Nude Swimming, Showering, Some Personal Thoughts

Joined: January 17th, 2012, 11:31 pm

February 15th, 2012, 12:17 pm #11

Here is a long post I made to the Yahoo group, Shirtless Life, in response to a member who suggested some photos of high school and YMCA nude swimmers were fake:

Below is an excerpt from a long post by "Jumper" on a thread on another forum
about the history of and rationale for nude swimming. My impression is that
it's very well-researched, factual, and trustworthy. "Jumper", in his early
60's, swam nude in institutional settings growing up. The excerpt challenges
the claim that photographs were never taken, and privacy was strictly guarded at
all times:

"Now as for YMCAs and nude swimming. If one researches this Nation's newspapers,
one will find that when YMCAs ran ads for learn-to-swim, it was stated in both
the display ad and in the reporter's commentary that boys swam nude and only
needed to bring a towel. In a few cases, the boys were photographed swimming
nude and the photographs published in the town newspaper. It was a socially
expected practice since they were men and boys and had nothing to be ashamed of.
(And, I recall hearing that as a child.)"

If you're interested, I highly recommended the full post. Go to "Jumper".

http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=13275&page=2

Why is this relevant to the "shirtless issue". Most people today who didn't
practice nude swimming---frankly, I wish I had been "required" to---find the
practice and acceptance of it astounding. Many required to do it found it
liberating and pleasurable, others found it creepy, wrong, degrading and unjust.
Most people today probably side with the latter.

Do young people today see the open communal showers I took with the same
amazement that I see nude swimming? Do they think I was humiliated? (I
wasn't.) Do they see being required to be a "skin" in a ball P.E. ball game
similarly degrading? (It wasn't for me.)

If nude swimming is beyond the pale, why isn't shirtlessness? Indeed many today
apparently think both are unacceptable.

Why is institutional nudity or communal showers or shirtlessness okay or not
okay from one "polite society" to another? And how do you explain how nudity
could be so accepted in a society so much more conservative in many ways that
today's?

End of SL Post. Some further comments:

I can't remember who or where, but somebody said on a forum that from communal showering to nude swimming was a short step. It personally seems like a pretty big one to me. If I'd had to do it, would I have been nervous, even terrified? If so, for very long? Would I have adjusted quickly? Or not?

Before my first communal shower in P.E. at 13 I had no idea that it would be required. There were no "dark rumors" about it in grade school. It was never mentioned.

I have no memory at all of being nervous or traumatized about it, in fact, I can't even remember "my first time" at it, though I have scattered memories of it throughout the years. The whole process took about 5, maybe 10 minutes, absolute max. There was no hurry, but no lounging around either, by anybody that I saw. Of course there were no towels around wastes, to or from. You picked up the towel on the way out, I THINK.

We weren't all herded in en mass in a regimented way. We came and went, with, I don't know, 1, 3, 6, 12 in the open shower at any given time. No rough housing, horse play, no singing.

Yeah, I was a little nervous about erections, but I can't remember ever getting one. The only one I remember was "the big man on campus" voted "best looking". Gay? Bi? A fantasy about a girl? Who knows? Who cares?

Thing is, I've always been pretty modest. But communal showering was pretty uneventful and untraumatizing. But I read recently on the Net about a teenager on the swim team who'd heard he might have to do it, and it was a major crisis for him. So maybe this shows how relative these things can be.

Noel
Thank you Peter! Very informative. This may answer all/most of the questions I have on NSF and and may keep me quiet a while ;).
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Joined: May 9th, 2005, 12:05 pm

February 15th, 2012, 1:21 pm #12

Here is a long post I made to the Yahoo group, Shirtless Life, in response to a member who suggested some photos of high school and YMCA nude swimmers were fake:

Below is an excerpt from a long post by "Jumper" on a thread on another forum
about the history of and rationale for nude swimming. My impression is that
it's very well-researched, factual, and trustworthy. "Jumper", in his early
60's, swam nude in institutional settings growing up. The excerpt challenges
the claim that photographs were never taken, and privacy was strictly guarded at
all times:

"Now as for YMCAs and nude swimming. If one researches this Nation's newspapers,
one will find that when YMCAs ran ads for learn-to-swim, it was stated in both
the display ad and in the reporter's commentary that boys swam nude and only
needed to bring a towel. In a few cases, the boys were photographed swimming
nude and the photographs published in the town newspaper. It was a socially
expected practice since they were men and boys and had nothing to be ashamed of.
(And, I recall hearing that as a child.)"

If you're interested, I highly recommended the full post. Go to "Jumper".

http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=13275&page=2

Why is this relevant to the "shirtless issue". Most people today who didn't
practice nude swimming---frankly, I wish I had been "required" to---find the
practice and acceptance of it astounding. Many required to do it found it
liberating and pleasurable, others found it creepy, wrong, degrading and unjust.
Most people today probably side with the latter.

Do young people today see the open communal showers I took with the same
amazement that I see nude swimming? Do they think I was humiliated? (I
wasn't.) Do they see being required to be a "skin" in a ball P.E. ball game
similarly degrading? (It wasn't for me.)

If nude swimming is beyond the pale, why isn't shirtlessness? Indeed many today
apparently think both are unacceptable.

Why is institutional nudity or communal showers or shirtlessness okay or not
okay from one "polite society" to another? And how do you explain how nudity
could be so accepted in a society so much more conservative in many ways that
today's?

End of SL Post. Some further comments:

I can't remember who or where, but somebody said on a forum that from communal showering to nude swimming was a short step. It personally seems like a pretty big one to me. If I'd had to do it, would I have been nervous, even terrified? If so, for very long? Would I have adjusted quickly? Or not?

Before my first communal shower in P.E. at 13 I had no idea that it would be required. There were no "dark rumors" about it in grade school. It was never mentioned.

I have no memory at all of being nervous or traumatized about it, in fact, I can't even remember "my first time" at it, though I have scattered memories of it throughout the years. The whole process took about 5, maybe 10 minutes, absolute max. There was no hurry, but no lounging around either, by anybody that I saw. Of course there were no towels around wastes, to or from. You picked up the towel on the way out, I THINK.

