Women In Public Restrooms: Either Sit Down Or Wipe Up

by Annie Reneau
iStock / Ljupco

Hello ladies. We need to have a little talk about bathrooms and butt cheeks.

Many of us look at a public toilet and automatically assume that the toilet seat has been dipped in a vat of STDs and various other infectious diseases. From there, we assume that if any part of our thighs or derriere touch said seat, those germs will latch onto our skin and crawl directly into our unsuspecting vaginas.

Of course, science says we’re being silly and that our fears of public commodes are unfounded. While toilet seats certainly aren’t a place you’d want to eat your lunch, allowing yourself to actually sit down to pee will not lead to your icky and untimely demise. Abigail Salyers, PhD, president of the American Society for Microbiology (whom one can assume knows a whole lot more about these things than the average public pooper) says, “To my knowledge, no one has ever acquired an STD on the toilet seat—unless they were having sex on the toilet seat!”

There you go. Don’t have unprotected sex on public toilets, and you’ll be fine.

Why do I care about women’s public restroom habits? Because the “cover or hover” approach women take to public peeing is having a negative effect on us all.

Let’s start with the thinner-than-Kleenex toilet seat covers. Everyone’s paranoia about toilet seats has led to the proliferation of the most insanely frustrating invention ever created by man. When I am able to successfully detach the middle part without ripping the whole thing and manage to get it placed on the seat without half of it falling into the toilet water, I feel like I’ve won the lottery. “Yay! I did it!” **Look around to see if anyone noticed my awesomeness. Realize I’m in a bathroom stall. Sit down on crispy tissue feeling sheepish yet accomplished.**

My sense of pride is about the only benefit of successfully using a toilet seat cover, though, according to health experts. That wispy layer of paper doesn’t actually do anything.

And you’re thinking: Are you freaking kidding? No, I’m not. All that work to not rip the damn thing, and it’s all for naught anyway.

So how about hovering? Look, if you really can’t handle the idea of plopping your thighs on a public toilet, hover away. But if you’re going to take that approach, you really have to be on top of your etiquette game and wipe the seat when you’re done. You may not think you’re spraying, but you’re spraying, sister. At minimum, you’re sprinkling.

Trust me. I’ve been in the stall after many a hoverer, and there’s always tinkle on the seat.

You know what’s grosser than a public toilet seat? A public toilet seat with your pee on it because you were too grossed out to sit all the way down. That’s called irony. It’s also called rude.

I once saw a sign in a bathroom that said, “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat.” I think those should be mandatory in every stall in every public restroom in the world. And I think people should follow the rule like it is written into law.

If you are a hoverer, you’re not alone. There are a whoooole bunch of us in the squat club. One study found that only 2% of women sit directly on the toilet seat in public restrooms, and 85% of us “crouch.” I myself have taken the hover approach for most of my life. But while my thighs and glutes appreciate the workout, I’ve grown tired of dangling my derriere. Once I learned that I wasn’t going to catch someone’s funky disease, I started doing my business sitting down.

Do you know how liberating it is to sit on a public toilet when you’ve always squatted over it? The first time I did it I felt like I was breaking some unwritten rule, like I was some kind of social rebel. And you know what happened? Absolutely nothing. Nada. Zip.

Let’s think this through logically. Unless the person before you was literally smearing their private parts all over the seat, and then you came in immediately and smeared your private parts all over the seat, you’re not going to catch anything from using that seat as it was intended.

You know how you will catch something, though? By not washing your hands. And apparently, only 5% of people wash their hands thoroughly enough after they use the bathroom to kill germs. Ewwwwwww.

So 85% of us hover over toilet seats that have virtually no chance of harming us, and only 5% of us wash our hands well enough to actually help prevent the actual germs from spreading? That makes zero sense.

So have a seat, ladies, or at least wipe the seat if you insist on hovering. Don’t bother with the maddening seat covers. And pleeeeease wash your hands before you leave the bathroom. Our fingers are a much bigger risk than our butt cheeks will ever be. We touch our face, and public property, with those things.