Why (Most) Men (in the U.S.) Don’t (Won’t) Wear Speedos




In this article, I use the term Speedos as a generic term to refer to any male brief-style swimsuit. This style has minimal body coverage and in particular high leg openings. Usually these are made of a Lycra-polyester blend fabric although sometimes nylon is used. The suits provide minimal form-fitting body coverage, and traditionally at least, was a style favored by male competitive swimmers. For a history of Speedo swimwear and other information on the brand see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speedos









A 2007 reality show titled “The Pickup Artist” playing on the VH-1 cable network features straight male participants who are afraid of making conversations with (picking up) women. Each episode contains a task which the participants must complete and are judged with losing players going off the show.


In one episode, five “shy” guys remain and were invited to participate in a pool party in which there would be young single women, potentially worthy of being picked up. But the catch was that the "trainer" teaching the guys how to behave around women forced all the guys to wear Speedos and then go visit with the women. A couple of the guys remaining on the show at this point were slim and well built. One of those guys was really having problems with the whole idea of appearing in a Speedo in front of a woman. Another of the guys was 280 lbs, and oddly enough he seemed to have a great time with the whole idea and looked comfortable in his skin even though his black Speedo was stretched to the outer limits. But initially, a few of the guys are extremely apprehensive about the entire situation.


Peer Pressure Works Both Ways


Perhaps the most basic problem is that learning how to be comfortable in public wearing only a Speedo used to be a male tribal ritual for most guys when they reached their early teens, about at the start of high school. And many guys started wearing Speedos then in public in large measure because that is what their male friends the same age were also learning to do. There was male bonding camaraderie here associated with the teen male tribal ritual. If you were comfortable and got comfortable with male friends around you wearing a Speedo at beach or pool at age 13 or 14, chances are you will always be comfortable doing so.


Generally well known is the fact that many teen girls are very aware and concerned about of the changes occurring in their bodies at and just after puberty. Less well known is that many teen males go through an analogous period of concern and uncertainty and that teen males are often very concerned that someone else, perhaps a fiend or family member, might see them getting an erection. Being a teen male is an interesting time in one’s life. On one hand the brain is being constantly bombarded with all the newly discovered and intensely thrilling psychosexual sensations that seem to be emanating from the increasingly active male genitalia. For teen males, learning how to simply enjoy these sensations without being overly anxious or apprehensive is part of the serious task of growing up. Few teen males are close enough to their parents or to other male friends to be able to open up about what is happening to them psychosexually, and teen guys live in constant anxiety and uncertainty with respect to whether what they are experiencing is happening to other guys their age as well. For that matter, most guys, regardless of their age or sexual orientation, wonder a lot about whether and to what degree their own psychosexual feelings are similar to what their peers, classmates, fellow workers, even retired seniors, are experiencing.


Most teen guys would probably like to discuss these inner psychosexual feelings with other guys, particularly other guys their own age, but they are terrified to do so. Indeed, this same statement applies to most guys irrespective of age. As a consequence, the way most teen guys deal with this is that they try to surreptitiously find out information any chance they can get, and in particular when they are in close proximity to other males their own age, at camp, in a gym locker room or shower, or at an overnight party or other gathering in which other teen males are present and perhaps in situations where they are undressing. The big, unstated question is, “are you going through the same thing I’m going through?” Every guy seems to believe that his own personal situation in this regard is unique and that in particular, other guys have worked out the control problem (When can I experience these powerful and wonderful feelings without fear or overwhelming anxiety?) to a greater degree, but in large measure neither of these are true. In general, these same statements apply equally to adult men, who generally muddle through life secretly full of self-doubt and uncertainty and wondering if their own particular psychosexual situation is perhaps either unique, or commonplace.


At the same time, no teen male at this stage in his life would care to be labeled at that age as being “gay” or even “perhaps gay.” In this respect, showing too much interest in what is going on with the other guys in this respect could easily be misinterpreted. Keep in mind too that nearly every teen male goes through a period of life in which “unwanted” erections are occurring, that is, erections that occur at unexpected times and/or in unwanted places. At some point the guy realizes that part of growing up involves getting a degree of control over when and under what circumstances one gets an erection, but unfortunately, for many teen males, the penis doesn’t seem to want to pay a whole lot of attention to this, and appears to have a “mind” of its own, getting erect whenever a situation occurs that is stimulating, psychosexually. The male lives in constant fear that peers, both other guys and teen girls, will see that he has even a partial erection. 


So suppose that the teen male is a member of the high school swim team, and suddenly one day the swim coach passes out team Speedos and tells everyone to don their suits for practice to follow immediately. On one hand the teen male is confronted with exactly the situation he was secretly wishing for, that is, a chance to perhaps observe first hand how other guys are coping psychosexually with the entire situation that confronts them. However one not appear too interested in what is going on with the other guys, and in particular, one needs to be able to control one’s own erection such that you don’t draw undue attention to your own psychosexual situation, or worse, get labeled as possibly gay by your peer males in the locker room. On one hand, in contemplating what is suddenly being suggested as necessary, a host of marvelous sensations emanating from the groin area are telling the guy that he is about to get into a situation that is novel, and perhaps very interesting from a psychosexual perspective. This psychosexual situation the guy is suddenly confronting can be both intensely exciting and immensely terrifying at the same time. To the extent that this guy thinks about and agonizes over donning the Speedo, the chance of getting an erection will increase. At the same time, most teen males will undoubtedly be curious and very interested in observing any indication that their peers are struggling in dealing with the apprehension about exactly the same thing—this wonderfully wild combination of intensively exciting yet immensely terrifying feelings, and any erections that take place certainly provide non-verbal clues and information about how the other guys are dealing with all of this.


