Note: Seph at The Woven, Jewels at According to Jewels, and I are blogging about this question today. We purposefully did not share our responses with one another ahead of time. After you’ve finished this post go check out their blogs! I can’t wait to see what they have to say about this topic.
My one word answer: penises.
Half of the population has one, but no one wants to be surprised by one while in a vulnerable position.
What is it about penises that western society finds so frightening, you ask?
North American men are assumed to be predators until proven otherwise. From advertisements to pop songs to abstinence-only sex education, we learn early on in life that men’s sex drives are strong and difficult to control. Men are stereotyped as people constantly interested in sex who would do almost anything to sleep with someone new.
Allowing men and women to use the same bathroom, then, would send dangerously mixed signals
While defecation would almost certainly take place in the stalls, most men’s rooms also have urinals. In mixed gender bathrooms women run the risk of seeing stray penises every time nature calls. If men’s sexuality is as unpredictable and dangerous as we’ve been taught, then, this is an invitation for sexual assault.
After all, you have to unbutton your pants or lift your dress or skirt in order to urinate, and much more skin must be shown when you defecate. People fear that some folks won’t be able to differentiate between undressing to void your bladder and doing so for sexual purposes.
As we’re also fed the lie that rape is completely “preventable” if you take the correct steps, sending men and women into the same bathroom is an untenable position.
What I find really interesting about these arguments is that they assume everyone is heterosexual, only men can be rapists, and only women can be raped. No other possibilities are considered. This is a good thing in the sense that sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with needing to use the bathroom, but it seems odd that our cultural hangups are so specific.
Readers, what do you think?