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Emergency Room June 4, 2011

Posted by FCM in gender roles, health, news you can use, PIV, thats random, trans.
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its been discussed elsewhere that women do not normally defecate in public restrooms, unless its an emergency.  there seems to be a near-consensus on that: women are known to self-report feeling embarrassed and ashamed of all of our bodily functions, and rightly so, considering that there are dire consequences to us for actually appearing human.  i mean, its not as if we are misinterpreting this right?  or that any sense of betrayal by our bodies is misplaced?  we are supposed to stumble around in shoes not made for human feet, and smooth out our skin and remove hair so as to appear mannequin-like…and mannequins dont fart.  or shit.  or bleed. or anything.  they are mannequins: their job is to be hangers for clothes.

and word to the wise: if a woman does take a shit next to you in a public restroom, and she knows you are there…the chances are good that either its a dire emergency, or shes not really female.  this has happened to me.  men shit because they need to shit, and it doesnt matter if they are wearing a dress when they do it; when they gotta go, they gotta go.  this is learned behavior on the part of men: the entire world is their toilet.  by contrast, when one is treated as a clothes-hanger for enough years, or too busy taking care of everyone else to even notice their own corporeal presence anymore, they can lose the urge to shit altogether.

so!  being that this is the case, i have been wondering for the last year or so, if women would rather do just about anything than defecate in public bathrooms, why do our public bathrooms always smell like shit?  this is a serious question.  how can that be, if women avoid this like the plague if they can at all help it?  either they actually *dont* feel embarrassed about their bodily functions enough to avoid shitting publically even though they say the opposite…or they are having bathroom emergencies.

so i looked it up.  what could be causing this?  regarding fecal incontinence in women, the american congress of obstetricians and gynecologists reports that

Bowel control problems occur up to eight times more often in women than in men. […]  The most common cause of bowel control problems is childbirth. This is because as the baby passes through the vagina, the muscles or the nerves near the rectum may be stretched or torn.

Injury to the anal sphincter muscles can cause stool or gas to leak from the rectum; loss of feeling in the rectum can make it hard to tell when it is time to have a bowel movement; and the inability of the rectum to stretch and store stool may make it hard to hold a bowel movement until you can get to the bathroom.

well theres a shock ay?  but lets not dwell on that.  just to see what else i could find, i kept looking, even though that about says it all.  besides childbirth, another of the usual suspects appears to be use of antibiotic medications.  antibiotics give you diarrhea, as most women probably know too well.  but why do we need them?  could it be…all the urinary tract infections we are getting from having “sexual activity” i mean PIV with men?  looks like it: when i googled “why do women take antibiotics” the only hits returned were articles addressing UTIs.  horrifyingly, some women have “recurrent cystitis” which is either of “no apparent cause” or “seems to be triggered” by PIV, depending on which paragraph of the article you read.  and antibiotics give you yeast infections (as well as decreasing the effectiveness of your birth control pills)…and the medication for yeast infections gives you bacterial vaginosis…for which the treatment is…more antibiotics.  yay!  i did the BV/yeast infection back-and-forth for an entire year in grad school.  it was great!

another thing that causes diarrhea appears to be stress.  now, i wonder what women might have to be stressed about?  what in the world could be causing so much stress?  for womenwhatever could it be?  im confused.

also, the problem of womens homelessness is of some consequence here as well: women who have nowhere else to do it do bathe, sleep and otherwise perform their activities of daily living in public bathrooms.

so.  it appears as if womens reality, including recurrent infections treated with antibiotics; peri-anal trauma, and homelessness could actually be overriding learned bathroom-avoidance behaviors, learned because they have adapted (necessarily) to mens insistence that women really are just hangers for clothes.  a dilemma that sounds stressful in and of itself.

