Straight Talk Advice

Aug 25, 2010

School showers special hell for some boys

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I am writing about communal showers from a guy’s point of view. They have ruined my life. At least girls can admit feeling nervous about showering, but guys consider it a macho thing. Any guy who avoids taking showers is labeled a wimp or queer, so you don’t have much choice but to shower even if the PE coach isn’t strict — although most are strict as part of their macho thing. I felt the same embarrassment the girls wrote about, but it caused a problem no girl has to face. It caused me to get erections. Everybody started saying I was gay. However, I’m not gay, it was just a reaction to the embarrassment and I stopped getting them after a few months. That was two years ago but the label persists. When I say I’m not gay, they say, “Then who’s your girlfriend?” and laugh. Girls want nothing to do with me and I don’t have any guy friends either because they get labeled as gay. If anybody has advice, I would like to hear it. — Anonymous

Peter 23, Monterey, Calif. Ask me a question

This will only ruin your life if you let it. The truth is, guys in high school get erections all the time, pretty much at the drop of a hat or a gentle breeze. You were probably picked on to draw attention from these guys’ own perceived flaws. High school lasts all of four years, then you never have to see anyone again. Learning who you are in spite of being ridiculed is a good lesson. Everyone digs confidence. As you get better at it, people will be attracted to you.

Matt 16, Villa Park, Calif. Ask me a question

Everyone knows you’re probably not gay. But when their comments bother you, they control you. Use humor or turn the tables toward their “unusual interest” in your erection from two years ago.

Hannah 16, Safford, Ariz. Ask me a question

How stupid that guys think it’s macho to see each other naked. That’s more ‘gay’ than not taking showers.

Leif 21, Berkeley, Calif. Ask me a question

A direct response probably won’t solve the problem. Build a social life outside school around a hobby or talent and develop self-confidence that way. Then people at school will notice that you don’t care what they say anymore — and those who matter may start to actually see you.

Geoff 25, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

I promise you there are rare girls who see through rumors. But most teens are so stuck on the stories they have invented about each other (he’s lame, she’s gay, etc.), they couldn’t see reality if it hit them broadside (so don’t burn out trying to prove anything — besides, what you resist persists). Do your best, make friends as you can, and head to college where high school dramas are left behind.

Katelyn 16, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

Have you considered switching schools? In high school, reputations get set in stone.

Scot 23, San Luis Obispo, Calif. Ask me a question

I’m no stranger to people thinking mistakenly that I’m gay. But nobody cares in college. At least for you, it won’t follow you after high school. Switching schools seems extreme, but you could take college courses or join off-campus organizations to meet new people.

Michael 18, Fair Oaks, Calif. Ask me a question

What a fluke. It’s not unlike guys to have spontaneous erections. I hope you can step back and see that kids who spread false rumors are dealing with insecurities themselves. If you can hold the truth of who you are inside, you’ll be light years ahead of the people putting you down.

DEAR ANONYMOUS: You aren’t the only boy who has written us about this. I hope our advice is useful. I also hope it inspires already-popular boys to tell guys like these to shut up. Just one popular person taking the high road can be game-changing.

Editor’s Note: Oh, to be able to return to high school and handle a situation like this with the confidence and moral strength of an adult! Using humor, turning the tables, knowing that insults say more about the thrower than the target, seeing people for who they are rather than buying the “story” about that person, and when justified, “kindly telling someone to shove it,” all come naturally to a confident adult. Yet I’ve met rare teenagers with this kind of confidence and moral compass, too. What most don’t realize is how powerful their “showing up” is. We each possess enormous influence and don’t even know it. Everyone is watching each other to see “how to be.” When we step forward and do something brave, like standing up for someone treated wrongly, it gives others permission to also operate out of compassion and strength, rather than fear, ego, and “fitting in at all costs.” I hope today’s column inspires someone to be brave the next time it is needed. —Lauren