We weren't all herded in en mass in a regimented way. We came and went, with, I don't know, 1, 3, 6, 12 in the open shower at any given time. No rough housing, horse play, no singing.

Yeah, I was a little nervous about erections, but I can't remember ever getting one. The only one I remember was "the big man on campus" voted "best looking". Gay? Bi? A fantasy about a girl? Who knows? Who cares?

Thing is, I've always been pretty modest. But communal showering was pretty uneventful and untraumatizing. But I read recently on the Net about a teenager on the swim team who'd heard he might have to do it, and it was a major crisis for him. So maybe this shows how relative these things can be.

Noel
I was just re-reading through this thread and was thinking about some of the questions here and thought I'd through out some more miscellaneous rambles.

Regarding the 1950s, I'd say that in most ways, the 1950s were not as conservative as we imagine they were. In other ways, more so, of course. The problem is giving something a label. Once a label is stuck to something, you begin assigning all sorts of characteristics to the thing. Some will be accurate, others not. Nude swimming--for boys, of course--was common in some places but was that liberal or conservative or none of the above. It was simply the way things had been done for the previous-thirty to fifty years. In institutions, it doesn't go back much beyond the 1890s. So much for tradition.

You might also recall that in the not too distant past, though it was before I was born, both men and women wore much more clothing when on the beach to go swimming. I would say conservative but that wouldn't be quite accurate. The bathing outfits covered more skin but were unlined and could be quite revealing, if photographs are anything to go by. Men, of course, wore sleeveless shirts and at one time, women even had to wear hose.
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Joined: January 17th, 2012, 11:31 pm

February 16th, 2012, 3:14 pm #13

Here is a long post I made to the Yahoo group, Shirtless Life, in response to a member who suggested some photos of high school and YMCA nude swimmers were fake:

Below is an excerpt from a long post by "Jumper" on a thread on another forum
about the history of and rationale for nude swimming. My impression is that
it's very well-researched, factual, and trustworthy. "Jumper", in his early
60's, swam nude in institutional settings growing up. The excerpt challenges
the claim that photographs were never taken, and privacy was strictly guarded at
all times:

"Now as for YMCAs and nude swimming. If one researches this Nation's newspapers,
one will find that when YMCAs ran ads for learn-to-swim, it was stated in both
the display ad and in the reporter's commentary that boys swam nude and only
needed to bring a towel. In a few cases, the boys were photographed swimming
nude and the photographs published in the town newspaper. It was a socially
expected practice since they were men and boys and had nothing to be ashamed of.
(And, I recall hearing that as a child.)"

If you're interested, I highly recommended the full post. Go to "Jumper".

http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=13275&page=2

Why is this relevant to the "shirtless issue". Most people today who didn't
practice nude swimming---frankly, I wish I had been "required" to---find the
practice and acceptance of it astounding. Many required to do it found it
liberating and pleasurable, others found it creepy, wrong, degrading and unjust.
Most people today probably side with the latter.

Do young people today see the open communal showers I took with the same
amazement that I see nude swimming? Do they think I was humiliated? (I
wasn't.) Do they see being required to be a "skin" in a ball P.E. ball game
similarly degrading? (It wasn't for me.)

If nude swimming is beyond the pale, why isn't shirtlessness? Indeed many today
apparently think both are unacceptable.

Why is institutional nudity or communal showers or shirtlessness okay or not
okay from one "polite society" to another? And how do you explain how nudity
could be so accepted in a society so much more conservative in many ways that
today's?

End of SL Post. Some further comments:

I can't remember who or where, but somebody said on a forum that from communal showering to nude swimming was a short step. It personally seems like a pretty big one to me. If I'd had to do it, would I have been nervous, even terrified? If so, for very long? Would I have adjusted quickly? Or not?

Before my first communal shower in P.E. at 13 I had no idea that it would be required. There were no "dark rumors" about it in grade school. It was never mentioned.

I have no memory at all of being nervous or traumatized about it, in fact, I can't even remember "my first time" at it, though I have scattered memories of it throughout the years. The whole process took about 5, maybe 10 minutes, absolute max. There was no hurry, but no lounging around either, by anybody that I saw. Of course there were no towels around wastes, to or from. You picked up the towel on the way out, I THINK.

We weren't all herded in en mass in a regimented way. We came and went, with, I don't know, 1, 3, 6, 12 in the open shower at any given time. No rough housing, horse play, no singing.

Yeah, I was a little nervous about erections, but I can't remember ever getting one. The only one I remember was "the big man on campus" voted "best looking". Gay? Bi? A fantasy about a girl? Who knows? Who cares?

Thing is, I've always been pretty modest. But communal showering was pretty uneventful and untraumatizing. But I read recently on the Net about a teenager on the swim team who'd heard he might have to do it, and it was a major crisis for him. So maybe this shows how relative these things can be.

Noel
Thanks Blue.

Maybe my use of the word "conservative" wasn't quite accurate, but it's the best I could think of at the moment to try to describe the "zeitgeist" as I have always perceived. Unlike you, I didn't grow up in the 50's. I was born in 58, but my growing up and clearer memories didn't really start til the early or mid-sixties and on into the late 70's. It's true, if you didn't live during a certain decade you're not aware of it's cultural complexities and nuances. You only get a very simplicist and incomplete view of it from shows like I Love Lucy or Leave it to Beaver, which I did watch plenty of in re-runs. It was certainly a pretty, maybe very, different time than the 60's and 70's, and yes, from what incomplete glimpses I saw of it, it did seem, for lack of a better term, more "conservative", more "proper". It certainly wasn't "Sock it to me baby let it all hang out!"

In a scene from LITB, Wally, in pajamas (which both he and the Beav always slept in), knocked on his parents door in the middle of the night. Ward came out in PJ's with his PJ shirt tucked and buttoned to the very top, hurriedly putting on his robe as if even as he was already dressed, still felt "indecent" without it. I guess this typifies my and my generation's concept of the 50's standard of modesty as we saw it in TV and films of that period.

