Advent Calendar 16th December 2011: Public baths part 5 – playful masturbatory frolic

For as long as civic memory went back, men and boys at the ‘town’ bathing places, like members of the University at Parson’s Pleasure, had worn nothing at all; it was an Oxford tradition – a tradition which old Dundas (he must have been in his late 50s) was mightily concerned to preserve.

At Long Bridges he was down like a ton of bricks on the slightest little playful masturbatory frolic among the boys; and when, on the green sward of that lovely tree-encircled backwater, I appeared with my camera and told him I had discovered a ‘new vice’ – taking photographs with the camera apparently pointing in one direction, while in fact the lense was eyeing another – he went back to his rooms and wrote me a four-sheet letter of close small handwriting beginning, ‘I’m very worried about your “new vice”‘ […]

… by the time I revisited Oxford in 1941, summoned there by the branch of the War Office that was planning an assault on the coast of Morocco, the verdant candour of Long Bridges had been defiled by rows of bathing-boxes and the place given over to the sexual swagger and simpering prurience of mixed bathing.

(Page 148-149, chapter 10, of Michael Davidson’s autobiography The World, the Flesh and Myself)

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