I cannot be blamed for the raised toilet seat that my colleague Nathalie Graham pointed out in her Slog PM post on Friday. I was working remotely on Friday, so there is no way that I was the culprit behind the un-lowered toilet seat. But on most other business days, I could be blamed for leaving the toilet seat up because I engage in what appears to be a particularly controversial toilet etiquette:
I never lower a public toilet seat.
Half of the people reading this will probably skip the rest of this post and jump straight to calling me inconsiderate or some other more impolite names, but for the people willing to engage in actual civil discourse on the subject, let me explain myself: I do not leave the toilet seat raised because of some stupid bullshit “mens’ rights” claim or anything like that garbage or because I don’t care about the people who spend their lives sitting on public toilet seats. In fact, I have adopted this practice precisely because, despite my penis, I am a man who has a habit of occasionally sitting on toilet seats and I want to keep them as clean as possible.
The primary goal of toilet etiquette should be that the bathroom is clean and usable for all people, regardless of their method of relieving themselves. A permanently lowered toilet seat does not accomplish this goal. And while a raised toilet seat does not guarantee a clean bathroom, I have deduced that leaving the seat up is in fact an insurance policy for a cleaner bathroom.
To this end, I leave the toilet seat raised.
Let me explain my reasoning behind this. I think it’s disgusting when I see dribbles of urine on toilet seats. This is almost always the fault of people (and these people are usually men) who stand to urinate and fail to raise the toilet seat. This isn’t a problem of “men with bad aim” as the tired cliché goes, but rather a combination of lazy men and the rules of physics. You cannot reasonably expect to leave the round ring of a toilet seat unscathed when directing a stream of urine from multiple feet above the toilet bowl. Some of that watery fluid is going to end up on the toilet seat no matter how “good your aim is.” So I always, always, always raise the toilet seat if I am going to relieve myself from the standing position. But I don’t trust that every other person who stands while urinating is diligent enough to raise the toilet seat. So to hedge against the future bathroom occupant who attempts to urinate while standing without getting the toilet seat unscathed (it is impossible to do so), I exit the public bathroom with the toilet seat raised.
The raised toilet seat in a urinal-free bathroom essentially ensures that no matter how lazy the person who comes in after you is, they will not pee on the toilet seat. If they want to sit down, they will lower the toilet seat. If they want to urinate while standing, they have no choice but to do so in the most hygienically safe situation: with a raised toilet seat.
Would this whole matter be put to bed if all dick-havers everywhere vowed to always either raise the toilet seat or urinate sitting down? Yes. Can I actually trust everyone everywhere will do this? No. Thus I leave the toilet seat raised in public bathrooms.
Nathalie mused in her Friday post that those of us in the office who leave the toilet seat up should learn the same lesson that her brothers once learned—lowering the toilet seat was the most respectful thing for the other women in your household.
“I grew up with brothers, I get it, standing is really fucking efficient and whipping your dick out is the definition of easy breezy. But, those boys (eventually) learned to put the seat down because they grew up around women. To those of you in the office who don't have any women in your personal lives, I'm sorry to inform you that you have women in your professional lives. Please put the seat down after you tinkle. Especially on International Women's Day.”
Now here’s the problem with Nathalie’s thinking: She has confused the etiquette of public bathrooms with the etiquette of private bathrooms. In my private life, I always, always, always return the toilet seat to its lowered position after doing my business. I don’t do this simply because I respect the three women I share a rented house with (although I do), I lower the toilet seat because this policy works in the confines of a private bathroom. The customs of being at home allow a sort of policing that can keep the toilet seat clean even if it is always in the lowered position: You should be able to trust the people you live with to keep the toilet seat clean. And if a lazy person sees a lowered toilet seat and still decides to urinate from a standing position, thus inevitably bespattering the toilet seat with their disgusting DNA, the household can quickly pinpoint the culprit and shame them into cleaning up their act.
The same can’t be said in public bathrooms. You do not know who came in before you, and it would be rude to yell out across a restaurant or an office that the toilet seat is dirty and then point your finger at the person you think is responsible. In the largely lawless environment of public bathrooms, I have found that leaving a toilet seat raised is a sort of insurance policy for a clean place to sit down when you need to.
You see, I am less concerned with who is responsible for raising or lowering the toilet seat (and Nathalie’s assumption that only a woman would look at a raised toilet seat and lower it forgets that nearly everyone has a daily habit of relieving themselves while sitting), and more concerned with keeping that toilet seat clean. Am I perpetuating misogyny by engaging in this practice? I do not think so, but that will ultimately be up to you and the other commenters to decide.
One last thing, Nathalie finished her toilet blurb with a very pertinent question: Where are the tampons in the bathroom? For real, why don’t we have tampons in the bathroom?