Forget the unusually *wide stance* (well, don't forget it entirely, it comes in handy for lulls in conversation), we're going to delve into the much neglected area of private parts in public places (yes, yes: those private parts).
Remember Jeremy? Of course you do!
We visited the alliteratively talented Jeremy Justus early last year, and came to a whole new appreciation of floating meta-signifiers when we plunged into his "Surveillance, Paranoia, and Abjection: The Ideological Underpinnings of Waste Management in the EPA's Measuring Recycling Guidelines and Don DeLillo's Underworld."
Where garbage and literature meet ...
Before we get too deep into the realms of private parts, we must also offer thanks to Jeremy for bringing to our attention the (alleged) description used by Stephen King when speaking of academics: "Dickheads on auto-stroke." (Tee hee, tee hee.)
Now, without further ado, let's tackle the topic of men pissing in public, or rather, Jeremy will, on our behalf:
Piss Stance: Private Parts in Public Places: An Analysis of the Men's Room and Gender Control - Jeremy C. Justus, Studies in Popular Culture, 28.3, April 2006
I know what you're thinking: "how could this possibly be important to my everyday life", 'ey?
Try telling that to one Edward Aldridge, a 47 year old New Zealander, who recently found himself on assault charges.
If only the victim had read Piss Stance, Mr Aldridge might not have been forced into the awkward situation of having to pummel him over blatant breaches of urinal etiquette.
Mr Aldridge punched his victim after he used the urinal next to him in a pub in Christchurch. The breach was compounded when the victim had the further gumption to speak to the defendant, while peeing, we pressume. As defense council put it: "he was effectively smirking. The defendant was outraged".
As would we all have been, non?
There are three simple rules for the men's public toilet, which males with the most limited capability should be able to master, even New Zealanders:
1) Do not stand directly next to another man at another urinal. There should be a "buffer zone" of at least one urinal on either side of the user.
2) Do not look at another user during urination, and, if possible, keep conversation to an absolute minimum. Staring directly, and blankly, forward at the wall is the common preference.
[Umm, not exactly a guy practice limited to peeing-time. I have worked with men who are paid to do exactly this, in the public space of the office - ed.]
3) If you shake if more than twice, you're playing with it.
[I have also worked with men who are paid to do exactly this, in the public space of the office - ed.]There are exceptions to each of these simple rules, for which you will need to read Jeremy's article.
On point (3) Jeremy expands:
"shaking it more than twice does not constitute masturbation, nonetheless men are taught to avoid even simulated public masturbation in the context of the male restroom".Which is great, really, and probably explains why so many young men save their simulated masturbation displays for every other public place you can name - anywhere other than the men's toilets.
[As a quick sidebar, and as I know that the manly men amongst you will be carefully examining the two helpful diagrams in Jeremy's article, I will point out that Jeremy has noted that there was a formatting error on page 65: the arrow should be pointing at the "O" indicating the fourth urinal from the left.]
It sounds altogether more grand than it smells when Jeremy writes:
"I will refer to the public men's room as both a theatre and an arena to indicate the public restroom's role as both a stage that demands a performance and a space that elicits competition."Of even greater import though, is Jeremy's discovery that men can, in fact, and contrary to all evidence or results of previous research, do more than one thing at at time:
"I will focus on the urinal - a urninary wast receptacle that affords a man the opportunity to do exactly what he has been designed to do: to stand and pee at the same time."Bang goes one myth.
As delightful and admirable is Jeremy's abiding academic interest in pissing and private parts, not to mention his valuable contribution to all matters surveillance-related, one is left in the lurch when it comes to the ladies room.
The most readily identifiable commonality is the etiquette of distance: not using a cubicle immediately next to one that is already occupied, and, ideally, the one furthest from any that are already occupied. As with the men's restrooms, so too, one would expect that this would be an embedded etiquette of the ladies loo's. However, it is breached with such tedious regularity that I'm flummoxed as to what has gone wrong in the socialization of women and female performance when it comes to pissing and public places.