So, when I learned, pretty much by accident just this fall, that kids, teens and college-aged men were required to swim nude at the Y and school, it just didn't jibe with my "big picture" of that era. We'd never, ever heard or seen a thing about it in the media, not a single mention. Also, setting aside the 50's, schools themselves, even today, have a certain "vibe" for lack of better word, of "proper officiality", similar in some respects like a government or even business office, which for those of us who'd never heard of mandatory nude swimming, is a "striking" juxtoposition. Many are disbelieving. Others shocked, outraged and offended. Others, like me, surprised, fascinated, and frankly, envious.

Anyway, hoping not to get all boring intellectual on you, it was a practice, especially the (alleged but maybe quite true) mixed spectator nude nude swim meets, that's (excuse the term), "pregnant" with psycho-social-cultural interest.
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Joined: May 9th, 2005, 12:05 pm

February 16th, 2012, 4:12 pm #14

Here is a long post I made to the Yahoo group, Shirtless Life, in response to a member who suggested some photos of high school and YMCA nude swimmers were fake:

Below is an excerpt from a long post by "Jumper" on a thread on another forum
about the history of and rationale for nude swimming. My impression is that
it's very well-researched, factual, and trustworthy. "Jumper", in his early
60's, swam nude in institutional settings growing up. The excerpt challenges
the claim that photographs were never taken, and privacy was strictly guarded at
all times:

"Now as for YMCAs and nude swimming. If one researches this Nation's newspapers,
one will find that when YMCAs ran ads for learn-to-swim, it was stated in both
the display ad and in the reporter's commentary that boys swam nude and only
needed to bring a towel. In a few cases, the boys were photographed swimming
nude and the photographs published in the town newspaper. It was a socially
expected practice since they were men and boys and had nothing to be ashamed of.
(And, I recall hearing that as a child.)"

If you're interested, I highly recommended the full post. Go to "Jumper".

http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=13275&page=2

Why is this relevant to the "shirtless issue". Most people today who didn't
practice nude swimming---frankly, I wish I had been "required" to---find the
practice and acceptance of it astounding. Many required to do it found it
liberating and pleasurable, others found it creepy, wrong, degrading and unjust.
Most people today probably side with the latter.

Do young people today see the open communal showers I took with the same
amazement that I see nude swimming? Do they think I was humiliated? (I
wasn't.) Do they see being required to be a "skin" in a ball P.E. ball game
similarly degrading? (It wasn't for me.)

If nude swimming is beyond the pale, why isn't shirtlessness? Indeed many today
apparently think both are unacceptable.

Why is institutional nudity or communal showers or shirtlessness okay or not
okay from one "polite society" to another? And how do you explain how nudity
could be so accepted in a society so much more conservative in many ways that
today's?

End of SL Post. Some further comments:

I can't remember who or where, but somebody said on a forum that from communal showering to nude swimming was a short step. It personally seems like a pretty big one to me. If I'd had to do it, would I have been nervous, even terrified? If so, for very long? Would I have adjusted quickly? Or not?

Before my first communal shower in P.E. at 13 I had no idea that it would be required. There were no "dark rumors" about it in grade school. It was never mentioned.

I have no memory at all of being nervous or traumatized about it, in fact, I can't even remember "my first time" at it, though I have scattered memories of it throughout the years. The whole process took about 5, maybe 10 minutes, absolute max. There was no hurry, but no lounging around either, by anybody that I saw. Of course there were no towels around wastes, to or from. You picked up the towel on the way out, I THINK.

We weren't all herded in en mass in a regimented way. We came and went, with, I don't know, 1, 3, 6, 12 in the open shower at any given time. No rough housing, horse play, no singing.

Yeah, I was a little nervous about erections, but I can't remember ever getting one. The only one I remember was "the big man on campus" voted "best looking". Gay? Bi? A fantasy about a girl? Who knows? Who cares?

Thing is, I've always been pretty modest. But communal showering was pretty uneventful and untraumatizing. But I read recently on the Net about a teenager on the swim team who'd heard he might have to do it, and it was a major crisis for him. So maybe this shows how relative these things can be.

Noel
It is always difficult to make intelligent comments about conditions in the past based on your own experiences or even those of your parents and relatives because one's experiences are (usually) so limited. Often we realize our experiences amounted to no more than what someone else told us. Still, living through a given period is helpful in judging that period, at least if you can look through the propaganda, advertising and hearsay that everyone is subjected to. That all still happens today, sometimes taken to hysterical ends. In the case you mentioned about Leave it to Beaver, which I never watched because it was on a network we didn't get, you have to remember that it was television. They had their own standards (rather externally imposed), and after all, it was supposed to be entertainment, not reality. You may remember that on Ozzie and Harriett, Ozzie always seemed to wear a necktie at home. My father did, too, but only on Sunday, when he would wear a suit all day. But I didn't know any other father (of the three or four other fathers I knew that well) who did.

The funny thing is, mostly the same people lived through all of these decades. But I suppose we change, like it or not.

Of all things about nude swimming, the thing that gets me the most is trying to imagine that a high school actually had a swimming pool. None of the ones I attended did and there was also no YMCA in my hometown. See how much I missed out on? Yet later, in Massachusetts, when I was working there with a group of high school boys, we did use a university pool and we used it nude. We thought it was something at the time but two days later, it was ancient history.
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Peter K.
Peter K.

February 17th, 2012, 1:21 am #15

Here is a long post I made to the Yahoo group, Shirtless Life, in response to a member who suggested some photos of high school and YMCA nude swimmers were fake:

Below is an excerpt from a long post by "Jumper" on a thread on another forum
about the history of and rationale for nude swimming. My impression is that
it's very well-researched, factual, and trustworthy. "Jumper", in his early
60's, swam nude in institutional settings growing up. The excerpt challenges
the claim that photographs were never taken, and privacy was strictly guarded at
all times:

"Now as for YMCAs and nude swimming. If one researches this Nation's newspapers,
one will find that when YMCAs ran ads for learn-to-swim, it was stated in both
the display ad and in the reporter's commentary that boys swam nude and only
needed to bring a towel. In a few cases, the boys were photographed swimming
nude and the photographs published in the town newspaper. It was a socially
expected practice since they were men and boys and had nothing to be ashamed of.
(And, I recall hearing that as a child.)"