Most guys should get particularly anxious and apprehensive if they feel that they are going to be “forced” to wear a swimsuit that not only fits quite snuggly but clearly outlines the genitalia. If guys are going to be forced to wear a Speedo to be part of the swim team, most guys would prefer to not have to put the suit on for the first time in the presence of male peers, but instead in the privacy of one’s bedroom at home, without others looking on. Under those circumstances, an erection is no big deal, and at least the guy can get an idea about how the suit fits and feels without others looking on. For the teen male, the realization that peer males are going through a very similar experience can be helpful. That is, the knowledge that the other guys are in the same boat, so to speak, can be helpful in dealing with the apprehension and anxiety that the whole situation creates.


In ordinary clothing, erections occurring at inopportune times, such as in the locker room at the gym can often be hidden by folds of loose fitting cloth, but the case of Speedos even a partial erection is there for all to observe as taking place. Combine this with the fact that Speedos are usually made of slick to the touch, tight fitting Lycra blends, and that swimming coaches and swimsuit manufacturers admonish wearers to undersize the suits at least a waist size, perhaps two, for best performance in swimming competition, and all the elements for a really interesting psychosexual situation are there.


By the time a guy is a teen, he is well aware of the consequences of lightly touching his penis. But, he is probably also aware that touching uncovered skin does not generally produce as pleasant feelings as touching covered skin. The covering might be something as simple as hand lotion, which acts as a friction-reducing lubricant. But thin fabric might also work well, especially fabric that is smooth and slick. Cotton underwear is not smooth enough. Indeed, the popularity of underwear made of silk is much better. But the Nylon/Lycra/Spandex ordinarily used in construction of Speedo-style swimwear works at least as well, if not better. The snug fit and feel of the garment around the penis adds to the pleasant sensations.


Thus, a guy who is new at experimenting with wearing a Speedo style swimsuit quickly discovers that the most interesting and pleasant sensations are obtained if he positions his penis in the “pointed up” position inside the suit. Then he can easily touch all along the underside of his penis (the underside is more sensitive than the top). Light tapping with the fingertips trough the slick suit only adds to the pleasant sensations. Guys quickly become very aware of how pleasant, interesting and easily accomplished this is. So because of the pleasant sensations, many guys look forward to opportunities to wear their suits, even as an option to cotton underwear, even with the possible threat of “discovery” by their peers. Of course, most guys would be very embarrassed to admit to all of this and what they are doing to their peers, or even their girlfriends (and later, their wives).   


In the 2007 movie “Pride”, Terrence Howard plays a coach, Jim Ellis, who starts a competitive swimming program for troubled black teen males in the Philadelphia Department of Recreation. The teens are very apprehensive and troubled when Ellis tells them that they will need to wear form-fitting Speedos in order to compete. Initially, the teens refuse to do this, and show up at their first meet wearing baggy shorts. The competing teams, all wearing tight-fitting Speedos, laugh at this “competition”, and the team loses. At the next meet the swim team competes in the Speedos Jim Ellis wanted them to wear and the swim team members start to win races. Clearly part of the issue with regard to wearing Speedos relates to what one’s peer group (in this case the competing swim teams) are wearing and believe to be the norm.  The guys in the movie were all struggling with how to deal with all the problems and issues I have outlined above.


Once a guy gets through this experience as a teen male, and starts to believe that others around him see what he is wearing is the norm and indeed nothing out of the ordinary, psychosexually he starts becoming more comfortable with the entire situation. So what if it’s possible to observe a semi-erection outlined by the suit! After all, the guy is a male. Besides, a semi-erection can be a source of teen male pride, indicating that everything is more than ok in the track to adulthood and in particular that the guys is not somehow a “late bloomer.”  Secretly, despite the apprehension and anxiety, the guy was probably hoping that he would look “amply endowed” in the suit. Ultimately, this should be a source of pride for young males, not anxiety.


A male who survives his first wearing of a Speedo as a teen male will ultimately lose a lot of this apprehension about pulling on a Speedo and wearing it in public. This same guy will likely not be less comfortable doing the same thing once adulthood is achieved. At this point, there is nothing particularly disconcerting, difficult or even novel about being seen by a woman wearing a Speedo, even with a bit of an erection. 


However, sadly, today most guys now never go through this male bonding exercise of donning a Speedo along with their male peers while still in their early teen years. As a consequence, the guys who have never worked this out during their teen years as adults end up apprehensive about how others might interpret what they wear at the pool and being uncomfortable with the whole idea of wearing a Speedo as an adult. I understand that the teen male tribal ritual that requires young athletes to wear snug-fitting jock straps completely open in the back is all but gone too, and its mainly only the older guys who wear those any more, probably the same guys who learned how to wear them and be comfortable in front of other males back when they started high school. Very similar situations occur in other high school sports if the coach of the particular sport decides to require all participants to wear jock straps.


Guys carry all this psychosexual baggage into adulthood, whether or not they have worked through it as a teen male. Having muddled through their teen years without being placed in a situation where they were forced to wear a Speedo, many guys do not want to try this in adulthood, as the same old fears and anxieties remain. Better to use the excuse that one’s body is not fit enough to wear a Speedo


The episode of “The Pickup Artist” was interesting in that all the participants were past their teen years and in their early 20s. In large measure they were very apprehensive about donning the Speedos and then immediately being seen at the pool, with young women present. Here also as young adult males they were among their peers, and the TV cameras were rolling as well. It was clear for these guys that all sorts of unresolved anxieties about the psychosexual situation they were being forced into were reappearing, even though some of the guys seemed a bit more comfortable than others, and oddly enough this degree of comfort with the situation at hand didn’t seem to have anything to do with body shape or fitness level. Perhaps those who were more comfortable had confronted a similar situation before during their teen years.


