Adios to the Communal Shower

Over at YPulse, Anastasia links to a story about the declining popularity of the communal shower after high school gym classes:

Longtime physical education teachers say the decline began more than a decade ago and may have started when schools cut back on laundering towels to save money. Kids forgot to bring towels, and it spiraled from there to become optional. Nobody complained, and gym teachers found better things to do than monitor the showers.

This is my favourite quote from the article:

“The only person I saw take a shower this year was a Canadian kid that moved here,” said Jack Taylor, a Wilsonville High sophomore.

We Canadians are very clean.

When I was in high school in the late eighties, we almost never showered after gym class. There really wasn’t time in the schedule for it, and the school certainly didn’t provide towels. There was only a shower room, but we mostly used it for soaking our clothed friends on their birthdays. Good times.

Communal showers remind me of the movie Carrie (not safe for work) more than anything. They seem to regularly feature as a backdrop for high school cruelty, actually. I also remember a hokey-more-than-scary scene in Stephen King’s It. Which, speaking of my high school years, featured a scene shot at one of my classmate’s houses in West Vancouver. I remember it as one of the first films I was aware of that was (partially) shot in Vancouver.

Did you take showers after gym class in high school?


  1. I can’t believe that showers were ever used in public schools. We had them in our elementary, middle and secondary schools… and I only remember them being used for pranks.. for haunted houses… and once after a very dirty nature walk in grade 7 one guy showered in his underwear.

  2. um, no! what happened to teenage insecurity? lol. which for those less fortunate always ended up in an ugly scene (high school cruelty as you mention). Besides, we didn’t have time and for most girls that meant re-applying makeup and styling our hair (curling iron and Aqua Net… ahhh the 80s). I believe the shower ended up much like the big mottled-coloured fountain sink… covered with gooey blobs of soggy brown paper towel bombs.

  3. not in a million years. I once did a faceplant in a mud puddle playing co-ed tackle rugby and I still didn’t shower.

    granted, for the first year of grade 9, they hadn’t actually finished building the gym… so no showers. 🙂

  4. I spent 3 years in High School in Texas, and my final 2 years in High School in Newfoundland. Both in Texas after basketball practice and in Newfoundland after gym class, individual showers were provided and always used. Makeup wasn’t! We were girl-jocks afterall. 😉

  5. We never showered at mine unless we were doing the 6-lap run of the school track, or the longer run around Langara golf course. Maybe teenage girls don’t smell?

  6. They were mandatory at our school and I hated it. The public nudity, the cruel teenage “pranks”, the pervy teachers and the icy cold water. Not a good combo.

    The last paid gym I was a member of also had communal showers, because I visited the gym in my lunch our I paid money to recall my teenage embarrassment.

  7. I think perhaps the heavy concentration of hockey players in my school made the idea of showering more popular with us. But somehow it always seemed more awkward to shower at school than it did at the arena.

    I think Chris nails it; perhaps the water was just colder.

  8. I spent some time on the Junior football team at my Calgary high school, before I quit to take the lead role in a play… I know, sad but true. Because football practices were after-school events, many students would shower after practice – the coaches drove us pretty hard. But certainly few if any would shower after the in-school gym class, not enough time to make it to Physics or what have you.

  9. I dunno, I graduated in 2000 & showers were optional then in pe but mandatory for the sports I played (ftball, Wrestling, Baseball), it just depended on how sweaty you got, I probably showered 75% or so of time after PE. Funny thing is, once I went to live in the dorms at college the only showers were in a room in the middle of the floor & every one used them. So I dunno if its generational or just the circumstances. I never cared much for public nudity, but I guess it is different if you are with teamates or dorm-mates.

  10. What’s the big deal? I showered with my mates through six years of secondary school and in the military. No, I didn’t like it when I got teased for having the smallest and baldest willy in the school. I began puberty at an age when several of the other boys had full beards. I looked like a ten-year-old in tenth grade. But you get used to it. It toughens you up. What kind of panty-waist weenies do we want defending our country anyway?

  11. its because white boys watch too much porn and scared their pee pees are smaller than everyone else and get embarrassed.

  12. I played a lot of sports in Middle School, High School and College and we always had to shower in a communcal shower room after gym, sports practices and games. It was a little embarrassing at first but after the first time you got use to seeing everyone naked. We all have the same equipment so what’s the big deal. Showering with my teammates gave everyone on the team a sense of unity and team comradery. The guys today are a bunch of fairy’s who are afraid to take showers in front of one another and are embarrassed about thier bodies. I think it’s sad that schools no longer promote proper hygene after gym and school athletics. I still think showers should be required by the schools after gym and athletic activities. Stop giving into the queers who are afraid to shower.

  13. During my high school years our school had changing rooms and showers.

    One large room was the showers, and the other large room was where you changed. I never remember anyone not stripping down th shower, I think if someone was to want to wear jocks or underwear then they would have been teased.

    Other than that nobody really made an issue of it. Yes – a couple of guys (hey we were all teens) occasionally got an erection but apart from a couple of joke it was also a non issue.

    Nudity is natural.. we are born nude, and I cannot see what the issue is re showering etc with other men around.

    Of course the USA is becoming one of the most prudish countries around, almost worse than the Victorian era. Nudity is instantly associated with sexual intent, and that in itself does a lot of damage..

  14. Does anyone know if mandatory showers were still common in high schools in the 1980’s? We did have to shower after gym class at my school in the 80’s, but some of my friends at other schools did not have to at that time. I’m just curious how common it was at that time?

    1. In the 1980’s mandatory showers was very common in high schools. I showered all the time. Some of the other schools did not enforce showering which they should have. It’s part of teaching proper hygene in school.

  15. At my (British) school in the 1970s, showers were communal, compulsory and nude, after all sports. Sport was often in the middle of the day, and no-one wants to sit next to (or teach!) sweaty teenagers.

    Because the question of not taking a shower was never even raised, I don’t think anyone was embarrassed. If they were, they’d have been even more embarrassed to admit it!

    And as for cold showers … no, ours were so good and warm it was hard to get us out of the shower and changed in time for the next lesson. Our mildly sadistic (but strangely popular) swimming master sometimes had to resort to switching the showers to cold to get us out. That worked.

  16. I graduated high school in the early eighties, and not only did we have communal showers, once a week we would have swim class that was held in the nude. To me it didn’t seem unusual but today it would never fly, although the girls I believe did wear swimsuits.

  17. In the beginning of the school year, showers were required after phys. ed., then after about a month they were optional. But even when they became optional every guy continued to take a shower after phys ed because they wanted to be clean and not smell bad around the girls. We all got so used to taking a shower after phys ed that it became totally unnatural to NOT take a shower after phys ed.

    I think that it’s awful that kids don’t shower after phys ed nowadays in a lot of public schools.

  18. Ours were not mandatory till freshman year of HS. Before that we would shower only during the heat waves. The gym had NO AC so we got real sweaty.

  19. Showers were required but everyone took them anyway without any complaint or resistance that I remember. And we also went camping/backpacking, played sports and participated in scouting – all of which had showering, usually in those big group shower rooms. I don’t recall any rough housing either and thank god there was nothing inappropriate that I even encountered. But I did hear the girls had issues – but we weren’t in the girls showers so I don’t know exactly what those issues were. Frankly I was surprised to run across and read all the anti-showering and decline of showers in schools etc. Seems bizarre and psychologically unhealthy. Maybe it is a bit uncomfortable the first time but it is also part of cleanliness and decency. Showers should be required.

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