The statuesque young tennis player was ironing her clothes in the nude. Tennis legend and noted lesbian Martina Navratilova told her to go get a towel or put on a robe.
“The locker room is the least sexy place in the world,” Ms. Navratilova told the radio interviewer, who was fishing for titillating tales of same-sex hanky-panky when the tennis gals strip down to shower after a sweaty three-setter. So much for steamy fantasies of female sexy time in the locker room, like that opening shower scene in the movie Carrie where pubescent nymphs frolic in their birthday suits.
You could catch Ms. Navratilova all over the radio dial in the wake of the announcement by Jason Collins, the journeyman NBA center, that he is gay. Most callers were supportive: It’s about time, who cares what people do behind closed doors, my uncle is gay and he’s a great guy—that sort of thing. Of course, some of the callers were at the same time patting themselves on the back for their enlightened views, as if they were somehow bravely swimming against the current, a current that in reality has become, finally, favorable to gay rights (at least among people possessing a functioning cerebral cortex).
Quite predictably, calls also came in from outraged pea-brains about gay dudes hitting on defenseless teammate dudes in the locker room. “Lemme tell you [insert favorite sports talk-show host], no way no guy wants no homo sharing a shower with them. If I ever saw some gay dude checking me out in the locker room, well, lemme just say that it would be the last time he ever eyeballed another dude.” These callers are the same wits who invariably make knee-slapping jokes about the consequences of dropping your soap in a communal shower.
It doesn’t require deep psychoanalysis to conclude that the no-homos-in-the-showers folks, obsessed with their shortcomings, are the ones actually checking out their fellow dudes during locker-room ablutions. And who knows, maybe at some point in one of the multitude of communal showerings American males avail themselves of—during school years, sporting activities, in health clubs, etc.—in some white-tiled, ammonia-smelling shower room, one of the no-homos-in-the-shower squad was the recipient of a casual downward glance, and simply found wanting.
The fear that all hell will break loose if gay athletes come out of the closet should be easily dispelled by doing the math: Given the conventional estimate that 5 percent or so of the populace is gay, it is certain that straight athletes have been exposed, or exposed themselves to, hundreds of gay athletes, whether on the high school, college or professional level.
Finally, it is all about context. Serious nudists like to claim that a nude beach, club or colony is the least erotic place on Earth, the idea being that when everyone is in the altogether, the erotic imagination wilts like soggy seaweed. Let’s take them at their word. All they want to do anyway is play volleyball, which perhaps is proof that sexy time comes when the sun goes down, not at the prick of noon.
I can only speak of my own experience of group nudity, which, like most men of my generation, has been confined to athletic locker rooms, beginning in junior high gym class and including various sports locker rooms in high school, college and beyond. The atmosphere—often very smelly—of such places is totally asexual, even, I would imagine, for those whose sexual orientation is directed toward same-sex enjoyment with their fellow sportsmen.
Again, it’s all about context, and how the experience is framed. An athletic locker room, from moldy boys’ basketball to the luxuries of the NBA, is not a gay bathhouse. If you give it a moment’s thought, you can come up with all sorts of naked situations where the sexual nexus, heterosexual or homosexual, is not on the table, in the chair or in the room. There are accounts, to be sure, of criminal misbehavior by doctors, masseurs, masseuses and Penn State football coaches, but they are certainly exceptions to the rule, i.e., that context determines whether sex is on the table.
Maria Sharapova ironing in the nude is a nice image to hold in the context of your erotic imagination, but I would trust the sensible Martina Navratilova’s take on sex in the locker room before giving credence to the homophobic prediction that gay athletes in the locker room signify the end of civilization as we know it.
D.P. Sorensen writes a satire column for City Weekly.