Cell phones in the locker room?

Some readers may remember a news item that flashed across the country (and world) in 2016, when Playboy model Dani Mathers published a selfie in a gym locker room with a nude 70 year old in the background, commenting "If I can't unsee this then you can't either."

Mathers lost her membership in the gym, her job as a radio host, and was charged with invasion of privacy.  She was convicted, and sentenced to 3 years of probation and 30 days of community service (graffiti removal), which she completed. In an interview posted after her sentencing, she stated, "When you’re told how much of a monster you are, it pushes you to look inside. I don’t ever want to be someone spitting hate. That’s really what I’ve learned. I also gained a lot of empathy and learned that everybody, at some point, has judged a person. Going through this past year and making it to the other side, I know I can handle almost anything."  Of course, her coach through this interview was a well known legal crisis and media manager, so I suspect every word was choreographed.

The whole episode did make me think about cell phone use in my own local gym.  In the men's locker room (and I presume the women's), there are numerous signs noting that cell phones are banned.  Given that most cell phones have a camera, that makes sense.  What doesn't make sense is that nobody seems to pay attention to the signs.

You'll have to take my word for it, since I can't (and wouldn't) take photos in the locker room to document what I am going to share.  First, however, cell phones are a known risk factor for "invasion of privacy" criminal or civil suits.  I would expect a fitness club that knowingly fails to enforce a "no cell phone" policy would be at risk in a civil suit (I'm curious what the fine print of club membership says here), so a ban on camera phones in locker rooms is not uncommon.  

Of course, there are some gym activities that keep the phones put away.  Here, my students are participating in a Discover SCUBA activity.  Wes and Caroline are helping students with their equipment.

Now, I think there should be a ban on talking on cell phones when you are sitting on the toilet, but that's just me.  Hearing a conversation wafting out of a stall is just weird.

I don't know what it's like in other gyms, but given the signs noting a prohibition on cell phones, it is rare for there NOT to be a cell phone in use in the locker room.  Men are checking their messages, talking on the phone, listening to music... the cell phone is ubiquitous.  I would estimate that, at any time, there's at least 1 person using their phone, and I've seen times when more than half of the people are engaged in some way with their phone.  Offhand, I'd say that the younger members are the more frequent violators.

I've even seen a nude man sitting in the locker room's jacuzzi, talking on his phone.

I've only made a comment once, when a teen was sitting straddled on a locker room bench facing me, checking his messages, while I was changing.  He muttered that he wasn't taking a picture, and walked off.  But still...

Caroline exercising somewhere on the Pacific Ocean. There are places where cell phone service does not exist!

Look, I recognize that cell phones are a useful tool and/or distraction in the gym.  I don't listen to music myself in the weight room, but I do find it pleasant when running on the track or when I'm in the spin room. What I do not do is operate my phone in the locker room.  What, you can't wait 5-10 minutes until you leave?

And here's a funny observation.  The majority of younger men come into the locker room ALREADY DRESSED in their workout clothes.  They get a locker for their gym bag.  They are not taking showers.  So I think there's no mental separation of the exercise area and the locker room.

And I have NEVER seen a gym employee confront a member about violating this policy.  Attendants will walk right through the locker room, picking up towels as they pass through, with no comments to phone users.  

By the way, what do men talk about in the locker room?  Probably the most common topics are 1) how did your exercise go or what muscle groups were you working on, 2) how is work, 3) what are you doing this weekend, and 4) how about those Aggies/Jazz/crappy Broncos?

So it will probably take an "incident" before the no cell phone policy is enforced.  Let's hope we don't find out about it on instagram first.

Addendum, 2023.  My gym has graduated from the sign at the beginning of this blog to this larger, more professional sign. Whether the members pay attention to it... (I'm standing just at the entrance, in observance of the prohibition).


  1. At halftime, a locker room provides a location to reorganize and devise a fresh game plan. It's a place where student-athletes may be reminded of why they're competing for their institution. A place where teammates may offer each other advice and discuss their sport openly. It's a spot where you can play a pregame music playlist loudly. Cell phones are prohibited in lockers rooms and restrooms due to the potential risk.


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