Tuesday, October 11, 2016

locker room talk

I didn't want to go there, but it's time to come clean. Like other men, I too have engaged in locker-room talk with friends and made others uncomfortable.

​There are no recordings of what was said, and I would like to claim it was just talk between friends; but the truth is that there was at least one other person present. At the time I was 17, old enough to have known better; but we were teens, it was a Friday afternoon and we'd been working out in the gym together for the past hour to 90 minutes. We were hanging out in the steam room after our workout, and we started to talk.

It was Keith Wisniewski who started things rolling.

"How did you answer the last problem?" Keith asked. We were in sixth form at John Paul College in Rotorua, New Zealand. The maths test we'd had in Miss Gosnell's class was on his mind, the way it gets with teens. He'd discovered earlier that year that I already had covered most of the math subjects back in the States and often explained it more clearly than our teacher did.

So we started talking about the problem, and how to handle exponents when they're negative integers, fractions or mixed numbers; and after a while Brian Kelly joined in. Before long, the three of us were talking about the rest of the test and how our grades stood as a whole for the entire year. A fourth person, in the steam room with us but not a part of our coeterie of friends, soon gave us all an odd look and rose to his feet.

"Bunch of brains," he said, and he left. The door flapped shut behind him, and we all laughed in that mathematically insensitive way we had.

Other times I've engaged in locker room conversation, it's been around topics of which lockers we used and where our particular items are. Once when I was a boy at an indoor swimming pool in Monroeville, Pa., with my brothers and some friends, I opened a locker and found someone else's clothes already there. Ron Page reached in and moved the poor man's underpants to an adjacent locker.

That's as raunchy as it ever got. If anyone tells you otherwise, that all men engage in crude discussions about women, that we brag about sexual conquests real or imagined, and that we boast about committing or attempting to commit sexual assault, two things are true. Either they are lying because they want to feel that their own actions are normative; or they engage in such conversations about other people with such facility that it seems normal to them.

Either way, they have just surrendered all right to be treated with deference and respect. The mouth speaks with the overflow of the heart, and a person who talks that way about women when they're surrounded by other men, is someone who treats women like that when he can.

That's not locker room talk. That's just contempt.

Copyright © 2016 by David Learn. Used with permission.

1 comment:

Minx McCloud said...

You are so right, but please add that it's time that women stepped up and refused to be treated with contempt.

We stood up to men in the '60s and '70s and they called us "bull dykes" for wanting to be considered equal. We were "bitches" because we refused to let men ride roughshod over us.

What the heck has happened 50 years later? Women are letting themselves be bullied again. Men are forgetting that we kicked their butts figuratively in the '60s and '70s.

We need to get our confidence back and fight for respect, and I admit, that's rather sad.