Our school was one of the last in the country to get rid of the concept that boys swim naked, girls wear suits. Of course the girls and the boys had separate swim times, but still, I was one of the last to have to strip naked with a bunch of boys and go swimming.
But that wasn’t bad enough. This was in the days of forced integration. The schools had to mix the black and white kids. The school system in our particularly violent city had the remarkably bad idea of integrating a traditionally all-black high school, by changing it into a mixed junior-senior high school, then bringing all white 7th and 8th graders, who had to defend themselves against much larger black kids in a world where the kids of both colors were taught hate by their parents. Not only that, the school was ridiculously overcrowded.
Needless to say, I had a bad time. At only twelve years old, I was given a bus pass, and had to take city two busses each way, every day. I got up ridiculously early in the morning, and got home late.
I was assaulted many times in the school, and on the busses, too. I’m not sure how I came through all that unscathed.
Due to all the mixing of kids around the city, I only knew a few kids in the whole school, and none of them were in my huge gym class of approximately 60 boys. Probably due to the confusion caused by the integration mandate, the gym class wasn’t just all 7th graders. It was mixed ages from 12 years old to 19.
The teachers in this wonderful school had given up on actually teaching. The gym teachers, for instance, sat in a glass walled office overlooking the pool and shower room, reading paperbacks and not participating in any way. For the baseball rotation, all 60 kids tromped out into the school yard, and tried to figure out for themselves how to manage an inning and a half of softball with so many kids in the outfield. The teachers stayed inside.
It was only a few minutes on the field, because for some reason I’ll never know, all gym classes required two showers. We were told to shower before going out on the field, then shower again afterward.
The shower room was a big open room, with showerheads lining the walls. All the boys were naked. It was terrible, yet it wasn’t so terrible. I was rather excited by the idea of seeing other nude kids. Especially their balls and willies. I was fascinated by the black kids. Their penises were much larger. Not because they were black, although perhaps there’s an optical illusion that makes black objects seem larger than white ones. It was because they were older. They had gone through adolescence, growing full-size genitals. Most were also uncircumcised, whereas the white kids were cut. In this class, most of the big black kids had hair ‘down there.’ Most of the white kids had no hair, or were just starting out with a few straggly hairs that you could barely see. No one had an erection.
At the time, I was imagining that if any of the boys got erect, they’d be hounded out of the school. It was fashionable to point out anything ‘gay’ about another boy as a way of teasing. Having an erection among the boys would have been an over-the-top infraction of our unwritten rules.
Another thing I’ll never be able to understand is that after the showers, sometimes the three gym teachers would put down their books, come into the shower room, line us all up, then slowly walk up and down the line behind us, every now and then pointing out a boy who had dirty ankles. That’s right, these teachers seemed to be concerned specifically with our ankles. Sometimes a couple of kids would be held back while the rest of us dressed to go on to our next class. I never knew what happened with the held-back kids.
When the swimming rotation came around, I was filled with dread. The showers were bad enough. I hadn’t been naked in front of anyone since before I could remember, except for doctor’s exams. Even those weren’t naked. He’d stick his hand in my underpants, feel around for like three seconds, then get on with the rest of the exam.
The day came, and like all the other kids, almost all of which were feeling weird and shy as we were marched out of the shower room, into the echoey, windowless, green tile lined swimming pool room.
We stood along the walls shivering. The gym teachers had disappeared again. There was no instruction. A few kids jumped in, and eventually most of us did. We just splashed around a bit, then it was back to the showers. I stayed in the shallow end, because I couldn’t swim, and was afraid to put my head under water. I learned nothing in that class, and still can’t swim, fifty years later.
Nothing more happened that day. Two days later, it was another swimming day. It started the same. All sixty kids showered, then went naked into the pool room. We got in the water more quickly. At one point, a big scary black kid started swimming back and forth in front of me, and when he popped up, he whispered in a hoarse voice that he expected me to meet him behind the cafeteria after school. I didn’t know what that was about, but it scared the hell out of me. You can bet I stayed well away from behind the cafeteria for weeks after that.
There was something sexual insinuated in his request. Maybe he was offering or asking for a blowjob. I don’t know, or don’t remember. I’m not even sure I knew what a blowjob was back then. But it had an effect on me. Maybe it was the vision of his smooth, shiny black butt. Maybe it was being talked to while naked by a boy. Maybe because there was something in his voice, as if he especially liked me or something. I started growing an erection. I was immediately scared. More scared than the threat of this big black kid. In a moment, I’d have to hop out of the pool, and everyone would see me with a boner. What was I to do? What could I do? I was thinking frantically, but had no answer.
Then, one of the coaches reentered, and blew a whistle. This was the moment of no return. My erection had not subsided. I did the only thing I could do, I climbed out of the pool and lined up against the wall with the other kids. At first I tried to keep my hands in front of my erection, but I realized that only made the situation more obvious. I brought my hands to my sides, giving up. I tried acting as if I was being bold, and proud or at least indifferent to show my erection. Nothing could be further from the truth, but what else could I do? Now-a-days, I wonder about that. Why did the erection persist? Was the fear actually affecting me adversely?
I was convinced all the boys would point, and laugh, and call me all sorts of names like ‘gay’ and maybe even worse. There was a bit of snickering, and a couple of pointed fingers, but not nearly the fanfare I had worried about.
In the shower, the erection would still not go down. I had given up, and just walked around and in the locker room with it waving, sticking straight out in front of me. No one talked to me, no one said anything. There wasn’t any more snickering or pointing. Finally, I dressed, and the erection subsided.
Once I got home and to the privacy of my bedroom, I was very preoccupied with what had happened. How could I ever return to school? What was I going to do? Then too, I was feeling something else. Like every afternoon after gym class, I jerked off with memories of the naked boys. I had orgasms that were still mostly dry, maybe letting out a drop or two of clear semen. But the orgasms were very enjoyable. They also made me feel guilty. Among the other teasing and carrying on among boys my age was the general idea that masturbation was a very bad, even a ‘gay’ thing. But the orgasms were so good! After that swimming class, I was especially horned up and still scared at the same time, and jerked off big-time. When I came, for the first time in my life, the cum was thicker and had a whitish cast.
The next Tuesday was like facing a firing squad. I had to swim naked again, and I was the boy who had had an erection in front of everyone. The reaction I got as I entered the shower naked with the other kids wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Boys, both big and black, and little and white, started coming up to me and trying to start conversations. They somehow respected me, or wanted to know me or something. That was a huge surprise.
Well, that was fifty years ago. I still think about the whole thing from time to time. I know now that things were way worse than I realized at the time. The school officials should have been sued. We learned almost nothing in that school, and I do believe there was something way more off about those gym teachers than I’ll ever know. I do remember telling my parents, and they simply didn’t believe me, thinking I must be making it up, because surely a school couldn’t be that bad. And, “Why was I talking so negatively about black people?” they asked.
For high school, I was transferred to a school in my neighborhood that was all white 9th – 12th graders, and integrated with all black 7th and 8th graders.
Here’s the good news: Although I’m a high-school dropout, I’m alive, happy, well, and somewhat successful today. Although I am bisexual, I’ve been happily married to the same woman for 32 years. I don’t hate black people although I was starting to during my junior high-school years. In fact, my wife is black.
I wrote another version of this memoir here: Integration, in which I was originally too shy to mention my own erection.