Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

Do you think there were reasons, other than than the ones touted, for forcing boys to swim in the nude in PE class and at the Y?

Asked by Dutchess_III (41529points) 1 month ago

They cited that the threads of wool or cotton swimsuits would clog up the traps, leading to disease and bacteria. (Like, you couldn’t clean the traps?)

Another excuse was to check them over for open sores. Like they couldn’t look them over real quick before they put their suits on?

However, the girls were allowed to wear wool or cotton swimsuits, and apparently didn’t need to be looked over for open sores.

It was practiced from 1885 up until as recently as 1980.

Why didn’t somebody say something? Would everyone have just looked the other way if girls were forced to swim nude?

Source

“In 1885, the Brooklyn YMCA opened America’s first recreational indoor pool and required men to swim nude. Wool swimsuits were potential traps for disease and bacteria, and fibers clogged the pool’s simple filtration system. At the time, nude swimming seemed like the most sensible option (even though incorrect proportions of chlorine had a tendency to burn swimmers’ bare skin). That’s a bit redundant. A swimsuit is not going to stop chlorine from getting on skin, plus even when you wear a suit, most of your skin is exposed anyway.
It wasn’t long before school administrators followed suit. Per their pool management guidelines, The American Public Health Association (APHA) required male public school students to swim nude between 1926 and 1962.

I came across a person on FB, who is in the same “Remember the 70s” group as I am in. He looks back with dawning horror, considering the possibility of the REAL reasons they were forced to do that in 1975, 76. ”The most disturbing aspect of all was when we were made to have “chicken fights.” That’s right, naked boys riding on the shoulders of other naked boys, jousting around trying to knock each other into the water. Body parts were touching that should have never been in the same vicinity.”

He wonders if there is a potential for a lawsuit.

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40 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

I doubt it. I think that your friend is using a 2019 yardstick on things that happened 50 years ago.

At least in my case – at my high school boys had to swim naked – I don’t think there were ulterior, sexual motives. If there were, we kids never heard about anything, and I am pretty sure we would have. And my mom was a teacher at the high school, and if there had been any talk of evil goings-on, I am sure she would have known.

Unlike your friend, @Dutchess_III – all we did is swim laps and dive and learn the various strokes. We didn’t do chicken fights are anything like that.

If your friend wants to sue someone, this seems like an awfully shaky case to do it with. I think that there was a plausible reason (wool swim suit fur) and I just don’t see anything kinky.

As for why not girls?

Keep in mind that the teachers in the mid-late 1960s and early 1970s were almost all WW2 or Korean War veterans, and they had been in the military where seeing naked men in barracks was pretty normal. So from their point of view, so what?

Women, by and large, didn’t have the military experience and in any event, women were put up on a pedestal (and some still are).

Bottom line. I think that this was how things worked in the 1960s-80s, and I have a hard time seeing anything nefarious about it. And I lived it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It wasn’t just the 60s to the 80s. It went on long before WWII or Korea. It started in 1855. The schools picked it up in 1926. Most of them dropped in in the early 70s because the old reasons didn’t apply. Suits were nylon. Filtration systems were more efficient. But some still did it until it became illegal.

zenvelo's avatar

Why didn’t somebody say something?

Say something about what? It was the societal norm, it wasn’t some pervy thing going on in one small place, it was standard. People weren’t scared of child nudity if the sexes were segregated (which they were).

Dutchess_lll's avatar

If you read the article you’ll see that it was pretty traumatic for some boys.

josie's avatar

People used to do lots of shit they don’t do anymore.
You can’t go back. Only forward.

JLeslie's avatar

I can’t think of one good reason for this to have been happening. Societal norm bullshit. I went to a YMCA camp as a young teen, I hated it, the bathroom stalls had no doors. I’m not very shy about going to the bathroom in front of other girls, but it still was uncomfortable. It was completely unnecessary. There was no good reason to not have a door on the stall.

In PE class in Jr. High in the locker room we showered in a big open shower with multiple shower heads, I don’t see why it could not have been separate stalls. A little more to clean? Tough shit. I had an average body and was not self conscious, but I was lucky.

