Locker Room Exposure


Locker Room Exposure


Before I turned the tender age of six years old, I had seen several naked females up close. The viewing took place at the local YMCA and serves as an example of how my parents never explained the basics of human sexuality to me.

I remember it was wintertime and my sister, Lisa, was taking swimming lessons at the Y.  I was about five years old and bundled in a blue hooded parka with faux fur trim, mittens, a scarf, and heavy boots, and the smell of chlorine and the visual stimuli of flesh—naked moms and daughters of varying sizes, ages, and hair color—hit me as my mother tugged at my arm and led me in search of my sister.

Running water and the clanking of metal locker doors could be heard as girls conversed while drying off and putting on their clothes.

And then I remember one of the swim instructors standing next to my mother and chatting with her. The naked woman towered over me, and she had blond hair, a muscular body, and large breasts—a figure reminiscent of a Russian or East German Olympic swimmer.

I would later equate her image with the pictures of naked African women that I would see in copies of National Geographic at the school library. By being allowed in the women’s locker room, I had entered a secret world and had gained knowledge of a habitat I did not understand but one that seemed worthy of exploration.

While my mother and the coach talked, I studied the woman’s breasts, paying close attention to her circular brown areolas; yet the coach did not seem alarmed that a little boy was hanging out in the girl’s locker room, gazing up at her. My mom said, “This is my son, Fran.” The woman said “hello” to me in a soft voice, shook my hand, and a moment later led my mom to where Lisa was getting dressed. “Stay there,” my mother

said. “I’ll be right back.”

The coach and my mom walked down a narrow corridor, passing a row of individual shower stalls with white plastic curtains hanging in front of them, while I remained behind in the middle of the room.

When my mom did not return after a few minutes, I wandered down the hallway in search of her.

More time passed and I looked at the floor as I stood waiting. And then a girl in her early teens drew back a white plastic curtain and was about to step out of her shower stall when she caught a glimpse of me. When I heard her stirring, my eyes lifted from the ground, and I scanned her naked body; her still-developing breasts looked like Pillsbury cinnamon rolls.

The girl concealed her body behind the shower curtain and screamed, “Get out of here—you’re a boy.” 

My mom must have heard the girl’s cry, because she came and grabbed me, squeezing my hand. She apologized to the girl—even though she couldn’t see her face—saying, “Sorry, he’s with me. We’re waiting for my daughter to get dressed.”

A short time later Lisa came out with her coat on, and we all left the locker room together.

I don’t blame my mother for the embarrassing and confusing incident; it wasn’t her

fault. I was a little boy and she didn’t want to leave me behind, afraid I might get lost inside the large YMCA facility. So she felt it was necessary to drag me into the girl’s locker room with her. But even at my young age, my mother must have realized it wasn’t

normal for a boy to be surrounded by naked women.

She could have offered some explanation after we left; she could have taken me aside and made a simple statement, one a child could understand, explaining the differences between male and female bodies. She could have given me some knowledge of the situation. Instead, my five-year-old brain was left to interpret the confusing images I had seen.

The YMCA episode also correlates to my history with women. I would not see another naked female until years later, walking in on my roommate, Stan, having sex with his girlfriend in our dorm room during our freshman year at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York.

Both incidents—the boyhood exposure at the Y and the dorm room scene—occurred because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, seeing something not meant for my eyes.


Francis DiClemente

Francis DiClemente is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker who lives in Syracuse, New York. He is the author of multiple poetry collections, most recently The Truth I Must Invent (Poets’ Choice, 2023) and Outward Arrangements: Poems (independently published, 2021). His blog can be found at

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