Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Great Toilet Conundrum

This is one of the enduring mysteries of the universe to me: why do we have separate male and female toilets? From an efficiency perspective it is clearly massively suboptimal. There is regularly an empty stall (or two) in the men's toilets while there is a queue for the ladies. Or both genders end up having to walk unnecessary distances to use the facilities (as actually happens in our maths building). One reason might be that women don't want to be in the same room as urinals, but that's easy to solve: just have a separate room for urinals.

I think this is a massive example of the grandfather fallacy. If we lived in a world in which there had never existed the sort of prudishness which makes separate male and female toilets a necessity (I mean, you get a lock on the stall door!), I don't think there would be any proponents whatever for a move to introduce them. As it is, there are a limited number of people who manage to come up with plausible-ish reasons to uphold the status quo whenever I bring the subject up, but I simply don't believe that any of those people would be campaigning for toilet segregation if we lived in a world in which integrated toilets were the norm.


Adrianna said...

I work in a building that has mixed toilets and there is no doubt in my mind that they are messier than the female only toilets I used to use previously, even though I think about the same number of people used both. Specifically the problem involves the misplacement of urine. Occasionally, though not normally there is urine on the toilet seat. This is very inconsiderate and renders that toilet out of use for anyone who wants to use it sitting down until it is cleaned. Often there is urine on the porcelain rim of the toilet which you then have to put the seat down on and sit on. This is fairly disgusting and special effort must be taken to avoid touching someone else's urine. Most frequently there is a puddle of urine around the toilet base. When I use the toilet I sit, which means my trousers are around my ankles and often touch the floor. I don't think I should have to hold them bunched up at my knees in order to avoid soaking them in someone else's urine. None of these problems existed in the female only toilets.

I think there is a simple solution to this problem. Men should pee sitting down. There is no good reason why men have to stand up when they pee and there are two good reasons why they should sit down. Firstly there would be no question of aim and they would not make a mess. Secondly if they also had to use the toilet sitting down they would probably be more considerate about the state they leave it in.

So if you want to push for mixed toilets, which I have no objection to, please also push for everyone to use them sitting down.

Andy said...

Hey John, nice thought-provoking post. In my sixth-form school we had a unisex toilet and many people, including myself, thought it was a good idea.

In response to Adrianna's comment: I agree with most of what you say, but you seem to be tarring all men with the same brush with your comment "please also push for everyone to use them sitting down.". I'd conjecture that there are only a minority of these abhorrent creatures that leave the stalls in a mess, and they annoy other men too.

Anyway, surely biggest hurdle in having a unisex toilet is: what colour would we paint the walls?

Warm regards,