Emotional Reactions to First-Time Speedo Wear


Therefore, a number of different emotions confront a male the first time he dons a Speedo. These could include

1.     terror. “ I know I am going to get an erection when I do this and the other guys will surely see.”

2.     anxiety. ”I’m not at all certain how me or my body will react to this, and I certainly do not want to find out in the company of anyone else.” Guys are trying to determine how their bodies will “cope” with what could be a whole series of new and potentially “interesting” sensations that might occur as the most sensitive parts of their bodies come in contact with the slick feel and really snug fit of the nylon or Lycra-blend cloth

3.     apprehension. I am very concerned how I will look and how others will think I look in such a skimpy and form- fitting swimwear. I think I will look silly being so close to naked. My private parts outlined by a form-fitting Speedo are going to look small compared with the other guys”

4.     anticipation. “I have long thought that my private parts could feel really good wearing a slippery, snug-fitting Speedo, and I have always longed to find out if that is indeed true. I wonder if the other guys trying a pair of Speedos on for the first time are going through the same experience I am having.”

5.     thrilled. “This will be a really interesting psychosexual situation to put myself in, and I am going to try and make the best of it and perhaps really enjoy myself, all of the interesting and pleasant sensations and how I will likely look and feel. I am hopeful that in my Speedo I will look at least as good as the other guys, and maybe even better”


Most males donning a Speedo for the first time probably have to confront and deal with all of these emotions and feelings and their psychological and sexual components with regard to what they are doing, experiencing and feeling. Not surprisingly, some males, confronting what could be negative emotions of terror, anxiety and apprehension never get up the nerve to wear a Speedo. These guys basically decide that this is not something they want to try to do, especially if their male peers are agonizing over these same negative feelings and reactions (1-3, above). But these guys muddle into adulthood craving for having the opportunity to pull on a Speedo while always wondering if they truly missed out on an experience that they would have ultimately found to be thrilling from an emotional and psychosexual perspective, yet despite this never quite get up the courage ever again to try and see exactly what indeed would happen to them when their bodies are confronted with this “situation” that was both intriguing and novel.


A wife or even girlfriend who claims that “you would look silly in a Speedo” reinforces the negative “I’m certainly never going to try that” emotions, as do equally male friends who are equally uncomfortable about the whole idea and deal with their discomfort by claiming that “only gays wear Speedos” or that if one has any cravings whatsoever with respect to what it would feel like to wear a Speedo, then the guy must at minimum a gay component to his personality especially since so many gay guys like to look at other guys wearing Speedos. The non-Speedo wearing adult male basically rationalizes based on one of these two arguments. But deep down, he often still admires the guys who are “comfortable in their Speedos”—with their bodies and their sexual orientation whatever it is,  and fully realizes that these guys wearing Speedos neither look silly (They are generally more fit and toned than the average guy wearing board shorts at the pool or beach and there is neither anything wrong with having a good-looking body with tight abs and a trim waist, nor with using the incentive that “I would like to look good wearing a Speedo” as a major reason for getting involved in a fitness diet and exercise program.) nor are these guys necessarily gay.


Current Fashion


Some guys like to claim that they do not wear Speedos at the pool or beach simply because they are no longer in fashion. Loose-fitting board shorts or other bulky looking clothing that fits at or even below the knees is the current fashion, and no teen male would be caught wearing something inconsistent with what appears to be fashionable within the peer group. Unfortunately, if a guy is interested in swimming, these styles are tend to make that more difficult and certainly slow down the swimmer interested in doing pool laps at the fastest possible time.


Oddly enough, currently there are lots of body revealing garments still out there that are very popular with young males (I should know, as I have a half dozen or more of each in my dresser drawers), starting with the short and long sleeved tight fitting Lycra compression tee shirts UnderArmour made so popular as well as the really tight fitting compression shorts. As a bicycle rider, you would certainly want to be wearing really tight fitting biking shorts and top, and would be considered "not much of a biker" if you did not. It used to be that no one took you at all seriously as a swimmer/athlete if you didn't show up at the pool wearing a snug fitting, skimpy Speedo, and the smaller, tighter and more body revealing the better (look at the male Olympic competitors from the 80s if you don't believe that this was a key in the partly psychological game of being taken by others as a serious competitor).  What comes around goes around. I notice that in addition to the racks of boxer shorts, the department and discount stores remain filled with very skimpy underwear, and someone must be buying this. If anything the percentage of skimpy designs has increased in recent months and the baggy Loony Tunes boxer stuff seems to be on the decline.  Many guys are still showing off their bodies to someone, but not quite like they did from the 60s to the 80s.


Obesity and Being Out of Shape


Global warming says that the world’s climate has been warming recently. There is analogous data on the incidence of obesity in the US in the last 30 years, and on average the population in nearly all states, both men and women are growing fatter. Particularly in the last 10 years or so, the incidence of obesity in most states has risen dramatically. Given this, there are going to be fewer and fewer guys who are trim, fit and ripped enough in order to “look good in a Speedo.”  The fascination with Board shorts by young males may in part be an effort to hide the fact that these same young males are unfit and overweight, and, in particular, not getting enough exercise. However, males in many other countries do not seem to suffer from these hang-ups.


Clothing manufacturers have to be cognizant of the average weights of their customers. Even slim-fit jeans sold today are generally cut wider than they were 25 or 30 years ago, at least those for males, in large measure because customers tend to weigh more than they used to. But a guy who is overweight or otherwise not physically fit is still going to appear overweight and not fit irrespective of his choice in swimwear. Loose fitting, bulky swimwear does not somehow resolve the underlying problem. Indeed, the desire to “look really good in a Speedo” might be one strong motivation for a guy to pursue a weight reduction and exercise program. Maybe too many adult males too in our modern society have simply given up on their exercise and fitness routines and cope with this psychologically by wearing board shorts in an effort to hide their more than ample weight. I suppose we could place part of the blame for the declining popularity of wearing Speedos on the increase in consumption of fatty and hollow calorie-laden fast food meals over the past 30 or 40 years!


