Are these gym outfits “courteous”? Picture: iStock
Are these gym outfits “courteous”? Picture: iStock

Modesty shorts? Really?

Sex sells.

It also causes outrage in a confusing time where we are encouraged to express ourselves, and at the same time, not offend anyone in the process.

Recently a petition was created to make lingerie retailer Honey Birdette accountable for their racy Christmas campaign.

In the US, after a month of dismal bids on the market, Texan real estate agent Kristin Gyldenege resorted to using photos of semi-clad models to sell a 3-bedroom Texas family home, raising interest from 1000 views to 20,000 in 24 hours, and dividing the community. Sydney was similarly split when model Emily Ratajkowski graced our very own Harbour in a bikini that would make The Blue Lagoon look like a documentary on puritans.

Emily Ratajkowski in the bikini that provoked a divided reaction. Picture: Instagram
Emily Ratajkowski in the bikini that provoked a divided reaction. Picture: Instagram

Regardless of your stance on lingerie, bikinis or exposed flesh, there is one garment that fails to fit neatly into the spectrum.

On a scale of nudist colony to burkini, activewear seems to slide somewhere off the scale.

It is used for both function and form, and not created for the purposes of desire or pleasure. Its design origins are to enable the end user a comfortable work out, or if you a Hollywood A-lister, to pair with a yoga mat and an oversized Starbucks coffee so you can remain relatable.

This week, I went to the gym dressed in my activewear (meggings and a singlet, more on that to come) and walked past new signage at my gym, which presented a list of being a "pro" or a "bro".

Sure, it was your run-of-the-mill passive aggressive sign usually found at public swimming pools, public service office kitchenettes and libraries, full of things such as: "Uses a towel at all times" (fair enough), "Practices good hygiene etiquette" (great!) and "Uses deodorant" (bring it on). But what got me stuck was "Wears 'courtesy' shorts - (men)".

I googled it. Courtesy shorts. Nothing. I've heard of a courtesy bus; it's what my mum uses to get home from the casino when she's drunk.

The gym sign suggesting men wear “courtesy” shorts. Picture: supplied
The gym sign suggesting men wear “courtesy” shorts. Picture: supplied

Google instead gave me courtesy wipes; it's what the nurse does for you when you can't do it for yourself.

But no courtesy shorts.

As a member of the meat packing district myself I was confused. Was I left off an email chain? Was I in breach of some kind of modern gym code that I had been too self-centred to understand? I asked the only gym instructor I could find about these "courtesy shorts".

He looked around slowly, turned back to me, shrugged and walked off. I was a little under slept so this sort of thing would probably usually just make it to my social media pages with a hilarious one-liner, but this day, I wanted answers.

Without belittling the gravity of the #metoo campaign, I suddenly felt I understood what it might be like to experience gender inequality.

I was now lost in my own subversive narrative of oppression, and wanted someone to take the fall (it is important to note at this point that the gym appears to have a membership predominately of men who appreciate men so I guess it wasn't a gender crusade but as I said, I hadn't slept much).

Looks like this guy got the memo about so-called “courtesy shorts”. Picture: iStock
Looks like this guy got the memo about so-called “courtesy shorts”. Picture: iStock

I found another instructor. I asked if I was in breach of the new codes. "Nah dude," he said, "you're wearing a courtesy singlet."

I deduced that it was now suggested, according to this new code, that I wear a pair of shorts, or other clothing, over my meggings (man leggings) to protect everyone in the vicinity from potentially seeing an outline of my tackle - as a "courtesy". At this point it was clear to me you could put the word courtesy in front of anything, as long as that thing obscured your thing.

A courtesy singlet. To recap, I was in a meggings and a singlet. The only reason it was a "courtesy singlet" is because I am 165cms and no singlets fit me, they are all too long. What about the normals - WHO'S LOOKING AFTER THE NORMALS?

I looked around at the few women in the gym and took a mental note of their careless abandon, their lack of modesty in the face of full unadulterated cardio.

As far as I was concerned, I was being exercise shamed. And no, I was not having a bar of it (pun intended).

Not a courtesy garment in sight. How do they live with themselves? Picture: iStock
Not a courtesy garment in sight. How do they live with themselves? Picture: iStock


For the record, there is nothing less erotic than someone staring at a pixelated simulation of a generic European cityscape while worrying whether their pulmonary arterial hypertension is kicking in or they've just had too much coffee.

All the while panting and dripping on the equipment as Tammy Wynette and the KLF's Justified and Ancient fails to sync to the video playing on the wall.

Who is this courtesy for, by the way? I know when I am on the bus, I get out of the courtesy seat for the elderly or the less abled, who are the target of said courtesy.

Or is this a case of design? If you have an innie, it is less offensive aesthetically than an outie? AND TO WHO? The trainers? Women? Non-homosexual men? If we start advocating for courtesy shorts what hope do our MAMILs have? Are modesty cycle skirts next?

We have every right to enjoy our meggings in the safety of an exercise arena. Forget #freethnipple. I'm starting #unshacklethetackle, and in this case, putting bros before pros.

Kym Lenoble is a freelance writer.

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