One YMCA, 5 Different Dressing Rooms. Why?

Hi izdfiinstf
Folks! Just another note from the frontiers of where our worst-first thinking is taking us. Now it’s being built into the infrastructure. – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: This “child predator hysteria” in America today is getting waaaay out of hand.  I recently toured the new YMCA we have here in town and I was surprised, or perhaps not surprised, to find out that this state-of-the-art Y had not two, not three, but FIVE dressing rooms.  It was equipped with a men’s dressing room, a women’s dressing room, a boys’ dressing room, a girls’ dressing room and a family dressing room.  What a waste of space!  Then there was a large sign above the men’s dressing room that read, “No one under 18 allowed in this dressing room.”  Perhaps the women’s dressing room had the same sign above it but I didn’t notice.  Either way, is this ridiculous or what?!

Goodness gracious, back in the 1960s, the city swimming pool I just about lived at as a youngster had a large OPEN area in each dressing room where both children and adults got dressed.  So boys could be naked and men could be naked in front of each other….eeegads!  Same with the showers.  It was the same setup in the women/girls’ locker room.  Let me emphasize here folks that no kid was scarred for life from seeing a grown man’s genitals!  That type of concern was unimaginable back then.  No one cared or was shocked at who they saw with their clothes completely off because it was a DRESSING room, for crying out loud!

Now I can understand the family dressing room concept because a 5-year-old girl, for example, who is accompanied by only her father might be too young to be on her own in the girls’ dressing room BUT might be a bit too old for the boys’ dressing room so a family dressing room solves that dilemma.  But separate dressing rooms for all children under 18, and adults, is taking paranoia to a new level in MY opinion.

One more thing, back in the summer of 1965, when I went to Cub Scout camp with my dad, the camp site we were at was reserved only for us Cub Scouts and dads.  So no females were in sight for miles and that was the whole point of the camp (the Brownies went to a similar camp with their moms).  With that being the case, many of the dads who were too tall to stand upright in the tents, got dressed and undressed in front of their tent, OUTSIDE!  Sometimes us kids did too!  Today, those same dads would be arrested for child sexual assault only because they were completely undressed in front of minors. So when did we Americans become so paranoid? — Just a Normal Guy

114 Responses to One YMCA, 5 Different Dressing Rooms. Why?

  1. Tony Shreck October 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    Our YMCA remodeled a few years ago to this exact floorplan *plus* required keys to the family rooms to be obtained from the front desk at the opposite end of the building. On more than one occasion, as a father with daughters, it made for really awkward schedules running back and forth from the desk to the dressing rooms to the pool. I guess the upside was that after all that I didn’t need to visit the treadmill.

  2. Dave October 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    I usually agree with your opinion, but in this case I do not. The multiple locker rooms are for the comfort and safety of the members and guest. Some adults do not want to be surrounded by children when showering or just talking with friends in the locker room. This is a safety issue for children, but also a customer service issue for adults.

  3. Edward Wiest October 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    It’s not really so new. A/o 1965, the NYC West Side Y (admittedly a huge facility) had separate changing _and_ showering areas for boys and men. [I knew it as a student at a all-male school, so I don’t have a firm recollection of women’ facilities]. As the parent of both sons and daughters, the family room, of course, is a feature, not a bug . . .

  4. Gretchen October 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    I have to agree with Dave. Our YW had that layout when I was a member before kids, and I LOVED that there was a women only locker room, no kids allowed. That Y has since removed that option which doesn’t bother me much (I now have kids!) but would have back when I was using it pre-kids. A locker room during a swim lesson day is CRAZYTOWN. And then on days when there were swim MEETS? Pass the wine.

  5. Nicole October 9, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    Our Y has 5 as well. It’s like going through a maze to get to the pool.

  6. Suzanne October 9, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    For those guests who aren’t comfotable being in a dressing room with children (as suggested by Dave) they really need to get over themselves. It takes less than 1 minutes to remove one’s clothes and then put other clothes back on, if one can’t stand being uncomfortable for 1 minute then there is a much bigger problem than the dressing room. Perhaps that is where the problem truly lies. It has gotten tot the point where anything that makes anyone the slightest bit uncomfortable needs a solution. Sometimes the solution needs to be putting up with the discomfort and getting through so that one can be stronger, rather than spending how many thousands of extra dollars to build extra dressing rooms at the Y.

  7. Yan Seiner October 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    To those of you who agree, this is a society. I don’t like looking at wrinkled old men; should I demand a locker room for middle aged men? How about fat people? I don’t like like looking at them either. And don’t get me started on people with missing limbs. YUCK! Get them out of my sight!

    Seriously, this is a society. We all share space. Americans get uncomfortable being near strangers more so than any other culture I am aware of. I’be been in changing rooms and public baths in Japan where there is a 4′ partition between the men and women; you can see right over it. And you know what, no one notices.

    Only in America do we persist on being separated from anything and everything that makes us in the slightest bit uncomfortable. Kids are noisy? Banish them to their own locker room, “for their own safety” of course. Never because we don’t want to deal with them.

    Really, don’t you think that the money used to build many “separate but equal” locker rooms could be used to provide better programs, day care, education, etc? A family room or two might make sense. But separate locker rooms, with separate showers, etc?

    It’s an example of conspicuous consumption, the ability of Americans to waste resources on a scale unprecedented in the history of the world. All because we’re a tiny bit uncomfortable.

  8. SKL October 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    I wasn’t aware that pedophilia started at age 18. So you’re telling me that pubescent / adolescent boys never think naughty thoughts? At least if there are some adults around, they might be less brave about putting thoughts into action.

  9. Linda Wightman October 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    It is one more example of the segregation of our society. Believe it or not, it’s the same impulse that makes churches segregate its activities not only by grade but well into adulthood (young singles, newly-singles, “college and career,” married-without-children, young parents, middle parents, older parents, seniors, etc. etc.) We are conditioned (probably from school, where one’s friends are generally one’s same-age classmates) to prefer the company of those “like us.” What we need is MORE interaction with others — especially children and older people — not LESS.

    You know it’s not really (or at least not exclusively) a “child safety” issue, because being molested by a 17-year-old is at least as likely — and no less traumatic — as by a 30-year-old. Putting children under 18 in their own room in no way protects the younger ones. In fact, it may make the situation more dangerous, since there are no adults around to call out the bullies.

  10. Linda Wightman October 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    Funny, I just hit “submit comment” and find SKL made my point already!

  11. Jess Teitelbaum October 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    Actually, this is not strange at all. All the YMCAs and gyms I have ever toured or belonged to have this.
    First, the previous commenter is correct. If you drop of a group of 12 year old boys to swim, you don’t necessarily want them in with the adult men, and vice versa.
    Second, and probably more likely, these facilities generally have saunas or steam rooms which are hazardous for children. What these places do is put them in the adult locker rooms for the adults only. And let’s not kid ourselves, adults like to sit in these rooms nude and kids(for some reason) love these dangerous rooms.
    The family room should be self explanatory. As a single mother of two boys, I can’t tell you how convenient it is to be able to assist and take care of my own children, and not stand at the door to the men’s or boy’s locker room door and hope everything is okay.
    Just my two cents.

  12. Wilson October 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    Our YMCA only has three. However, most people use the family room since they are individual rooms. This causes these rooms to fill up quickly and I often have to wait at least 15-20 minutes when taking my 6 y/o daughter and 10 y/o son to go swimming. When my daughter gets a little older, we will be using the women’s and men’s rooms I often find, and this is probably my biased view, that it is either and older person or a young adult in the family room while the parent is waiting outside.

  13. BL October 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    I think every YMCA member should have their own locker room, gym and swimming pool.

    Problem solved!

  14. Lollipoplover October 9, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    Our gym has individual family suites that are great….so great they are often taken up by older folks (some handicapped).

    I’ve often taken extra kids in the women’s locker room (where kids are allowed) for dads who have freezing girls that need to change. I do believe they once had a policy banning kids from the non-carpeted areas (think it had more to do with slipping) but don’t know if it still exists. Really, it’s just changing and drying off. How did this become so complicated that we need 5 different dressing rooms?

    What next? Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual changing rooms? Can’t we all just change our clothes and get along with our day?

  15. Emily October 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Our YMCA here has SEVEN different change rooms: Men, women, boys, girls, men’s membership plus, women’s membership plus, and family. Kids six and over are required to change in their appropriate-gendered locker room, and under that, they have to use the KIDS’ change room appropriate to the gender of the PARENT (or adult) accompanying them. So, a little boy with his mother would change in the girls’ locker room, while a little girl with her father would go to the boys’.