If you're interested, I highly recommended the full post. Go to "Jumper".

http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=13275&page=2

Why is this relevant to the "shirtless issue". Most people today who didn't
practice nude swimming---frankly, I wish I had been "required" to---find the
practice and acceptance of it astounding. Many required to do it found it
liberating and pleasurable, others found it creepy, wrong, degrading and unjust.
Most people today probably side with the latter.

Do young people today see the open communal showers I took with the same
amazement that I see nude swimming? Do they think I was humiliated? (I
wasn't.) Do they see being required to be a "skin" in a ball P.E. ball game
similarly degrading? (It wasn't for me.)

If nude swimming is beyond the pale, why isn't shirtlessness? Indeed many today
apparently think both are unacceptable.

Why is institutional nudity or communal showers or shirtlessness okay or not
okay from one "polite society" to another? And how do you explain how nudity
could be so accepted in a society so much more conservative in many ways that
today's?

End of SL Post. Some further comments:

I can't remember who or where, but somebody said on a forum that from communal showering to nude swimming was a short step. It personally seems like a pretty big one to me. If I'd had to do it, would I have been nervous, even terrified? If so, for very long? Would I have adjusted quickly? Or not?

Before my first communal shower in P.E. at 13 I had no idea that it would be required. There were no "dark rumors" about it in grade school. It was never mentioned.

I have no memory at all of being nervous or traumatized about it, in fact, I can't even remember "my first time" at it, though I have scattered memories of it throughout the years. The whole process took about 5, maybe 10 minutes, absolute max. There was no hurry, but no lounging around either, by anybody that I saw. Of course there were no towels around wastes, to or from. You picked up the towel on the way out, I THINK.

We weren't all herded in en mass in a regimented way. We came and went, with, I don't know, 1, 3, 6, 12 in the open shower at any given time. No rough housing, horse play, no singing.

Yeah, I was a little nervous about erections, but I can't remember ever getting one. The only one I remember was "the big man on campus" voted "best looking". Gay? Bi? A fantasy about a girl? Who knows? Who cares?

Thing is, I've always been pretty modest. But communal showering was pretty uneventful and untraumatizing. But I read recently on the Net about a teenager on the swim team who'd heard he might have to do it, and it was a major crisis for him. So maybe this shows how relative these things can be.

Noel
Noel, I'm glad that the link I found and posted proved interesting -- I especially thought that the old newspaper articles with photos of nude swimmers were fascinating! But I am especially glad that it didn't make you quiet as you had predicted. Enjoy hearing your thoughts and what you have to say.

About your being amazed that the nude swimming existed back in the more tradidtional time of the 50s and 60s: as I had said my first experience with it (apart from an evening at a boy's overnight campout when I was 10) was when I went off to college. Both my dad and my uncle had gone to the same college and early on one of the times I was visiting home I mentioned the nude swim test and classes to my dad. He said that yes, he and his brother had gone through the same experience and was interested to see that it was still going on. It was just part of how things were -- you think he would have mentioned it to me! But somehow the fact that he hadn't made me all the more comfortable with the experience and that it was part of a long tradition -- ultimately going back to early humans who hadn't gotten around to making clothing yet.

I'm sure that more thoughts on this topic will bubble to the surface -- and can be posted here by me, all of you and others coming along.
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Joined: January 17th, 2012, 11:31 pm

February 21st, 2012, 9:49 pm #16

Here is a long post I made to the Yahoo group, Shirtless Life, in response to a member who suggested some photos of high school and YMCA nude swimmers were fake:

Below is an excerpt from a long post by "Jumper" on a thread on another forum
about the history of and rationale for nude swimming. My impression is that
it's very well-researched, factual, and trustworthy. "Jumper", in his early
60's, swam nude in institutional settings growing up. The excerpt challenges
the claim that photographs were never taken, and privacy was strictly guarded at
all times:

"Now as for YMCAs and nude swimming. If one researches this Nation's newspapers,
one will find that when YMCAs ran ads for learn-to-swim, it was stated in both
the display ad and in the reporter's commentary that boys swam nude and only
needed to bring a towel. In a few cases, the boys were photographed swimming
nude and the photographs published in the town newspaper. It was a socially
expected practice since they were men and boys and had nothing to be ashamed of.
(And, I recall hearing that as a child.)"

If you're interested, I highly recommended the full post. Go to "Jumper".

http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=13275&page=2

Why is this relevant to the "shirtless issue". Most people today who didn't
practice nude swimming---frankly, I wish I had been "required" to---find the
practice and acceptance of it astounding. Many required to do it found it
liberating and pleasurable, others found it creepy, wrong, degrading and unjust.
Most people today probably side with the latter.

Do young people today see the open communal showers I took with the same
amazement that I see nude swimming? Do they think I was humiliated? (I
wasn't.) Do they see being required to be a "skin" in a ball P.E. ball game
similarly degrading? (It wasn't for me.)

If nude swimming is beyond the pale, why isn't shirtlessness? Indeed many today
apparently think both are unacceptable.

Why is institutional nudity or communal showers or shirtlessness okay or not
okay from one "polite society" to another? And how do you explain how nudity
could be so accepted in a society so much more conservative in many ways that
today's?

End of SL Post. Some further comments:

I can't remember who or where, but somebody said on a forum that from communal showering to nude swimming was a short step. It personally seems like a pretty big one to me. If I'd had to do it, would I have been nervous, even terrified? If so, for very long? Would I have adjusted quickly? Or not?

Before my first communal shower in P.E. at 13 I had no idea that it would be required. There were no "dark rumors" about it in grade school. It was never mentioned.

I have no memory at all of being nervous or traumatized about it, in fact, I can't even remember "my first time" at it, though I have scattered memories of it throughout the years. The whole process took about 5, maybe 10 minutes, absolute max. There was no hurry, but no lounging around either, by anybody that I saw. Of course there were no towels around wastes, to or from. You picked up the towel on the way out, I THINK.

We weren't all herded in en mass in a regimented way. We came and went, with, I don't know, 1, 3, 6, 12 in the open shower at any given time. No rough housing, horse play, no singing.

Yeah, I was a little nervous about erections, but I can't remember ever getting one. The only one I remember was "the big man on campus" voted "best looking". Gay? Bi? A fantasy about a girl? Who knows? Who cares?

