easy one – GRAVITY), they are merely ideas we have foisted upon us by the group/society in order to remain inclusive within society or the group (such as a particular faith). So either you adhere to the mores, values, and norms or you become a fringe element. But they are not real things – just ideas!

    C’mon JM don’t make me give you the whole school of philosophy lecture. Dive into the deep end and experience the depth. Put some of the dots together for yourself.

    Mi Dios

  13. I never asked for it. You were applying boolean logic to something that is clearly anything but.

  14. John said:

    There is nothing negative about it when I state a particular element of society is responsible for certain practices.

    It’s negative when it becomes a rationale for moral relativism or a rationale for not respecting the rights and preferences of others. I’m not denying that a society influences behaviors, only that all the differences aren’t relative. If the abhorrence or acceptance of wife-beating is only a matter of social conditioning then where is right and wrong?

    Which social theory do you hold as possibly more responsible for our/your reaction to nudity.

    I suppose I’m modest for the same reasons I tend to be introverted and private. I’m obfuscating, but I don’t feel that I have to justify myself with a theory found in a textbook. For me, the big issue is personal preference and authority. Since modesty is a personal preference I take issue with society’s expectation that I or anyone else should have to take same-sex group showers. My point isn’t about refuting nudists. It’s about not having to practice it myself.

    For you, the big issue is cultural determination of values. By arguing that modesty is only a social construct, it follows that it isn’t a real value. Therefore you can dismiss my position by contrasting it with another culture’s mixed sex communal bathing. My problem with your paradigm is that you are dismissing disagreements by psychologizing them. Psychologizing disagreements is often a way to dismiss disagreements more than it is means of explaining them. If a person’s actions or words are nothing more than some socially conditioned or psychodynamic response you don’t have to take them seriously.

  15. Right and wrong is again conceived within the minds of the people living within a particular society’s rules of norms, values and mores. All the differences are relative to particular society’s rules of norms, values and mores.

    Modesty is a real value, but only insofar as a particular society is willing to accept and uphold it. I am not dismissing your (personal) preferences / beliefs / values / morals by contrast & comparison. Just pointing out that because you (personally) have them does not make them right!

    You state, “If a person’s actions or words are nothing more than some socially conditioned or psychodynamic response you don’t have to take them seriously.” You are right – I think you’re finally getting the hang of this Bill.

    However, the context of that person’s actions or words have to be taken in consideration of ones own relation to the same. In other words, unless a person’s actions /
    words are taken out of their social context then these should be taken seriously as they relate to the person. In another social context, they may be construed superfluous and non-specific as relating to the culture.

    Beez Kneez, you can have the last word if you want to, but let’s not dance this around too much more, because I am quite certain I am not permitted to post entire studies and research I have completed on similar topics.

  16. John said:

    >Right and wrong is again conceived within the minds of the people living within a particular society’s rules of norms, values and mores. All the differences are relative to particular society’s rules of norms, values and mores.

    Sounds like you’re saying there is no right or wrong, that social constructs are arbitrary. Your statement, taken by itself, would mean that institutionalized racism, like they had in South Africa and the American South, were not moral outrages – only a particular society’s rules relative to its norms and values.
    Describing people as “products of their environment” can explain the bigots who lived in those societies, but it doesn’t resolve the moral question of racism.

    >I am not dismissing your (personal) preferences / beliefs / values / morals by contrast & comparison. Just pointing out that because you (personally) have them does not make them right!

    I just hope you don’t say the same about my abhorrence of wife beating, dog fighting, and Jim Crow laws.

    >You state, “If a person’s actions or words are nothing more than some socially conditioned or psychodynamic response you don’t have to take them seriously.” You are right – I think you’re finally getting the hang of this Bill.

    Hardly! That statement does to human beings what Descartes’s philosophy did to dogs. It reduces them to organic automatons. The implications are potentially Orwellian. Don’t get me wrong, social sciences can be well and good, but reductionism takes away our humanity. Psychologizing nonconformity is often a political tool for marginalizing and controlling people.

    If our ideas, beliefs, and deeper feelings are nothing more than conditioning and psychodynamics then there would not be any real substance to them. Why draw distinctions between Rosa Parks and the Klan if they are only the puppets of social sciences not people making choices?