    The minimum age for the regular adult change rooms is 16, but I started using the women’s room (as did most people I know) when I started high school, because I didn’t want little boys running around and gawking at me in my bra–and, a lot of parents tried to sneak OBVIOUSLY older boys into the girls’ change room, so privacy was hard to come by in there. Eventually, they put in a “teen change area” in the girls’ change room, but it was just an open room, and it didn’t even have a door, because of “safety” concerns, and it was only a “teen change area” from Monday-Friday, 3-7 p.m., when the biggest problem was on weekends. I hated when I was in grade seven, and Master Swimmer was scheduled at the same time as the little kids’ swimming lessons, because it was literally IMPOSSIBLE to change in peace, and I wasn’t close to being allowed in the women’s room.

    Anyway, the YMCA recently changed its “membership plus” designation (which means, bigger change rooms with steam rooms, whirlpools, cardio equipment, and TV’s right in them) to “adults only.” Umm, shouldn’t that be the point of the regular men’s and women’s rooms? I don’t mean that they should prevent well-behaved teenagers from changing in there, but I think a big part of the problem could have been solved by setting the cut-off for “adult” a little lower. Instead of 16+ for adult change rooms, and 18+ for membership plus (which no eighteen-year-old I know could afford anyway), I think the cut-off for the “adult” rooms should be “high school or puberty, whichever comes first.”

    Anyway, I didn’t mean to write a book there, but I think it does make sense to have separate adult and child change rooms, because when I was in university, there were just men’s and women’s rooms (because a university isn’t typically a place for children), and EVERY weekend, mothers would bring their school-aged sons in the women’s room. Any complaints were met with “Well, what’s Mom supposed to do if Dad can’t be there?”; or similarly dismissive comments. My answer would have been, “Trust their sons to change alone in the male change room,” but I know that that’s not a popular opinion.

  16. Captain America October 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    My two cents for Jess T., above. . . as a 12 year-old using such a locker room, it’s the kind of thing I would have quickly used and not hung out in. I didn’t care one way or another about adult men; they were more or less objects.

    As an adult male who uses locker rooms, I just don’t want kids under my feet, or jerking around playing games, snapping towels, making noise. I’m keen on showering, getting dressed.

    With this issue, I really don’t care. But of course, this kind of action spurs additional harmful anxieties and helps spread the idea that our children are in great danger from other people. As a man, it’s a bit of an insult—unintentional—to be considered a sexual predator by virtue of my gender.

  17. Teresa October 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    So, now what are we going to do about all those children running around in the dressing room unsupervised? I mean, they have to be supervised at all times, or someone will fall in the water, or get electrocuted, or popped with towels, or DIE! Now the Y will be sued, and parents will taken to family protective services for letting children go in the dressing room unsupervised! Then they’ll have to come up with some other, more complicated dressing room plan. Stop the insanity!!!

  18. Jennifer October 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    Our Y has 5 dressing rooms, and I love it. I don’t think the concern is predators. The Y has large numbers of school groups and camps through, and the adult only dressing rooms allow older people to have more quiet and privacy when there are 50+ wild kids in the dressing rooms. Adults can be in the all-ages dressing rooms if they wish, but they often prefer to be in the adult-only ones. The family dressing room with private rooms is there so parents with opposite-sex small children can change as a family. In addition, lots of people with disabilities use these rooms because they have a bit more space.

    This is, in my opinion, a huge improvement on the old system which assumed (1) people with disabilities didn’t exercise, (2) fathers never brought their young daughters anywhere alone, (3) old people didn’t exercise.

  19. baby-paramedic October 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    I used to time my visits to the changeroom to avoid small children hour. Not because I do not like small children, but more they are wet slip hazards that move fast. Which I dont really want to deal with when Im changing from swimming contacts into glasses! Of course, a bigger change room probably would have sufficiently alleviated that problem.

  20. curiositykt October 9, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    I remember being a 6 year old girl in the changing room and seeing all the diversity of young and old adult women running around nakedly after small children. It did a lot to aid in my understanding of how everyone is different and we should all respect one another.

  21. Beth October 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    “If you drop of a group of 12 year old boys to swim, you don’t necessarily want them in with the adult men”

    Why not? I’m seriously asking for reasoning here because, to me, this feels like it feeds right into the “all men are potential pedophiles” paranoia.

    And part of the overall issue is this: Like the post below about bathroom policies at the church, we are teaching our boys that once they reach a certain age, they will be considered pedophiles, and there’s really no way they can ever prove that they’re not. What a horrible life view, and what a horrible lesson.

  22. Stephen October 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    The YMCA I go to has 5 changing rooms as well, however, they have the two 18+ and one family changing room. The other two are for ‘male/female all ages’. When I first went there I thought it was nice because that meant I didn’t have to deal with kids, but, being a male, I also thought that it was nice having a place to go where I didn’t have to worry about potentially being accused of anything).
    However, my Y is remodeling as well…so we’ll see what happens with those ‘all-ages’ changing rooms after it’s complete.

  23. Tara October 9, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    So seventeen year olds are going to be unsupervised in the dressing room with eight year old boys? THAT makes me more uncomfortable than having all the men in together! Ever heard of gang mentality???

  24. Katie October 9, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    I wish our swim center had this! Trying to find space to change for my swims after work is crazy when the swim team kids are there – they spread out everywhere, take up way more space than they need, and hang out forever, sometimes to the point the adults coming in after work have to wait for space, which then shortens our workouts since many of us have our own kids who need to be picked up by a certain time. Also, I hate sending my boy into the men’s locker room alone – he can be painfully pokey and I’m sure the men don’t appreciate me opening the door and calling in to hurry him along, lol! So you see, it may not be solely about child safety but about accommodating paying customers.

  25. Uly October 9, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    I’m actually okay with this. The kid’s changing rooms (gender-segregated) tend to be smaller than the others, and, as mentioned, no sauna access. And as an adult, I kinda don’t want older kids who still need help running around the opposite-sex locker room.

    Unless these locker rooms are really very big, I doubt there’s much wasted space either. If you need so-and-so much space for the changing rooms, what difference is it if you divide that space into five rooms instead of two? You estimate how many lockers you’ll need at any one time, and divide that into five groups. Bingo.

  26. Jen October 9, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    My closest Y only has 2 changing rooms.

    Now the big Y downtown has 5 changing rooms. The adult rooms have bonus items not in the kids okay rooms. Like hot tubs and saunas.

    Excellent! Its a place to hang out and relax and no kids. And as a Mom with 4 littles…I appreciate a space where I can relax without them.

  27. Kelly October 9, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    Our gym just has a male, female and family area. The family ones are nice because there’s two with toilets, changing tables and showers so you can lock the door and not worry about the little ones escaping. If I recall, I think the cutoff for opposite gender kids in the main rooms is 3. You’re supposed to use the family room after that until they’re ok going in on their own.

    It’s a huge room though. There’s always people coming in and out. Once my son gets old enough I’d be more worried about him making a mess than anything being done to him.

  28. shannoncl October 9, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    This has been common YMCA practice for decades now. I don’t believe it was started as a ‘keep molesters in their place’ idealogy. Its a YMCA, and as such, kids hang out for looooong periods of time, often unsupervised. That often means in ‘locker’ rooms (most of which no longer have lockers either… which actually is a ridiculous bomb threat “safety” thing… ). There can be many theories on its reasoning or effectiveness, but it primarily comes down to customer service— at least initially.

  29. SKL October 9, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    Our rec center is like Kelly’s, I think. One locker room for each gender, and a couple of individual rooms for families with young children. The cutoff age for kids of the opposite gender in the big rooms is 3. It seems to work for us.

    I’ve had my kids change in the women’s locker room since they were tots, and I’ve taught them to be respectful and mind their own business. If that isn’t enough for any other patron, they can go into the toilet stall and change (that’s what I do when I suit up – hey, I like my privacy). I would assume the same would apply in the men’s room.

    Even if I know there might be a pedophile in the men’s room, I still think a kid should be safe in there if there are a bunch of people in there. The important thing is for kids to know not to go off or behind closed doors with anyone not authorized by their parents. No showering together etc. And a child old enough to change his own clothes should know that certain body parts are off limits to others.

  30. Miss Happ October 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    Yes, the “adult only” change rooms are definitely marketed as a luxury for those adults who do not wish to be surrounded by noisy children and frenzied parents going to and from their swimming lessons or public swim times. As far as I know, it’s not done at all for safety concerns as the change rooms allowing children are also available to adults. You pay a premium membership fee for the “adult only” zone.

  31. Warren October 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    I spent over 5 years as a lifeguard for our township. The first thing that comes to mind, is the logistical nightmare when it comes to a missing child. It happens regularly, and in most places is a ten minute search and capture of the little wanderer. With all these rooms, corridors and such, it will turn into a major pain in the ass.