Thing is, I've always been pretty modest. But communal showering was pretty uneventful and untraumatizing. But I read recently on the Net about a teenager on the swim team who'd heard he might have to do it, and it was a major crisis for him. So maybe this shows how relative these things can be.

Noel
The Historic Archives—Nude Male Swimming site Peter gave the link to on this thread is very interesting and well-researched. An excellent resource. I hope it gathers even more information and verifying photos.

But though it’s well done, the author seems to have a negative view of the practice. As I’ve written before, I wish I’d have been required to do it myself, so I’m biased in favor of it, but I’d like to address a few of his implied criticisms.

Forced vs. Required.
In Jr. HS and HS we are required to read certain books which may be morally offensive to our religion or belief system (Catcher in the Rye, Moll Flanders, etc.) We are required, probably even today, to wear certain dress codes we may find restrictive. When you are given an assignment to do a book report, requirements might include that it be typed, a certain page length, paper size, etc. No one wrestles us down and “forces” us to do these things. Same with nude swimming. Nobody grabbed anybody, ripped off their clothes and forced them into the pool. Your graduation depended on your taking certain classes and abiding by certain rules in doing so. If you didn’t want to follow them, you could choose to fail the class. Also, as the HANMS site revealed, there were schools that did not require nudity in swim class (about 1/3). If one really felt strongly about it, couldn’t one transfer? Yes, that may have involved some difficulty or inconvenience, but if you strongly object, you have to pay a certain price for your principles, don’t you?


Girls & Boy’s, Double Standard.
In a Mister Poll, “Forced to Swim Naked” (http://www.misterpoll.com/polls/282706/results), in answer to the question of whether it was fair that males were required to swim naked but girls weren’t, 47% said “yes”(it was fair), 27% said “no, guys should wear swimsuits too”, 34%, “no, girls should be naked too”.
One question is, assuming it’s acceptable to require nudity in swim class at all, do males and females, generally, have significant differences in their comfort levels with same-sex social nudity? Just looking at the male domination of nude-related forums, and from a statement in Wikipedia’s “Issues in Social Nudity” which said most nudists are men and wive’s and girlfriend's of same prefer to be clothed at nudist clubs, the answer would seem to be "yes", females are generally less comfortable being nude than males. So, again, if required nudity per se is okay, respecting the greater discomfort of girls in being nude, maybe a *judgement call* allowing or requiring them to wear suits would justify a “double standard”.
Even though I seem to see this challenged every once in a while, most sports teams are gender-segregated. There are men’s and women’s basketball and other teams. Presumably this is due to physical differences between men and women. But is it really chauvinistic or misogynist to suspect there may be psychological differences between men and women, and to base school policy decisions, like swimwear requirements, on that surmise? If men must swim shirtless in a pool, is it a “double-standard” in a school that women may not or shouldn’t be required to?
Taking the whole double-standard issue to it’s logical conclusion, and not wanting to “force” women to go topless or naked against their strong wishes, but still maintain strict equality, I guess men may no longer swim shirtless. (I understand there are full-body swimsuits some male pro swimmers prefer and advocate.)
What I’m trying to say is that a little thought leads me to strongly question the absolute gender equality behind the double-standard objection, as I think it tends to lead to very repressive, gymnophobic policies. And I don’t think that makes me a misogynist, chauvinistic pig.

Should there be nude swimming classes and swim meets?
Hoping to keep a short leash on politics on this forum, I feel I need to reveal I’m a libertarian. I believe ideally in private institutions, the YMCA being a perfect example, setting their own policy on dress codes, rules, etc. on their premises. Same with private schools (not all of which are religious, exclusive, elitist or conservative, some are liberal.) Public schools unfortunately are too controlled by conventional society, which has become extremely gymnophobic.
If I were on the board of a private school or institution with a pool, wasn’t hindered by pre-existing government laws or ordinances, and had a decently plausible “rationale” for it, I’d vote for mandatory nudity in the pool and at meets, and allowing mixed-gender audiences just like in the old days. Problem is, the old rationales (hygiene, filtration systems, etc.) just weren’t very convincing after a while. I think I’d steer clear of “camaraderie and male-bonding”, one reason being, not all of us wimps and klutz’s were really welcomed into these cliques in our PE years, and indeed, there was a lot of rivalry and marginalizing too. It wasn't all “bonnie prince charlie” and everything.

But I think such a rationale would have to be something a little more utilitarian, even though, when you think of it, any sort of curriculum requirement or dress code could be objected to and questioned as absolutely necessary. Why red shorts, a t-shirt, a jock-strap and tennashoes? Hey, why a “uniform” at all? Why not let us wear what we want to, to express ourselves as individuals? Safety? If long pants are unsafely encumbering, why aren’t shorts? Why not require just a jock-strap? And wouldn’t a T-shirt tend to snag on exercise equipment? And so on, and so on. All such requirements would seem to be arbitrary in the final analysis.
But some sort of rationale in "proper, succinct officialese" would have to be offered to the "private education consumer", and it would have to be convincing and at least implicitly deal with all current gymnophobic reservations.

On the above mentioned Mister Poll, when asked if they were embarrassed to swim naked, 20% said "extremely humiliated", 35% said "embarrassed, but that’s how it was", and 20% said "not really, I’m comfortable with my body". So, what about boys/college men being “humiliated”? I would counter with, "Why should I be “forced” to play basketball for 6 years, when my incompetence at it “humiliated” me every time I did? What’s the “utilitarian” reason for requiring team-sport participation at all? (Though personally, I’m glad, in retrospect, I was required to, just for the exposure.)

If shirts are prohibited in pools, in class or meets, could this also humiliate boys when their sisters and moms see them? Many boys do have “issues” with being shirtless. Even I did, in some contexts. (I guess they don’t even have boxing bees anymore, where boys “had to” box shirtless in front of their family, at public matches.)