meanwhile, men shit because they have to go, and as far as i know, the issue of womens bathrooms smelling like shit has never triggered an ounce of curiosity from men, most of whom have never been in a womens bathroom and all of whom directly benefit from womens stress and mens enforced expectations that women act, look like, and function as hangers for clothes.  and the only “bathroom dilemma” anyone cares about seems to be the one transwomen encounter: men who feel like women deep inside their precious minds, being disallowed in womens bathrooms by the evol radfems (and regular women, non-fun-fem variety) who want to preserve women-only spaces and protect women from penis-people who are likely to vicitmize and impregnate them. 

interestingly, men using womens bathrooms wouldnt even notice (of course) that it was strange, that a public womens restroom would smell like shit.  not only would they happily contribute to the smell themselves, it would never even occur to them that women dont usually do this if they can help it: in other words, the dilemmas that women negotiate daily, living as female-bodied persons in a world where women are hated, and not regarded as human or even animal apparently.  even animals shit.



1. Mary Sunshine - June 4, 2011

I’ve never hesitated, or even thought of hesitating, to take a shit in the women’s washroom. But that may be because my generation of women was not as physically policing of each other as are the younger generations now.

We were, and expected our sisters to be, entirely accepting of human bodily functions because we were responsible for them as mothers and as mothers’ helpers. That aspect of the female sex-role had a higher profile than did the sex-toy aspect. Now the relative emphasis on those those aspects is reversed. Much to the detriment, of course, of female well-being.

2. Undercover Punk - June 4, 2011

Shitting!! What a great topic, FCM. And such an interesting fact about female fecal incontinence and child birth!

Mary Sunshine, I love your comment, too. I will shit in a public bathroom, but I DEFINITELY worry about making sure the conditions are just right. As a woman, though, being willing to even TALK about shit is often perceived (esp. by other women) as scandalous! Omg, we don’t DO that! Oh, yes, yes, we do. It actually feels *bad ass* to acknowledge this IRL! Also, I fart.

3. maria - June 4, 2011

Haha, you’ve outdone yourself FCM! Smelly bathrooms haven’t been my usual experience but I certainly noticed women shitting an awful lot in public restrooms which as you said, isn’t normal learned behavior.

I’ve always had a bit of public bathroom paranoia, and that’s an important part of this issue: society creating threats and false realities to ruin women only spaces. How many movies/shows depict girls being cruel to other girls within the confines of the bathroom? This is my fear, but the reality is that some of the nicest stranger interaction has been in the womens’ bathroom -bars especially have a fun environment in the women’s bathroom.
Of course, there’s always the constant threat of being labeled as gross/unattractive for acting like a human.

4. Boner Killer - June 4, 2011

Wow, i have always always (and still do) have a phobia of public pooping. I never really thought about it like this, but you are right – like our menstruation, women (and girls) are taught to be ashamed at an early age of natural bodily functions. It is true, even to the “wrap up your pads/tampons in toilet paper so no one sees it!” or “Put it in that little silver box in the toilet stall! (but wrap it up, too!)”

Interesting take on shit, i have to say. Thank you for this!

FCM - June 4, 2011

omg UP farts. HAHA! you know…it used to gross me out to hear “bathroom sounds” in the womens bathroom…but now whenever i hear someone rip one off i think GOOD FOR YOU, GIRL! get it out, its just gonna make you uncomfortable later. women have enough discomfort and enough outright physical pain to deal with daily, without having to worry about feeling bloated with gas. let it rip!

5. dubsH - June 4, 2011

I don’t think it’s even just linked to shitting- I know plenty of women are are ashamed of the sound of peeing! Like it’s not womanly to really, truly piss, but rather women are supposed to tinkle ever so delicately if anyone is around to hear it.

6. G - June 4, 2011

Hmm I have never thought twice about crapping in the women’s bathroom. I wonder how many of us do, I wasn’t under the impression it is a widespread problem but then again I’ve never had a conversation about it either.