    That said, if you are that uptight about using changerooms, or that scared that someone may look at your child, then have them change at home, and wear clothes over their swimsuits. On the way out, hold up a damn towel around them.
    Sheesh, what is the hold world coming to. Oh wait, soon if you are a single male, with no kids, you won’t be able to attend public swim sessions, for the safety of the children. There will be adult men only time.

  32. Jenne October 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    My Y had this, but there were security cameras in the ladies’ locker room (I don’t know if there were in the men’s room).
    Under those circumstances, I can see why you wouldn’t want people under 18 in there.

    Nowadays, a Y is a customer service organization; if adults feel more comfortable changing without those under 18 around– because of the fear of being considered a predator or because they just don’t want to deal with the hurly-burly of youngsters in the changing room– they may opt to accommodate those patrons with separate changing rooms.

  33. Gillian October 9, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    I’m not allowed to bring children over the age of 3 in my dressing room, but we have no family dressing room at the Y. So I have a 4 year old son – he has the gross motor capability to get himself out of his clothes and into his swimsuit, and I’m not worried about him being molested – but he definitely has the lollygagging gene, and I think he needs another year or so before I can trust him to go in and come out within a reasonable amount of time. If you aren’t going to provide a family room, then 3 seems a bit young to cut it off . . . It’s such a mess. Also, security cameras in the dressing room? Yeeps! Who is monitoring them??

  34. Ingrid October 9, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    One of the things I value about the communal dressing rooms at our community centre and swimming pool is that we get to see (In our case) the bodies of girls and women, young and old, and see the diversity in body shapes, colours, and fitness. It heips me and my daughter know that we are as “normal” as anybody else.

  35. Jenn October 9, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    Our Y (built 1952) has four changing rooms, also for customer service reasons. I like the way they have divided it. Men-over-18; Women-over-18; Men, boys, and girls-5-and-under; Women, girls, and boys-5-and-under. There are some changing stalls with curtains in each if someone is feeling especially modest.

    I feel like this allows for some adult only space for calmer atmosphere, and makes families of whatever configuration comfy too. Kids 6 and up seem like they should generally be able to navigate from the hallway through the locker room to the pool without their parent, whether the parent is opposite sex or not. If there is a genuine motor skills or developmental delay need, the lifeguards open up their changing space. People routinely complain about mamas bringing infants into the Women-over-18 space, so it really seems to be focused on calm kid-free, as opposed to stranger danger.

  36. Buffy October 9, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Add me to the “yeeps!” about security cameras in the women’s locker room. How can that even be legal? Stores aren’t allowed to put them in fitting rooms, are they?

  37. Rose October 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    Our Y had the 5 room set up but had a complete double-standard: women could go in the women’s room or the girl’s room, but men could only go in the men’s changing room; they were not allowed in the boys (under 18) room. How is that fair?

  38. Suze October 9, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    Really? I don’t know where you grew up but where I grew up in the 60’s parents would have freaked out a naked man or women being seen by a child of either sex. Our Y had separate dressing rooms that allowed for people to go into a small stall with a door to get dressed/undressed and then put their clothes in their lockers.

    What you just wrote about that part is the dead opposite of what I experienced; in fact I think its the other way around !!!! IMHO.

    But basically, I do agree with the aspect of all the separate dressing rooms in the new Y’s.

  39. Havva October 9, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    I am thinking along the lines of Yan Seiner and Linda Wightman on this. I am dismayed by the number of people, even here, who want to keep the under 18 cohort out of the main locker rooms. I remember the awkwardness of the teen years. The full mix of ages was much better.

    As for hot tubs and saunas my local rec-center has these and “only” 3 changing rooms. These of course are dressing rooms not play rooms. We don’t have hot tubs, TV’s, etc encouraging the adults and kids to linger unnecessarily. And the sauna doors are too heavy for tiny tykes. Over about 5 or 6 years old, boys are banned from going with mom (and presumably the corollary for dad). I have only experienced minor disturbance from kids while dressing. Sure kids are a little loud and fast, but that is tolerable for a quick change and shower. It’s a dressing room, not a meditation room. If kids are taking up the whole bench with their stuff, I ask them to make space, just as I do with the women, and they make space. Nor have I seen ANY underage users of the saunas or hot tubs.

    I do support “family/handicapped changing rooms.” I went to the pool while injured. It was great to have my husband’s assistance for the toddler and for myself. I believe this room broadens the number of older and injured/disabled people able to use the pool for exercise, by allowing a spouse to assist them. So I think 3 simple dressing rooms is a great setup.

  40. Emily October 9, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    Oh, I have another story. A few years ago, at “my” YMCA, there was a developmentally delayed man of about 40 or so, who liked to come to the open swims and dive for rings, which were provided by the YMCA for precisely that purpose. This brought on some anonymous complaints of him being a “child predator,” because people thought he was diving under the water to look at small children in inappropriate places. The YMCA’s solution was to banish the man from open swim, and tell him that he could dive for rings at the adult/teen length swim instead. He was happy with that, but it still struck me as being wrong, because the YMCA purportedly prides itself on “inclusiveness,” but then they turned around and kicked someone out of open swim, for the sole crime of using the provided pool equipment for its intended purpose.

  41. km October 9, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    Personally, I’ve liked the 5 dressing room system better than any of the others I’ve experienced. I strongly preferred having a family dressing room available when my kids were small, and have found those to be friendly places. The junior dressing rooms are less necessary, but they’re a good thing to have if you have large groups of kids coming through without adults, just from a mess-containment perspective.

  42. Andy October 9, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    @David “Some adults do not want to be surrounded by children when showering or just talking with friends in the locker room.”

    Huh? Are you serious about that? Adults customers are annoyed by the mere existence of children?

  43. Andrea G. October 9, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

    I have to agree with the folks who think this is a customer service rather than pedophile paranoia. Our health club has this set-up, and I use the girl’s locker room when I’m with my daughter (my son is old enough to get himself dressed in the boy’s locker room), the adult locker room when I’m there alone. The women’s locker room has adult-only facilities — sauna, steam room, etc., and is a nice relaxing area to chill out after a workout. The kid locker rooms usually have water all over the floors from the pool and are pretty chaotic. There are enough members to make both spaces full during peak hours, so it’s not a waste of space. The “family” changing rooms are mostly big bathrooms, and are there for, like someone mentioned, a mother needing to get a young son dressed, or vice versa.

    Nobody at our health club freaks out if people see kids naked. It’s just nice to be able to have some kid-free space sometimes.

  44. Erica October 9, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

    I have to agree with everyone who’s said it was a customer service issue, not a paedophilia issue. I spent 6 years of my life when I was a kid in the 90’s going to Saturday morning swimming lessons at the downtown Y in my hometown and that was the exact layout we had – women, girls, family, boys, men – it’s not new as others have attested. And I remember a lot of kids when swimming lessons were going on, I’m sure the Y was just looking to create a space where adults didn’t have to dodge noisy excited children when changing to make it more like a “traditional” gym where only adults would be.

    By the time I got into the routine of going swimming every Saturday morning my mom would drop me off in the girl’s room and go to the women’s to change and do her workout. After lessons I’d shower, get changed and go out to the cantina where I’d buy a muffin or somesuch with money she’d given me and wait for her to come out, or meet her there if she had finished before me. It was a nice place for me to test my independence when I was a kid.

  45. Josh October 9, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

    “the “adult only” change rooms are definitely marketed as a luxury for those adults who do not wish to be surrounded by noisy children and frenzied parents going to and from their swimming lessons or public swim times. As far as I know, it’s not done at all for safety concerns as the change rooms allowing children are also available to adults. You pay a premium membership fee for the “adult only” zone.”


    Seriously, I LOVE Free Range Kids, but it seems like sometimes you get fired up over nothing. This policy isn’t about nudity or pedophilia.

    Its about adults who don’t want to be around screaming kids. They want to shoot the breeze with other adults in the sauna without having rowdy kids interrupt their adult time.

  46. Andy October 9, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

    Reading these comments, is that animosity towards children common in the united states? This is the first time I hear about “adults only” without the place being erotic, dangerous or a night club.

    I never heard about an “adult time” and everybody just ignores other peoples kids if present. Especially in facilities like locker rooms (Kids usually do go into saunas here – too boring I guess, but it does not matter because I do not talk with strangers in saunas anyway. )

    If I want to chill with a close group of friends, then I mind both other adults and children. Longing adult time with random swimming pool strangers seems weird.

    Which leads me to question: how many of “kids must be supervised at all time” rules are there because of safety and how many are there just because some adults are unwilling to exist with kids in the same room?

  47. Jim Collins October 9, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

    When did the YMCA stop being the Young MEN’S Christian Association, while the YWCA is still the Young Woman’s Christian Association?

