Where has the common decency gone from swim school change rooms?
I am not talking about the local health centre or even the local swimming pool, this is purely about the dedicated swim centres that specialise in teaching children to swim. From many a discussion with other parents and from my own personal experience, the topic of change rooms has come up in recent times, quite a lot. It seems these rooms are causing quite the headache for many parents and children for a few reasons.
I’d like to start with my main gripe, the difference between the male and the female change rooms, and more specifically the behaviour that goes on in there.
As a woman who visits these change rooms often with my two daughters, I can say with certain authority that 99 per cent of women are pretty modest in these environments. They seek some sort of privacy – whether it is their towel, using clothing as a screen or even if it is just turning to face toward the wall to get dressed.
If they shower they do it in their bathers, and they are quick, in and out. This isn’t because we are all self-conscious, rather because we are respectful of others around us and where we actually are. We are in there with purpose, to get ourselves changed and our kids changed and to get the hell out.
But from a few sources it seems that this is not often replicated next door in the male change rooms. Apparently in there, it is more like a nudist colony, where your birthday suit is the outfit choice of many and the outfit they seem very proud to show off.
It seems that whether showering or getting dressed that modesty is not the best policy and often men will strip right down, butt naked in order to change and/or shower. And it isn’t a quick process, often this exhibition will involve a relaxing and very thorough shower, then a further parade naked to their towel, where they dry themselves without forgetting any crack or crevice, then proceed to put the towel down before sorting through the swim bag to find their clothing, then at the speed of a snail, they finally get dressed.
Now this of course does not apply to all those who frequent there but it definitely applies to a reasonable amount from my understanding; and as a mother of two young children I have to question is this really appropriate? It isn’t the football locker rooms, it is a swim school change room, a place where children, yes children, come to learn to swim. So, dads, grandpas, uncles, friends – two thumbs up for coming along and swimming with your kid but mine don’t need to bear witness to your adult sized genitals on full display.
I’m not a prude, I am very admirable and respecting of the human body in its natural form and I instil that within my daughters as well. But there is a difference between seeing a glimpse of some private parts to this. You see, there is a time and a place for showing off your bits and this is not the one.
It makes many other men uncomfortable, it makes many kids (of both genders) uncomfortable, confronted or shocked and it makes women uncomfortable when they hear what their four-year-old daughter just witnessed when she was getting changed after her lesson. Children do not need to be exposed to your hairy, dangling privates for a prolonged period of time, so I plead with you, can you please just have a little consideration for where you are and cover up? Yes, yes, I already hear you.
“Use the family change room.”
“Don’t let your daughters in the male change room if you have an issue.”
And yes, I and the others that have issue with this could do that but sometimes there is no option. Sometimes the family room is taken, sometimes not all swim schools have lots of options to choose from and sometimes only their dad has taken them to swimming lessons. Given that we are at a swim school, I say the ball is in their court (pun intended).
And along with my pet peeve, the other change room issue that seems to be up for debate is at what age do boys stop going into the women’s change room and vice versa. I hadn’t given this too much thought until my recent discussions about this topic with some friends; probably because my girls are younger and for them being self-conscious about their body isn’t ‘a thing’ yet. But for a friend of mine, Alex*, whose daughter is 11-years-old and already starting to go through puberty, this is a major concern for her.
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“Often boys of a similar age will come with their mothers into the change rooms at *Sammy’s swim school. When this happens, it creates great anxiety and embarrassment for her because she is so self-conscious about the way her body is changing and about how she looks.”
Although Alex understands that parents have to sometimes take their children with them into change rooms where their children are the opposite sex, she believes that there is an age when this is no longer appropriate and that the child should use the facility of their specific gender.
Many swim schools do offer specialised family rooms, many I have seen encourage its use from ages of around six or seven, but they can vary quite a lot and sometimes, these options are just not available, or they are an option not chosen. Alex believes once a child hits primary school they should be responsible and mature enough to go into the gender specific change rooms without an adult if they are of the opposite sex. But she concedes that ultimately “it is really up to parent’s discretion rather than something that is ever going to be enforced.”
Whatever your views on swim school change room behaviours, I think as humans we should remember that not everyone views nudity the same way. Perhaps the time and place to debate it or to put your opinion ‘on display’ for all to see might not be the same place where we take our children to learn to swim.
Do you think men need to cover up in change rooms? Tell us in the comments section below.