Guest Post: Sexual Politics at the Gym

Posted in Health
Fri, Nov 14 - 10:43 am EDT | 5 years ago by
Comments: 24
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Andrew R from Go Healthy, Go Fit is guest posting today to give us ladies a glimpse into how guys see the gym.  His blog is one of my favorites, and honestly, he’s freakin’ adorable so make sure you check out his site. I’m guest posting on his blog today as well, so after you read his great post make sure you head there to read my piece, Progressions: Take Your Workout to the Next Level. 


I’m not talking about whether or not more women wear Obama shirts than men at the gym. That’s not the kind of politics I’m talking about here! I’m talking about how men and women interact at the gym, coming from an honest man’s point of view.

Most men perceive the gym as a forum to display their masculinity. Simply put, the more weight you can lift, the bigger the tough guy you are. So while size (no, not that size) and strength might not matter to the ladies, it’s men’s way of competing in the urban jungle that is your gym.

I used the word “compete” here for a reason. As a guy, you may not notice this competitive nature in the gym as being anything other than natural, but as a girl, it’s so over the top that it warrants an eye roll followed by the inner monologue “OMG – what a d-bag”. That’s right guys, women have evolved along side of you this whole time. Just because you see male mountain goats and deer ramming their horned domes at each other to attract a mate, it doesn’t mean that you should do the same.

I work out at a gym that does not have a lot of girls in it. So when an attractive girl does come into the gym, it’s like a light switch turns on in every guys head. It’s hilarious, you can see it right away if you’re looking for it. All of a sudden, weights get re-racked for bigger ones and elliptical machines start moving faster.

Kelly brought up a really interesting point of how men tend to send a message of disapproval, via stares, whenever a girl walks into the free weight section of the gym. I have definitely seen this. It’s not only the fact that guys associate free weight lifting with ONLY lifting heavy, otherwise it doesn’t matter. No, no, it’s also a territorial thing. Since the free weight section of the gym tends to be utilized more so with guys than with girls, the guys look at it as a “Coliseum” of sorts, where the gladiators will duke it out for the approval of the ladies.

While a great deal of this sexual politics in the gym does fall on the shoulder of testosterone pumped guys, I would say that they aren’t 100% of the problem. I worked out at another gym a few weeks ago and I started to notice that quite a few young ladies were “competing” in their own way. Some had full make-up on, some had obviously just done their hair, and some were wearing outfits that sent the same message as a guy who wears a wife beater and shorts only to lift the shirt every three seconds to show off his abs. That they’ve got the goods and they want everyone else to know it!!

Now, I’m not saying that the way girls look causes this show of aggression from guys, far from it. All I’m saying is that when people show off, guy or girl, it’s gonna get a reaction from the opposite sex. So the question is this: Is this sort of sexual politics in the gym a perpetuating cycle, reinforced by guys showing aggression and girls showing off their figure?? If so, can it ever be curbed given the fact that people have sexual instincts inherent to their genetic code?? Or is there only one sex, male or female, that should be to blame for this type of behavior?

Thanks for letting me guest post Kelly! And thank you to the faithful readers of Grounded Fitness. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!!

All the Best,

Andrew R

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  • Mark

    Ha! I agree…fitness is business! Keep the mind focussed! Have a nice weekend!

  • ModelBehavior

    When I see a girl at the gym dressed to the 9′s with full makeup on…I have the urge to give her a shove and watch her tumble off the tread. Harsh I know but it’s so freakin annoying! It’s one thing to stop by the gym on your way home from work with residual makeup still on your face, but I know freshly applied eye liner when I see it! Luckily my gym is really laid back and is mostly middle aged people anyway so there aren’t too many of them there.
    My gym also has a womens only weight room which I appreciate because I can avoid the “omg what a d-bag” eye roll when I see a man grunting/screaming under his to heavy weight, and yes, that was a very accurate description of what goes on in my head when I see this “macho” gym behavior. Nice post, well said!

