Hitting the showers: Inside Yale's locker rooms
BY JESSICA TOMContributing Writer
"No Jess, that's not a foursome, that's an orgy. Once you get past three it's no longer-some."
This is what my friend Justin told me in high school. Of course, he is right. There is nothing "-some" about a roomful of naked people.
Which of course brings us to the most heavily nude area of Yale University -- the locker rooms. My worldly friend Justin seemed to see beyond the modestly-hiding-body-conscious environs of our high school's locker room. He had been around.
One room, several shower heads. In an area as open and slippery as a varsity sport shower room, is the atmosphere filled with tension, dare I say -- of the sexual sort?
Most athletes will give a fervent no to this question. They insist there is nothing kinky about a room full of soapy, naked athletes. It's go in, take a shower, get out -- a hygienic quickie.
But varsity athletes walk around fully clothed all day, then romp around naked in a locker room. Did Justin get it right? Is changing after a one-on-one basketball game more stimulating than a heated five-on-five? What exactly is the transition between being a nude-prude and nude-dude?Let's take it slow, I've never done this before
In coming to college, freshman athletes must adapt to new teammates, practice schedules, coaches, and facilities. Some freshmen were instantly comfortable with the locker room scene at Yale, having had a similar experience in high school. As one freshman hockey player noted: "We get naked all the time, but it was the same in high school."
But many incoming freshmen come to Yale having never had a team shower. Those who went to boarding schools just went back to their rooms to shower, and athletes from smaller towns could just drive five or 10 minutes and shower at home. Matt Baker '06, a football player, was a locker room virgin.
"In high school, no one got naked. When you got naked, someone propped a door so girls could see you in the hall," Baker said.I'll show you mine if you show me yours
It does not take long for freshmen to get acclimated to locker room nudity. Because team members spend so much time together, nudity seems to become less shocking. One club field hockey player and former varsity player who declined to give her name said, "The first day, freshman year, you freak out. But it's okay afterwards because you're with everybody all the time. The first group shower I turned around and covered myself. Then I was like 'Hell, I'm naked.'"
Yale baseball player Matt Stone '06 never got naked in his high school locker room, but when he got to Yale, he said, "I saw teammates just chilling there. Now it's just a normal thing."
Some teams have instituted a formal nudity orientation program for new team members. The freshmen of the women's field hockey team were given what Grace Morris '06 described as a "pep talk" from sophomore teammates, who asked them how they felt about being naked. After the talk, Morris said, "the freshmen were the first ones in the shower!"
After freshman year, many athletes said they have become increasingly comfortable with being naked.
"I must admit as a freshman I was body-conscious, but I've learned to accept myself body-wise," Yale football player Ryan King '05 said. "I am much more naked this year than I was last year." One of his teammates, who declined to give his name, said King had "no reason to be self-conscious in the first place."It's not me -- the water's really cold!
Although anxiety strikes nearly every freshman, body-consciousness knows no class year. No matter what your age is, you can't wear a push-up bra in the shower, and you can't add some padding to your briefs. In the locker room, there's a 360-degree tour, and the exhibit is you.
But many athletes do not feel body-conscious at all. Maureen Braun '04, a field hockey player, remarked that after practice, the team is so "tired and sweaty and gross" that they are past the point of embarrassment.
"I never feel self-conscious, and I know I'm not a small girl," joked one field hockey player, who declined to give her name. In response, her friend added, "We're hot and we know it."
One hockey player said that body-consciousness is unavoidable, but it need not be debilitating.
"Everyone looks at everyone once in awhile. It's a big locker room, it's not like you can't see what some other guy looks like," he said. Another athlete said some team members were more curious about their teammates' medical health and said, "Guys will check out each other for STDs."
Some teams, on the whole, don't use the showers at all. The track team does not use the showers for home meets or for practices, and only takes advantage of the showers at away meets if the ride is more than three or four hours. At home, the track locker rooms are out by the field, so most track members come to practice dressed and then leave the field to go to the gym to lift. In fact, Lisa Wygant '04 said it is an inside joke that the track team likes to be naked.
"[One year], a bunch of girls did a fluffy train naked," Wygant said.
The gymnastics team usually doesn't use the showers either. Unlike larger teams, the gymnastics locker room has three individual shower stalls instead of the large shower room with several showerheads. Also, club sports don't have their own locker rooms. Ali Oliva '05, a member of the women's rugby team, said her teammates will walk around in their sports bras and panties, but added that she wouldn't be comfortable with being totally naked in a locker room.
And although the men's swim team spends practices in barely-there Speedos, they never get completely naked. Adam Green '05 learned that the hard way, when in his freshman year he got naked after the first practice and had everyone made fun of him. The team takes their showers with their Speedos, then either wraps a towel around their waist, or puts a shirt on before they change out of them.
"Guys don't get naked in the showers. We're comfortable enough to see each other in Speedos, we just don't want to see each others' dungs," one swimmer said. Another swimmer added that he felt it was unnecessary to get naked in the shower.
But sometimes, the shower can be a liberating event instead of a humiliating one. One field hockey player said she has complimented teammates with nice bodies.
"We tease each other about our flaws so we come more comfortable. Then it becomes funny," swim team member Heidi Kraus '03 said.Oops, I dropped my soap
The locker room is hardly a place of silent and focused changing and cleansing. In many ways, it is a type of fair for flesh, or a celebration of skin. One athlete admitted, "It's fun to be naked."
Many team members spray their teammates with the locker room hose. Others wait until their teammates are dry, and then throw soap on them.
One varsity athlete said a teammate likes to do "helicopters" in the locker room (when asked to explain, this reporter was simply asked to use her imagination). There are also the "golden shower," towel whips, and surprise cold water switches. One football player likes to sing in the shower. The women's swim team once had a member who liked to dance around and rub her butt cheeks on her teammates, and one swimmer said a teammate "loves to shake her boobs at everyone."
I take my showers in a stall made for one...I'm not missing out on anything.Published Wednesday, December 11, 2002 in the Yale Daily News (New Haven, CT)Copyright © 1995-2005 Yale Daily News Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.