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Letters to the Editor

Read All About It

Re “Anti-Gay Statements Written in Bathroom in Walker Memorial,” Sept. 30: I have seen bathroom graffiti in almost every public restroom I’ve ever been in, and quite a lot was anti-gay. What is the news in this? If it was written to offend, and offense was taken, your article can only give glee to the graffiti artist.

Bradley Lichtenstein ’95

Locker Room Secrets

Puritans rule in Bill Andrews’ column “Hard Subject to Talk About” [Sept. 27]. However, Bill’s problem of “seeing entirely too much penis” has just as much to do with modern masculinity as it does with that timeless classic — self shame. Bill’s in a bind. Striving for the good of humanity, he recently took up swimming at the gym. But no kind deed goes unanswered. He’s being punished for his good samaritanism by repeated exposure to the male member while in the men’s locker-room.

Of course, it isn’t the penis peeping per se that’s causing Bill trouble. He assures us, after all, that it isn’t homophobia driving him. Still, Bill offers only one allowance for encountering penises — watching good old-fashioned man-on-woman porn. He makes no bones about the immorality of out-of-context penis, “Have I been going to bad places, where a little penis is to be expected?’’ “Have I been involved in immoral activities?” Bad penis, immoral penis. Bill leaves us little doubt that unless one is watching Ron Jeremy do his thing, catching sight of a penis must be wrong. Bill never mentions a penis, including his own, in a positive light. Penises are a punishment, they are bad and immoral, they are things we need to hide from others when changing clothes. (How then, I wonder, are we to think of boys who like not just the penis God gave them, but their boyfriend’s too?)

We’ve been told for a long time in America (think of Massachusetts’s founders) to feel shame about our bodies. Moreover, male-male interaction is tightly proscribed by the threat of being labeled gay. British author Lauren Henderson recently put it well: “The dress code for American straight men is entirely built around not looking homosexual.” Bill writes from an unenviable position: unless they are performing that special function, penises can only be shameful. Even in settings where nudity is to expected, we are supposed to feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. There is a “hard subject to talk about,” but it has less to do with the locker room and more to do with how men are taught to view themselves in a country where manliness is defined by self-shame and not wanting to be labeled gay.

Nathan B. Cisneros G

The writer is a first year PhD student in Political Science.