  • JJ125

    I make a point of take OFF my day makeup before going to the gym (clogged pores = NOT cute) and throw my hair up in a ponytail with the sole intention of keeping it off my sweaty neck. I also wear old, baggy workout pants I got from Sam’s Club for $9.99 and one of my bf’s white ts. Yeah it bothers me when I see a girl all prettied up for the gym but it also confuses me…. why would you get all done up to go SWEAT? Then again most of these girls don’t really sweat, they just stretch and flirt.

    As for guys, I hope more of them read this. When they are all strutting around the gym in their spandex shorts (really?) and lifting weights that they can barely even pick up while screaming like the latest victim in a “Saw” movie, they don’t realize the girls (the sweaty ones at least) are laughing at them!

    And can we PLEASE have a universal rule that ANYONE, male or female that puts ON cologne, perfume or any strong-smelling lotion to go to the gym shall be hereforth and forever BANNED from said gym after receving a well-deserved beating? Seriously people, THINK before you douse….

  • Kelly Turner

    i find it kind of suprising guys get territiorial in the free weight room- i thought they would WANT us in there so they can show off.

    By about noon all my makeup is gone anyway so i dont do anything extra but I have this rule with my workout clothes that if i am wearing tight pants, i have to wear a baggyish tee shirt and if Im wearing baggyish sweat pants i can wear a tank. If i wear form fitting clothes on top and bottom i feel like im wearing a unitard

  • tfh

    I agree with this post completely. But from a female point of view, it also seems to me that men spend about 3/4 or more of their gym time just sitting on weight benches and doing NOTHING. Does taking 15 minute breaks between sets prove that one is super macho or something? What is this about?

  • Kelly Turner

    I dont mind if they are recovering, but i hate when they leave their water bottle or a towel and then take a lap around the gym- like its their bench for the whole day or something. I wonder what would happen if i just picked it up and moved it one day. Think id get broken in half?

  • runjess

    I have noticed the same things as tfh, and it’s freaking annoying. They are so in my way.

  • Fit Bottomed Girls

    I blame the men! haha, just kidding. I blame all the people who are there for the WRONG reasons!

  • Justy2003

    Men can be so territorial. I hadn’t worked out in a gym for quite a while until recently. I forgot how segregated it usually is! Women in the cardio area, men in the weights. Well, I do BOTH. And when I walk into the weight area, sometimes I feel like the men are wondering what I’m doing in there. Especially when I walk right past all the machines and go over to the free weights.
    And those girls that get all dressed up annoy the hell out of me. I don’t care what I look like at the gym…and I know I look like shit. It’s first thing in the morning, I sweat (a lot) so I’m dripping with sweat, and therefore I’m quite smelly. Good thing I’ve already got a boyfriend ;)

  • Andrew R

    Hey all, thank you for the great feedback!! I never get this many comments over on my blog!! So here we go…

    Mark: Yes, keep focused, I agree!! If you’re paying attention to a member of the opposite sex during a workout, you are risking injury!!

    Model Behavior: I think that more gyms should at least have the option of a women’s only weight room. I can totally see how frustrating it would be to workout with free weights as a woman!

    JJ125: Amen to the NO cologne rule! I rule in favor of your suggestion!! Hahahaa

    Kelly: We do want to show off, it’s just that most of us men have poor form, so we don’t want to be SHOWN UP from the ladies. Not me though, I always use great form and low weights ;-)

    tfh: I agree, there is resting between sets and then there is sitting on a bench googling at all the pretty girls. This is something that is totally lost on some guys. They have no idea of how minimizing rest time can actually increase gains (that is, if the rest time was at 15 minutes to start with!!).

    Kelly: Come on, that’s just a guy’s way of marking his territory without peeing all over the place, we should be so lucky!!

    runjess: That’s the spirit!! Move ‘em out of your way and get the job done if they’re not getting it done!!

    Fit Bottom Girls: Ah yes, would everyone please reread her comment… Think about what your motive is before you head to the gym, it will get you more focused and dedicated to achieving your goals pre-workout.

    Justy 2003: Yep, that’s just the way they are. But you know what? You should just strut right on by them and show those dumb guys what good form looks like!!!