A recent advertisement by Fidelity Investments reinforces the old stereotype that Speedos should be worn only by the fittest of guys. The man in the ad, reasonably fit but probably carrying 15 or 20 pounds of extra weight all around, emerges from the house for a pool party involving family and friends wearing a blue Speedo. Everyone at the party immediately gives signals that his choice of attire was unwise. A basic problem here is that the waist size of the blue Speedo he chose was too small, accentuating the fat above his waist. With an only slightly looser fitting Lycra or even a nylon Speedo, that would not have compressed the fat around his waist, he would have looked fine in the Speedo, even at his current weight. But then the ad, highlighting problems associated with making unwise choices in pool attire and in financial investments, would not have made any sense at all. Sadly, the ad also reinforces the viewpoint that wives in particular and adult women in general are all generally uncomfortable seeing guys in Speedos. That is, the unfit guys wearing Speedos need wardrobe advice, and surely the fit guys are nearly always gay.” This is a sad commentary on our society.



Feminists and the “Is This Guy Gay?” Thing


It is generally recognized that when heterosexual men choose a mate, unbeknown to many men, the  most obvious sexual turn-ons  such as big breasts, tend to be associated with fertility and, in particular, the ability to of a woman produce and mother a child. In the mate selection process, sexual turn-ons for women are there, but a little more subtle. The debate over whether the size of the male penis matters and the extent to which size is a sexual turn-on for men has been continuing. I tend to see sexual turn-ons for women just a little differently. In my view, women seeking mates are well aware of the fact that statistically, they will significantly outlive their husbands. Most women would prefer not to be alone in old age, or if they are ultimately going to be widowed, that their husband be a partner for as long as possible. So the selection process in part involves picking a male partner who will be there for them if, for not their entire life, at least as long as possible. In particular, are there body characteristics that a female can use to choose a mate who is likely to have a long life?


There is a growing amount of literature which suggests that health-wise, men cannot carry excess weight around their tummies without adverse health effects. For men, having a trim waist is a key to determining not only an overall fitness measure, but could be a key factor in determining life expectancy. Weight around the tummy in large measure is linked to diets high in unhealthy saturated fats and high fructose corn syrup—the exact empty calories fast food restaurants are famous for serving.


In short, if a woman seeking a mate can find a guy in his twenties who has been able to successfully keep a trim waist despite the onslaught of temptations embodied in saturated fat and high fructose corn syrup, then she might also have found a life partner who at least has the potential to provide her with a high quality of life over a long life expectancy. In this context, the fittest guys with the ripped abdominal muscles and muscular bodies have a strong comparative advantage—indeed they are seen by women as having bodies that are sexy and erotic, but the subtle signal here is that these guys are probably the ones least likely to keel over from a heart attack at age 43, or quickly develop other weight-related problems that shorten life expectancy. At some level, guys still know women find fit bodies attractive.


There are two problems, however. The first problem is that with rising obesity in the US, the odds of young women finding guys in their 20s with lean and muscular bodies are coming down. First, for the younger guys carrying far too much weight, they try to cope by covering up their bodies with oversized shirts and shorts, hoping that if they wear outsized, baggy clothing, women they find attractive somehow will not notice that they are seriously overweight.


The second problem is that most men do not necessarily behave consistently with respect to pursuing diet, exercise and overall fitness goals over a lifetime. The fit heterosexual male who may have had a 31-inch waist on his wedding day may gradually reduce the amount of exercise, and there is a tendency for guys to put on weight over the decades, as metabolism tends to slow down. By his early forties, and without a real fitness plan, this slim guy may find that his waist has ballooned to 38 or even 40 inches!  This is not good from a life expectancy perspective, even though it might be consistent with a guy who devotes an increasing share of his time to taking care of his wife and raising a family. Still, the guy who was trim on his marriage day statistically probably has a better chance of

keeping the weight off than the guy who was already overweight when he married.


Then there are the female fashion police, who think they know what guys should and should not wear for swimming attire. Some of these say “A Speedo is ok, but only if the guy is very, very fit.” If the guy has any self doubt in this regard he should not wear a Speedo and this in particular applies to practically ever male over the age of 25, or any male who believes he is even slightly out of shape or even a bit overweight. I read all of these nasty comments from women who even try to claim that no guy no matter how fit should wear a Speedo or that only gay guys wear Speedos any more. I find these often angry comments from women more than a little silly.


First, women who attend male strip clubs generally do not go there because they will get to see men cavorting on stage wearing outsized board shorts. Indeed, if one watches women at such events, the skimpier the male costume, the happier and more turned on the women appear to be. It is readily apparent that many, perhaps a majority of women, love to see fit, muscular men clad in Speedos or Speedo-like costumes, and they find the entire situation to be quite erotic. It is good to know that women are wired that way.


Let us assume that a woman has found a man who is fit and trim, and who would like to wear a Speedo at the beach or pool. Many women are more than aware of the fact that seeing a fit, toned guy in a Speedo can be a sexual turn-on for other women, and worry that some other woman at the beach will approach her guy. Better than to risk that possibility, why not tell your man that “he wouldn’t look good in a Speedo,” or perhaps that “Speedos are worn only by gay guys.” I am convinced that part of this vehement anti-Speedo commentary we hear from women has to do with the “fear of competition for their man” concern.


