I always felt a certain amount of scorn for people who went to the gym to pick up. We have all seen that sad image of a woman going to the gym in a push-up bra, jewellery and make-up, trying not to look flustered as she struggles with the rowing machine or flirts outrageously with the gym instructor. Or the mental image of the guy doing more weights than he really should, but struggling on to impress someone with how strong he is.
One of the reasons I find these individuals so worthy of my scorn and derision is that I feel a certain amount of empathy with them. I think my gym instructor is cute, and if I had the confidence I'd pinch his ass, smile coyly and give him my phone number. But I don't. Cos I'm unfit, have a jiggly waistline and I am surrounded by people who are fitter and prettier than me who have firmer tummies, can last longer on the treadmill and can lift heavier weights. If anyone in that place is going to get the gym instructors attention, it certainly isn't going to be me (unless I fall off something, but I'm not willing to risk it). So I hide under baggy gym clothes and I heap disdain upon those who would openly acknowledge the fact that the gym is a precursor to hot, sweaty, pneumatic sex.
There are an enormous amount of reasons not to go to the gym. For one thing: when you start, you're red-faced and puffing exhaustedly while everyone else is still sprinting on the treadmill as though they are only just warming up. You're going because you recognise that your body and your health needs improvement...but in order to do that, you have to expose your pudgy cellulite to the world in tight-fitting stretch-pants and flab-exposing sports-bras that feel too tight among all the people who are fitter, younger and prettier than you.
This is where gyms like Curves come in. Women only, for people who are trying to get in shape, but who are not gym-junkies. So they can hide from people who they think would look at them with derision, and so that they don't get hit on (or worse, not hit on) while they are at the point where they feel the least attractive in their lives.
Then again...some people go the opposite direction.
I just came across an advertisement on Facebook for a group called Lesbifit. For lesbians who want to work out with other lesbians. This site confused me for a moment. I mean...women go to same sex gyms to avoid getting hit on...right?
Women go to Curves for the same reasons I wear baggy gym clothes and avoid eye contact. To avoid not being hit on. So that when I'm red-faced and extremely conscious of my jiggly bits moving around I don't have the added pressure of trying to be attractive as well.
From what I can tell, Lesbifit works on the assumption that lesbian women do not consume other women in the same ways that men consume women. There's a phrase I remember from my days as a Cultural Studies undergraduate. Men look at women and women look at men looking at women. So lesbian women apparently just don't look. It plays on the idea of love between two women being based on something 'deeper' and less physical than heterosexual love....and it's a presumption about same-sex love that I found interesting...and mildly insulting. It's not just same-sex love...it's female lust. Women don't create objects of desire through the act of looking, apparently. Women don't look at someone and want to fuck them. Women are 'safe', even same-sex attracted women are safe because apparently lesbians don't look at other women and want to touch them. They look at other women and want to form a deep emotional and spiritual connection with them.
As a woman, the assumption is insulting. As a student, the assumption is interesting and warrants further analysis. :-P