    Phew! That was a response session all right! I just want to give a great big thanks to Kelly for letting me post my thoughts on this topic. I think you’re freakin’ adorable too!!! And of course to the great readers of Grounded Fitness. You guys are awesome at commenting and I love it!!! Keep those comments coming!

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  • Girl on Top

    The moans and groans really irritate me. I try to ignore it, but it is irritating! I understand that lifting weights is straining on the body, but dang!

  • Julia (Santa Barbara Fitness)

    I totally used to notice sexual politics at the gym at the university I used to go to. It was also really funny to see frat brothers going together and and basically showing off to each other and patting each other on the back and not working out until a pretty girl walked by. Pretty lame if you ask me.
    I sometimes go to the gym with make up on, cause I didn’t have time to take it off. I usually regret it though, since it runs into my eyes and makes my cry. Ouch!
    I also can relate to the stares from dudes I get when walking into the free weights section. They usually give me a look like, whats this chick doing here? But hey, I’m here to work out, so I don’t let it bother me.
    I can’t to read Kelly’s take on this topic!

  • MizFit

    wahhh the video is gone!

  • Kelly Turner

    Gah! it is gone! it was the clip from Anchorman where will ferrell is ldoing bicep curls and the woman walks by and he says “I dont know if you heard but i just did like 1000.”

    good movie.

  • ChocolateCoveredVegan

    LOL I always think it’s funny how girls “dress up” to go to the gym. I mean, you’re just going to get all sweaty and ugly anyway!

  • Cammy

    How much do I love this article! It hit every annoying thing I see when I dare venture into “Manville” at the gym. I actually prefer to go early in the day, because there’s a little corner near the free weights that I can use for weighted lunges and such. Plus, the truly obnoxious types seem to still be asleep. It’s just me and the actuaries at 5 a.m. :)

  • kootz

    meatheads. leaving meatmarks all over the machines.


    I’m glad I don’t go to a gym anymore. I can skip all the BS, focus on my workouts and get back to my life.

    When I did go I was just happy not to be the biggest (fattest) guy there.

  • Andrew R

    Girl on top: Don’t let them fool you, the volume definitely gets turned up when the ladies are around!

    Julia: Yeah, you can’t just wait around until there is someone to show off too! That’s not cool.

    Miz: Sorry about the clip! Every time I think about a video clip that would be great in a post, I usually find one version of it and it’s almost always got subtitles in a different language! And now it’s not showing, bummer

    Chocolate Covered Vegan: Yes, but usually the ones who get really dressed up work just hard enough to not sweat

    Cammy: Thanks, glad you liked it! Manville… love it! And the whole observation of going to the gym early and how there are no grunting predators around is kind of funny.

    Kootz: Meatmarks… haven’t heard that one yet, but it fits!

    Steve: Well, even with all the sexual politics nonsense, hopefully you can help foster a communal feel with the regulars at the gym. That’s what I do, it helps me stay consistent.

  • deb

    Guess I’m either in a great gym, go at great time, or I’m oblivious. The guys for the most part do not hate the girls in the freeweight section; and there are ALWAYS girls in the free weights.

    That said, anyone who isn’t working hard -male or female – gets THAT LOOK behind their back, so you have to earn respect there. The women for the most part work as hard as the guys do.

    Some of the guys have admitted that when I start doing unilateral exercises, it kind of scares them, even though I’m doing much lighter weights. Cause no matter how strong they are, they KNOW that their balance sucks. But being GUYS they don’t dare work on it because all the other guys will judge them.

  • Kara from MamaSweat

    I recall noticing this stuff when I was single, kidless… now it’s all lost on me. I gotta get in and get out before time is up in the childcare center. I can only hope I’ve pissed off a meathead by using his free weights!

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  • Carlos Garbiras

    this post is super funny, I love it. I always get bored lifting weights that’s why i prefer running but everytime I’m lifting my “light” weight at the gym, I get weird looks from guys, it cracks me up because I think most of the really competitive guys at the gym have insecuirity issues. lol.