Nudity and the "Normal" Guy (possible triggers)


Trying to be a "normal" guy can be exhausting. I have always felt on the fringe when in groups of men. It's telling when a teenager dreads college because of the prospect of community showers, and I couldn't imagine doing it. Over time and as I got to make friends in college, it became easier, and I very desperately tried to take cues from them about how to be "normal" in that context. By the end of the first year of college there were about six of us who lived on the same hall who had become pretty close friends and had a ritual before big parties on campus of taking beer and a boom box into the open shower to drink and relax while getting ready for our dates. I couldn't believe they were so comfortable doing it, and I participated but only with the help of alcohol.

Nudity is complicated for many of us--certainly for me. It's not that I'm necessarily shy about my body so much as it's an issue of maintaining barriers. As a child I learned that getting naked with other males was a precursor to sexual activity, and that's still a default setting I must guard against today. Frankly, it makes any kind of male bonding tricky---because it can be a slippery slope to separate bonding from "bonding."

Anybody face similar feelings, or possibly triumph over that feeling of being on the fringe around men?


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I am ALWAYS on guard. I grew up in a house full of boys and the whole testosterone driven life. I always felt very different somehow inside. I could learn to do what everyone did but it always seemed somehow inauthentic just what guys are supposed to do. follow the guy rules so to speak. so anytime I got to a place that was undefined, or somewhat vague, I felt i had to avoid it at all costs. I failed gym class all through jr high not because I was weaker I made up my mind early on that i would hit harder, spit further, burp louder than the biggest guy ( I am only 5'4" even now) but the abuse would never let me accept that I could handle a situation were it to I wouldn't shower there with them.

as you say I felt that bonding could easily become "bonding" and at that time I just couldn't handle that idea. I once was with my cousin down south and we were walking along a stream and came up on a group of his friends " going jaybird" = skinny dipping I FREAKED OUT inside I wanted to puke I had NO IDEA what to do in that situation especially when he said hey lets go! I ended up sitting down where we first saw them probably 25-30 back as he ran over and joined in and I felt like a total freak. the whole time i sat there looking crazy I was thinking what is the big deal? but i couldn't move to save my life.

I just kept thinking what IF? it became something like all the others?


same here.
i forced myself to do this stuff in a "safe" way when i started working out at a gym. I did this without therapy, so that was dumb and risky. but i realised pretty soon that it wasnt a place to be "going there" in my head.
luckily im pretty dumb when it comes to understanding that other guys are actually interested. so ive been lucky to miss a lot of what could have gotten me into trouble.
at this point, being naked in the gym showers/locker-room is 100% ok whether its strangers or with friends. its transitioned to also when it happens with friends. like changing for swimming, peeing in the woods, swimming in small lakes with friends, changing rooms at the beach, etc.
mind you, i am always a bit hesitant that things could go wrong, like if i started to have some ptsd symptoms. but i feel in those situations, with the people im with, id probably not do anything sexual.
as far as feeling equal to or less than other men, thats a hard one. However if i start to feel less than, i have learned some coping skills that prevent me from acting out sexually and also keep me calm.
when i feel like this, i start to drop eye contact and then start to look away like off into space trying to ignore the person/people.
the most effective is to stop trying to avoid looking at the person, if only for a few minutes. and focus on a part of the body, like the arm or hand. i think about what it looks like, and how, even though it doesnt exactly look like my hand or arm, its made out of the same thing. its human, Im human and theres no reason for me to feel afraid, ashamed, estranged, etc.
its really hard to do sometimes. and i always give myself the space to say, "not today!" and do what i need to do to survive. but when i know i have that space, i more often dont leave the situation. knowing i can walk away makes me feel as though i might just be able to make it work. and a lot of the time it does.


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BTW Alex, I couldnt even Go to college in those days because of this very thing, among others so you are not alone in that at all. and especially the way some schools have CO-ED showers... I would die of body odor and crust first.
I was a skinny kid before trauma consumed my life... then I became a pudgy kid and was very self-conscious about my body. I lost and gained weight over and over again through the years but that self-consciousness never left me. I was always uncomfortable after phys ed or sports when it was time to shower, or when going swimming with friends. And I seemed much more comfortable with girls and women than with boys and men... not surprising given the trauma experiences as a young boy. I remember attending year long program and one of the eight men who participated with over forty women announced he really needed to create a men's group for support during that year. I didn't say anything initially but internally I was shaking my head. It held no interest for me but I realized it would look strange if I were the only man not to attend the group. That began a process that lasted for many years in which I attended groups of men meeting each week without a therapist as leader. My world began to shift and I spent less time with women and more with men. But we weren't driven by testosterone, rather by introspection, so while I often felt uncertain how to relate to these men, I did learn a great deal about myself. Later in my work career I played poker with a group of co-workers and that too was a healing experience... have a few beers and swap stories while winning a little money. I once again have quite a few friends who are women, but I also count among my good friends a number of men. Of course, only my former wife has seen me naked and that was over 25 years ago... my body consciousness really never stopped, nor did my comfort with my sexuality. This is all the residue of trauma.
many newer college dorms have avoided communal showers (just like many newer gyms have, also). So most colleges have that as an option than a traditional dorms (both my kids graduated from college recently)


This is an interesting topic. Despite my trauma which lead to same-sex fantasies about recreating that trauma (and even meeting with men to do it), I have never had an issue with nudity. It doesn't trigger me at all. I think this is because my dad, who was a pro athlete, made casual male nudity totally non-sexual at an early age. That goes back far before my trauma occurred.

My wife has a hard time understanding this. If I have same-sex fantasies, how can I not be attracted to naked guys in the gym steam room, or at least triggered by it? I'm just not. Otherwise I would have to avoid those situation like most of you guys because when I'm triggered by my trauma I get an erection. :oops:
Yes. Lots of unwanted physical arousal around contact with other male peers, all my life. Avoided all male touch, hid it best I could, got embarrassed many times, changed and showered quickly when in groups, don't look, etc. It's different now that I remember my abuse and know myself better.


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I remember a member here telling me once a long time back that he had attended some kind of healing group where the guys would do the work in the nude ! the idea was to get over this shame and uncomfortable stuff. they even did some iron John kinds of things. sit around the camp fire and all that . I couldn't even imagine then or now. I know sometimes the work is hard but I don't think I'm willing to work that hard
“I just want to be like a normal guy”. I have said that so many times to my counselor. And each time he gently pushes back about my understanding of normal.

I too have struggled to be around other men when they are nude as I am aroused and it is tortuous not to look. So I try to avoid it as it is exhausting to not look at them.

as far as being self conscious of my body, of course I am!! I joke that i am ashamed of my body like a good Christian should be. :).

I think some men are not ashamed being nude around other men. But I suspect most guys are self-conscious.

My counselor has challenged my understanding of normal so many times I have started conceding that there is no such thing as normal and only a continuum of thoughts, fears, sexuality and everything else.
Sounds about right to me... "there is no such thing as normal..."
The trick is defining what a normal guy is. A lot of guys I thought were normal in high school later in life became drug addicts, alcoholics, mental illness, etc, so I'm guessing they were not feeling so normal on the inside when I knew them. I played soccer in high school and knew I had to shower with the other guys even though it scared the hell out of me. But there was no way around it and so I did. We had the big group showers not stalls. I have never been super comfortable with the group shower thing but I got used to it after a while of playing sports. I was definitely too nervous to ever get aroused.