The Y of course has been stereotyped as a haven for gay men in some parts of the country. Maybe there were pedophiles also. I do not confuse the two, they are not the same obviously.

When I was a kid in the early 80’s a girl in our subdivision was allowed to run topless outside while playing. She was 6 years old and some parents had a problem with it. The idea that parents were ok with kids being totally naked in a swimming pool in the 80’s sounds crazy to me.

I wouldn’t bother with any lawsuits though. Some people maybe accepted it as normal, and some people had other motives is what I would guess.

LadyMarissa's avatar

You can sue for anything. Maybe your friend needs to be speaking with a lawyer who takes cases on a contingent basis. They don’t charge you UNLESS they win & most don’t take cases that they don’t think that they can win!!!

kritiper's avatar

I think it is a way to bring people together, to show they are all the same, basically, and it was brought about by the Greeks and Romans, who fathered many things we still do today, like showering together and using a bathroom where everyone of a certain sex goes, generally speaking. In some countries, there are restrooms, but not specifically for men or women.

jca2's avatar

@kritiper: From what I understand, in countries where there are multiple stall restrooms that are for all genders, the doors to the stalls go from floor to high up, and there are no urinals.

JLeslie's avatar

@kritiper Are you being serious are sarcastic?

Being naked, in my opinion, especially as a young teen, is the very way to see how different they are, especially girls. Plus, what if a girl has her period, and why would it be different for boys than girls?

What if a child is particularly shy or has a a physical abnormality?

elbanditoroso's avatar

I think that various people @JLeslie and @Dutchess_lll in particular, are looking at the question (and nudity) from their current adult point of view, and not from the contemporaneous view of when they were kids.

When I was in the high school gym class that swam nude, we didn’t think about it at all. That was how it was back then. We didn’t think it was strange or weird, our brothers and friends had done it that way before us, and it simply wasn’t a question. You did it. that was the rule.

With the benefit (???) of 50 years of perspective, it seems unusual, but only by the standards of 2019. It wasn’t unusual in 1968. Some guys were hairy, some weren’t. Some were muscular, some weren’t. At age 15–16, we followed the rules and didn’t think it strange.

JLeslie's avatar

@elbanditoroso When I was a kid I knew to be wary of men who were in charge of children. This was in the 70’s and 80’s. Coaches, Priests, teachers, nothing much has changed for me at all.

I realize a lot of people might have been clueless, but that doesn’t change that it was the perfect environment for pedophiles. I’m not even what I would consider very extreme on the topic. There are people who think a 6 year old girl in a bikini isn’t ok, or who are completely disgusted by young children in beauty competitions, because some creep might get turned on, or too much focus on body, and I think we can’t be worried about all the sick people out there, but totally naked? I find it very odd. I’m going to ask my parents if it was like that when they were kids.

Dutchess_III's avatar

What do you think the reaction to forcing girls to swim nude would have been?

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Are you asking me?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m asking everyone.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Nude girls? There would have been an uproar, because back in those days (and still today) girls were considered weaker and in need of protection, and in some way daintier.

Dutchess_III's avatar

What would we need protecting from if we’d been forced to swim nude?

kritiper's avatar

@jca2 I am serious. A teacher of mine described a rest room where it was all one room with 2 doors, with one door marked “Men” and the other “Women.” Clearly not all restrooms in all countries are the same.

kritiper's avatar

@JLeslie I am serious. But if you want an answer to your question to me, you’ll have to study the bathing, bathroom, and athletic habits of ancient Greeks and Romans. They seem to have started it. (Keep in mind I do not imply that men and women, boys and girls, did these things TOGETHER. That’s why I added ”...of a certain sex…” to my earlier post.)

JLeslie's avatar

@kritiper I didn’t think you meant both genders together.

I’ll point out the Greeks and Romans also had a reputation of being gay. Even sexually abusive by our standards today in that men kept their masculine status if they had sex with slaves or men who had little power in society. I’m sure the slaves even then would have categorized it as abuse. Maybe with children too, but that I don’t recall.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Yes. It was an accepted practice in ancient Greece. See “Pederasty.” (Sorry can’t copy and paste the Wikipedia link.)

