Michael Sam made headline news when he shared a celebratory kiss with his boyfriend after hearing that he was joining the St. Louis Rams. With the rise in openly gay athletes participating in professional sports, many people are wondering if gay athletes are more or less prone to check out other athletes in the locker room. My answer? Absolutely not!
The truth is, all guys check other guys out — and it doesn't have to be in a sexual way. I'm not saying the ripped Adonis walking around the gym locker room doesn't get a few side-ways glances or kick start some bedroom fantasies, but mostly we're just looking at other guy's manliness to see how we stack up in comparison. And I'm not just talking about what's between his legs; pecs, abs, biceps, triceps, glutes, hair, and any other part of the male anatomy are all fair game for looking.
"As men we're all born with a competitive, masculine drive, and are visual in nature," said Jos W. one of my gym mates. "It's not uncommon for guys to cast lingering glances at women, cars, food, you name it. When a guy checks out another guy it's more often for his own validation that he's either got work to do on his own body to look as good as the other guy, or to assure himself that he's rockin' his body just fine."
Men, like women, are competitive about their bodies. Yet, for some reason, it's assumed that gay men are on the hunt 24/7, trying to bed every guy that walks. It's also assumed that locker rooms are prime hunting grounds for gay men to poach heterosexual men.
Honestly, you can get poached only if you're willing. And even then, the antics you hear about extracurricular activities in the men's sauna, steam room, and showers, really only happen in porn. Granted, gay men will be gay men, but let's not assume that our libidos are more charged than our heterosexual brothers, or that we can't control our urges. It's like saying, "all straight guys undress women with their eyes."
One of my (straight) gym mates, Steve S. said it best, "if someone is threated or feels insecure about another guy checking them out, then it's their own ignorance, insecurity, and arrogance getting in the way."
This coming from a devout Christian guy in his 50s who's rocking a killer physique ranking right up there with Ryan Reynolds. And, no I haven't shagged Steve; I've seen him in the locker rooms au naturel. As you can tell, I'm a little bit jealous of what Steve's got going on, which only proves another perspective he shared. "Guys have an issue with lust. Whether its flirting, intentional stares, making moves, or wishing you could rock abs and pecs like his, guys have a tendency to forget about many things and to forget there are boundaries."
Gay, straight, male or female, the boundaries conversation was a consistent theme with the men I interviewed. Steve, M. a therapist from Sacramento, California admitted he'd been hit upon a few times by gay men, but "those encounters didn't make me feel uncomfortable. I actually took it as a compliment. Of course I also immediately and graciously drew the boundary lines concerning my own sexual orientation. I did this out of respect, not protection. When boundary lines are clearly drawn, it's rare they'll ever get crossed again." Steve thus proves that life in the locker room moves on, and that species of varying sexual orientation can peacefully coexist.
This recurring theme left me wondering why there is this misconception that gay men are ready to pounce, at a moments notice, on the first good-looking guy that gives them two seconds of a smile? Honestly, how different is a lingering gaze on a man from a lingering gaze on a woman?
What I discovered was that dealing with differences in sexual orientations comes down to values, beliefs and maturity. "Having someone check you out is a compliment," said John M., an Irish transplant now living in North Carolina. "In fact I take it as a compliment, not a threat, when someone checks out my wife. Of course it took me years of blossoming into a mature man to see things that way."
All the guys interviewed didn't seem too concerned about guys checking them out. This both surprised and didn't surprise me. I was surprised because I assumed, out of this group of guys most of whom I don't really know very well, I might have encountered some form of hostility or overt fear towards homosexual men. Yet, I was not surprised by the outcome because it proved to me that when you don't make your sexual orientation an issue, it usually isn't.
As my gym buddy Steve S. said. "I don't know what I don't know. If a guy is checking me out I have to trust he is simply looking my way, because I don't know anything else for sure until he makes a move."