7. Undercover Punk - June 4, 2011

I *do* fart!
I think a good part of the reason is that I grew up in a sort of rambunctious family as the oldest of 4 kids. Both my father and my brother are really, really open about farts. So I was like, FINE then, I fart too! Take that, fools!

To be honest, though, as a grown woman, I actually try NOT to fart in public bathrooms. I’d rather shit than fart, I think… farting can be so loud! Ahaahaha!!

8. SheilaG - June 4, 2011

Never paid much attention to bathrooms, and our building is very populated anyway when I’m at work.
I actually rarely encounter bad smelling women’s rooms either. Never had PIV, rarely if ever used anti-biotics, never took birth control pills, never plastered my face with any make-up whatsoever, don’t socialize with men, don’t buy clothing very often at all.

9. SheilaG - June 4, 2011

I meant our building isn’t very populated at all, so the bathrooms are very clean and functional. I never really pay much attention to what women do in restrooms anyway.

10. KatieS - June 5, 2011

I’ve never even thought about this before reading it here. Not once. I’m not a M2T, but I poop without any resevations. I’ve also never paid much attention to what another woman does in restrooms, except at work where if it’s a friend we just continue our conversation as we do what we need to do, talking with stall doors closed. LOL!

Now, there was a committee I was on once and the bathroom was attached to the room where we met, and I did not like to use it because pooping or peeing while others are meeting is kind of weird. It could be heard, and it felt like an audience. The audience is trying to have a meeting, and aren’t there for bathroom functions. Writing about it now, I find it quite funny. I only used that bathroom once when I had to pee and was desperate. Never again.

But it just surprised me that anyone would think twice about it in a regular restroom. Maybe it’s generational. Very sad to hear it.

I eat a lot of fiber and drink a lot of water. This means I poop/pee a lot. Your post made me wonder if some women avoid eating a healthy diet because they don’t want to have to use the restroom. Another health issue, then.

Mostly, the restrooms I use frequently smell ok, not perfect but not gross either. I don’t like using restrooms that are obviously not cleaned enough, but that’s not about smell.

One other thought I had was that there is also IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). I think more women than men have this, though I don’t know for sure. It’s truly awful always wondering if you are going to make it on time. I’ve known a couple of women with this and it was hell for them.

11. KatieS - June 5, 2011

Well, damn, I just googled IBS and found that more women do have it than men and women with a history of sexual abuse are much more likely to have IBS. Here’s a link:


FCM - June 5, 2011

oh wow thats good to know about IBS katie. and a link to sexual abuse? thats not something that i ever would have come up with on my own. thanks!

also, judging from marys comment, it is perhaps generational? interesting. very interesting. are we becoming more and more like dysfuctional mannequins over time then?

FCM - June 5, 2011

also, i didnt mean to imply that womens bathrooms smell like shit ALL THE TIME, and i also didnt mean that they were gross or disgusting, when i said they smelled like shit. i meant that literally, you can tell that there is defecation taking place there, and that it happens frequently enough that it seems out of place with womens self-reports that they dont shit in public places.

no judgement. i am just saying!

12. Mary Sunshine - June 5, 2011

are we becoming more and more like dysfuctional mannequins over time then?

Yes. I have witnessed this development over the decades with alarm.

You can see the contrast in movie characters in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s with today’s women and girls.

Or look through old photo news magazines like Time and LIFE.

Adolescent girls’ clothing wasn’t pop-tart stuff. It wasn’t sexxxxed up. It was classic styling, with variations based on fabric types and quality, tailoring details, and a wide range of colours. Sparkles were only for circus clowns.

The “pre-teen” thing didn’t exist. Female clothing styles were the same for 12 year olds as they were for 6 year olds.

Childhood was clearly demarcated from adolescence and adolescence from adulthood.

Who benefits when those barriers are torn down?

Also, I never see girls now publicly depicted as having any skills or interests or value except with respect to cosmetics, fashion, and sexxxxayness.

