parent opinion

ANONYMUM: If you're going to bring your son into women's change rooms, I have one request.

I’ve spent a lot of time at public pools this school holidays. My kids have improved their swimming skills. I’ve checked out some very interesting tattoos. We’ve had to avoid certain pools because of the odd “code brown”, but at least we haven’t been stung by jellyfish. It’s been mostly fun.

But there are always a couple of people who push the boundaries of what’s acceptable at a public pool. There was the woman I saw feeding her baby granddaughter while the baby was floating in a swim ring in the water. Come on, now. I also have an issue with kids who repeatedly sneeze in the pool. You’ve just got to hope that the chlorine is doing its job.

My biggest problem has been with not-so-young boys in women’s change rooms. I don’t object to this in itself. I wouldn’t send my son on his own into a men’s change room until I felt he was old enough to deal with anything that might happen, because you just can’t be too careful with kids and unrelated adults. But if your son, who’s eight or whatever, is going to come into the women’s change rooms at a public pool, I ask you one thing. Tell him not to stare at women getting changed.

I’m not particularly self-conscious. I don’t mind pulling off my wet swimsuit in an open change room and pulling on my dry clothes. But that’s because the other women, in general, are not sitting there and staring at me while I’m doing it. We’re all just getting changed and getting out of there.

Twice, recently, while I’ve been in the women’s change rooms, there’s been another mum who has brought her children in, and one of them has been a boy. Both times, I’m guessing that boy has been about seven or eight. Both times, that boy has sat and stared at me – and most probably other women – while I’ve been changing. One time the boy had a big grin on his face.

Sure, I could grab my clothes and go and change in some wet shower cubicle or unhygienic toilet, but I don’t want to. I shouldn’t have to.

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There’s an unspoken etiquette in change rooms, and that is that you don’t stare. Of course, you can’t help catching sight of other people’s naked bodies. But no one should be made to feel like their bodies are on public display, just because they’re in a change room.

Look, I understand why mums bring their not-so-young sons with them. Sometimes the family change rooms have a long queue, and some pools don’t have family change rooms at all. And, of course, protecting kids from paedophiles has to be everyone’s top priority. But please, if you’re going to bring your son with you, just have a quick word to him beforehand. Like, “Most people don’t like being stared at while they’re naked, OK?” Or maybe hand him your phone and let him play Fortnite for the few minutes that you’re all in there.

I’m not prudish. I’m all for people being comfortable with nudity. But it’s the staring I have an issue with. If I feel uncomfortable about being stared at and grinned at while I’m changing, I’m sure other girls and women do as well.

Would you have a problem with being stared at in a change room? Let us know in the comments.

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