The ladies loo is an entirely different world to the male domain, and one is left wondering if any such construct, involving gendered behavior or behavioral surveillance could ever be applied to the public habits of the opposite gender.
Sitting in Siberia: Women's Woes in the Water Woom
(via the lovely Kathy, via an email doing the rounds)
While I can't claim to have experienced any, and certainly not all, of the above scenario, it has a passing hint of familiarity.
When you have to visit a public bathroom, you usually find a line of women, so you smile politely and take your place. Once it's your turn, you check for feet under the stall doors. Every stall is occupied.
Finally, a door opens and you dash in, nearly knocking down the woman leaving the stall.
You get in to find the door won't latch. It doesn't matter, the wait has been so long you are about to wet your pants! The dispenser for the modern 'seat covers' (invented by someone's Mom, no doubt) is handy, but empty. You would hang your purse on the door hook, if there was one, but there isn't - so you carefully, but quickly drape it around your neck, (Mom would turn over in her grave if you put it on the floor! ), yank down your pants, and assume ' The Stance.'
In this position your aging, toneless thigh muscles begin to shake. You'd love to sit down, but you certainly hadn't taken time to wipe the seat or lay toilet paper on it, so you hold 'The Stance.'
To take your mind off your trembling thighs, you reach for what you discover to be the empty toilet paper dispenser. In your mind, you can hear your mother's voice saying, 'Honey, if you had tried to clean the seat, you would have know there was no toilet paper!' Your thighs shake more.
You remember the tiny tissue that you blew your nose on yesterday - the one that's still in your purse. (Oh yeah, the purse around your neck, that now, you have to hold up trying not to strangle yourself at the same time). That would have to do. You crumple it in the puffiest way possible. It's still smaller than your thumbnail.
Someone pushes your door open because the latch doesn't work. The door hits your purse, which is hanging around your neck in front of your chest, and you and your purse topple backward against the tank of the toilet. 'Occupied!' you scream, as you reach for the door, dropping your precious, tiny, crumpled tissue in a puddle on the floor, lose your footing altogether, and slide down directly onto the toilet seat. It is wet of course. You bolt up, knowing all too well that it's too late. Your bare bottom has made contact with every imaginable germ and life form on the uncovered seat because you never laid down toilet paper - not that there was any, even if you had taken time to try. You know that your mother would be utterly appalled if she knew, because, you're certain her bare bottom never touched a public toilet seat because, frankly, dear, 'You just don't know what kind of diseases you could get.'
By this time, the automatic sensor on the back of the toilet is so confused that it flushes, propelling a stream of water like a fire hose against the inside of the bowl that sprays a fine mist of water that covers your butt and runs down your legs and into your shoes. The flush somehow sucks everything down with such force that you grab onto the empty toilet paper dispenser for fear of being dragged in too.
At this point, you give up. You're soaked by the spewing water and the wet toilet seat. You're exhausted. You try to wipe with a gum wrapper you found in your pocket and then slink out inconspicuously to the sinks.
You can't figure out how to operate the faucets with the automatic sensors, so you wipe your hands with spit and a dry paper towel and walk past the line of women still waiting.
You are no longer able to smile politely to them. A kind soul at the very end of the line points out a piece of toilet paper trailing from your shoe. (Where was that when you needed it??) You yank the paper from your shoe, plunk it in the woman's hand and tell her warmly, 'Here, you just might need this.'This finally explains to the men what really does take us so long. It also answers their other commonly asked questions about why women go to the restroom in pairs. It's so the other gal can hold the door, hang onto your purse and hand you Kleenex under the door.
As you exit, you spot your hubby, who has long since entered, used, and left the men's restroom. Annoyed, he asks, 'What took you so long, and why is your purse hanging around your neck?'
What would Jeremy Justus make of it?
Surveillance and gender performance in the ladies loo is in dire need of an academic eye, and dare I suggest it, urgent need of academic guidance. And that's not something I would ordinarily inflict on anyone.