“Guys have a thing about being naked in front of other guys.” Well, of course. If you’re a guy (at least in the US, and at least under a certain age – see below) then you understand that there’s certain times and places that it’s “okay” to be naked. And very few of those are in front of other guys.
(Yes, this is written from a particular viewpoint. I’m aware that many of the guys reading this may not share that viewpoint. The intent isn’t to offend, merely to describe “majority” behavior. If you just stumbled across this as the first thing you read here, please take some time to read a little more before you flame me for “hate speech”, ‘k?)
The problem is that, like touching, nudity is too easily seen as sexual. Being naked in the locker room is normal enough, but some guys still see it as potentially “sexual”. They know that there are guys who’d see their naked athletic bodies as sexually desirable, and aren’t comfortable with another guy seeing them that way. It’s more likely that they’ll feel comfortable being naked around friends they know well (team mates, roomie, etc), since there’s less worry about “teh gays” grabbing them.
The lead quote came from The Conflicted Male, talking in much more detail about how the circumstances govern what’s “normal” and what’s not. For instance, it was normal for him to skinny dip with one other male friend who was also naked – but not when swimming with a bigger crowd of guys, most of whom were wearing trunks.
As an aside, I wonder how much of this is due to increasing awareness of non-heterosexuals as “all around”? For instance, if homosexuals are seen only as one-in-a-million dangerous predators who lure boys with candy – as they’ve sometimes been presented, then of course one’s neighbors, friends, classmates aren’t “like that”, so of course it was okay to swim naked at the Y (before it was co-ed), and to be naked more easily in general. It was also easier for guys to admit to “loving” each other, since friendship was the only meaning behind that verb. (Now, of course, “I love you man” can only be said without irony when drunk, or by quickly adding “no homo”.)
That’s not to say that it’s a Bad Thing that straight guys now understand that there’s actually lots of guys who are “that way”, and that many of them are perfectly average guys who don’t even lisp and decorate well. It does, I think, explain why some guys my age (and younger) still pull up their boxers in the locker room with a towel around their waists, as awkward as that is, while guys much older (say, 60 and up) think nothing about walking around the locker room naked as the day they were born. (Albeit wrinklier.)
Women may legitimately hesitate to get naked in front of (straight) men, knowing that the guys are going to have a hard time avoiding any hint of sexual context. I’ve had women friends who didn’t want to go to the (co-ed) gym because they felt awkward from guys staring at them with their clothes on. They might welcome sexual interest from those guys, they might not; even if they do in general, they might not want it at that particular moment. Is it “heterophobia” that makes them feel awkward? No, it’s that they don’t want to deal with sexualized attention right then.
Same idea for straight guys who are (potentially) surrounded by gay guys; it’s not really out of hatred or even fear of being grabbed and violated, it’s that it’s awkward to be desired when you don’t want to be. It’s a lot easier to strip when we’re sure there’s no room for a sexual context to show up.