Boys in the Shower: The Lure of the Locker RoomBy John Calendo / Thursday, January 8th, 2009
The words alone cast a drowsy, aphrodisiacal spell on us. And it’s no wonder. They take us back to the days when the jumble of adolescent male bodies in a high school locker room was the first place, as far as our secret desires were concerned, where the rubber met the road.
Our first sight of a jockstrap might have been in the mirror but it didnâ€™t take on real force until it was glimpsed making its grooved, scooping way around a buoyant pouch, just slightly above eye-level as we sat tying our sneaker amid the slam of locker doors.
The trio of shower room, locker room and jockstrap has been plot enough for many a porn film, and as soon as we see the familiar bench in a deserted room with a row of lockers looking on like somber tin soldiers, we pretty much know what’s up ahead. Blowjob City: Population 2. With casual walk-ins dropping their towels and swelling our small town to, at times, an orgiastic metropolis. (Bukkake Nation, anyone?) Then everyone ends up in the shower for a bangup reprise, but with different partners. Wash, rinse, repeat.
The locker room is the perfect — to be exact, the mythic — setting for classic gay preoccupations.
The casual nudity, the boisterous energy, the echoing voices in the shower room, the promise of a chance meeting in out-of-the-way cul-de-sacs where a glance might linger more than you would expect — these are experiences common to all locker rooms.
Gay and straight are there to build their bodies — but for different purposes. For gay men, it’s about the body you want to fuck; for straights, the body you don’t want to fuck with!
In homo fiction and porn films, writes Brian Pronger, a professor of philosophy at Toronto University who specialized in physical education, “athleticism is sexually fetishized as indicative of a particularly ‘hot’ male body, promising the eroticism of an especially robust sexual scene”
Male potency, externalized by powerful arms, legs and buttocks, is localized in hung and abundantly heavy genitalia. The well hung, well built man, is, in fact, the central tribal preoccupation of the culture at large, which gay men take to its most full-blown expression. (Though some might argue that battle ships, jet fighters, and atomic bombs with their “heavy loads” are more blatant and dangerous formulations.)
“Athletic training,” Pronger observes, “is the means by which bodies are made into hyperreal objects of homoerotic desire.” In this context his take on the “coyness” of magazines in the style of Men’s Fitness is particularly tart:
Here, barely submerged homoerotic subtexts permeate advice on how to transform one’s body into the paradigmatic gay athletic body.
In these publications, fairly scanty technical texts are amply supplemented with photographs of athletic men exercising or just sitting around looking beautiful.
The men’s muscle and fitness literature has replaced an earlier homoerotic genre: books and magazines about dance, such as After Dark Magazine, which in turn was the successor to the earlier 20th-century physical culture magazines. This form allows the homoerotic content of a publication to be masked by the ostensible “legitimacy” of exercise, art, or culture.
It is only in frankly homo fiction and pornography that the locker room comes into its own. And the most important athletic equipment to be found there, Pronger writes, is the jockstap, “often portrayed as the quintessential homoerotic garment.”
The jockstrap is a “ritual robe” that “enshrines” masculinity, contends Pronger in The Arena of Masculinity: Sports, Homosexuality, and the Meaning of Sex — his cult classic study, which features the sort of dense scholarly writing that make our own attempts at purple prose strictly junior efforts.
“The straps that originate in the top elastic circumscribe the buttocks and disappear in the anus, bringing us to that place where masculinity meets its mythic undoing. And so, as suggested by the versatility of Apollo, there are two sides to the jockstrap that symbolize the homoerotic paradox: the pouch in the front as the shrine of masculinity joined to the straps in the back framing its mythic violation.”
Mythic undoing? Mythic violation! Mythic, sure — we like turning our life into a soap opera as much as the next Joe. But undoing? That’s a whole lot of jockstrap extrapolation to swallow. In the meantime, as we have said may times before at Nightcharm, theory is great, but fuck that shit: We just want to dance!
As staunch Friends of the Jockstrap (undoing indeed!), we turn to “Gay Pimp” (a.k.a Jonny McGovern) who in the space of a catchy disco ditty and one hell of a hot video says all that the professor meant to say and should have said — but with a lot of pretty boys wagging their pretty things at us.
Now that’s how we like to get undone. Long live the Locker Room!
Boys in the shower come from the
Dieux du Stade calendar series.
With the exception of the jockstrap ad,
the photos here have been gathered
in a large-format photo book
Locker Room Nudes / Dieux du Stade
The Arena of Masculinity: Sports,
Homosexuality, and the Meaning of Sex
by Brian Pronger is available at Amazon
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