Where the Boys Are



From the annals of recent experience: a visit to Marshall’s to buy a pair of boxer briefs. Well, I can remember when the bulges on the packages were air-brushed so thoroughly that you wondered where the willies went. Today, of course, quite the opposite effect is cultivated. As luck would have it, minutes earlier I’d been in the locker room of the Boston Sports Club, where after showering all the (straight) men clutch their towels to their waists while struggling into their underpants lest their junk be exposed for an instant. There seems to be a disconnect here. In the media, even on prudish old TV, sex is everywhere: a dick joke for every sitcom, a shirtless hunk for every reality show. Back in real life, at the beach, the young men sport bathing suits that extend below the knees, similar to what they wear at the gym: baggy and black and unrevealing. Could it be that all this covering up is a response to the presence, real or imagined, of gay guys checking them out? The days of swimming nude at the Y are long gone; maybe it’s true that gay liberation ruined everything when it brought cruising into the open. Still, there could be another explanation. Most men in Speedos don’t look anything like the models on those labels or the dudes on reality TV. Going back to Victorian gym- and swimwear could just be a way that men have tacitly agreed not to compete with Calvin Klein.