  17. On your first point, statemants like yours are alarmist and representative of a person who gleans their personal world news info fom the major media players. I will not waste my time explaining about how the attitudes which affected the dutch occcupation of white South Africa were founded in an external culture enforcing it’s wil upon another via imperialism (ask G. Bush for the rules on that game).

    On your second point, rather simplistic moral value you represent . . .I expected deeper.

    On your third point, do you think dogs have emotions similar to that of humans???? For your basic elucidation, firstly you take my quote out of it’s context and represent it as a whole, when that you have is a part of the sum. This enables you to attempt to strategically make me appear foolish. Sorry for you, because this was another’s quote I was re-representing for reference to my comment. However you completely miss the point It is neither reductionism, nor is it psychologizing (which isn’t a word) non-conformity. It is Sociology 101, and a tool for freeing us from the hegemonic control of society (and those institutions which further influence it).

    Point four, well there you go again, “our ideas, beliefs, and deeper feelings are nothing more than conditioning”, which allows us to conform as agents acting within a given society.

    I think you are getting it now, too

    Cheers . . .

    John W. Wickstrom

  18. I was in the MTC in 2001 and had communal showers. I had no problem with it after the first couple times. There were never any problems for me personally. I do remember that one kid we all thought was gay got an erection in the shower. We all kind of just looked at each other and thought…okay… I think we just shrugged it off and never thought of it again. It wasn’t that different from anything else I had experienced. I showered in high school, public pools, sports, etc. All the time in the nude! It’s not big deal. Some have small penises, some have large, some are circumcised (like me), and some are not! We don’t wear hats around to cover our varying hair colors, textures, etc.!

  19. Everybody doesn’t have your maturity. The MTC isn’t a high school, where an erection in a public shower could lead to abuse. Assuming, for argument’s sake, that this kid was gay, it was like a heterosexaul guy being aroused while showering women.

    As for your hat analogy, there are people who believe in keeping their heads covered in public. Their reasons may be religious, cultural, or even personal. Being forced to remove their head coverings can be humiliating. There was a controversy in France over Islamic head scarves and 17th century Quakers were persecuted were refusing to remove their hats. Isn’t this another personal preference to be respected?

  20. John W. Wickstrom, if you’re going to respond to Bill, you really should respond to what he wrote instead of just giving a pathetically weak attempt to wave off his arguments.

  21. The women’s showers are always separate. The country club I belong to has communal showers that both men and women use together. Some are outdoors.

  22. I remember reading somewhere that the gang/communal shower for men grew out of World War I lessons learned. The poor health of those drafted into military service lead to things like the Flour Enrichment Act, and physical education being required in public schools. Since soldiers need to survive in conditions which usually don’t include much privacy, someone thought it would be a good idea to desensitize men to being naked around each other, thus the communal/gang shower room became part of men’s locker rooms.

  23. In my middle and high school gym classes, we were never required to take showers–and no one did. We just changed clothes before and after class and went on our way.

    In college, our gym has open showers, but almost no students use them. Occasionally adults go in, but seeing students there is basically unheard of.

    I’m a graduate student, and I use the open showers every time after exercising in the gym. I find using them right after working out to be refreshing … not to mention liberating.

    Why are people so insistent on not showing themselves, even in locker rooms? The reason is that we were all taught that showing the body is wrong. Open showers were normal years ago (from what I’ve heard), but now they’re all but extinct.

    I wish more people would realize that showering in public doesn’t have to be embarrassing or awkward. Instead, it often provides a sense of freedom and liberation by not having to worry so much about covering up.

  24. I still remember my first experience in a communal shower at the age of six. It was on a Gulf Coast beach in a primitive cinder block building, with separate sides for males and females. There were four other people there, all nude and it seemed like fun. Then there were the years in P.E. when it was required to dress out (i.e. shower with your classmates) This was in the 60’s; again no big deal. I became a nudist later and recently the issue came up while chatting with a couple on their front porch about how schools no longer require showers in phys ed. Those of us at this resort think nothing of using the communal shower there (four shower heads in a row) and many are the times I showered with members of the opposite sex there, sometimes with their spouses present. We sometimes would chat while stark naked in each others presence. It seems such much healthier to be blessed with this attitude toward nudity in public.