“Pederasty in ancient Greece was a socially acknowledged romantic relationship between an adult male (the erastes) and a younger male (the eromenos) usually in his teens.[4] It was characteristic of the Archaic and Classical periods.[5] The influence of pederasty on Greek culture of these periods was so pervasive that it has been called “the principal cultural model for free relationships between citizens.”[6]”

JLeslie's avatar

^^I’ve never heard of that word. Learned something new.

kritiper's avatar

I didn’t mean anything as being “gay” in the ancient world, either. Just that males bathed together in public baths, as did females, and used toilet facilities that had no walls, like a outhouse with many holes. Just like modern times, almost…
Except we use toilet paper instead of a wet sponge on a stick.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

I love how they lable “pederasty” a “romantic relationship.”

JLeslie's avatar

@kritiper You’re not getting my point. The people in power make the rules to suit their preferences.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Excellent point @JLeslie. That was my thought when it hit me that forced nude swimming was actually a thing for guys. Blew me away.

kritiper's avatar

@JLeslie You don’t get my point: I didn’t make the rules. No matter who made the rules, what the Greeks and Romans did, they did. What civilization still does today, like girls changing clothes and showering with other girls, and boys doing the same with other boys, civilization did back then. It started with them. It has nothing to do with me.
Your “point” had nothing to do with my previous post that you obviously found offensive. You brought your “point” into this on your own. So why yank my chain?

JLeslie's avatar

@kritiper I’m not offended. I felt like you were possibly being naive. If you were just stating how it was in history, I accept that.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Boys showering with other boys is not the same as adult men showering with boys. I know everyone instantly sees how wrong that is. But in my mind, forcing you poor boys to run around stark naked in front of grown men was just as wrong.

From what @elbanditoroso says, it sounds like his coach was perfectly innocent and naive about his practice of having the boys swim in the nude. It’s just what people “did.” We weren’t too good about questioning things before the 60s. And I’m sure many other coaches were innocent. But it sounds like a tailor made situation for a pedophile, or voyeur.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III At the gym we change in front of each other, it’s all ages. In the sauna women and girls often just have a towel on, or just have the towel around there waist. The showers are separate in a row, but still if the women are fine with nudity they aren’t worrying about their privacy and modesty very much. I’m not talking about at school, I mean gyms you pay for membership. I have no idea what it’s like in the men’s locker rooms.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Not comparable @JLeslie. It’s their choice. It’s not mandatory that they have to strip in front of men and parade around nude. You’re changing clothes.
Also, you’re talking about adult women who have a choice. Not 12 and 13 year old girls / boys most of who will do what they’re told even if it’s uncomfortable.

JLeslie's avatar

I agree it’s different. Mandatory is different. Just a point of clarification it is young girls and teens in the gym also. All ages.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Yes. Not young boys and adult men.

JLeslie's avatar

So, you’re saying it’s different for men than women. Got it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes. Apparently it is different. I have never heard of young girls being made to strip naked and participate in a sporting events in front of adults, which is what boys routinely had to do for swimming before 1980. Have you ever heard of girls being required to do that?

JLeslie's avatar

^^No, I haven’t heard of girls being required to do that. I was only referring to the locker room. I’m with you on the swimming pool. They required women to be in tank suits, and men to be naked. To me that’s bad men in charge. Probably a lot of the men carrying out the order were innocent, and people became accustomed to it, but I still see some sinister in it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, that’s what the question was about. Not locker rooms.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I’m amazed that two women are showing such concern about boy’s high school bathing rules from 40 years ago.

Dutchess_III's avatar

To me, it’s like hearing my child was abused in someway 40 years ago, and I’m just now finding out about it. You guys were kids.
In your case, I’m sure it was fine. Your coach wasn’t a perv. But in other cases, it’s haunting some men to this day. Their coaches weren’t so innocent. You need to read the link I posted.

JLeslie's avatar

@elbanditoroso Probably because we women identify more with being treated as objects.

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