  48. Lisa A. October 9, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    Hey, I have no problem being naked. Japanese hot springs are amazing. But that is a polite society, and we’re talking about American kids that may or may not have been taught locker room manners.
    I’ve had to teach simple table manners to Cub Scouts (Webelos – older boys that ought to know better), but as a leader, it was appropriate to the situation. It’s more difficult in a locker room scenario to approach a mom and ask her to please ask her daughter to stop staring at your private parts. I shouldn’t have to rush getting dressed as was suggested by someone above. Even though you may be stark naked, in a group of polite adults you still have some “privacy” in that they are not going to be staring at your body.
    But I think the real problem is when the groups of campers or classes come through and the counselor is preoccupied, perhaps helping a child.
    How fun is it to be changing behind a curtain while a bunch of little girls are peeking in and giggling? (because the camp counselor told them to stand in a line 2 feet across from your changing stall) I don’t care how comfortable you are being naked and all that noise about appreciating everyone’s bodies thin or fat or young or old – not a valid argument in an unmannered scenario – you will be annoyed!

  49. Sara October 9, 2012 at 9:12 pm #

    I’ve worked at a couple YMCA’s and I’ve had their sex abuse training. The separate changing rooms are there because of molestation because there’s a history there with problems at YMCA’s. Adults aren’t banned from the pools but adults without kids aren’t allowed to hang out in changing rooms where kids are going to get naked. The kids changing rooms are monitored more heavily (more lifeguard walk throughs) for bullying issues as well as other safety concerns.

    Kids changing rooms actually allow for kids to be more free range because parents can feel ok allowing their kids to change independently in the dressing rooms and know that they’re in a kid friendly environment.

  50. Beth October 9, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

    @Emily..I don’t understand. Parents and YMCA staff thought he was diving under the water to see a child’s private parts (which, by the way, are covered with a swimming suit)?

    If that were truly his goal, seems to me it would have made more sense to sit on the bleachers and watch the kids getting in and out of the pool, or walking around the edge of the pool. I don’t know why he would bother with the hassle of getting wet and pretending to dive for rings!!

  51. Cass October 9, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    Both the pools in my area have open change rooms. The kind where you get changed while half covered by a towel and sneak glances at the wrinkly old lady standing starkers while she changes, half in admiration at her bravery and half just checking out how different her body looks.

    I strip my daughter (in full view of 15 other people) wrap her in a towel to dry while she eats a banana. The food keeps her in one place while I get changed. Don’t want to be chasing her out of the change room while I am wearing nothing but a towel. I get changed doing my best not to flash everyone but not terribly worried – everyone else is focused on not trying to flash me. Then I finish getting my daughter dressed and we are done.

    There is a family change room which I use when I have both kids, but otherwise the open change room is fine for us.

    I like seeing glimpses of naked bodies. It reminds me what real people look like. As a kid it gave me a chance to be mature in an adult environment (you stop giggling at the wrinkly lady pretty quickly). It also encourages community… Another mum struggling? Here I have some spare fruit to occupy your kids too.

  52. Jennifer October 9, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

    A note to the people wondering why adults would want to have an adults-only changing room. I have kids and certainly don’t mind kids around. A few kids in the changing room is fine. However, if, as at our Y, there are large numbers of school and camp groups coming through, we’re not just talking about a few kids. We’re talking about 50+ kids coming through with minimal adult supervision on a regular basis. They overwhelm EVERYTHING. They’re not generally being awful; they’re just being kids. But I can completely understand why some adults would prefer an adult-only space where there’s not water everywhere and kids playing around. It’s not necessary, but it certainly makes the whole thing a more pleasant experience for people who prefer a quieter, calmer, cleaner atmosphere.

    As far as I can tell there’s no space being wasted this way. They’ve just divided the space into more units to serve different clientele.

  53. Earth.W October 9, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    I may have grown up in Australia as a 7th gen Aussie but I’m more European in thinking. When I took my eldest child to swimming lessons, I changed her in the changeroom/shower for men. She was six years old at the time. She was and is use to seeing naked people so it doesn’t even seem alien to her.

    As for these people of the YMCA, I very much doubt they would like the European set up where people of all ages and genders, sit naked together in the large open sauna.

    Seriously, the West needs to see a Freudian psychologist.

  54. Yan Seiner October 9, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

    @Earth.W: well said. I’m amazed at the mindset in the US (and I live here!)

    Fortunately my area is pretty sane, at least for the moment.

    To all those who say that kids from the swim team create a mess and are out of control, talk to the coaches. The kids won’t learn to behave by sticking them in a separate room where they can be obnoxious.

    Our little rec center has one of the biggest swim teams in the area, and the pool is busy from 4AM to 9PM. There’s one cramped changing room for men and one for women, and there are a couple of family rooms. We all get along, because we have no choice. Sometimes I have to tell the swim kids to move over as we need more room, but that’s OK.

    All separate rooms teach kids is that they are somehow entitled to more if they’re more obnoxious, which really explains the state of our politics right now.

  55. Donald October 9, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

    Although this is not a new thing, multiple multiple change rooms can only make the situation worse. How can it not? It will teach young boys to be afraid of men. (aren’t we already doing a wonderful job at that?) Did you read Malcolm Gladwells article? (Lenore gave us a link) Any man that is friendly to kids is doing something suspicious They should be monitored.

    As it is now, If I’m lost while driving, I’m afraid to ask someone younger than 20 for directions.

    @ Suzanne and Yan Seiner
    Well said! Lets make another change room so that I don’t have to look at wrinkly old men or people overweight. That will make my YMCA visit more pleasant.

  56. Yan Seiner October 9, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    I should add that when I go to newer facilities with roomier changing rooms, the kids tend to be more obnoxious. And when we go to some of the really crappy pools that have almost no facilities and the changing room is tiny with almost no room to move, the kids are generally well behaved.

    Oh, and when my kids swam in the Czech Republic, the boys and girls shared the same locker room, with tiny cubicles to change. No problems with behavior there.

    So….. Draw your own conclusions.

  57. Emily October 9, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

    @Beth–I wasn’t there; I was just told this story in Bronze Cross (or a similar class of that nature), and from what I gather, just a few parents complained, or maybe it was just one. Anyway, the YMCA staff thought it was crazy too, and knew that the man was legitimately diving for rings, but figured that, by “redirecting” him to the adult/teen length swim, he’d still get to keep diving for rings, and the screwballs’ irrational fears would be assuaged. However, the bottom line is, they still kicked someone out of the “open swim” who was observing the rules of “open swim,” and moving his activities to a different session where they wouldn’t really be acceptable–open swim is for playing in the water and doing whatever, and length swim is for swimming lengths. The YMCA is normally very clear about this, but I guess they made an exception that one time.

  58. Michelle October 9, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    @Andy, yes, American society is incredibly age segregated. Children’s activities are almost always segregated into age ranges of 1 or 2 years. Adult activities are often grouped by “life stages.” For example, as one commenter above mentioned, church groups for “young singles,” “college aged,” “newlyweds,” “parents of young children,” “parents of elementary children,” “parents of teens,” “empty nesters,” “retired,” etc. Furthermore, people without children (or who have left their children at home) who are attending any activity that is not specifically family or child oriented, have a tendency to get irritated by the presence of children, even if the children are well-behaved. Personally, I think this is incredibly detrimental, not only to children, but society as a whole.

    On the flip side of the coin, parents do not seem to demand the same level of good behavior from kids these days. You see kids running around public places, climbing on/under the table in restaurants, throwing screaming hissy fits in the grocery store. However, I do think that at least part of this is that so many kids spend so much of their time in large groups of other kids the same age (with one or two supervising adults), and shuffled off to “age-appropriate” and “kid-friendly” activities, that they don’t get a lot of opportunity to learn appropriate behavior in situations that aren’t tailored to them. They don’t learn to sit still and be quiet in church because ten minutes into the service they are shuffled off to some fun “children’s church” activity. They don’t learn to quietly browse the library because they are relegated to story-time and crafts projects in the children’s section. They don’t learn to be respectful of other people in a public changing room, because they’re running around causing trouble in the kids only room.

    The purpose of giving our kids independence and responsibility is to integrate them, step by step, into society as a whole, right? How can we do that if they’re segregated away from everyone older and younger than they are?

  59. BL October 9, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    “Oh, and when my kids swam in the Czech Republic, the boys and girls shared the same locker room.”

    I’ve seen online discussions that the same thing prevails in Germany, including schools. Some foreign exchange students get quite a shock in their first gym class. Apparently (according to the discussions) it gets to be old hat pretty fast.

  60. Andrea G. October 9, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    I’m surprised that people are maintaining that this is inevitably anti-kid or prudish or safety-crazy. Even with the best behaved group of fifty kids coming in from the pool, the floor turns into a big puddle. It’s inevitable. Can you not see how somebody coming or going from aerobics class or the weight area might prefer a locker room where they mostly don’t have to worry about getting their socks wet? (That is, assuming this set up is in the context of a larger athletic club. That’s how it is at our club.)