  25. If God had meant us to be nude, we would have been born that way. Everything else is cultural window-dressing. Modesty is culturally and time specific in its expression, until there are universalized norms about the human body. When the body becomes accepted, and we can disasociate sexuality from sensuality, we can move on to things that really matter. And nudist/naturist communities and resorts have MUCH MUCH FEWER sexual issues than clothed counterparts. Makes you think.

  26. In post #80, Terry said, “If God had meant us to be nude, we would have been born that way.”

    The last time I checked, we WERE born “that way”! Yet for some reason, we’re taught to cover up (and generally be ashamed of showing our bodies) from that point on.

    An interesting observation …

  27. Many interesting points raised. I am pleased that international views were brought up. So often American and Canadian views seem to be the only views in the world to some people. Just because a shower in an American school wasn’t communal, certainly doesn’t speak for the world. I live in Brazil right now and my girlfriend tell me it’s fine for her and her friends to be naked with each other, just the other day she and her friend showered in the same shower.

    Additionally, though it may stray a little bit from the main topic, they are also fine with touching each other in any place and she often grabs her mother in private places as somewhat of a game I suppose. Playfully. Of course I realize that this will be different for different people and perhaps different regions within this country and of course other country. But I think it must be realized that the North American continent is such a small part of the world.

    Points raised about conditioning certainly have some merit. I personally have showered with other men and it doesn’t bother me a bit. I recently did with a friend in Russia and enjoyed a gym there that didn’t require the use of shirts (actually I don’t think there was a dress code at all but I’m sure nudity in the lower half would be frowned upon). But at the same time there were a few American girls there and they were so afraid to be seen naked. They even thought themselves so adventurous when they decided to try showering together… but, in the dark, with 3 shower heads for the three girls and I’m sure they were very careful not to even brush up against each other.

    My personal opinion is that being comfortable with nudity is a sign of maturity, but acknowledge that’s debatable.

  28. Simple actually: Historically, showers were a guy thing from sports and prisons, and communal stalls were just easier. When women showers came along, space wasn’t such a concern since they needed much less. The trend stuck. My opinion.

  29. It’s actually quite hard to figure out why the difference, because there are also contradicting situations. Such as at hot springs in Japan or Korea for example, where the women have no qualms about being naked in the pools, all the while chatting and yakking away. For the men, status quo as what you have described above for communal showers.

  30. well heres a way to look at it…
    fitness clubs or gyms, schools and whatnot built communal showers because their cheaper and faster for people to get in and out, and less space.
    as far as nudity goes in communal showers for me. i was skeptical at first when i went to the Y with my dad because i joined swim team and he used to. i was a bit nervous but when everyone else is doing it, its not so bad to become used to it.
    and i belong to the Y and a private gym, me and my girlfriend go and she says theres communal showers for the girls too and they have no problem showering together.
    i guess what all this means…. who wants to go home or go out with friend or go to work after being completely soaked in sweat or chlorine.

  31. It seems that men are more comfortable with each other being naked than women, although women will shower together they would rather be seperate. Where i go to the gym all the individual stalls are always full, so i use the communal ones.

    Also, the steam room is unisex, and most are naked, so thats okay, if not a bit strange..

  32. Maybe I am totally missing the point on this one, but I would have thought the need for separate showers for women was obvious. Every month to be exact. Surly the separate showers are to give privacy for the times in the month that you need to be alone.

    Sorry but perhaps I am missing something.

  33. During the two months I was in the MTC I always showered after the 10 o’clock curfew. Every night. In the morning I would go in and use the sink and mirror but wouldn’t even look at the shower area. I wonder how many other Elders thought I NEVER showered. Yeah, I hated the shower setup there.

  34. We had communal showers in High School I worked after school with janitorial and the women had individual stalls.

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  36. As a male, it would be nice to have some of the choices females enjoy in society. There are very shy men out there. There are men who are embarrased by their bodies, just like women. There are men who are overweight and too short, and sporting small packages, etc. Males don’t have the choices females have — separate showers stalls? OMG…males can’t even expect to enjoy the basic decency of excluding female reporters from their locker rooms. Males can’t even expect to shower in front of only males in jails and prisons, unlike female offenders only showering in front of female guards.

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