Second, a quick trip to the men’s underwear departments of even discount stores such as Wal-Mart or Target reveals all sorts of interesting designs, many men’s “bikinis” (or even skimpier “thongs”) mimicking many of the designs of skimpiest of men’s swimsuits.  If men were not wearing this stuff why would it be in such good supply even at discount department stores? There are far more of these underwear styles out there than there are fit males shopping Target and Wal-Mart. To me, this can only suggest one thing: women indeed are not unhappy seeing their men (perhaps even the not-so fit ones) clad in skimpy undergarments that look a lot like Speedos. Indeed what must be going on here is the guys are recreating some of the male stripper experience for their wives.  So its not that “men don’t look good in Speedos”, it’s just that the women want to see their scantily-clad men this only in private, and away from any potential “competition” for their men at the beach or pool. Fair enough!


Indeed, if one surveys both the men’s and women’s undergarment departments at discount houses and department stores, one might quickly conclude that Americans typically are far less conservative with respect to what they are wearing as undergarments nowadays than the social conservatives would like us all to believe. When it comes to their wives at least, men are not all hiding under baggy board shorts and outsized sweatshirts. Wal-Mart and Target are not stocking these undergarments because they expect them to stay on the shelves! In many respects, all of this is quite encouraging.


But there also appear to be a group of feminist adult women who are very uncomfortable with the whole idea of being around any male who appears to actually have male genitalia, even if fully covered.  Their psychosexual problems trace back to the idea that women must achieve total equality with men, and that women can never be fully equal to men because they do not have a penis!  For a guy to display his even the outline of his genitalia, fully covered in a Speedo, is nothing less than a full-scale attack on women as a group and in particular their efforts to be treated as equals with men in all respects. So the whole notion of a guy wearing a Speedo seems to anger a subset of women, who would instead somehow prefer that men wear baggy enough shorts so that they appear to lack male genitalia! Never mind that the same rules generally do not apply to women, who are free to wear as revealing clothing as they want, at the pool or beach and do. Seldom if ever do guys complain that female beach attire is too skimpy or revealing. There is something of a dual standard here.


In the 2003 biographical movie of Australian swimmer Tony Fingleton, titled “Swimming Upstream,” fit swimmers clad in Speedos show up everywhere. In one scene, a female admirer of Tony even asks him for one of his suits, and then claims she would be still happier if he were in the suit. Clearly the female admirer found that Tony clad in his Speedo was erotic. So at one time, at least, women were not anti-Speedo, and indeed, many seemed to very much like the design on men.


Oddly enough, it appears to be a subgroup primarily consisting of US women who are struggling with sick hang-ups regarding the male genitalia and sexual equality for women. To their credit, people in Europe and in many other areas of the world do not seem to have what amounts to psychosexual and body image hang-ups regarding what males should or should not wear as swimming attire. Indeed, many women do not seem to have the same hang-ups about their own bodies, and any beach will have examples of less than fit women with less than perfect bodies wearing skimpy bikinis. So once again we have something of a dual standard in which skimpy bikinis can be worn by women but men should not show up in any public setting (beach, pool) in form-fitting attire that is in any way revealing.


I have been trying to determine where the notion that any guy who wears a Speedo who is not in a swimming competition must be gay, and that a Speedo is a body signal to woman therefore that the guy would not make a suitable mate. This notion is an idea that we residents here in the U.S dreamed up relatively recently, as in the last 10 or 15 years and clearly not a rule that would apply in the rest of the world. Even Canadians see this differently. Currently, Speedos do seem to be more commonly worn by gay men in the US than by straight men, in part because many gay men have fewer hang-ups about displaying their bodies in public than do many straight men.


A consensus answer to this questions seems to be that the U.S. public began to associate wearing Speedos with seeing gay guys for the first time marching in gay pride parades, some clad in Speedos or perhaps other outrageous garb clearly associated with being gay, and these parades really started becoming popular in many cities perhaps 10 or 15 years ago. Once these public displays became commonplace (MOST straight guys would probably not walk down a public street in a Speedo, away from beach or pool, let alone wear a Speedo as the choice of garb to participate in a parade celebrating being gay) the public, and in particular teen males naturally began to associate wearing Speedos with being gay.


I am not quite certain what all of this accomplishes. In an idealized world, gays would mesh seamlessly into a world in which sexual orientation, and who a person has sex with in privacy does not matter to anyone else. This is simply a personal matter that should be of no concern to the public or to the government. It seems to me that parades which announce that gay guys are indeed very different, in part because they  dress completely differently from their straight counterparts and clearly label themselves in the public’s mind as being gay. Old stereotypes often die hard. The recent incident involving Larry Craig in the Minneapolis airport reinforces the largely invalid notion that most gay guys are still cruising restrooms in public places for sex. The problem is that if gays are seriously interested in merging seamlessly into the larger society, and that gay relationships, other than the sex of the partner, are no different from straight relationships, then the whole idea of flaunting one’s sexual orientation by choosing clothing that labels the guy as gay and cruising public restrooms for sex in large measure keeps setting the entire movement backward not forward.


At the same time, maintaining a high degree of physical fitness over a lifetime might play a much bigger role for many gay guys than for the average heterosexual male in a steady relationship with a woman. This is in part due to the fact that gay guys generally see as sexually attractive the same fit male body that would be seen as attractive by many females, that is, a body type featuring toned muscles, strong abs, and a muscular butt. To a degree, at least, male fitness represents more nearly a major goal over a lifetime for many gay males than it does for many heterosexual males, and gay males probably on average spend more time at least attempting to maintain a fitness level that would allow them to “look good in a Speedo” than do their heterosexual counterparts.