  61. Donna October 9, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

    I am a very strong proponent of the idea that it is okay for adults to want some adults-only refuges but even I think having adult and child facilities at the Y is ridiculous. There is a difference between wanting to keep certain adult-centered venues (bars, night clubs, fancy restaurants) adult-only and trying to cater to adults desire to be separate from children in all-ages venues.

    The Y is a kid-friendly place. In fact, the Y probably serves far more children than adults. Kids being in your environment should be expected when you are there. If adults don’t want to be around children, there is probably a health club close by that caters to adults and teens only. Or go during school hours. Or go before work.

    My local Y does have 5 locker rooms. There are the general admission men and women locker rooms that are available to everyone. There are the two family changing rooms in the pool area and generally only used for changing for the pool. Then, in a completely different area, there are men and women locker rooms for those who have purchased the more expensive health club membership. This is where the sauna, whirlpools, etc. are located. You must be at least 14 years old to purchase a health club membership and to use these locker rooms.

    I don’t mind this set up. If adults really don’t want to be with children, they are welcome to spend more money for the health club membership, although you still have to deal with those pesky teens.

  62. Lollipoplover October 9, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

    @Cass- I grew up with open locker rooms and showers. Other bodies were just normal, they still are. My kids have no problems or hang ups with their bodies, and I hope to keep it that way.

    We will use the family locker room if it is available, but I have no problem using the women’s locker room and teaching them how to behave with the “big girls”. Ours even has a makeup and hair dryer area (my girls call it the beauty salon) where they get to use the hair dryers and see themselves from all the different mirrors. Such a treat! They LOVE watching the little old ladies who do the water aerobics “‘put on their faces” while they dry their hair. And these little old ladies almost always have candy in their purses, which my kids graciously accept.

  63. Donna October 9, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

    “Can you not see how somebody coming or going from aerobics class or the weight area might prefer a locker room where they mostly don’t have to worry about getting their socks wet?”

    And adults coming in from the pool or shower don’t drip? Adults don’t carelessly sit on benchs in their wet bathing suits? The hundreds of kids every day who are at the Y for the myriad of sports and camps offered other than swimming don’t care about getting their socks wet?

    I certainly see a perfectly valid argument for having separate pool and non-pool changing rooms. I see no justification for separate adults and children changing rooms.

  64. Earth.W October 10, 2012 at 12:16 am #

    When I was 12 years old and in my first year of high school(west of Sydney, Australia), I often took myself alone on the train to Cronulla for their beach.

    There you saw children upto 8 or 10 playing/swimming naked. It was common to see women topless bathing. Also common were the outdoor showers where the sand and pavement meets. While today you only see people rinse off quickly under these public showers, back in 1984 when i was 12, you always saw people lined up and taking an outdoor shower completely naked regardless of age, gender and size.

    Somebody bring back those days.

  65. Emily October 10, 2012 at 12:24 am #

    @Michelle–I understand what you’re saying about kids not learning to behave among adults, because they spend most of their time in organized activities with kids in their age group, but at the same time, a lot of those “kid-friendly” activities have a purpose. For example, “children’s church” enables kids to actually understand the stories in the Bible, and the messages behind them, which might not happen in the general church service, that might be above their heads. This makes church more “relevant” to them, and it helps kids to incorporate religion into their lives as they grow up, whereas a child who’s grown up being force-fed “boring” sermons might feel differently. Story times and crafts at the public library make books “come alive,” especially for kids who can’t yet read, and it’s also a good way to sneak in some “reading comprehension” lessons. For example, a reading of Robert Munsch’s classic “Thomas’ Snowsuit” might be followed by a craft in which the kids colour/decorate snowsuits and winter accessories that Thomas could have worn instead of the ugly brown one in the story, or a “match the outfit to the person” paper doll activity, because the story involved Thomas wrestling various adults who wanted to get him into his snowsuit, which resulted in clothing getting switched around, with much hilarity ensuing. I know that kids also need time with older kids, younger kids, and adults, in order to learn how to behave properly in “grown-up” situations (church, fancy restaurants, museums, movie theatres, etc)., and in turn, how to “set a good example” for younger siblings, etc., but at the same time, there’s something to be said for “situations that are tailored to kids.” The way I see it, it’s all about balance.

  66. Andrea G. October 10, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    “I certainly see a perfectly valid argument for having separate pool and non-pool changing rooms. I see no justification for separate adults and children changing rooms.”

    I guess that’s the thing — the “kid” locker rooms at our club are better situated to access the pool, which is the main reason kids come to the club. Adults without kids are welcome to use it. The adult locker room is a little less convenient if you’re going to the pool, but very convenient for the other facilities, which are primarily used by adults. The pool end of the adult locker room may be a little wet, and that’s where the showers, steam room, and sauna are, but it’s a fair number of steps beyond that to the side with the lockers, which is the side with the convenient door to aerobics, weights, etc. I’ve never seen the floor wet in that area.

    It really isn’t sinister, and it’s pretty well designed Perhaps there are facilities overdoing it with this set-up, but for our club it works nicely for everyone.

  67. Havva October 10, 2012 at 2:16 am #

    @ Andy, who said “Reading these comments, is that animosity towards children common in the united states?”

    Yes, that animosity is common and wide spread, even among parents. Teens especially take a huge amount of flack and disrespect. Their ideas are not treated as based on anything real, just a result of the “teen brain” aka deranged. As far as I can tell this has been building for a long time. When I was a small child, I was bookish and a bit shy, and my parents had their own things going on. So they took me along to all kids of typically adult only places and activities. (Water Board meetings, City Councle, Doctor’s lounge, DAR meetings, School board meetings, etc.) My Jewish Community wasn’t even a family venue really as my sister and I were the only children who regularly attended regular Friday services. I learned how to behave properly. Because these were not environments that normally had children, and because I was quiet, I often saw adults drop their guard and talk about how irritating they though children were. How they though children shouldn’t be allowed here, there, and everywhere. They honestly believed that children were inherently wild and uncontrollable. I would occasionally call adults out on this, and the universal response was “Well, we didn’t mean you. We mean other kids. You aren’t like them!” I would say that I didn’t think I was anything special, except that I had been taught how to behave properly. No one (except my parents) believed that. They just said “Oh, you are different,” and started up among themselves about how it is “impossible” to teach kids. You just have to wait for them to grow up, etc. It was beyond frustrating. Especially when school administrators told me, to my face, that they were knowingly punishing innocent along with guilty (by say banning scissors) under the belief that teens lacked the moral reasoning capabilities to understand that they were being unjustly punished. When I showed I understood, same response… “well you are different.”
    I’ve long felt that kids needed someone to speak up for them, and those who SHOULD parents/teachers had abandoned us entirely.

  68. sherri October 10, 2012 at 2:16 am #

    When I grew up in the 70’s we only had mens and womens changerooms and they were open concept. Kids over the age of five changed in the appropriate gender room. Our parents taught us we were to behave whether we were with them or not, and not to stare at people who are changing. Today our YMCA has a mens and a womens changeroom, both open concept, and a family change room with private stalls. Children over the age of five must use the appropriate gender room or the family room. Some of the other pools in our area don’t have family rooms, and parents disregard the rules about children over five using the appropriate gender room, so you get a lot of big boys in the ladies change room.

  69. Donna October 10, 2012 at 2:25 am #

    “the “kid” locker rooms at our club are better situated to access the pool, which is the main reason kids come to the club.”

    I find that very odd and would be very surprised if that is true. While I agree that kids are likely the biggest users of the pools at the Y when swimming lessons are going on, there are also a large number of other activities, including: basketball, taekwondo, soccer, football, baseball, cheerleading, track, mountain biking, an afterschool program and more all catering to kids at my local Y. There is also kindermusic, yoga and aerobics classes for kids. And camp, summer and any days off school. I would venture to guess that only about 10% of the kids at our Y are there for swimming lessons/pool usage, maybe a little more in the summer.

    Even if kids are using the pool more than anything else, there are going to be some kids who are not there to use the pool some of the time (unless your Y hosts absolutely nothing else whatsoever cater to children). If adults who aren’t swimming deserve a non-wet place to change, kids who aren’t swimming deserve a non-wet place to change so still not understanding why adults get TWO locker rooms (one wet and one dry) and kids only get one wet one.

  70. John October 10, 2012 at 2:30 am #

    Ok folks, I can understand your desire not to be around rowdy, towel snapping kids and therefore liking the set-up of separate dressing rooms for the kids but that’s not the point. Jennifer above wrote that she loved the idea of 5 dressing rooms and didn’t think it had anything to do with predators. I respect her desire to not be around a bunch of noisy kids in the locker room but I would have to disagree with her assessment that it had nothing to do with predators. The article said there was a sign above the mens dressing room that read, “No one under 18 allowed in this dressing room”.

