Locker Room Rules

Warning: This post contains strong, colorful euphemisms for penis in the quoted excerpts. I have not hidden any letters within the words because the words are legitimate and within context.

Chris Jones, a writer for Esquire magazine, has an interesting post – THE LOCKER ROOM RULES – identifying a few key rules for reporters to remember when venturing into the locker room of a professional sports team. The most obvious point about being in a locker room after a sporting event is that there will likely be naked athletes. That makes it an easy comparison to the commonly used excuse that infant circumcision is reasonable to prevent boys from being teased in the locker room. The argument is silly, since an assumption about teasing and peer pressure are not good reasons for non-therapeutic circumcision. But it’s also flawed because it’s an inaccurate assumption of what actually occurs within a locker room. From Mr. Jones’ list:

4. Okay, let’s get this out of the way: Don’t cock peek. When I was a beat guy, there was one poor reporter who got labeled as a cock peeker. (He claimed that he was just staring into space when he was tabbed, which, knowing the guy, I actually believe; unfortunately, that space happened to be occupied by a middle infielder’s wiener.) Whatever happened that terrible afternoon, the guy’s lot was pretty miserable after. (To steal an old line, You peek at one cock, and you’re a cock peeker for the rest of your life.) …

That is the unwritten-yet-understood code of the locker room. Don’t look. If you accidentally see, stop looking immediately. It’s a separate discussion for analysis, but the fear of being labeled as gay is much stronger than the temptation to mock someone for having a penis that’s different in any way from what’s “normal”.

It’s simple:

“Hahaha, you have an anteater!”
“Why are you looking at my [penis]?”

The locker room code commands the teased to respond this way and to continue until the point is made that the problem rests with the teaser, not the teased. There are exceptions, of course, but this is what really happens in locker rooms. Or would happen, if boys actually commented on another boy’s penis. Or if most boys got naked in locker rooms during school.

Mr. Jones continues his rule, which counters my point here a bit. However, the comparison and perspective are worth confronting.

… Now, if we’re all being honest here for a moment, sometimes it’s really hard not to notice that a guy has an enormous schlong, because it will fill your field of view, and it’s one of the dirty little secrets of the profession that reporters will make jokes about our coverage area’s more distinctive members. (Ever wonder why […ed. note¹…] nickname was Snuffy? Ask Snuffleupagus.) But even if some guy’s dick taps you on the shoulder and asks for a peanut, you should probably look at the ceiling and sing “Yes, We Have No Bananas” until it goes away.

The same would be said of an individual who still has his foreskin. That may even be primarily what Mr. Jones refers to here. But in a professional sports locker room where the team has athletes from different parts of the world, such as baseball and hockey, the odds of encountering a uniformity of circumcised men is unlikely. The same is also starting to be true in American grade school locker rooms, to the extent that any male is likely to get naked in one.

As Mr. Jones states, some amount of talking is inevitable. This, I suspect, is what parents really fear when they claim the locker room excuse. The “why were you looking at my penis” defense still works here. However, it’s also clear that kids will tease each other for any difference. Unless parents are surgically altering for all visible physical differences, and accounting for other differences like economic class, kids will be teased. Too short? Teased. Too tall? Teased. Too fat? Teased. Too thin? Teased. And so on, with any possible difference.

Kids want to fit in because they’re scared. They haven’t learned that all the other kids are scared, too. The proper response is to teach them that they have value because they’re who they are, not in spite of it. Parents must teach them to not be afraid. Kids can overcome being scared because of the locker room. They can’t overcome being scarred because of the locker room.

¹ I removed the player’s name. You can find it in Mr. Jones’ original blog entry.

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