Friday, May 22, 2009

Architecture

Today, I will post on a topic that may seem very boring: architecture. I’ve always been fascinated by how architecture may sometimes invite (or positively demand) situations of exhibitionism and/or voyeurism.

While this has been an interest to me, I didn’t know that others were also giving this much thought before I raised the subject in a conversation at the local gay bar (London) a few weeks ago. It turned out that everybody round the table had examples of architecture which did, in one way or another, lead to nude people being seen by non-nude people in unintended ways – if we rule out the idea that the architects themselves were actually having this in mind when they made their drawings.

From my own experience, I’ve several times been to public toilets where the floor or the ceiling (or both) have been made of a polished material, shiny enough that you can see your mirror image in it. And – needless to say – if you can see your own mirror image, of course you can also see what goes on in the cubicle next to yours. More than once, I have jerked off in such a situation and seen that the guy “next-door” has noticed and started to watch. Of course, it is impossible for the other guy to complain if he doesn’t like what he sees, because he would be asked why he was peeking at you in the first place. How the people who have made the interior decisions (or the people actually doing the polishing) have managed to miss this point, is beyond me, but I am forever thankful.

One of my friends at the bar told me about the high school he went to. This high school had the swimming lessons in an old swimming pool which was also used by all other grades in the small community. Apparently, the pool was designed in the belief that it would only ever be used by one gender at a time, because there were no door separating the swimming pool and the shower area. Granted, there was only one of the showers which could be seen from the pool, but my friend admitted that he always made sure to take his time on the way to the shower, so that all the other showers would be occupied. Then he would enjoy showering in full view of the swimming pool.

Not all my gay friends are exhibitionists, by all means. Another of my friends told me about his school, where the locker rooms were in the basement. The small windows in the locker rooms were at the top of the walls, right above ground level, and were facing the school yard. This meant that the windows (of frosted glass) were almost always closed, but when the heat and the damp got too bad, someone would open one of the windows. This meant that people in the school yard could come over and have a look in. My friend admitted to opening the window on a few occations – after he himself had had the time to put on his underwear at least. He enjoyed to see how some of his class-mates were oblivious to the fact that they could be seen from above.

While we were discussing locker rooms, still another of my friends described how the locker room at his local soccer team was more or less just a small “cabin” put next to the soccer field. There was only one door separating the locker room and the outside, so every time someone went through the door, people outside could look in. While this was usually not an issue (as noone was around), it did happen at certain events, such as soccer tournaments, that there would be both players, parents and other spectators who happened to be outside at just the “right” moments.

Another topic when it comes to locker rooms was mirrors. Almost all of my friends had examples of locker rooms where there was no direct view from outside (or from a swimming pool or gym hall) into the locker room, but where mirrors had been put up near the entrance which gave a very different situation.

Yet another friend said that he had been to a museum in Bergen in which the toilet had a huge window facing a street. The window had (persienner) which meant that people could not look in, but my friend turned them a little, so that everyone outside could look in. He didn’t tell us why he did that or what he made out of it, but he said that when he passed on the street outside hours later, the (persienner) was still in the same position.

Many of my friends had also been to hotels with interesting opportunities. Of course, I prefer youth hostels where I can sleep in dorm rooms – it’s cheaper and offers other possibilities. But let’s discuss hotels now: One of my friends had been to a hotel in Gran Canaria in which the living room (and bedroom) window seemed to face a wall. What might not be obvious from inside the room, was that there was a path on top of the wall, on which every hotel guest coming late back from the city would go on their way to their rooms (after the main entrance had closed). My friend had not lived in this apartment himself, but had come home late at night once and had seen a guy naked on the bed, watching tv, with no curtains closed. Needless to say, my friend watched closely every night he came back from town, and the guy would be there every night, always oblivious or careless about what could be seen from outside.

Another friend mentioned staying at hotels where the hotel rooms faced a common area, and which had (just like the toilet mentioned above) (persienner) instead of curtains. These (persienner) did leave an inch or so on each side, which meant that people could, in theory, see as much as they wanted just by coming close. And just as with the (persienner) mentioned above, they could of course be put in different positions, meaning that it was easy to “forget” that it was possible to watch.

A more modern phenomenon is the bathrooms with glass walls. Of course, the glass walls mean that you can be watched from the living room while showering. One of my friends, however, pointed out that as we are not yet used to having glass walls in the bathroom, we do not always remember to close the living room curtains before having a shower. He himself had been to such a modern hotel somewhere, and had enjoyed having a shower while being in plain view by people outside.

One further thing that was mentioned in the discussion was public toilets in which there is a gap between the door and the wall, meaning that you can actually see or be seen as much as you want – and just as mentioned before, it is hard to complain when you see something through a crack in a door.

I see that some of these examples are purely architectural, while others have more to do with interior design. I’m sure, however, that there are more examples of how architecture is done in a way that makes it possible (or even necessary) to be naked in view of others. (After all, this posting is made on the basis of one conversation with just a few friends.) If you have such examples, I would be happy to read them in the comments…

4 comments:

Stian, Bergen said...

At my school, the boys' locker room was next to a busy corridor. While the teachers tried to make us pass quickly through the door, there was always a game going on to keep the door open at exactly the right moment so that some classmates were seen naked by people outside.

pengolodh_sc said...

At least some of the newer Hurtigrute-ships have 5-10 mm cracks between the walls and the doors in the stalls in the public bathrooms. This is the case at least at MS Nordnorge and MS Nordkapp. The cracks afford a nearly direct line of sight from the door into the bathroom area to the porcelain fixture. While I do not doubt it is fun when one is in an exhibitionistic mood, it is less so when one is not and is without any way of avoiding involuntary exposure.

Btw, the English word for "persienner" is "venetian blinds".

Jules said...

I used to go to a small school which had only one locker room. There were strict regulations supposed to ensure that all boys would be out of the locker room before the girls were streaming in and vice versa.

The teachers did not understand that we boys just opened the window a little before leaving - making it possible to look in.

Later, I have played professional soccer, and enjoy being naked with journalists and photographers around. I know they will avoid printing photos of me naked, but enjoy it still.

June said...

Hi!

I just found your blog, and even though it's from a gay perspective, as a heterosexual (bi-curious) girl, I find your experiences erotic.

On architecture, I also come from a school where you could see part of the boys' shower area from the pool. I always tried to get to the pool early, while the boys who had used it before us were still showering, and then there were almost always one (or more) of the boys who would want to be seen. I also remember that twice, boys still wearing their swimwear would drag a naked boy into the pool area and throw him into the pool, when a couple of girls were already there. The ultimate embarrasment for him, I guess, but a thrill for me...

I hope you don't mind me intruding in this all-male party...