Male Public Toilet Etiquette

‘NICE DICK’ was scrawled in ballpoint on the inside wall of the cubicle.

It was one of the more basic pieces of bathroom expressionism I’d seen, but in its own way it was strangely profound. Here, in the space of two simple words, some faceless artist had underscored the insecurity and homophobia that lingers like a bad smell in almost every male restroom. The only reason I was using the cubicle, after all, was so I could piss without having to squeeze myself between two urinating strangers. No speaking; eyes forward; and definitely no looking at each other’s dicks, no matter how nice.

These are just a few of the unwritten rules of public toilet conduct. The men do not teach these things to the boys; knowledge isn’t passed down as it is with, say, shaving or wiping browser history. The protocols of what one can and can’t do in the presence of other main-vein drainers is something that must be learned, through intuition and experience.

You might not know, for example, that it is decidedly uncool to take a shit on a night out. Although I’m familiar with this general rule, I’ve found myself on the butt end of it once or twice. And it’s uncomfortable, waiting outside the door of an ‘engaged’ cubicle like a Sim with a turd-shaped think bubble above its head. Everybody does it, but nobody does it here.

I shake off the awkwardness by telling myself that, for all these bystanders know, I’m just waiting to rack up like everybody else. Ingesting contraband in a nightclub toilet is hardly going against the grain, after all.

But what does that say about our standards of social acceptability? In what kind of society is it more taboo to take dumps than drugs? Defecating in this private booth with my pants around my ankles, it struck me that I was the real renegade here.

More controversial still, though, is the other rule that I tend to violate. Whenever I piss in the toilet of a club, I almost never wash my hands.

Let it be clear that when I say ‘the toilet of a club’ I’m not referring to those space age lavatories with motion-sensor taps, Dyson Airblades and hands-free, multi-function bidets. I’m referring to the other 99% that look, smell and feel like the shooting galleries they probably are.

Thus is my logic. I know my body well enough to know that anything handled during urination (namely: my penis) is almost definitely cleaner than any of the so-called ‘cleaning’ facilities provided in these venues. I’m skilled enough to not get piss on myself, I don’t currently have inflamed genital warts, and I maintain a half-decent standard of bodily hygiene. I can’t say the same for the thousands who have used the taps before me—but, quite simply, I don’t need to take the risk.

Call me irresponsible. But what’s more concerning, I think, is the other side of the coin: the notion that some men in clubs apparently have appendages too filthy to be touched—especially when one of the only reasons people go clubbing, as far as I can tell, is to get those appendages in or at least around another human being. Dancing with a dirty disco stick is like picking a wiener up off the floor of the Kwik-E Mart and dishing it out to unsuspecting customers.

But I digress.

Long story short: if your dick isn’t nice enough to be touched without a follow-up sanitisation, get out of the club and into a bath.
Long story shorter: some rules are dumb, write your own.
Words by Gavin Butler. Photo by Krandall.

Categories: Short & Sharp
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