I’ve got a confession to make, but first let me tell you a bit about myself. I’m a gay man, twenty-seven year old and a professional. I’ve been single for the last 3 years following a bad breakup.
Here’s my confession: I don’t like to be naked.
Let me explain, it’s not that I mind being naked per se, just being naked in front of other gay men. A boyfriend is different – as long as he gives me the time to get comfortable being naked with him. But it hasn’t always been this way.
Like most teenagers I was body conscious, although it is probably better described as body paranoia. I remember hating PE at school, not just because of the sports but because of the changing rooms as well. I felt awkwardly self-conscious as I changed and had to be careful that the other boys didn’t catch my wondering eyes.
By the time I was in my late teens, I’d left school and attitude to my body and being naked had completely changed. At this time you could have almost described me as an exhibitionist. I enjoyed being naked, especially with other gay men.
As an adult I got into relationships with men, all of which for various reasons didn’t work out. I began to associate being naked with the feelings of emotional pain, heartbreak and vulnerability that inevitably followed. And I don’t handle vulnerability well – insert copious amounts of crying alone in private.
I’ve worked hard to get over these feelings and I thought I’d had some success. But I recently realised that I’ve regressed. I’m body conscious again and to make matters worse am still fearful of being naked because of my own associated feelings of vulnerability.
I’ve decided its time to take drastic action. I need to get naked around other gay men. I had a think about where it was going to be socially acceptable to get naked and where other gay men would be suitably naked. It won’t surprise you, when I tell you I struggled to think of a place. Most of the gay places I thought of are pubs or clubs and these tend to have a dress code that requires some form of clothing.
Until one day I had a eureka moment – how about a gay sauna? Yes, they may require towels but it is as close as I’m going to get. It’s certainly naked enough to bring those uncomfortable feelings to the surface. I’ve never been to a sauna of any description. So I’ve read up on other people’s experiences and sauna etiquette, but haven’t been brave enough to go into one yet.
However over the next month I’ve set myself the challenge to go into a gay sauna and will write about the experience in next month’s column entitled: ‘Getting Over Being Naked: My Sauna Experience.’ Wish me luck.
Published by: The Gay UK on Tuesday 27th August 2013.