To sit or not to sit
The Naked Scientist
May 17, 2009
Why men should stand to pee...
Western Europe is abuzz with the latest flare-up in the war between the sexes,
and for the moment, the Amazons seem to be winning. If outrage continues to
mount, it will soon be not just uncool and politically incorrect for a man to
urinate while standing up, but out-and-out ILLEGAL. Yes, the liberated women of
France and Germany and Holland have vowed to put their men down – on the toilet.
They carry placards showing a huge red X scrawled across a man standing to
urinate. They shout: “Laissez tomber votre pantalon, et asseyez vous! (Drop your
trousers and sit)!” “Behalte deine Tropfen fuer dich (Keep your drips to
yourself)!” “Toch niet weer een vieze plas op MIJN badkamer vloer (Not another
filthy puddle on MY bathroom floor)!”
Their motives, or so they insist, have nothing to do with penis envy and
everything to do with hygiene. On the face of it, their argument seems to, uh,
hold water. No one enjoys stepping in a puddle of urine. Given the distance
between the toilet bowl and the penis of an upright man (approximately two feet,
depending on anatomic variations), and factoring in the width of the bowl itself
(approximately twelve inches), it becomes clear that only the sharpest aim can
hit the target every time. In such a precarious setting, even a moment’s loss of
focus will scatter errant drops on the floor. On the other hand, if every man
sits to urinate, the bathroom floors of Europe will remain pristine. Or so goes
the logic of the Amazons.
Forgive me, madams, but I beg to differ. Before joining the fray, let me
establish my credentials: during my life, I have urinated approximately 118,000
times (five times a day for sixty-five years) and on countless occasions have
watched other males urinate in public restrooms. (I am not a voyeur, of course;
all of these glimpses were caught from corner of my eye, with no intention to
invade the privacy of others.) Furthermore, during medical school, I spent four
years studying the human body. Combining my knowledge from these sources, I must
warn the mothers and wives and cohabitees of Europe that their efforts to
sustain the purity of their bathroom floors will surely come to naught, defeated
by the anatomy and physiology of the male genitourinary tract.
The first fact to be faced: most of the stray “sprinkles” that so enrage
European women occur not during the act of urination itself, but immediately
afterward, during a ritual men learn as part of their potty training. By
“ritual” I refer to the various manoeuvers required to discharge the urine
remaining in the urethra (the muscular tube that delivers urine to the tip of
the penis) once the bladder is empty. Nor is the act merely symbolic or
recreational. A man who tucks away his penis without performing these manoeuvers
will dribble half an ounce of urine into his underwear, causing an embarrassing
stain in the crotch of his trousers, or an even more embarrassing streak down
his trouser leg. To avoid this debacle, every sentient male, after every
urination, carefully squeezes or “milks” his member to assure that no stray
drops remain within the urethra.
Unfortunately, some men pursue this goal with excessive vigour, indulging in
what can only be described as “shaking off the last drop.” It is precisely these
movements – and not the free-falling stream itself – that deposit most of the
unwanted urine on lavatory floors throughout the world. And sometimes, given a
sufficiently vigorous shake, on the walls, or even on the ceiling.
Let me interrupt my argument for a moment to address the mortified gasps from
some female readers. I know your “drying off” ritual is far more civilized than
the one described above, but this difference derives only in part from the
inherent uncouthness of men. We must also consider anatomy: the female urethra
spans only a miniscule length in comparison to that of the male, and as a
result, it harbours only a tiny dollop of urine. The male ritual seems barbaric
to women because they need only daub themselves with a tissue to remove the few
drops remaining on the external genitalia. Granted, their method is more
aesthetic, but it’s not our fault that a discrete little wipe doesn’t serve our
needs. We can’t help it. No one decides to be a man instead of a woman.
To reiterate my point, men scatter urine not so much during the actual urination
as during the “shaking off” that follows. As a result, forcing men to sit while
emptying their bladders will serve little purpose, since no man wants to shake
himself off while remaining seated on the toilet. To do so he must run the risk
– a great risk indeed for the famously well-endowed men of Western Europe – that
his instrument will bash against the toilet seat, or dip into a bowl teeming
with coliform bacteria. Because of this reasonable and compelling reluctance,
all the obedient men who sit to void their bladders will inevitably defeat the
purpose of sitting by rising to scatter their offensive droplets on the floor.
But all is not lost. Eons ago, a hydraulic genius designed the perfect
instrument for receiving urine from the male organ with a minimum of mess and
bother. I speak here of the lowly urinal, the gleaming porcelain icon that
adorns public toilets throughout the western world. For those female readers who
have never visited a men’s restroom, let me describe this icon: its bowl is
broad as a toilet bowl but sits much higher from the floor, at just the right
level to encourage a direct hit from a majority of the men who stand before it.