But in a climate where required nude swimming may be making a come back in a few places, there’d be plenty of institutions, ironically, the YMCA itself, that would require suits, and bend over backward to be “sensitive” to boys and girls in all ways. Suits (maybe even full-body) would be allowed in most places by far (or even required, to avoid double-standards), so nobody’d be “forced” to swim or publicly compete naked (if they ever really were).
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Joined: May 9th, 2005, 12:05 pm

February 22nd, 2012, 12:08 pm #17

Here is a long post I made to the Yahoo group, Shirtless Life, in response to a member who suggested some photos of high school and YMCA nude swimmers were fake:

Below is an excerpt from a long post by "Jumper" on a thread on another forum
about the history of and rationale for nude swimming. My impression is that
it's very well-researched, factual, and trustworthy. "Jumper", in his early
60's, swam nude in institutional settings growing up. The excerpt challenges
the claim that photographs were never taken, and privacy was strictly guarded at
all times:

"Now as for YMCAs and nude swimming. If one researches this Nation's newspapers,
one will find that when YMCAs ran ads for learn-to-swim, it was stated in both
the display ad and in the reporter's commentary that boys swam nude and only
needed to bring a towel. In a few cases, the boys were photographed swimming
nude and the photographs published in the town newspaper. It was a socially
expected practice since they were men and boys and had nothing to be ashamed of.
(And, I recall hearing that as a child.)"

If you're interested, I highly recommended the full post. Go to "Jumper".

http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=13275&page=2

Why is this relevant to the "shirtless issue". Most people today who didn't
practice nude swimming---frankly, I wish I had been "required" to---find the
practice and acceptance of it astounding. Many required to do it found it
liberating and pleasurable, others found it creepy, wrong, degrading and unjust.
Most people today probably side with the latter.

Do young people today see the open communal showers I took with the same
amazement that I see nude swimming? Do they think I was humiliated? (I
wasn't.) Do they see being required to be a "skin" in a ball P.E. ball game
similarly degrading? (It wasn't for me.)

If nude swimming is beyond the pale, why isn't shirtlessness? Indeed many today
apparently think both are unacceptable.

Why is institutional nudity or communal showers or shirtlessness okay or not
okay from one "polite society" to another? And how do you explain how nudity
could be so accepted in a society so much more conservative in many ways that
today's?

End of SL Post. Some further comments:

I can't remember who or where, but somebody said on a forum that from communal showering to nude swimming was a short step. It personally seems like a pretty big one to me. If I'd had to do it, would I have been nervous, even terrified? If so, for very long? Would I have adjusted quickly? Or not?

Before my first communal shower in P.E. at 13 I had no idea that it would be required. There were no "dark rumors" about it in grade school. It was never mentioned.

I have no memory at all of being nervous or traumatized about it, in fact, I can't even remember "my first time" at it, though I have scattered memories of it throughout the years. The whole process took about 5, maybe 10 minutes, absolute max. There was no hurry, but no lounging around either, by anybody that I saw. Of course there were no towels around wastes, to or from. You picked up the towel on the way out, I THINK.

We weren't all herded in en mass in a regimented way. We came and went, with, I don't know, 1, 3, 6, 12 in the open shower at any given time. No rough housing, horse play, no singing.

Yeah, I was a little nervous about erections, but I can't remember ever getting one. The only one I remember was "the big man on campus" voted "best looking". Gay? Bi? A fantasy about a girl? Who knows? Who cares?

Thing is, I've always been pretty modest. But communal showering was pretty uneventful and untraumatizing. But I read recently on the Net about a teenager on the swim team who'd heard he might have to do it, and it was a major crisis for him. So maybe this shows how relative these things can be.

Noel
Great post! I have comments.

I keep wondering just how many schools had swimming pools in the first place. There were none in the county where I grew up and there were no YMCAs either. No wonder so many people have doubts about these practices. If it weren't for my own first hand experiences of swimming nude in a college pool, though not the college I attended, I'd probably have my doubts, too.

I don't think I've given my impressions of that yet. I've mentioned in several places of my experiences of school showers in junior high and high school. So when I happened to be in a situation where nudity was required for swimming, I was sort of used to it. Not many of the other boys seemed to have a problem with it, though it was entirely a recreational swim. There was no coach or anything. That was probably a big difference. Some guys, of course, were show-offs but not because they were nude or particularly different. They were always the show-offs, class clowns and so on. But this group was from the hills of West Virginia and we were all from working class families. Public school wasn't like that, even where I went to school.

I think women's athletics are a good thing but I have reservations about mixed athletics, though only because boys and girls are always interested in each other. The fewer clothes they're wearing, the greater the interest. You can try to talk me out of that attitude if you like. It isn't as though I spend a lot of time thinking about this. But I'm not so sure the physicial differences are always there. I mentioned that I came from a working class background. That included the women, too.

Yes, public schools are controlled by conventional society but so are private schools, virtually all of which are to one degree or another, quite elitist. Such is the nature of things. Yet many apparently have reservations about all schools in the first place. They home school. Others think public schools are too liberal or something and send their children to more regulated private schools.

Can you imagine a time when there were no public schools? They are, after all, a relatively recent development. In some places, one-room schools were still being built in the 1950s.

I do think your comments (I'm jumping around here) about the myth of male bonding hits home. I wasn't particularly athletic and was never interested in playing games (usually referred to as "sports") but it wasn't like I was unpopular or a social misfit. If the school is large enough and most are anymore, there are groups within the school that are barely aware of the existance of any others at school. The jocks (along with the cheerleaders) were one such group.

Finally, I never heard of boxing in school either.
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Joined: January 17th, 2012, 11:31 pm

February 23rd, 2012, 7:11 pm #18

Here is a long post I made to the Yahoo group, Shirtless Life, in response to a member who suggested some photos of high school and YMCA nude swimmers were fake:

Below is an excerpt from a long post by "Jumper" on a thread on another forum
about the history of and rationale for nude swimming. My impression is that
it's very well-researched, factual, and trustworthy. "Jumper", in his early
60's, swam nude in institutional settings growing up. The excerpt challenges
the claim that photographs were never taken, and privacy was strictly guarded at
all times:

"Now as for YMCAs and nude swimming. If one researches this Nation's newspapers,
one will find that when YMCAs ran ads for learn-to-swim, it was stated in both
the display ad and in the reporter's commentary that boys swam nude and only
needed to bring a towel. In a few cases, the boys were photographed swimming
nude and the photographs published in the town newspaper. It was a socially
expected practice since they were men and boys and had nothing to be ashamed of.
(And, I recall hearing that as a child.)"

