If trying to urinate in a crowded public restroom causes you to experience avoidant paruresis, you are not alone. Also known as pee-phobia, bashful bladder syndrome or psychogenic urinary retention, you may even feel fear and trepidation at the mere thought of entering a public restroom because you do not know what to expect. While it is true that some public building managers install toilet partitions and urinal screens, others invite men to use their partition-free urinals without any apologies. Fear of the unknown is a powerful psychological force causing you to feel timid whenever you need to urinate in a public facility. It is scary enough to use a urinal even if it has toilet partitions. A cramped, crowded and screenless wall of urinals sounds like a scene out of the next Evil Dead movie.
Public urinals in France, known as pissoirs, were once commonplace in Paris. Due to modern plumbing, pissoirs are no longer as common. Open-air urinals or "uritrottoirs" have replaced the ancient pissoirs with their due share of controversy.
Toilet partitions are a surprisingly recent invention. From 1760 to approximately 1830, a period commonly referred to as the Industrial Revolution, women working outside their homes required restrooms. As a direct result, contractors used partitions while constructing public bathrooms. Years later, in 1904, the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, an American, designed an edifice in Buffalo, New York, called the Larkin Building. Wright's design famously included ceiling hung toilet partitions.
Artistic endeavors sometimes lead to strange creations. Born in Blainville, Normandy, France, Marcel Duchamp was a French artist associated with Dadaism, also known as Cubism. The 1917 art exhibit sponsored by The Society of Independent Artists included Duchamp's public display of a male urinal called "Fountain." Instead of signing his artwork with his real name, Duchamp used the pseudonym R. Mutt. Even though the exhibit, which took place at The Grand Central Palace in New York City, New York, was displayed vertically instead of horizontally, the idea caught on and influenced public urinals' basic design.
Saving time and space, men must stand up while using urinals. Consequently, public restrooms featuring urinals do not need to have multiple toilets designed for purposes other than urinating. Several men can urinate while standing, which means less waiting in line before entering the restroom. A simple, cost effective and space-saving solution for privacy was to install screens between the urinals.
Most architects do not design urinals for men experiencing shy bladders or pee shyness. Please do not blame them. Ensconced in their ivory towers, architects are unlikely to experience the day to day unpleasantries of the proletarian urinator. Facility managers and building owners hire architects. If these managers and owners want to cut costs and simplify aesthetics, they provide instructions to place the urinals closer together and refrain from installing urinal divider screens.
“Why does society force men to use urinals when sitting would clearly be more comfortable?” -Michael Scott
You may even wish that the good Lord had created you as a woman who never needs to worry about using urinals devoid of toilet partitions and urinal screens. But women need to deal with toilet stalls featuring partial dividers refusing to extend to the floor. While toilet stalls in bathrooms are less intimidating than urinals, partial bathroom stall dividers can also cause undue anxiety. Some tireless entrepreneurs are now trying to design urinals for women, which will only fuel our need to innovate in the field of urinal partitioning.
The lack of a divider means that you need to stand next to a total stranger while engaged in the natural act of peeing. Even though most men instinctively rely on the “eyes forward at the urinal” section of the bro code (paragraph 5 of section XIV) there is nevertheless a seed of doubt that lingers that perhaps the guy standing next to you is an anarchist.
Indeed, your embarrassment may prevent you from peeing. Everyone knows that holding it in is not a healthy activity. So, you may wonder if there is a way to eliminate your pee shyness. You could drink a lot of water before using a public restroom with the idea that you will need to urinate even if there are no toilet partitions or urinal screens.
If the idea of peeing under the intense pressure of a line waiting behind you makes your hands cold and clammy, the fact that exposure therapy for paruresis actually exists is likely of little comfort. But do not worry about your social phobia because unless it is so severe that it actually prevents you from drinking water or from going to events, it is not a mental illness. It is merely aggravating.
You may wonder why men are the targets of malicious building owners who hire builders to create bathrooms devoid of partitions. There can be no rational motive. Some men just want to watch the world burn.
Typical fears of contracting COVID-19 may cause you to wonder whether using a public urinal can cause you to acquire the virus. As a general rule, contracting the COVID-19 virus while using a public urinal is an uncommon occurrence. However, flushing a urinal involves emitting various aerosols into the environment because it does not have a lid. Medical advice is to always close the lid on a private or public toilet before flushing to prevent aerosols from escaping into the air. Researchers have determined that the virus lives in several types of bodily fluids.
Another issue that may cause some concern is that using urinals means standing less than 6 feet apart from another person. Of course, the use of toilet partitions theoretically could help reduce the spread. A divider creates a small barrier between yourself and the gentleman standing next to you. Nonetheless, you should always wear a mask when using a public bathroom because of other people's proximity. Mask wearing may help prevent urinal aerosols from invading your body.
We modestly propose that from here forward, every urinal in every building be flanked by 24" x 48" screens. In today's uncertain world, the least one can ask is to allow men to pee in peace. Installing a barrier between every urinal is a request for common decency and improved control of spreading germs.
If our demands are not yet, strongly worded Yelp reviews shall follow. We will not relent.