The basic problem I have with all of this is that to conclude that a guy must be gay if he wears and looks good in a Speedo is a convenient excuse for heterosexual males to let their fitness levels slide such that they surely will not look good in a Speedo. Further, if a woman somehow ended up with an overweight, unfit guy she can conveniently rationalize this on the basis that the trim fit guys who look good in Speedos must all be gay and therefore unacceptable partners! And if she is married to a fit guy, she can rationalize him covered up in loose fitting board shorts and a big tee shirt as assuring that other dressed that way surely other women will not attempt to compete for his interest. Maybe if she truly believes that she should go ahead and let her guy wear a Speedo if she truly believes that other women who see her guy in a Speedo they will automatically assume that he is gay. But, oddly enough, she might not be secure enough to have other women thinking that she might have somehow (perhaps inadvertently) attached herself to a gay guy, not simply a straight guy who is fit enough and comfortable enough in his own skin to be comfortable wearing a Speedo.


Finally, I have also heard that the anti-Speedo movement has its roots in the politically conservative Bible belt. Swimwear is ok but it would be a “sin” to wear any swimwear that reveals too much about the shape of the “private parts.” And in this regard, it is important for both men and women to wear “modest” swimwear when in public. Being anti-Speedo ties right in with a conservative anti-gay view of humanity as well as the whole idea that there is some arbitrary line determining morality and what society should deem ok versus not ok in beach and pool attire.


Summarizing Some Ideas


I believe that the gradual decline in the popularity of men wearing Speedos in public, perhaps at a pool or beach over the past 20 years but particularly in the last five years, can be attributed to a number of factors


1.               The upsurge in the feminist movements and along with efforts to achieve complete equality of women. Some women see the penis not simply as a male sexual organ but instead as a sexual icon which announces that no matter how much success is achieved by women as they strive for equality in the workplace, they will never be fully equal with men in this regard. As a consequence, if a male appears in public in any situation whereby it could be concluded that he has a penis, even fully covered, this is not only offensive to the women’s movement but to women in general. For a woman to admit that she is or could possibly be turned on by seeing even the outline of a male penis covered in cloth is perceived as a threat to the drive for sexual equality.

2.               The upsurge in the gay movement as emphasized by gay pride and other similar events designed to make the public realize that gay men are an essential part. The unfortunate part of some of these efforts is that instead of making an effort for gay guys to further intermingle seamlessly into a larger society, they instead end up highlighting some basic differences between straight males and gay males. To illustrate, even heterosexual males who wear Speedos would probably restrict wearing Speedos in public to only appropriate places such as around a beach or pool, whereas gay males might be seen as parading down a public street, away from a swimming venue, wearing a Speedo

3.               The increasing realization by heterosexual, particularly heterosexual females, that gay men are often turned on be seeing the bodies of other men. Most women are comfortable living in a world in which they clearly believe that they are the object of a guy’s arousals and turn-ons, and further, without them, a guy’s life sexually would be miserable. Many, perhaps most women, truly cherish the fact that they can control men, particularly boyfriends and husbands in this way.  This is the basic method a lot of women use to get what they want from men. The whole idea that some, perhaps most men, can be aroused in all sorts of other ways that might not directly or even indirectly involve a woman represents an issue many women do not wish to confront let alone accept. A world in which women control men as being their single source of sexual satisfaction is what they desire even though this ultimately is silly and unrealistic. 

4.               A general decline in fitness levels and increasing weight of a lot of males, even young males, who find it far easier to cover their out-of condition bodies in oversized clothing than to devote time and energy to pursuing fitness and dietary goals. There is no need to be fit if the popular style of clothing is to reveal as little of your body as possible

5.               Increasing realization by males, both straight and gay, that in a search for a partner, size does indeed matter, and it frequently matters a lot. Nearly every guy worries that he is smaller than his male competition, and wearing a Speedo makes it rather easy for those he is seeking to attract attention to see exactly how large his sexual equipment is. Better to keep the woman guessing, and maybe she will find the guy attractive for other reasons. If the small guy is lucky, she may only discover his “problem” after it is “too late” and has fallen in love with him anyway for other reasons other than the size of his male equipment. If the guy and the competing males are all lined up wearing Speedos, it would not be difficult for the women seeking a relationship to evaluate each candidate male in part based on apparent penis size. Some guys simply do not want to try to compete in this brave world. The dual standard here is interesting in that many men have no difficulty judging women based on body and appearance, and by visually measuring body characteristics such as breast size, but these same men are reluctant themselves to be the object of an analogous evaluation by women. This speaks to an increasing amount of insecurity on the part of men an increased desire to hide behind baggy swimwear in an effort to avoid the possibility of being compared, sexual equipment wise, to other competing males.

6.               Women are increasingly worried that if their boyfriend or husband shows up at a water venue wearing a Speedo and displaying what she considers to be an attractive crotch bulge,  that he could be seen as attractive and open to invitations by other women who also find the bulge to be attractive. So it is convenient to tell the boyfriend or husband that either (a) he should not wear a Speedo because his body is unsuitable for it, even though he might indeed actually be fit and toned and look very good, or (b) if he wears a Speedo at the beach or pool, everyone will automatically label him as being gay. Of course, the last thing a heterosexual guy wants to hear is that even some women think he might be gay, and that excuse for not wearing a Speedo alone might be enough to deter him. Further, many guys are body conscious and do worry that they might dress in a manner in which others would see them as being less than fit. So the whole idea of women declaring that practically no guy has a sufficiently good looking a body to wear a Speedo, or that any guy whose body is good enough to wear a Speedo will immediately be seen as being gay plays into the idea of the woman making certain that the object of her affection does not become the target of another, competing women who finds him and his body to be attractive.