If you're interested, I highly recommended the full post. Go to "Jumper".

http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=13275&page=2

Why is this relevant to the "shirtless issue". Most people today who didn't
practice nude swimming---frankly, I wish I had been "required" to---find the
practice and acceptance of it astounding. Many required to do it found it
liberating and pleasurable, others found it creepy, wrong, degrading and unjust.
Most people today probably side with the latter.

Do young people today see the open communal showers I took with the same
amazement that I see nude swimming? Do they think I was humiliated? (I
wasn't.) Do they see being required to be a "skin" in a ball P.E. ball game
similarly degrading? (It wasn't for me.)

If nude swimming is beyond the pale, why isn't shirtlessness? Indeed many today
apparently think both are unacceptable.

Why is institutional nudity or communal showers or shirtlessness okay or not
okay from one "polite society" to another? And how do you explain how nudity
could be so accepted in a society so much more conservative in many ways that
today's?

End of SL Post. Some further comments:

I can't remember who or where, but somebody said on a forum that from communal showering to nude swimming was a short step. It personally seems like a pretty big one to me. If I'd had to do it, would I have been nervous, even terrified? If so, for very long? Would I have adjusted quickly? Or not?

Before my first communal shower in P.E. at 13 I had no idea that it would be required. There were no "dark rumors" about it in grade school. It was never mentioned.

I have no memory at all of being nervous or traumatized about it, in fact, I can't even remember "my first time" at it, though I have scattered memories of it throughout the years. The whole process took about 5, maybe 10 minutes, absolute max. There was no hurry, but no lounging around either, by anybody that I saw. Of course there were no towels around wastes, to or from. You picked up the towel on the way out, I THINK.

We weren't all herded in en mass in a regimented way. We came and went, with, I don't know, 1, 3, 6, 12 in the open shower at any given time. No rough housing, horse play, no singing.

Yeah, I was a little nervous about erections, but I can't remember ever getting one. The only one I remember was "the big man on campus" voted "best looking". Gay? Bi? A fantasy about a girl? Who knows? Who cares?

Thing is, I've always been pretty modest. But communal showering was pretty uneventful and untraumatizing. But I read recently on the Net about a teenager on the swim team who'd heard he might have to do it, and it was a major crisis for him. So maybe this shows how relative these things can be.

Noel
Thanks Blue.

I don't quite remember when I watched it, but there was a scene on It's a Wonderful Life where they were having a dance at the high school and the automatic floor/cover to the swimming pool opened and Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart fell in while they were dancing. Maybe it's this scene that "habituated" me to the idea that well-endowed HS's had swimming pools, long before I'd heard of nude swimming in high school. I also along the way accepted as common knowledge that some schools were rich and some poor, and that ours was poor, and so, for that reason, HS SP's seemed plausible and unsurprising.

When I was in second grade some men came to class recruiting for the boxing bee. The gave us boys a consent form to be filled out by our parents, but my mom wouldn't let me. She meant well, but I regret she was being so over-protective. They had public matches where the boys boxed and they did that shirtless, like the pros.

It's true private schools and their rules will be influenced by current gymnophobic culture, but if they don't accept gov. money then there's at least a chance for a little more flexibility and freedom from Department of Education control. There were two schools in CA when I was living there, both liberal/secular/"hippie" and a Christian school all in the same county. I'm sure there were others as well. I suspect that gymnophobia matters much more to those of us who find ourselves on forums like this one, so it's not likely that anybody's going to start a school just to counter it, but at least there's a slim chance with a private school, and virtually none in a public.

On a NS video, I think it was called "The Jerry Show", the maker referred to the new co-ed PE where they did things like "interpretive dance", so there already is co-ed P.E. and I heard they play basketball and everything, but they're well covered, just like pro BB players are today. And, I guess, showers aren't mandatory, even segregated, so they've done a lot to "de-sexualize" it.
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Peter K.
Peter K.

February 23rd, 2012, 7:38 pm #19

Here is a long post I made to the Yahoo group, Shirtless Life, in response to a member who suggested some photos of high school and YMCA nude swimmers were fake:

Below is an excerpt from a long post by "Jumper" on a thread on another forum
about the history of and rationale for nude swimming. My impression is that
it's very well-researched, factual, and trustworthy. "Jumper", in his early
60's, swam nude in institutional settings growing up. The excerpt challenges
the claim that photographs were never taken, and privacy was strictly guarded at
all times:

"Now as for YMCAs and nude swimming. If one researches this Nation's newspapers,
one will find that when YMCAs ran ads for learn-to-swim, it was stated in both
the display ad and in the reporter's commentary that boys swam nude and only
needed to bring a towel. In a few cases, the boys were photographed swimming
nude and the photographs published in the town newspaper. It was a socially
expected practice since they were men and boys and had nothing to be ashamed of.
(And, I recall hearing that as a child.)"

If you're interested, I highly recommended the full post. Go to "Jumper".

http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=13275&page=2

Why is this relevant to the "shirtless issue". Most people today who didn't
practice nude swimming---frankly, I wish I had been "required" to---find the
practice and acceptance of it astounding. Many required to do it found it
liberating and pleasurable, others found it creepy, wrong, degrading and unjust.
Most people today probably side with the latter.

Do young people today see the open communal showers I took with the same
amazement that I see nude swimming? Do they think I was humiliated? (I
wasn't.) Do they see being required to be a "skin" in a ball P.E. ball game
similarly degrading? (It wasn't for me.)

If nude swimming is beyond the pale, why isn't shirtlessness? Indeed many today
apparently think both are unacceptable.

Why is institutional nudity or communal showers or shirtlessness okay or not
okay from one "polite society" to another? And how do you explain how nudity
could be so accepted in a society so much more conservative in many ways that
today's?

End of SL Post. Some further comments:

I can't remember who or where, but somebody said on a forum that from communal showering to nude swimming was a short step. It personally seems like a pretty big one to me. If I'd had to do it, would I have been nervous, even terrified? If so, for very long? Would I have adjusted quickly? Or not?

Before my first communal shower in P.E. at 13 I had no idea that it would be required. There were no "dark rumors" about it in grade school. It was never mentioned.