    If rowdy kids were the reason, what about 15, 16 or 17-year-old kids? Don’t they have a right to be free from a bunch of towel snapping prepubescent boys? From my experience of being a substitute teacher, there is a huge difference in maturity between 11-, 12-year-olds and 15-, 16-year-olds; therefore, I don’t think this rule is due to a behavioral issue with all kids under 18. I also believe it’s our paranoia of kids (anyone under 18) and adults being naked in front of each other. So if a young child’s behavior is the issue then why can’t the sign read, “No child under 14 allowed in the mens dressing room UNLESS ACCOMPANIED BY A PARENT OR GUARDIAN”? So it would be the parent or guardian’s responsibility of keeping the kid in line. Most young children I know are not going to be snapping towels or acting lewd when all the dads are around. It just isn’t cool. In fact, most boys going thru that toilet talking age of 11 and 12 might act pretty lewd and disgusting when left with each other in a locker room (I remember 7th grade basketball practice many years ago) but as soon as an adult walked in, they’d clam up in a hurry!

    So like I say, I don’t think these rules of separating kids from adults in dressing rooms has much, or anything, to do with the minors’ behavior but everything to do with our prudish way of thinking.

  71. Donald October 10, 2012 at 2:46 am #

    I have been studying the outcome of adversity for years and can see how good things can come out of it. (character building when it’s present and character erosion when we try to eliminate adversity)

    That’s why I’m so much against bubble wrapping children. That’s also why I recognize a strength in character of someone that can take a bad situation and turn it around. (such as a book, blog, and TV show after becoming the worlds worst mom)

    The world became wiser after the hysteria of Salem and McCarthyism for starters.

    Personal development and a positive outlook has become mainstream as well as most all of the material that is played on Oprah has stemmed from three books.

    Think and Grow Rich and How to Win Friends and Influence Others both came out of the great depression. The Power of Positive Thinking came out of the height of the cold war.

    The world is constantly changing for better and worse. When we focus on the worst, it’s easy to forget about the better.

    YMCA has five change rooms. On another note (that seams quite unconnected) I have had a few female roommates. This is quite common. In Australia, we have shared public toilets. The individual stalls have better locks and partitions but men and women use the same room.

    Years ago this was unheard of. The point that I’m trying to make as that in the future I can imagine that change rooms will start looking like they do in Japan. I don’t image the one room change room will only have a towel to partition the sexes but I think things will become much more casual.

  72. EarlVanDorn October 10, 2012 at 3:32 am #

    I just disagree with you. Changing should be done in private regardless of one’s age. I remember in high school a father of a friend of mine always had to visit our football dressing room to discuss something with his son almost every day. I was too dumb to realize at the time what was going on, but clearly this guy got a kick out of seeing a bunch of naked teens. He just had no reason to be there. I remember being forced to take a cold shower as punishment at camp while a counselor looked on. This same counselor had sex with four or five of the 11- to 12-year-old boys, so I should count myself lucky. There is just no need whatsoever for children to be getting naked around adults, although the real danger is for the kids aged 12-17.

    You need to really think this through. Sex abuse is not quite as rare as you think. Changing clothes needs to be done completely in private.

  73. Emily October 10, 2012 at 3:45 am #

    I’m with Donna. Also, I like to swim after exercising, whether the exercise itself involved water, so either way, the bathroom floor at home, or the locker room floor at the gym, is going to get a little wet. I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way I do–it’s just as gross (if not more so) to me to go home all sweaty after the gym, as it is to go home all chlorine-y after swimming in the pool. Now, I’ve done both before, but my first stop when I get home is always the shower.

  74. Virginia October 10, 2012 at 6:57 am #

    Maybe 5 dressing rooms aren’t completely necessary, but it’s really hard for me to get upset about this. Sounds like a pretty reasonable set-up that should satisfy the majority of YMCA members.

  75. Daniel October 10, 2012 at 7:06 am #

    How times have changed. When I was growing up way back when, my local YMCA still had the old style pool filters and they forbade the use of any form of clothing in the pool. Everyone swam naked. I’m told it was 1974 before they changed the policy and allowed swimsuits. I don’t think any of us were traumatized by seeing old & young, fat and thin, tall & short varieties of nakedness.

    It did away with much of the curiosity factor. These days children aren’t exposed to the variety of human bodies, but they still have curiosity. Instead, they go searching the Internet and get in way over their heads in things that they really shouldn’t be looking at. It isn’t an improvement.

  76. Jennie October 10, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    I had the application form for a sports club already completed in my pocket when I entered the club with my daughter. She was five years old and wanted to start Judo training.

    There were two changing rooms. We were told that no girl was allowed in the men’s changing room and no boy in the women’s changing room. That meant for us, if I for some reason could not bring my daughter to the lesson, my husband would not be allowed to take her into _any_ changing room at all! Our daughter would have to change in the hall in full view of everyone.

    Now you could say a five year old should be able to change by herself. But the Judo clothes are not easy to put on, what with the belt and all that.

    So we left. And found another club.

  77. AnotherAnon October 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    Considering the phenomenon of hysterical mothers bringing their tween-age sons into the ladies’ room (where I thought I was entitled to a bit of privacy thankyouverymuch), I’m grateful for this. Yes, it caters to predator hysteria, but at least it allows women a space where boys aren’t watching us change our clothes.

  78. Emily October 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    @Daniel–Really? There was a specific rule that everyone HAD to swim naked at your YMCA? What about skin-tight Spandex swimsuits? Those couldn’t possibly have gotten caught in the pool filters.

  79. Emily October 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    Edited to add: When I said I liked to SWIM after exercising, I meant, I like to SHOWER after exercising……and, I wrote that on my laptop, so I can’t even blame AutoCorrect. 😉

  80. Dean October 10, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    Ditto those who cite this as a customer service issue and not a new phenomenon. Also, isn’t it worst-first thinking that this setup is about worst-first thinking? I don’t know that it’s got a thing to do with it all. Maybe in some cases it does, but maybe in others, as earlier comments have pointed out, it’s about having a fancier setup or a sauna or whatever. Whether or not that’s goofy, it isn’t necessarily about being on predator-watch.

  81. Diane S. October 10, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    @Michelle’s comment about kids and adults – I agree completely. Seems many don’t want to be “bothered” by children (heaven forbid!), and want an adult-only life. Guess what – life is full of ‘inconveniences’, which we learn to deal with. Also, how are kids supposed to learn how to act properly if they are not in the mix of life and things?

  82. Diane S. October 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    @EarlVanDorn. I guess the military and boot camp is right out wrong then. Boot camp, you have bathrooms with no doors, a big room with shower head sticking out of it, and oh my gosh, on board ship, you’ve got 50+ people with 3 or 4 showers, and 6 people per row of racks, your’e right in people’s faces when you change.

    Sure, if you want to hog a bathroom (while someone outside is patiently waiting to actually use the bathroom for what it is for), while you leisurely put on your chones, and snap up your shirt.

    On another note, we were at church camp a couple years ago, and one of the church groups had a lady with a 3 year old boy. He would walk around the room, staring at the girls while they changed their clothes. Many of them felt uncomfortable, but while the kids’ dad was I guess too busy to have a little boy in the men’s quarters with him, everyone else sucks it up & deals with it.

    You’re not supposed to use sauna/steamroom under 16? Our neighbors had one by the lake, and I grew up using it, we’d use it then go jump in the lake. Was especially nice when it was cold out.

  83. Lafe October 10, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    It’s weird to me seeing so many commenters annoyed by children in general or insisting that they simply “shouldn’t” be changing near adults. I can assure you from direct experience that such opinions are not at all the norm in most countries outside of the US. How did we get so many hang-ups like this? It’s simply insane, and very detrimental to society.

    I’ve been at the pool in Germany and other places and run into the typical father in speedos with two kids completely naked. Were they in a dressing room? No! They were using the pool and walking the hallways together. No one bats an eye.

    Don’t want your kids to use the sauna? Tell them not to use it.

    Don’t want kids running around being loud? Tell then to pipe down whether you are their parent or not. In just about every country on the planet, people have no trouble with correcting other people’s kids. It’s expected and appreciated. We’re all supposed to be in this together and watch out for each other.

    America seriously needs to abandon this crazy fear of doing anything that makes us function like a normal community.