7.               Generally, US men are being increasingly conditioned by our society with respect to the notion that they should not be comfortable in their own skins and in general that they should be ashamed of their bodies and how they appear to others. I suppose that there could be some logical basis for all of this, with rising obesity and declining average fitness levels even among younger guys. But could it be that increasingly, men are using the idea that they will be covered in baggy clothing anyway as a rationale for not maintaining or not attempting to improve their overall fitness levels? If guys knew that they were going to be expected to soon appear at the beach or pool not only wearing but indeed looking good in a Speedo, would they think twice before ordering up the super-sized high-fat meal at the local fast food joint? And would they be more likely to adopt a better overall exercise and fitness program focusing on toning the chest and abdominal muscles and keeping fat around the waist to a minimum. I would prefer to think about this in another way (section below) that says a fitness goal should be to strive to do the things necessary to look good in a Speedo, and that a guy might use the goal of “looking good in a Speedo” as an overall objective for a diet and exercise program over an entire lifetime.

8.               In short, we need to move away from the idea that only gay guys wear Speedos, and toward an idea that desirable men both straight and gay, are comfortable in their own skins, and that part of being comfortable in one’s own skin relates directly to how one’s body is seen by others both of the same sex and of the opposite sex. The rules here are not somehow different for straight men than they are for gay men, and the fact that a guy is straight should not be a rationale as to why it is ok for a guy to put on weight and not pursue a vigorous long-term exercise program. Obviously, in this regard, genes matter, and some guys are going to look better than other guys irrespective of what diet and exercise program they might chose to pursue. But I am constantly amazed as to what a proper diet and exercise program can do in terms of making a guy who once believed that his body was unattractive to others increasingly comfortable in his own skin and around others. Many women with male partners might be delighted if the object of their affection pursued such a goal, and perhaps even pleased to realize that their guy really looked good wearing a Speedo on vacation at the beach or pool. I am not nearly as convinced as some of the radical feminists writing on the Internet blogs that in general women do not find men in Speedos to be attractive and that Speedos should not even be worn by young fit guys. These are sad comments on an idea some radical feminists have been trying to promote as part of an agenda as outlined above.


Dress Codes Banning Speedos (or anything BUT Speedo-style Swimwear for Men


The dress code at one pool in France states: "Slip de bain obligatoire, shorts interdits" ("swimming briefs required, no shorts allowed").


It is interesting to do a Google Search on the following key words together: dress code no Speedos to see exactly what groups banish Speedos at the beach or pool. Any number of Web sites pop up, most leading back to summer camps with a socially conservative religious affiliation, but one link even goes back to a 4H camp located in California. Generally Speedos for are banned along with jeans for women that expose the midriff.


However, the most stringent code is found at Liberty University, founded by the late Jerry Falwell. The entire male dress code can be found at  http://www.liberty.edu/studentaffairs/index.cfm?PID=1335

They ban all sorts of things, but here is the portion of the code applying to pool wear

Swimming Pool:

Swimwear is only appropriate at the swimming pool. Students are to wear appropriate casual or sport attire (as stated in "The Liberty Way") going to and from the pool. Men are required to wear appropriate swimsuits that are not excessively short, tight, or high-cut. Speedos, spandex suits, or cut-off jeans are not acceptable.

Apparently, even Lycra jammers are banned for swimmers, or anything cut too high or fitting too tight. Fortunately, Liberty University does not field an intercollegiate swim team, or they would probably look as silly as the swim team in the Movie Pride. I would worry that Liberty University will likely drown some of their student body who as inexperienced swimmers, try to swim while trying to meet the conservative dress code.

Meanwhile, the Bellflower Aquatics Center in California makes clear that Speedos for men are permitted, as are other possibilities Liberty University would regard as inappropriate.

AQUATIC CENTER DRESS CODE (strictly enforced):


MALES: Swim trunks or Speedo-type briefs only. NO cut-offs, shorts with zippers, bicycle shorts or T-shirts. NO exposed underwear, street clothes, or shorts that go beyond the TOP of the knee. Gym shorts with drawstrings are o.k.

Using Speedos as an Appearance Incentive to Achieve Fitness Goals

Let’s face it: Speedos are unrelenting in accentuating the male physique, and a guy has a fit, tone, “buff” body, he is going to look good in Speedos. In particular, the guys carrying a smaller percentage of body fat and, in particular, guys with strong, “ripped” abdominal muscles will look better than guys with higher percentages of  body fat. I have already indicated that part of the reason for the gradual decline in the popularity of Speedos may be related to the fact that on average, American (guys) keep putting on more and more weight each year. To the extent that guys “belly up” to the fast food counter, loading down diets with saturated fats and high- fructose corn syrup, guys are not going to look that good wearing Speedos.

But let us suppose that we turn this around. Suppose that a guy sets out as a fitness goal to look good in a pair of Speedos. Where does that lead us? Well, fitness involves a combination of two things, diet and exercise. However, a good exercise program will burn calories, and a person cannot diet to the point whereby they no longer have the necessary energy to keep up an exercise program. In turn, exercise programs tend to burn fat and increase muscle mass.

A guy might initially use what he considers to be an unacceptable appearance in a pair of Speedos as a starting point for a program involving both diet and exercise. How does a guy define an unacceptable appearance in a Speedo? Well, for starters, carrying too much fat around the waistline. Big guys can look great in really small, tight-fitting Speedos, but the key here is that the area around the waist is high in muscle and low in fat. On less than fit guys, if a Speedo fits too snuggly around the waist, that will tend to accentuate the fat. This fat will tend to compress a lot and, quite frankly, the guy will look silly. A key to looking good in an undersized Speedo is a high percentage of lean muscle mass and strong abdominal muscles (the so-called “six-pack” abdominal muscles).

