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is it okay: for women to use the men’s bathroom?

It’s 1am, the music’s loud, the place is full, and so is your bladder. You can see the line from here and the bathroom door wedged open by a girl who’s staring balefully at the wall. Behind her, two friends shriek loudly whilst sneaking sideways glances at the same guy across the room. You can only just see through the door, where there are three cubicles, all of which remain stubbornly occupied. You’re going to have to navigate stockings, buttons and the possibility of no toilet paper. A solitary man leaves the bathroom next door and heads for the bar. There is no line. Meanwhile, the girl four spaces ahead is wearing a jumpsuit. That’s going to take a while. Things are reaching a critical point. Decision time.

Is it ok to duck into the men’s bathroom? No, except in the following three scenarios:

  1. Pure, unadulterated desperation with no viable alternative, as a result of the fact that you will 100% pee everywhere if you don’t go right now.
  2. The men’s bathroom is made up of a single toilet, identical to the women’s (which is out of order) except for the fact that the figure on the door is wearing pants not a dress.
  3. The toilet is empty, and likely to remain so.

Outside of these three situations, the male bathroom should remain a no-go zone. There are the obvious reasons like ‘what if the situation were reversed’ and ‘oh no, my eyes’, but really it comes down to the fact that male and female communal bathroom experiences are two different worlds which under no circumstances should ever collide.

When women go to the bathroom, it is rarely a solitary experience. If you’re not with a friend, you’re in a line. Forever. It is pretty much a given that you will be there for a while, so small talk happens, garish paint gets commented on, and sometimes a salvation handful of toilet paper gets handed under the stall. Time is spent in front of the mirror, gossip is exchanged and the hand dryer is likely to be pressed twice. It’s not always the same. Some friends I will talk to from within the cubicles, some will remain in stony silence, water running, only to join up again at the mirror with a smile, and we will both pretend that they didn’t just relieve themselves of bodily waste. There is an unspoken agreement to wait for each other, and a tacit contract made to never acknowledge the fact that you are there in fact to pee and/or poop.

I always assumed that the male toilet experience was a sped up version of this, though maybe a bit more solitary and with less time in front of the mirror. Apparently not. Following a surprisingly long conversation with some male friends, it turns out that in fact the male bathroom is a cold, emotionally sterile place where all relationship ties are severed. The only sound that can be heard is urine hitting porcelain or metal, and the only acknowledgement of previous acquaintance is a curt nod, before all attention is returned to the task at hand.

Men apparently set themselves a “toilet goal”. This can range from floating the urinal cake either up or downstream (‘upstream is much harder’), to wet the ‘entire side of the urinal, which can be up to a metre and a half wide’, or simply to clean up. If I walk into a toilet and found that someone hasn’t abided to the “if it’s brown, flush it down” rule, I immediately leave, lest the woman inevitably waiting for the stall thinks it was me and lets her judging eyes bore straight into my soul. Apparently this will go down a whole different way in the mysterious male toilet. ‘I think, eh, something to aim at.’

Male bathroom etiquette also includes not standing next to someone at the urinal if it can be avoided, not speaking at all, and avoiding going in pairs or groups. They also rarely have to wait, with it being such a rare occurrence that if it does happen, it makes them feel awkward.

It’s an alien world, and I don’t really think that it is OK for a woman to enter into it if the situation is not dire.  Any time I try and picture this happening, the image that comes into my head is of a blue room filled with men standing at urinals, one space apart, silent with concentration. The door opens, along with a flood of sound. ‘Hey’, says the female intruder, ‘the women’s is really busy. I hope you don’t mind’. There is no response, and she heads into the single cubicle. Another man enters the room, and not wanting to stand between two friends/acquaintances/strangers (it’s all the same in the men’s bathroom), heads to the cubicle. It’s occupied. He has to…wait? Before long, everyone is wandering around lost and confused, thinking they’re hearing voices as the men’s bathroom is supposed to be a zone of silence.

So, if you’re thinking of going to the men’s bathroom, don’t. And, if you really have to, be silent, be quick, and ignore the goal orientated behaviour – lest you cause a catastropee.

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16 thoughts on “is it okay: for women to use the men’s bathroom?

  1. I once ran into Germaine Greer coming out of a men’s bathroom as I was going in. True story. She made a joke (I forget what exactly) but it didn’t seem like she was trying to defuse tension.