13. maggie - June 5, 2011

dubsH – my sentiments exactly. I pee and fart freely in the restroom and I don’t care that I sound ‘like a man’. I’m human this is what we do.

Interesting though about IBS, I’ve known a guy with it and he did have problems about using public restrooms. He hated them.

UTI’s, anal tears – constant/compulsory PIV certainly does take its toll on a woman’s body.

14. KatieS - June 5, 2011

I found the IBS research interesting. It related to the long term effect of sexual abuse on the brain. It rewires the brain in some way that is related to IBS in women.

15. yttik - June 6, 2011

This is a good post, the feminist scoop on poop!

Yeah, women suffer a lot of health problems from not being able to act naturally, to simply pee and poop when they need to. Some women do escape this, but yes, I know a whole lot who don’t manage to avoid the conditioning. I have to laugh, I’ve spent hours as a bathroom buddy. The underlying reality is horrifying, but the ridiculousness of the situation makes me laugh. I’ve lost track of all the times I’ve responded because somebody needs to me to go to the bathroom with them, to guard the door or to look out for other patrons, to try to create some illusion of safety for them just so they can use the can. Run the water, turn on the fan, guard the door!

As to older women tending to not have the same potty issues, perhaps, but I think a lot of it has to do with simply not caring anymore. Ha! To tell the truth, we’re just not that impressed with patriarchal codes of conduct anymore. Been there, done that, now fuck off! I think it can be a lot more painful for younger girls because they still care. The more experience you have with this BS, the more you understand that there is no payoff, that the patriarchy lies, that caring about what they think of you is a trick.

16. Dizzy - June 6, 2011

I work with about 10 women (to 20 men). My office recently moved from a building where there was a single toilet bathroom with a lock to a building with several multiple-stall bathrooms. The women all instantly and without any discussion adopted a Do Not Enter policy if one of us is already in there. If you open the door and one of the stall doors is closed, you just leave and come back later or go use the other one if it’s an emergency. (Could be generational – most of the women here are under 40).

I asked a couple of the dudes what they do when someone’s already in their bathroom and they just looked at me quizzically. Like, what do you mean, what do I DO in that situation? I take a dump. Or I stand right next to the CEO at the urinals and chat about work with our dicks all out. Hard for me to fathom, that. And hard for them to fathom why we leave our bathroom to 1-woman at a time.

Anyway, as for the smell, I wonder if it’s not necessarily that women totally avoid the public bathrooms except in cases of emergency, but rather that they wait to shit when no one is in there with them? That’s been my experience anyway.

17. TungstenVirago - June 7, 2011

“this is learned behavior on the part of men: the entire world is their toilet.”

So true.

18. TungstenVirago - June 7, 2011

Can’t get this post out of my head.
The Code of Conduct is learned early and the frequency of the need to excrete reinforces the conditioning daily. Even in the relative privacy/privilege of one’s own bathroom, there still is the learned urge to contrive extraneous ‘cover noise’ (rustling materials, coughing, pre-emptive and water-wasting flushing etc), lest the unladylike GUSHHHHing sounds are sooo conspicuously – humiliatingly – amplified in silence.
What the hell is with that?! Oh, right…

Great post.

19. womononajourney - June 7, 2011

I haven’t seen a post on this topic before, FCM.

I have to say, though, I don’t agree that womyn’s bathrooms smell; just the opposite really, I would say. I mean, my dorm is all womyn but there are some stalls men are allowed to use and THOSE smell.

While reading your initial post, I felt like a “bad” woman for always taking a dump when I’ve needed to. However, just the fact that FOR YEARS I’ve felt like there is something wrong with me for shitting when I have to says something, even if I go ahead and do it anyway. As you write, ” even animals shit.”