Better yet, the urinal comes with a back-splash to catch any misguided drops,
while the push of a button flushes all its surfaces with a cleansing gush of
water. Voila! What more could a man or woman ask?
Any nation that bans urinals will pay for this folly with an increase in floor
soiling when millions of men stand up to shake off their drops over a toilet
located two feet below their penis. Let us remember that the toilet was designed
for defaecation rather than urination, and, as noted above, it serves the latter
purpose rather poorly, while for the urinal, the very opposite is true.
Unfortunately, urinals give no help on the family front, since few of them are
installed in private homes. But we must not lose hope – the solution is at hand.
In fact, every home already contains the solution, and it rests only a few feet
from the toilet itself. Let us consider the sink, a porcelain instrument whose
opening spans a greater width than the toilet, and whose height above the floor
brings it much closer to the average male instrument. The short-legged among us
must stand on our toes, while midgets and children will need to use a stool, but
this is a small price to pay for urine-free floors. By my calculation,
considering only the physics of hydraulic trajectory, urine aimed at a sink by a
man of normal height is eight and one-half times less likely to go astray than
when aimed at a toilet. Furthermore, this logic applies equally to both
urination and to the drip-dispersing ritual that follows.
Yes, I can hear the howls of protest: urine in the sink – yuck! Indeed, our
culture is replete with disparaging references – “piss on it,” “filthy as piss,”
“I don’t give a piss” – but rest assured that such prejudice is for the most
part misguided. Which is to say, urine has long suffered a bum rap. To quote
Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary:
Urine: liquid to semisolid matter that is produced in the kidney and discharged
through the urinary organs, that is typically (as in normal man) a clear
transparent amber-colored slightly acid fluid which is essentially a watery
solution of end products (as urea, uric acid, and creatinine) of protein
metabolism, inorganic salts, and complex pigments, and that constitutes the
major true excretion of the vertebrate body.
What Merriam-Webster leaves out is the most important fact of all: urine from a
normal male is also sterile – completely free of bacterial contamination. In
fact, as any soldier trained in desert warfare will attest, this warm, salty
liquid serves as an excellent wound cleanser, provided contamination is avoided
by delivering the stream directly from its source. In my paean to urine,
however, I will not go so far as to advocate urophagia – drinking ones own
urine. Though the habit is unlikely to cause serious harm, those “alternative”
practitioners who insist it will cure a variety of ills can offer not one jot of
scientific evidence to support this idiocy.
Despite urine’s innocuous nature, when contaminated it provokes an aesthetic and
hygienic disaster by offering an excellent growth medium for bacteria. After an
hour or two in a warm environment, these organisms produce breakdown products
that stink to high heaven. This problem is easily avoided, however, by the
simple expedient of washing away the urine soon after it is voided.
So at last we have the solution to our excretory dilemma. First, encourage men
to continue using the urinals in public toliets, while at home insist they both
urinate and squeeze their last dribbles into the sink rather than into the
toilet, then rinse the sink with a generous splash of water. To facilitate this
splash, the wise hostess will keep a plastic cup nearby. Let me close my
argument by noting that this procedure offers a spectacular bonus: even the most
efficient modern toilet consumes more than a gallon of water with each flush,
while a sink can be rinsed with only a few ounces. Thus if every man on earth
pursues this excellent regimen, we will save billions of gallons of water every
day, thereby preserving the environment for future generations.
Make your woman happy.
Be clean and green.
Piss in the sink!
* * *
Readers might like to know the source of the genitourinary disparity that has
kept women seething in a jealous rage since the dawn of human history. Oddly
enough, the best available evidence comes not from evolutionary biology but from
a theological event that dates back to 3,949 B. C. The material that follows was
taken from a revised version of Genesis based on the Dead Sea Scrolls:
God approached Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and said unto them, “There
remain of my gifts to mankind only two items, but I have yet to decide how they
shall be divided between man and woman.”
And Adam said, “Tell me of these wondrous things, for I am the man, and by
virtue of my closer resemblance to Thee, I must be given the first choice.”
“Well,” said God, “the first item is an extraordinary arrangement of tubing and
erectile tissue that will allow you to urinate while standing up.”
“That’s it!” said Adam. “I’ll take it.”
“But this other item . . . ”
“No, no,” said Adam, “that’s what I want, God, and I want it right now.”
The moment the item was installed on his person, Adam gave a gleeful shout, then
rushed off to urinate on trees and write his name in the sand, feats that to
this day have eluded every woman on earth.
God and Eve stood alone in silence, looking one another in the eye.
“Ok,” Eve said at last, “what’s left for me?”
And God said, “It’s called a brain.”