  2. A few clubs in my town have unisex toilets, one in particular has an area divided by a barrier which is where the urinal is. The barrier comes up just over waist height so whilst you can’t see their business you can see their head… I’ve actually had conversations with blokes whilst their “going”
    In another club the queue for the ladies goes past the door to the men’s and every time a man goes in there you can see straight through to the urinal. Most of the time the blokes seem to cheer if they can see a woman peering in as the door swings.
    I don’t think the men’s is always as silent as the author makes it out to be ;)

  3. So it is okay for women to use the mens restroom but not okay for men to use women’s restrooms? …DOUBLE STANDARD

  4. I’m trying to find the part of the article where it says that it isn’t ok for men to ever use a women’s bathroom, and thus find the double standard?

  5. Let’s just look at it this way….

    If I were to try to use a public women’s restroom I would be arrested, my name and face would be on the evening news, and my life and career would essentially be over.

    That’s actually what I told the lady I encountered in a men’s room earlier today. Needless to say, she didn’t have an answer.

    Then again, I wasn’t expecting one.

    • You are so right.

      1. I am a male, and I have encountered many women walk into a communal men’s restroom – some of them even escorted by men to “protect” them against other men and/ or to support their excuse that “the queue to the women’s restroom is long.”

      2. When I challenged some of them, I was accused of being unchivalrous.

      3. I am willing to bet a brand-new SUV that if I walked in a communal women’s bathroom by myself “because the queue to the men’s bathroom is long,” and should there be women present, some of them would shriek at me, and others would likely call the security force of the establishment, or the police.

      4. If, on the other hand, I walked into a communal women’s restroom with a female, I am certain that those present will think that my female companion and I plan to engage in a sexual act.

      5. Yes, double standard much. Some women play the “where’s your chivalry” card when it suits them, and play the “I demand to be treated equally to men” card when it comes to other matters.

  6. I would hope in times of emergencies that men and women would work together so no one has to experience the pain of holding on to your bladder or the humiliation of wetting their pants. The real question here is HOW do we approach this? The answer? By treating the opposite gender with fairness and respect. Which means, after all other options have been exhausted, doing everything possible to warn the opposite gender and announce your entry. Something like, “Hey, our line is too long and our bladders are about to burst so can we share your restroom with you? Please go in there and tell us when their are no more men/women in there.”
    Why wouldn’t that work.

  7. On the same note, it’s ridiculous that it’s okay for women to enter the men’s room but as we all know, women would scream police if a guy entered the women’s room! SERIOUSLY!!!! What’s the big deal for women and men to pee standing next to each other? Come on girls, what’s the big deal?

  8. Yes ladies, please come in. I would welcome you to pee next to me. I wish women would totally use the men’s room at anytime, line or no line. Come on in Coz I’m not shy lol.

  9. The communality in male toilets generally depends on how much everyone has had to drink. If the boys have had a skin full, it’s like Saturday Night Live in there.

  10. One mens room I use at a local bar has urinals along one side and two stalls at the end. I sneaked my gf in to one of the stalls so she could watch dozens of guys through the crack of the door only a few inches away. She loved it. Harmless

  11. Have occasionally had women come into the men’s room and use a stall. No one said a thing or cared, even the ones at the urinals. However, one time I was walking through a building on a local university and needed to find a bathroom fast. I found one in the basement and quickly went in when I ascertained no one was in there. As i was almost finished in the stall, a woman came in, noticed I was in the stall and yelled as she ran out. I’m certain that if I hadn’t quickly finished up and left I would have been arrested – regardless of the fact that I absolutely needed to go. Yes, there is a double standard. On a lighter note; while sitting on a commode washing a stall wall in an office area of the college I was going to, in came a female instructor and she used the other stall. Mind you, I had all the cleaning equipment and cart sitting in the doorway so she knew someone was in there. Suddenly she starts up a conversation. I was mortified and fully expected there to be a problem. Instead, she insisted on talking with me while she used the facilities. It was at a catholic college and she was a nun. I still chuckle about that and it’s over 40 years ago.

  12. If you think about it, most of us share the toilet at home with the opposite gender so why is it divided in public. I’ve seen plenty of women in the men’s and I’m fine with it. It’s the women that make a big deal about men using the women’s so until women can stop whining about it,they should stay out of the men’s room.

  13. Maybe its a New York thing, but it seems that no women are allowed in the men’s bathroom, except: Women cleaning the men’s room, mothers taking their sons into the men’s room, daughters accompanied by their fathers no matter what the girl’s age, any woman if the woman’s room is out of order, and any woman if there is a long line and she is desperate. You get used to it.

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