So what if a guy is just starting out with a diet to lose weight around the waist along with an exercise program focused on building the chest and abdominal muscles, but the guy is still carrying quite a bit of body fat around the abdomen, and the abdominal muscles are not as strong or “ripped” as they could be at a higher level of fitness. In this case I would recommend that the guy start out with a looser fitting suit, still brief (a.k.a. Speedo) –style, but perhaps one made of nylon not Lycra. These suits generally have a waist cord that when tied, holds the suit in place, instead of relying mainly on tight-fitting elastic. This approach puts less compression in the waist area and generally looks comparatively better on guys carrying some body fat than the suits that rely mainly on elastic at the waist. In general, a looser-fitting suit with 3-inch not 1-inch sides is going to look better. As the guy increases his fitness level, he can try seeing how he looks in a snugger-fitting, skimpier suit. Indeed, the whole idea of using a series of progressively smaller Speedos as the overall fitness level improves and as the waist size comes down might very well provide the necessary incentive for not only keeping up but also increasing one’s diet and exercise program, starting with a loose-fitting Speedo that feels comfortable on a guy with an “average” build but with the ultimate fitness goal be looking good in a much smaller, more snuggly-fitting Speedo. What a guy tries on in front of a mirror at home may or may not be what he chooses to wear at a public pool or beach, and there is no law forcing a guy to wear a Speedo in public that goes beyond what he feels looks good on him in private, in front of a mirror.

Ignoring the psychosexual feminist arguments, at least 95 percent of the complaints women have about men wearing Speedos relates not to the whole idea of wearing that style of swimsuit per se, nor are they age-related per se (i.e. a belief once any guy is beyond his 20s, he should not wear a Speedo). Rather, it is the fact that some guys insist on trying to wear Speedos when they are at an unacceptable level of fitness, particularly with respect to the abdomen (the literally deadly “fast food tummy”).  If the guy is conditioned, fit and toned, with strong abdominal muscles, he will look good in a Speedo regardless of age. In many ways guys have it lucky—women as they age tend to develop cellulite which makes their bodies look old and often unattractive. Men, on the other hand, if they keep exercising and watch their diet, can retain an attractive, muscular fit and toned body well into their 60s and even 70s. That most men for whatever reason tend to not do this and let everything sag is largely their own fault, and not some outcome that must be associated with aging. Older women probably do not want to admit it, but for these older women the sight of a toned, muscular man in his 50s, 60s or even older is a very erotic turn-on for them. So there is ample reason for men to maintain a healthy diet and exercise program as they grow older. I suspect that for most if not nearly all older women, the whole idea of getting to see a really fit guy wearing a Speedo who is clearly in his 50s or even 60s would be an enormous turn-on. 

So the key to all of this is, that as you begin your program of exercise and diet, study your appearance in a Speedo in a mirror in the privacy of home without being the least bit concerned about what others might think if you were to appear in public. In particular, focus on what you would like to change or improve upon. If improving your abdominal muscles is a key element of what you would like to improve on, then that will take a combination of reducing the amount of saturated fats and sugars in your diet (particularly, the high-fructose corn syrup found in a lot of carbonated beverages, along with an exercise program for strengthening the abdominal muscles. I have long been an advocate of using a rowing machine or the rowing exercise as a means of accomplishing this. Too many men rely on running and bicycle riding as their main forms of exercise as they get older. While these exercises do ok in terms of burning fat and increasing the general level of fitness, they do little to strengthen the muscles in the abdominal wall. A slim waist requires not only losing weight in general but also in strengthening the abdominal muscles, which is what the rowing machine, used daily, accomplishes. And strong, toned abdominal muscles are the real key to looking good ion a Speedo.

Wearing a Speedo: Advice for “Shy” Guys

Let us suppose that you have been dieting and working out in an effort to strengthen your chest and abdominal muscles in a so that you will look good in a Speedo. You pull on a favorite Speedo and look in the mirror in private, at home. In reviewing your progress, it is pretty obvious that you have indeed achieved at least some of your fitness goals, as you look “better” clad in your favorite Speedo than you did when you started out, but you are more than a little apprehensive about springing your “new look” Speedo-clad on the rest of the world.

Well, the key now is to find yourself a non-Speedo swimsuit that looks good on you that you can wear over your Speedos when you go out in public. You will still be wearing your Speedos in public, but they will be under another swimsuit. What type of swimsuit do you want to wear over your Speedos? Well, how about something that does not announce that you have a pair of Speedos on underneath, but simply hints at it. This outer suit should not be a pair of baggy board shorts constructed of a heavy, opaque cotton in a dark color that fits all the way to the knee. Something that fits well above the knee would be fine.

Lighter colors, even white, tend to be more nearly transparent when they get wet. Some guys are particularly anxious about this part, and the outer suit will make you more comfortable with respect to the possibility of what could happen should you get an unintended erection. Even a pair of light-colored nylon “running” shorts might do. They should become really transparent when you dive into the pool. Then wear a Speedo in a bright or dark color underneath, such as a bright blue red, navy blue or even black, underneath. Once your outer suit is wet, it should be subtly apparent that you are wearing something else underneath. This is not risqué as you the brightly colored Speedos are providing a full coverage of your private parts. At some point you might want to let the outer suit sag a bit, revealing a bit of the Speedo color at the waist.

You may work up nerve enough to eventually pull off the outer suit and tossing it on the side of the pool just before diving into the pool clad only in your Speedos, but that is up to you.  You can decide exactly what you want to reveal when the time comes, depending on how people around you seem to be reacting. To the extent that you have achieved your fitness goals, someone at this point is probably going to wonder why you don’t take off your outer suit. You can play this “by ear” so to speak, depending on how you believe things are going and how others around you will likely react to what it is you might do.

The end (at least for now!)



I realize that some of these ideas are controversial. Comments and reactions to guys wearing Speedos can be emailed to Sebringsil@aol.com


I will incorporate some of the more interesting thoughts and ideas in a future revision of this article.


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