NFL Linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s squeamishness around gay men in the shower area is no fluke. You will find with a lot of heterosexual males that there is an inherent uneasiness around individuals of the homosexual persuasion. As Vilma so eloquently put it, the awkward situation of being stared at by a gay man in the shower, or while getting dressed is enough to create an uncomfortable tension in a room that should be about solidifying the bonds of brotherhood, not keeping their eyes at the 12 o’clock and avoiding any below-the-belt glances to not be perceived as “gazing”. There is just one problem with this: it is complete nonsense. And here’s why:
It is based on the premise that they have never been around a gay man.
The problem many gay men, such as myself, have with such assertions about gay men in the shower rooms is that it is this assumption that once it is known that we are gay, all decorum and self-restraint goes out of the window, and our new mission becomes to remind every straight man that we are gay and we want what they have. It becomes rather tedious to have to assure homophobic men that nothing changed from the time they didn’t know I was gay until now, and that if there were no casual glances their way before, there never will be. I guarantee that many of you gay-weary men have not only been around gay men, you’ve probably used a gym shower with one, or changed next to one… and guess what? Nothing happened! Shocking, isn’t it?
It is based upon the most outdated and offensive stereotype about gay men.
The only thing I can think of that fuels these preconceived notions of gay men in showers, are the shower scenes in prison movies. That is the only conclusion I can come to when I hear men like Jonathan Vilma making comments that paint gay men as these sex-crazed animals. One of the most common stereotype about gay men is that we are indiscriminately sexually promiscuous monsters that terrorize shower rooms at the YMCA and attempt to convert anyone who comes in our path. Don’t get me wrong, though: there are promiscuous gay men out there. But even still, it goes back to the original point that 1.) We don’t know how to control ourselves in a professional setting, and 2.) Since promiscuous gay men exist, we should all be judged based on their actions.
What may seem like insecurity comes across as a wee bit of arrogance.
I know that you may not want to hear this, but I hate to break it to you: Just because you and your girlfriend like what you see in the mirror, doesn’t mean I or other gay men will. Truthfully, it can be hilarious to hear some of these men talk about how disgusted they are with the thought of being ogled by a gay guy, blissfully unaware that they might be standing next to gay man who is looking at him in laughable disbelief at his over-inflated ego. There are those who may think it is just a bit of projection in the sense that these men objectify women and then turn around and wonder if they themselves will be victims of their own game at the hands of judgmental gays with insatiable appetites (Ugh). That could possibly be the culprit for some of them, but definitely not enough of them to think that’s something worth looking into.
If he is looking at you… what next?
Here’s the deal: we are some inquisitive beings. We judge, we analyze, we assess, we gauge, and yes, we look. Gay, Straight, Bisexual… it doesn’t matter. If something catches our eye, we will look. I do not condone staring at another person to the point where they are made to feel uncomfortable, but if you say that we as creatures of habit do not size each other up, you are lying. Believe it or not, if a gay guy is looking at you in the shower room, it doesn’t mean he necessarily wants you. He may just be looking at your body and wondering how to get his abs as toned as yours. Maybe you have a questionable birthmark or irregular shaped mole that you should get checked out. Or maybe it is all in your head and what you thought was him stealing a glance at you was actually the two of you coincidentally meeting eyes at the exact moment. In any case, you have a straight man and a gay man; needless to say, nothing sexual is going on… ever.
It is really hard to take some of these concerns so seriously when you have so many men who are gay while their straight counterparts are not even privy to that information. We as gay men and women have served with our straight brothers and sisters in combat, we have showered with them, and we have slept in the same quarters as them. We know how to behave ourselves, okay? There is, however, a solution for individuals like Jonathan Vilma who cannot seem to get past their own hangups about gay men/players in the locker room: shower at home.