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Abstract

Two million American women belong to all-female health clubs or coed health clubs with separate male and female exercise rooms. Some one to two thousand such all-female or sex-segregated health clubs exist in the United States, and the number is growing. Already, about one in ten American health clubs have all-female membership or separate male and female facilities. These clubs are popular with women, many of whom are intimidated by exercising in front of men or simply want to be able to exercise in an environment free of sexual tension, harassment, and "leering" men. As many as eighty percent of female patrons of all-female health clubs say they would not continue to patronize their clubs if men were admitted as members. Yet just as they grow in popularity among women, these clubs are facing legal challenges that threaten their continued viability. In a string of lawsuits, male plaintiffs have claimed that women-only health clubs violate state public accommodation statutes, laws that prohibit businesses that are open to the public from discriminating on the basis of sex. Already in several states, including Massachusetts, New York, and California, men have been successful in court or before administrative agencies in challenging all-female membership policies.

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