[Important Disclaimer: this post is based on personal anecdote and observation alone and does not imply that the author has undertaken any serious study into the gender politics and practice of poo. Nor were any Almanacks harmed in the writing of this essay.]

When a woman wants to have a poo, she goes to the toilet, sits down, does a poo, cleans and washes as required, and then gets on with whatever she was doing beforehand. The whole thing rarely takes more than five minutes. In, done, out.

So what is it with this idea that a man will take half an hour or more over his bowel movements?

He settles himself into position, trousers neatly pooled around his ankles, and waits.

Perhaps he reads. He may have taken in the paper, or perhaps there is some book kept in the smallest room expressly for the purpose – it might be called Schitt’s Almanack, or Uncle John’s Privy Collection, for example. Or, if he is not inclined to reading, he may merely smoke, or meditate upon the state of the world, pondering such great questions as Where Is My Next Beer Coming From? or Would I Do The Ugly One Out Of All Saints If I Had The Chance?

Time passes.

Eventually, there is some grunting, perhaps a little groaning or straining (not too much, as it might, apparently, strain the O-ring, whatever that is). The bowels move – like the earth, gradually so that only eventually is there any evidence of such.

A sigh. Some cursory effort at minimal cleaning. A flush.

Then: “I wouldn’t go in there for half an hour if I were you, love.”

What is it all about?

I know I’m not making up this male toilet culture. It’s well-documented. There is the marvellous The Specialist by Charles Sale, for one thing, in which the eponymous specialist says:

As to the latch fer [the new privy], I can give you a spool and string, or a hook and eye. The cost of a spool and string is practically nothin’ but they ain’t positive in action… But, with a hook and eye she’s yours, you might say, for the whole afternoon, if you’re so minded. Put on the hook and eye of the best quality ’cause there ain’t nothin’ that’ll rack a man’s nerves more than to be sittin’ there ponderin’, without a good, strong, substantial latch on the door.”

The very fact that privy reading matter such as Almanacs and catalogues have long been printed, and on soft paper, shows clearly that reading in the toilet has been a man’s practice since time immemorial. It is confirmed in novels such as All Quiet On The Western Front, set in the first world war and describing (among many other things) the culture of male bonding and relaxation at the latrine. This stuff goes way back.

So what is it all about?

Do men really have such different needs when it comes to bowel movement? Is it somehow essential to the male motions that they be produced in peace and quiet after a period of calm reflection? Is it only women who are capable of the in-done-out approach?

Surely not. This is all about culture.

So, does this cultural phenomenon have its roots in the femininity requirement that women should distance themselves from their bodies and bodily functions, compared with the masculine attitude of pride and comfort in same?

Or are men just looking for ways to fill their lazy days, while women have too much to do to spend half their lives sitting in the smallest room?

Answers on a postcard.

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