  84. Gustavo Solivellas October 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Yes, boys used to swim naked at YMCA and Public Schools until the 60s/70s: “Men and boys had been accustomed to swimming au naturel at the YMCA, not only in Seattle but in Ys everywhere, since the 1890s. The practice may have evolved from problems created by the long, wool swimming suits then in fashion, which apparently shed so much they gummed up the pool filters. Later, nude swimming was justified on the grounds of hygiene. A handbook in use at the Seattle Y in the 1920s required that “A good soap bath must be taken before entering the swimming pool” in the same paragraph that specified “The wearing of swimming suits or supporters will not be allowed except by permission from the director” (Information for Members)” ( and, by the testimonies of the now men who swam that way, they loved it and none of them was molested or anything:

  85. Emily October 10, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    @Lafe–I’m not big on correcting other people’s kids, unless they’re doing something dangerous. In that case, if the parent is visible, I usually just say something like, “Hey, just a heads-up, I just saw your child running on the wet floor/walking on the fence/teasing that big dog,” and then I let him or her deal with it. I’m not a parent, and even if I was, I’d only be a parent to my OWN kid(s), not to the children of the general public, so I try to mind my own business, within reason.

  86. Donna October 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    “Seems many don’t want to be “bothered” by children (heaven forbid!), and want an adult-only life.”

    I have no problem with people wanting an adult-centered life. But if you want an adult-only life, you need to stay out of kid-friendly places. You can’t go to kid-friendly places and expect them to get the kids out of your way. The onus is on you to create an adult-only life, not on the world to clear out the children for you.

    The Y is a very kid-oriented place. Much of its business is children. There are likely a number of health clubs nearby that don’t allow young children outside of the childcare center. If kids are bothersome to you, there are other workout options. If you choose to join the Y, kids come with the deal.

  87. pentamom October 10, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    Emily — spandex didn’t exist before 1974, and requiring people to swim naked in public indoor pools (boys and men, at least, not sure about girls and women) was not that uncommon. In the city I live in now, this ese the rule in all the high school pools, at least through the 60’s. I don’t completely understand the rationale, but Daniel’s story is one I have heard many times before. I’m not sure, but I think form-fitting suits for men were unheard of back then unless you were a serious competitor a la Mark Spits, whereas women’s suits have universally been form-fitting since about the 30’s.

  88. pentamom October 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

    I know how to spell Mark’s name but autocorrect doesn’t.

  89. Captain America October 10, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    . . . you know, reading all the above just makes me treat this matter of multiple rooms as a real convenience.

    It means I don’t have kids chasing around underfoot and running into me and my stuff.

    (oh, I used to be lifeguard, and we’d clean the change rooms, etc., go through there pretty often each day, and I think if most of these rooms are kept spartan, people, kids, aren’t going to spend much time hanging out in them).

  90. Aimee October 10, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    At our city pool we have men’s, women’s, and “family” (individual) change rooms. My son is 11, and the biggest problem the last couple of years was that the boys would totally horse around in the men’s locker room after swim practice – nothing severe, but throwing sopping wet towels or swim flippers at each other, pouring out a LOT of shampoo to make the gang shower floor nice and slippery for “skating” typical boy stuff. We finally had to get some dads (mostly it’s moms who bring the kids to practice, and the coaches were all women, and most of the lifeguards) to police the men’s locker rooms, to keep the kids from too much mischief (no male staff would step up – they said “it wasn’t my job”. Charming). How would that work in a locker room where no man – even a dad of a swimmer – is allowed in?

  91. MQ October 10, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    Wait a minute – are you saying that at your YMCA there are children’s locker rooms where no one OVER age 18 can enter? Because that’s just crazy talk. What you are looking at is separate locker rooms for adults with children, and adults without children.

    Explain to me how this is about paranoia and not about giving adults without children a chance to undress in a relatively quiet room where the basket of tampons, etc. isn’t continually emptied for games of “pelt the sibling” or “see if it floats”?

    It has nothing to do with nakedness. It has to do with chaos.

    I like kids, I have my own kids, and I am really, truly grateful – perhaps more grateful than an elderly person whose own kids are grown – for the separate locker rooms for girls and women at our YMCA. After dropping off my daughter at her class, I enjoy being able to sit on the toilet without having to listen to a mom yelling across the room at her five year old to stop taking apart the soap dispenser. I enjoy not having to worry about the little boy persistently trying to disconnect some of the plumbing under the sinks. Not to mention the nattering flocks of tweenagers before and after every swim team practice. Oh. My. Gawd.

    By the way – because there aren’t enough “family” changing rooms, at our YMCA boys up to age eight (yes, 8 years old) are allowed in the girls locker room, with their mothers, of course — not that that makes them any less obnoxious in this setting, when their female team mates are trying to shower and their moms are busy trying to wash a screaming three-year-old sibling’s hair.

  92. Andy October 10, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    I think I would like better that changing room separation if it would be about predator panic. The part about adults seeing all kids automatically as evil and obnoxious sounds kind of ugly to me. I’m really happy that adults when I was growing up did not had that attitude and I would not want to raise my kid thinking that its normal for kids to be hated by adults.

    Truly unruly kids are not a norm. Mu experience is that there is a noise family once in a while. It definitely does not look like these posts would make me believe if I would not visited the pool often. It sounds to me like some people just decided to see only bad exceptions and want to punish all for few.

  93. Mrs. H. October 10, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    Our Y has four rooms–boys with mom and girls with dad change in the kids’ room of the opposite sex. The thing I hate about it is the fact that children are prohibited from the adult locker room, so there are times when I have to go in there to retrieve something (my gym bag is too big for the lockers in the kids’ locker room), and my daughter has to wait in the lobby UNATTENDED! Horrors!! How is that safer than allowing her to see some naked adult females???

  94. Jynet October 11, 2012 at 12:30 am #

    I think Ingrid has it right. The communal rooms at the local pool were the first place I saw an adult woman’s body that wasn’t my mothers. When I had my daughter and had to look in the mirror at a body that had been completely transformed I remembered those woman and my body didn’t seem like an alien.

    I also I don’t believe that adults have the ‘right’ to a child free existence. My daughter is now 18, and I live a in a child free lifestyle, but I am still a member of society, and those children are your and my future. It is JUST as much my job to keep them safe as it is yours. And BTW, I can’t believe that some people would see a child doing something dangerous and NOT say something directly to the child to stop them from hurting/killing themselves. That is the most horrible thing I have ever heard.

    Ingrid, on October 9th, 2012 at 3:33 pm Said:
    One of the things I value about the communal dressing rooms at our community centre and swimming pool is that we get to see (In our case) the bodies of girls and women, young and old, and see the diversity in body shapes, colours, and fitness. It heips me and my daughter know that we are as “normal” as anybody else.

  95. Shannon October 11, 2012 at 4:59 am #

    “My Y had this, but there were security cameras in the ladies’ locker room (I don’t know if there were in the men’s room).
    Under those circumstances, I can see why you wouldn’t want people under 18 in there.”

    WHAT? Presumably the cameras are for protection? But nobody under 18 deservses daid protection?

    And really–cameras in the dressing room? You find that comforting?

    I mean, I understand that there are reasons you wouldn’t want under-18’s there if there are cameras. But woudln’t those reasons make you think twice about cameras for the adults?

    Are they carding at the door of the dressing room to be sure that a stray 17 year old doesn’t wander in?

    So many things wrong with this idea, IMO.

    I belong to an adults-only gym now (actually, I think 16YO’s can join). When I belonged to the Y, the branch I went to had a men’s dressing room, a women’s dressing room, and 2-3 family ones. Worked well enough. As others have said, the Y is very kid-oriented, so having a few family rooms worked. I think their cutoff was 7 or 8 for opposite-sex kids in the opposite sex changing room. I don’t remember often seeing kids who looked older than 5-ish. The men’s/women’s dressing rooms had exits directly to the pool, so they were easy to use for families swimming. And really, someone bringing their preschool boy into the women’s dressing room doesn’t bother me at all.

  96. Nicola October 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    I like the idea of one big coed locker room. More eyes, more ears, lower chance of a kid being abused. Seperate, private dressing areas, shower areas, and bathroom stalls provide for enough privacy- frankly, I have body image issues, and changing or showering in front of a woman is only a tiny bit more comfortable than doing it around a man.

    Plus, I’ve been with coed groups of children with only female chaperones, and even with the family dressing rooms it makes it difficult to maintain supervision of the boys and to help them as needed.

  97. Christi October 11, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Lollipoplover– Come on!! Don’t blow the GLBT locker room cover! It’s one of the few perks we have left (that and single sex college dorms…)

    Kidding… I’M KIDDING!!!! 🙂 Seriously, people, JUST KIDDING :-)))

  98. Maegan October 11, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    Suzanne, I agree.

    “…if one can’t stand being uncomfortable for 1 minute then there is a much bigger problem than the dressing room. Perhaps that is where the problem truly lies. It has gotten to the point where anything that makes anyone the slightest bit uncomfortable needs a solution.”

