At what age should your son stop coming into the female change rooms?
At what age should your son stop coming into the female change rooms?

At what age should a boy not be in the girls change room?

I REGULARLY take my daughter to the local pools to swim some laps with her. It's an activity we enjoy doing together. But obviously, before you swim, you need to get changed.

For most of my life, up until the last few years, I've been nervous about getting changed in the female change rooms. I was ashamed of my body. It felt wrong to just strip down in front of complete strangers.

Luckily though, a great friend of mine is the opposite. She had me question my ideas to the point where one day I forced myself to strip down in the change rooms (very quickly!). The more I did it the more liberated I became. What was great was my daughter, who was copying my insecure behaviour, started to liberate herself too. The last two years we've both had no qualms getting changed at the pools.

So what a shock it was then on our recent pool adventure to find a boy in the female change room.

He was not a baby. I have never had any problems with young children in the change rooms. This was a grown boy. His mother was lecturing him about his pocket money. And he was looking right at us.

"Mum, can I get changed in the toilet?" my daughter whispered to me. "I don't want that boy to see my bits."

Of course I told her it was fine. But it annoyed me that she had to. Why did my daughter have to change in the gross toilets because this boy's mother found it appropriate to bring him in here? I managed to get changed under my towel but I was fuming.

Back at home, I questioned my reaction. Was I justified in being outraged that this boy, who looked about twelve, was in a space only for women? I had never minded mothers taking their boys into the female toilets, but everyone has their own private cubicle in that situation. This was an open change room where women were naked.

I talked about my reaction with a trusted friend who has an eleven-year-old son. She thought I wasn't looking at it from the perspective of the boy's mother.

"It's really hard being the mother of a boy," she told me. "You can take your child into the change rooms because she is a girl, but if I send my boy into the male change rooms I have to worry about him getting sexually assaulted by a man."

And she was right. I would worry about the same thing if I had a son. When I mentioned that there are two family change rooms, with showers, she said they are usually taken so it makes it really hard, especially when you have hungry children and are in a rush.

But the mum in my situation didn't look like she was in a rush at all. She was slowly combing her hair, taking her leisurely time while the boy sat on the bench and gawked. She wasn't hurriedly ushering him into the toilets to get changed and then rushing him out again. That would have been far more respectable. It was also a very quiet day at the pools. There was practically nobody around because it was so cold out. I highly doubt both family change rooms were in use.

So where do we draw the line? At what age is it OK to take your son into the female change rooms?

But it isn't only about age, my friend pointed out. We need to trust that mothers know when their sons are sexualised, and that they won't be taking them into change rooms when they are. But are children not sexualised one day and then sexualised the next? Isn't it a more gradual process? In that case, it wouldn't be that clear cut for a parent to identify.

To me, there's worrying about your son's safety and therefore taking him into the female change rooms, and then there's lazy and entitled parenting. If, for argument's sake, the family change rooms were vacant, then the latter would apply.

I agree there needs to be more family change rooms at the pools. I'm sorry that some mums are put at an inconvenience because they have sons. But these mums need to, where it is practical to do so, be mindful of other mums and their daughters. If my daughter felt uncomfortable changing in front of this boy, especially since she has in the past changed in front of younger boys of four or five in those same change rooms, this means that boy shouldn't have been in there.

Koraly Dimitriadis is a freelance writer, actor, performer, theatre and film maker and the author of Love and F**k Poems.

News Corp Australia

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