  1. By Linda, age , from Fair Oaks, CA on 08/25/2010

    I’m a girl, so I obviously don’t get erections, but I have a similar problem because of the showers.  A girl who doesn’t like me started the rumor that she’s caught me “looking” at her and the and other girls in the showers and “checking them out.”  It’s a total lie.  In fact, like many others I’m uncomfortable in the showers and do my best not to look at the other girls, although it’s impossible not to see anything.  I’m not comfortable about nudity with other girls (either seeing others nude or others seeing me) except with my sister who I’m close to and share a room with and undress in front of every day, and my very closest friends.  However, this girl is popular and I’m not, so everybody believes her and thinks I’m gay.  To those on the panel who’s advice is in effect “just don’t let it bother you,” I’d like to say that’s easier said than done and I’m sure that you’re not facing this and being labeled gay and ruining your high school experience!

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  2. By B.C., age , from Belleview, WA on 08/25/2010

    I’m a male in my 50’s and read Straight Talk because I find it helpful as the father of teenagers.  When I was in high school, I was labeled gay by the “macho” guys because I was much smaller than average and was terrible at sports.  To make matters worse, the P.E. coach joined in ridiculing me and calling me a “wimp” and a “queer.”  Any guy who started to be friends with me was assumed to be gay, so I was shunned by the guys and girls would also have nothing to do with me.  Even though I have become a successful attorney, the scars from this have never totally gone away after all these years.  When I recently received an invitation to my high school reunion, I immediately put it through my shredder.  I really feel for “Anonymous” because what he is going through is horrible and telling him to ignore the comments is not the answer, although I do not know what is.


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  3. By Melinda, age , from Salinas, CA on 08/25/2010

    My younger brother has been labeled gay for the same reason.  He’s so depressed that sometimes I think he could be suicidal.  He barely leaves our room except to go to school which is hell for him.  I would do anything to help him, but don’t know what I can do.


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  4. By Tom T., age , from Salinas, CA on 08/27/2010

    If every teenage guy whoever got a boner at an inconvenient time was gay, then we’d all be gay.  It happens all the time and is uncontrollable, so it can happen in the showers just like anywhere else, and you can’t always hide it even if you have your clothes on.  Fortunately, it has never happened to me in the showers, but it could have.  I’ve seen it happen to other guys, but it never occurred to me that it meant that they were gay because I realized that it could have just as easily happened to me.  I had gym class with a guy who is openenly gay and some of the macho guys gave him a hard time in the showers, but I never saw him get a boner (not that I was going out of my way to look).  For some reason the showers seem to bother girls more than guys, although I’m not sure why.  It’s never bothered me or most guys I know, but I’ve heard my sisters and their friends talking about how embarrassing it is even when their having sleepovers in their room and presumably undressing in front of each other.  My sisters aren’t shy about nudity in front of me and it bothers me but not them as has been discussed in recent Straight Talk columns.  The share a room and even share the bathroom in the morning when they’re using the shower and even the toilet, so I don’t see why they find it embarrassing to take showers with other girls, since it’s really no different. 

    Tom T.

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  5. By Bill, age , from Corona, CA on 08/29/2010

    This sometimes happened to me when I first had to take communal showers and also think it was a reaction to my anxiety and certainly not because I’m gay, because I’m not.  The problem went away after I got used to taking showers.  I found that turning the tables worked when anybody commented on my boner.  I would say something like “How come you’re so interested in looking at my dick and in how big it is?  Are you gay?”  That would shut them up really quick!


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  6. By Andy Mast, age 50, from Georgia on 03/09/2016

    If you get hard in the shower and someone says something try turning it around. Maybe something like
    “So why are you staring at it?”  Or
    “Yep. My boy’s always there for me whether I ask him or not. Don’t see yours doing anything special.” Or
    “He’ll show off in front of ANYONE.”

    You don’t want to provoke a fight – that can get nasty when you’re all wet and soapy, so be careful.

    I was extremely shy until they made us take showers (pole showers in those days). First time I stripped with the guys I suddenly felt like we were finally all equals – totally nude and nobody could hide. It turned me around and became kind of a bonding thing.

    So put on your bravest face, drop trou, and just be one of the guys.

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