I have no memory at all of being nervous or traumatized about it, in fact, I can't even remember "my first time" at it, though I have scattered memories of it throughout the years. The whole process took about 5, maybe 10 minutes, absolute max. There was no hurry, but no lounging around either, by anybody that I saw. Of course there were no towels around wastes, to or from. You picked up the towel on the way out, I THINK.

We weren't all herded in en mass in a regimented way. We came and went, with, I don't know, 1, 3, 6, 12 in the open shower at any given time. No rough housing, horse play, no singing.

Yeah, I was a little nervous about erections, but I can't remember ever getting one. The only one I remember was "the big man on campus" voted "best looking". Gay? Bi? A fantasy about a girl? Who knows? Who cares?

Thing is, I've always been pretty modest. But communal showering was pretty uneventful and untraumatizing. But I read recently on the Net about a teenager on the swim team who'd heard he might have to do it, and it was a major crisis for him. So maybe this shows how relative these things can be.

Noel
Thinking about having co-ed PE classes might not be that strange. In schools one of the purposes of PE would be to encourage healthy behaviors which would carry over into adult life and many of them involve both genders. I know that high school was where I was first introduced into weightlifting, something I still enjoy regularly more than 50 years later. That class was, of course, all boys then but the gym where I work out now has both men and women. More guys than women, but still a mix.

Then to add the nude card: at the nude beach I've been talking about on this board there are of course both genders. Again, guys outnumber the women but both are present. Volleyball is the most common organized co-ed nude sports at the beach. But there are others, one of which gave me an amusing insight. I saw two guys tossing a football back and forth to each other, seeming to be having a lot of fun. I did think that one of the guys' shoulder development was a lot less robust looking than the other's. Walking closer to them on my way by I discovered that the one with the smaller shoulder build was actually a woman! At that point I realized that without clothing it can often be harder to distinguish male from female when the person is nude. Think about that for a moment -- despite the obvious external differences, the basic humanity is what you notice first!

So with the swimming, volleyball and hiking which are done by both genders at the beach while nude it isn't too far a stretch of the mind to imagine a society someday where that could happen at school. Not in our lifetimes, to be sure, but looking at the cultures of the world there are amazing variations -- and our current day set-up doesn't have the market cornered on all the good stuff, to be sure!
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Joined: May 9th, 2005, 12:05 pm

February 23rd, 2012, 9:38 pm #20

Here is a long post I made to the Yahoo group, Shirtless Life, in response to a member who suggested some photos of high school and YMCA nude swimmers were fake:

Below is an excerpt from a long post by "Jumper" on a thread on another forum
about the history of and rationale for nude swimming. My impression is that
it's very well-researched, factual, and trustworthy. "Jumper", in his early
60's, swam nude in institutional settings growing up. The excerpt challenges
the claim that photographs were never taken, and privacy was strictly guarded at
all times:

"Now as for YMCAs and nude swimming. If one researches this Nation's newspapers,
one will find that when YMCAs ran ads for learn-to-swim, it was stated in both
the display ad and in the reporter's commentary that boys swam nude and only
needed to bring a towel. In a few cases, the boys were photographed swimming
nude and the photographs published in the town newspaper. It was a socially
expected practice since they were men and boys and had nothing to be ashamed of.
(And, I recall hearing that as a child.)"

If you're interested, I highly recommended the full post. Go to "Jumper".

http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?t=13275&page=2

Why is this relevant to the "shirtless issue". Most people today who didn't
practice nude swimming---frankly, I wish I had been "required" to---find the
practice and acceptance of it astounding. Many required to do it found it
liberating and pleasurable, others found it creepy, wrong, degrading and unjust.
Most people today probably side with the latter.

Do young people today see the open communal showers I took with the same
amazement that I see nude swimming? Do they think I was humiliated? (I
wasn't.) Do they see being required to be a "skin" in a ball P.E. ball game
similarly degrading? (It wasn't for me.)

If nude swimming is beyond the pale, why isn't shirtlessness? Indeed many today
apparently think both are unacceptable.

Why is institutional nudity or communal showers or shirtlessness okay or not
okay from one "polite society" to another? And how do you explain how nudity
could be so accepted in a society so much more conservative in many ways that
today's?

End of SL Post. Some further comments:

I can't remember who or where, but somebody said on a forum that from communal showering to nude swimming was a short step. It personally seems like a pretty big one to me. If I'd had to do it, would I have been nervous, even terrified? If so, for very long? Would I have adjusted quickly? Or not?

Before my first communal shower in P.E. at 13 I had no idea that it would be required. There were no "dark rumors" about it in grade school. It was never mentioned.

I have no memory at all of being nervous or traumatized about it, in fact, I can't even remember "my first time" at it, though I have scattered memories of it throughout the years. The whole process took about 5, maybe 10 minutes, absolute max. There was no hurry, but no lounging around either, by anybody that I saw. Of course there were no towels around wastes, to or from. You picked up the towel on the way out, I THINK.

We weren't all herded in en mass in a regimented way. We came and went, with, I don't know, 1, 3, 6, 12 in the open shower at any given time. No rough housing, horse play, no singing.

Yeah, I was a little nervous about erections, but I can't remember ever getting one. The only one I remember was "the big man on campus" voted "best looking". Gay? Bi? A fantasy about a girl? Who knows? Who cares?

Thing is, I've always been pretty modest. But communal showering was pretty uneventful and untraumatizing. But I read recently on the Net about a teenager on the swim team who'd heard he might have to do it, and it was a major crisis for him. So maybe this shows how relative these things can be.

Noel
Volleyball is pretty much the only organized game that you see at a beach anywhere. So far, I haven't seen anyone play football on the beach. Unfortunately, there's no officially nude beach anywhere I'm likely to go. In North Carolina, where I used to go at least once or twice a year (the family even has a cottage there), you used to be able to go far enough to find an empty beach but signs have been put up in the last few years specifically prohibiting nudity, so I guess it really bothered someone.

The dance scene in "It's a wonderful life" was filmed at Beverly Hills High School, which still has a swimming pool today, though I doubt it's the same one that appears in the movie. As you might guess, Beverly Hills High School is large and has a lot of everything but otherwise it's still a public high school.
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