The Problem With Men's Locker Rooms and Women's Restrooms

October 16, 2016

When Donald Trump described his offensive remarks about women as "locker room talk," he implied that it's normal for men to engage in macho sexual braggadocio in gender-segregated spaces like men's locker rooms.  Two academic researchers trace hidden assumptions about gender and sexuality in other sex-segregated spaces:  public restrooms and sex ed classes. This episode produced in collaboration with


I completely agree with your guest (Amy Schalet) that boys' psychologies are horrifically dismissed in our society (their desire for love, romance, sweetness, etc.). What I disagree with is your set up in which you indicate that locker-room talk is a fiction (witnessed by the NFL players who disavowed Trump's comments) but then followed by the main focus of your interview in which it's clear that many boys ARE socialized into such a manner of objectification, performance, and disparagement of women. You can't have it both ways. Either there IS locker room talk (which of course professional athletes would be quick to disavow), or such a thing is a fiction.

It's not a fiction, though it may be ill-labelled. I teach high school, and my first year of teaching made the mistake of sitting at the coaches' table for lunch one day. I am not a coach, and was not aware of the codes of who could sit where (I learned quickly). No women sat at the coaches' table. Within minutes the conversation turned to how "hot" the new batch of cheerleaders were and how big parts of their anatomy were and how much the coaches would love to "tap that". I left after about 15 minutes. It was not a show put on for me. The rest of the year confirmed what those 15 minutes taught me. Locker room talk is a very real thing ***for a certain type of empowered man***,

That part in asterisks is important. Many feminists (I can cite names, need be) make generalized claims about all men, based on the grotesque real behaviours of a few. Locker room talk exists. To refer to a few professional athletes to paint Trump as an anomaly is disingenuous. On the other hand to broad-brush label all men in US society as part of the hegemonic patrimony that regularly objectifies women is as patently false as the dismissal of "locker room talk".

Fortunately none of you on this program fell into those false dichotomous positions, for which I thank you all.

The "ideology" of sharply differing gender roles arose "early in the 19th century"?! WHAT?! Is this guy from some other galaxy? Those ideas and practices are as old as the hills, and have permeated every human society throughout time. That is also the case with our hominid and primate ancestors. These behaviors are literally millions of years old, and they're not going to disappear anytime soon. Women simply have to accept that they are always going to be "sex objects" to us to some degree. But they shouldn't complain too much, for the truth of the matter is that if we didn't have these desires, we would not marry women, nor show them any affection. We wouldn't even bother to impregnate them, and the human population would crash. (That might not be a bad thing though, given how we are destroying the natural systems of the planet by our out--of-control overbreeding.) The male desire for romantic association with women is driven one hundred per cent by male sexual desire. That's the deal that nature has handed us. It cannot be fundamentally altered, though it can be regulated to some extent. To that end, societies have constructed various forms of regulatory institutions to govern male-female relations, but the basic sexually driven dynamic will always be there. Sincerely, Mr. Policon