Act like a lady, pee like a man

Devices that allow women to urinate standing up might be a step toward gender equality, but I still don't want one


Kate Harding
February 18, 2010 11:19PM (UTC)

Another day, another pee funnel for the ladies. Or at least, that's how it feels when you're a blogger for the ladies and run across an article about the GoGirl, "a reusable, soft-silicone device with a short funnel that, after a little practice for most women, seals to their body and enables them to pee without sitting or squatting." Sarah Hepola has written for Broadsheet about Australian iteration the Whiz Biz, while editors at Jezebel have covered -- and even tried -- the dildoesque Shenis. Whatever your thoughts about the feminist blogosphere, you have to admit we keep you informed about the latest in dick substitutes.

Even though these devices have been around for a while, and the ability to pee standing up has some obvious benefits, the marketing has so far been an uphill battle. The Whiz Biz ad, for instance, suggests it's a great way to drive a one-night stand out of your apartment in a transphobic panic! Well, gee, I'll take a dozen? Shenis creator Kiki Curry's apparently ad libbed infomercial for her product features her stroking a 12-inch, hollow gold plastic wang, repeatedly declaring her loooove for it and bragging about its size intimidating Howard Stern. High marks for entertainment value, low marks for convincing anyone with a less-pronounced kooky streak it's a must-have item.

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But Sarah Dillon, inventor of the GoGirl and a former market researcher who, according to the Star-Tribune, moved 2,000 units a day at last summer's Minnesota State Fair, might have identified the most effective pitch: Tapping into women's existing (and largely marketing-induced) germaphobia, just as the makers of antibacterial soaps, disinfectant wipes and countertop sprays have long appealed to concerned women who, as Sarah Haskins put it, clean "because they don't want their whole family to die."

"I mean, who really wants to drop their pants in a Porta-Potty?" Dillon asked the Star-Tribune's Neal St. Anthony. A female colleague of his agreed that the GoGirl would neutralize penis owners' unfair hygiene advantage when it comes to public urination: "Just ask any girl who's ever grimaced and bared it at a truck stop toilet or fairground outhouse." Now, I daresay nobody likes using a public toilet -- aside from the sweet relief of finding one after you've held it too long -- and I've been seriously disgusted by more than a few in my life. There's visible pee on the seat at least 50 percent of the time, in my experience -- thanks, paranoid hoverers -- and I've been known to waste a great deal of toilet paper wiping it off and then creating a chiefly psychological barrier between my butt and any overlooked residue. But still, generally speaking, I would be far more disgusted by the thought of urinating into a silicone funnel, then putting it back in my purse.

Also, in all my research into products that allow women to pee more like men, there was one important question I couldn't find an answer to. So I interviewed Dodai Stewart, deputy editor of Jezebel and co-winner of the site's Shenis pissing contest.

KH: I've got to know: What about wiping? Does it somehow enable you to drip dry more efficiently?

DS: Hmm...

KH: I wouldn't ask if I weren't such a dedicated journalist.

DS: I think it was fairly inefficient in that regard.

KH: So it's for women who prefer walking around in wet undies to touching toilet seats?

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DS: YES. And it helps if you are a little drunk, like we were. It's more about the fun and convenience of being able to pee quickly in a dirty bathroom. It's not exactly practical. It drips, also.

KH: Oh, ew.

DS: I think if you are into this you have to accept the fact that you WILL get pee on your hands or underwear. But urine is sterile! At least that is what I remind myself when I have that problem.

It's true -- unlike toilet seats, urine is sterile. It's also, true, however, that public toilet seats are usually nowhere near the most bacteria-laden surface in the bathroom, and given the choice between getting a small amount of invisible bacteria on my butt and walking around with pee-soaked underwear all day, I'll take the former every time. Even self-idenitified "germ freak" Allison Janse, co-author of a book on avoiding the nastiest surfaces, told ABC News that toilet seats are usually nothing to worry about: "You're not going to get germs from your backside. You're going to get them from your hands." Stewart concurs. "My dad was a doctor, and he was always telling you what wouldn't kill you -- which is, like, almost everything gross."

So dire warnings about exposing one's naked privates in a public restroom seem to be far more useful to manufacturers of disinfectant wipes, seat covers and urine funnels than they are to the average woman -- and they smack of a certain "Ew, but the unwashed masses have been there!" classism, to boot. In an e-mail, Hepola suggested the next logical invention for ladies who require a more discreet, toilet-avoidant urinating experience: "I think someone should combine status bags with a pee bag. That way those women can just piss in their $5000 purses and not have to touch another living soul."

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Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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