    We live in a culture where no one is expected to be uncomfortable. And while I fully appreciate medical advances to relieve pain, soft warm beds, and my mostly-comfortable desk job, being uncomfortable from time to time is part of life. It’s just like forcing a child into a coat. If they choose not to wear the coat, they may be uncomfortable. So what? How else would they learn the purpose of coats? This model can be applied in so many situations.

  99. Andy October 11, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

    @Nicola Those big coed locker room in Europe have a lot of small changing cabins and showers are separated too. The part where you have no closes on is hidden from opposite sex.

    It is not like woman would removed all closes and showered in front of man.

    At least all those coed locker room I have seen had them.

  100. Maegan October 11, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

    “In Australia, we have shared public toilets. The individual stalls have better locks and partitions but men and women use the same room.”

    Thank god this is happening somewhere. It is my dream to have shared public toilets. Gender-specific restrooms are ridiculous to me.

  101. Emily October 12, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    @Maegan–I’m Canadian, but I lived in Australia for two years. I encountered co-ed bathrooms there, at International House (although I only lived in iHouse proper temporarily, until the contract for the separate postgraduate house was finished), and I was always really uncomfortable with the arrangement. The way I see it, certain aspects of people’s lives are private, and should be kept private, or at least segregated by gender. Also, I could never really shake the feeling of “I’m naked in the shower, and there’s a boy in the room.” Partitions or not, it still felt wrong.

  102. Daniel October 13, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    @Emily – seriously, back in the days of my childhood the only swimsuits available were made of wool. Yeah, wet wool against the skin? It didn’t feel good in the first place and It became waterlogged and pulled down all by itself. And wool put out huge amounts of lint that would clog the pool filters. So, yes, YMCA required naked swimming:

  103. Emily October 14, 2012 at 2:02 am #

    @Daniel–Wow, that’s very interesting. Now that I remember it, the free pools down at the beach when I lived in Australia (so people could swim if the waves were dangerous, or the blue bottles were out) were rather primitive too. They weren’t heated, they used saltwater from the ocean instead of chlorinated water, and I’m sure they had some kind of filtration system, but they were drained and cleaned every Monday, or if Monday was a holiday, they’d do it on Tuesday. However, there was no rule about having to swim nude in those pools–in fact, I’m fairly certain that there was a rule that REQUIRED swimmers to wear a bathing suit, or some form of appropriate swimwear. Then again, since the pools were co-ed, outdoors, and open to the public for free, I don’t think it occurred to anyone to swim in the nude.

  104. Jane October 14, 2012 at 5:00 am #

    I’m casting another vote for private changerooms. I LOATHE those “big open space’ change rooms. Here’s to those gyms and pools that have private changing cubicles and (gasp! what a concept) private shower areas! I have no desire to see strangers’ naked bodies, and I have even less desire to have strangers see MY naked body, thank you.

    The choice invariably seems to be “the awkward towel dance” vs. “change in the toilet stall – ugh!”

    Taking grade-school students on swimming field trips, I notice a similar sentiment among most of the girls – they will line up five or six students deep to get a turn in the two change cubicles and the three toilet stalls. Which is lovely when we’re running late, but I’m not about to tell my kids “suck it up and strip – we’re all girls here!”

    And no, not because I’m afraid of being sued, but because I respect and share their desire for privacy.

    Modesty – not just for repressed weirdos! 😉

  105. Lea October 14, 2012 at 5:11 am #

    Our YMCAs have had this locker layout at most of them for a really long while, probably a decade. i don’t think it’s a safety thing as much as a convience for some members.

    Adults of the same sex are allowed and welcome in the “boys” and “girls” locker rooms. Many parents do just that rather than use the family locker rooms because the layouts of many of them leave something to be desired. Those under 18 simply aren’t allowed in the adult locker rooms as a convinece to adult members.

    I could survive being in a locker room with kids and I often did go in with my younger girl but I really enjoy that 10 – 30 kid free minutes I get in the adult only locker room. It’s quieter, dryer, has conviences such as hair dryers, lotion, nicer showers and my kid isn’t yacking my ear off while I’m getting dressed. I love that they have seperate adult only locker rooms. I see it as a perk of being a grown up not as wasted space or a safety issue.

    If adults weren’t allowed in the youth locker rooms or had to have special codes or keys to get into them and such I could see something to be upset about and to be concerned about.

  106. Lea October 14, 2012 at 5:37 am #

    I wanted to add that in general I’d be fine with teens at 16 and above being allowed in the adult locker rooms, most of the time. I don’t think teens of that age would cause floor messes, exessive noise, play with the hair dryers and lotions and so on.

    I think the YMCA simply has to draw a line somewhere to determine adult. Many parents would be outragged to think that the Y would consider their 16 year old and adult in any manner. Other parents would get mad that their 16 year old could go into the adult locker room but not the hot tub or sauna, which have age limits, generally, set by insurance companies. As much as I know my daughter would have been fine and respectful in the adult locker room at 16, I understand why the Y picked a universal “adult” age to post.

  107. Andy October 14, 2012 at 7:09 am #

    @Lea “has conviences such as hair dryers”

    How do kids dry their hair?

  108. JLR October 19, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

    I gotta tell you – and I know I am way out of touch with what’s current – but the family dressing room just creeps me out.

    The first (and last) time I experienced this was at my friend’s daughter’s birthday party at the local fitness center. We were talking as we went in, so I wasn’t really paying attention which door I went in — until I hit the locker room itself, which was wall-to-wall wet bodies of both sexes coming in from the pool.

    It occurred to me that it was my friend & her 5 year old daughter, and me & my daughter, so why didn’t we go in through the ladies’ locker room? My daughter (11) and I looked at each other, and without a word, turned around & walked out, and around to the ladies – which was like a spa, compared to the Black-Friday-on-Red-Bull atmosphere of the family dressing room!

    I TOTALLY understand the purpose of having one, but I grew up a block from the local public pool in the 70s, and my brother & I each went in the appropriate changing room – and made it out the other side just fine.

    My mother INVENTED helicopter parenting, believe me! 🙂
    And I was 12 when I was kissed by our Catholic grade school (male) gym teacher — despite my mother working in the same school ALL. EIGHT. YEARS. — so I understand the cautions that need to be taken, and I’m not being flip.

  109. RKH February 5, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    Children have the right to privacy. Kids should never be encouarged, pressured, or put in a social pressure cooker situation to undress in front of adults and older kids. At the Y I went to, I noticed the same old man following the kids to the dressing room and somehow being in the kids dressing space (or alway there when kids were changing and showers when they were public)! There are many adults that have done things to kids and never been caught because the kids are too embrassed to talk. We are learning about this with the catholic church, lots of PE teachers, coaches, boy scouts, and so called “good parents” who only had their friends kids over so they could touch them while asleep. It’s better to be safe than sorry! And we are now learning about all the small hidden cameras that so called “coachs” are “parents” used to film kids showers of changing at many public dressing rooms. Why is this even a topic! You must want public dressing rooms to see nude kids!!!???

  110. aliceblue March 23, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    While the fact that “adult” locker rooms are peaceful is nice the real reason many want adult only (with NO exceptions) is this “By the way – because there aren’t enough “family” changing rooms, at our YMCA boys up to age eight (yes, 8 years old) are allowed in the girls locker room, with their mothers, of course —”
    Who the hell cares if their moms are with them? I don’t feel like being naked in front of 8 year old boys. And just go online and see how many moms want their boys with them until they turn 12 or 13. I’m not a teens sex ed lesson. And of course the Y’s exception doesn’t say anything about bringing 8 year old girls in with their dads. Rule should be boys are allowed to the age that girls are; otherwise change in the family rooms or change at home.

  111. aliceblue March 23, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    Miss Happ, on October 9th, 2012 at 2:44 pm Said:
    Yes, the “adult only” change rooms are definitely marketed as a luxury for those adults who do not wish to be surrounded by noisy children”
    Or maybe for those of us who don’t wish to be naked in front of 10-13 year olds of the opposite sex??

    @Warren, on October 9th, So right!!

  112. Rachel June 10, 2013 at 3:21 am #

    Seems new to me,I grew up in the 90’s and only remember there being two dressing rooms in swimming centers or YMCA.
    Perhaps because these places where in a small city,so extravagant buildings where not seen.

    They usually had changing stalls,although they where only a couple and people still changed outside of them.
    I don’t remember seeing boys over 6 years old in woman’s rooms either.

    Children can be noisy anywhere,separate rooms just seem impracticable. I also don’t see why you would be more subconscious that a minor saw you undressed anymore then an adult.

  113. Rachel June 10, 2013 at 3:23 am #

    In fact at camp I remember dressing under covers because they allowed boys in our tents.


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