20. KatieS - June 8, 2011

Years ago I remember hearing a woman talk about how to turn on the water if you go at someone’s house so they can’t hear you peeing. I thought this woman was kind of weird, maybe repressed, or anal-retentive. Kind of low-level disturbed. I have not run into it again until this post and am just flabbergasted to think that it is so widespread. I mean, I did say I felt shy at the committee meeting where everyone was meeting and the bathroom was right there. Or if I have a real sulferous smelling BM or something I guess I’d feel a bit weird in someone’s house. So, it’s not like I have no embarrassment. But it’s not a regular thing that I’d even think about.

I wonder if it has anything to do with your parents. My mother is not at all anal retentive or uptight about bodily functions and never was. I can’t imagine her using an air freshener, for instance. The house smelled how it smelled from cooking, diapers, whatever. Of course, you tried to control odor in the diaper pail, that was a given when we routinely had diaper pails, using bleach or baking soda.

I grew up in a family with one bathroom and many kids. I wonder if perhaps it has to do with class as well as gender. Like, in a small house with so many kids, you just cannot enforce certain kinds of rules and rituals. I mean, if no one pees or poops on the floor, that’s all you care about 😉 Perhaps in middle class and up, girls were more taught to be “ladylike” about these things. Perhaps they had more bathrooms. I’m still thinking it over.

Also, I do remember mentioning a composting toilet to some younger women a while back and they were very grossed out. I was kind of surprised and thought them extra persnickety. I do think we have composting toilets in our future given water crises that are predicted. Perhaps some of the land dykes have them, I’m not sure because I don’t know much about land dykes. If I were a land dyke I’d have one. I live in a city, so, no go! 😉

21. maggie - June 8, 2011

I remember reading an article on embarrassing moments and one woman recalled visiting her boyfriend’s parents and having to use the loo. In order not to make a sound she stuffed toilet paper down the loo and then went. She over did it on the paper and the system became blocked thereby spilling the contents out onto the floor. She was left with no option but to let the owners know.

That story seemed to me bizarre and I wondered why she felt so ashamed about making a noise when peeing. This article goes some way to demonstrate why that should be. I can’t even begin to imagine what the reaction would be to vaginal ‘farting’ during PIV. Is it that they believe themselves to be subhuman and mannequinish?

FCM - June 9, 2011

The Code of Conduct is learned early and the frequency of the need to excrete reinforces the conditioning daily.

this. yes, the frequency is an issue isnt it? its daily., or many times a day. every day, every day.

btw i have a new graphic up at SOR…its found art. LOL see what you think:

22. Luckynkl - June 11, 2011

I may have been briefly modest as a teen – most likely caused by my father’s hang-ups about the bathroom. I never saw the dude in his underwear, never heard him fart or pee, much less take a shit, and never heard my parents having sex. Ever. My father was apparently above all that. Not sure where I came from. :p My mother, oth, was completely natural about her body and its functions. I’m comfortable in my skin as well. I often run around the house buck-ass naked. Any modesty I may have once had went right out the door the moment I went into labor. There is nothing lady-like about childbirth. I didn’t hold back or think twice about pissing all over that damn doctor, sitting between my legs like he was a damn catcher playing baseball. Catch that, asshole.

In my 20’s, my gallbladder went gangrene and had to be removed. Ever since then, I can’t be more than a few minutes away from a bathroom after I eat. Food moves through me at roughly the speed of light. I couldn’t be modest on a bet. If I have to fart, I let it rip. I tell folks that’s how you know you love someone and they love you. When you can fart in front of them. So now everyone just lets them rip in my presence. Farts not only feel good, they’re downright fun. We let ’em rip and just laugh and laugh. “There’s a hug for you!” “Oh, well here’s a kiss for you!” It relaxes people. They can toss all those pretenses right out the window and just be themselves. Bonus: As some women began to notice, it’s when you hold back and try to be quiet about it that they stink. But if you let ’em rip, most of the time they don’t. Shit, oth, well, you’re just not going to get around it. Shit stinks. Thus, proper etiquette requires courtesy flushes when in public. For men as well as women.

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