For & Against: Squat Toilets7 May 2019
FOR by Mark Yin
You know what’s better than mind-blowing, gut-rearranging sex?
Mind-blowing, gut-rearranging number twos. You heard it here first, and quite honestly, you’re welcome. Welcome to the secret, taboo world of squat toilets, arguably one of the last remaining bastions of human behaviour from the good old days, back when we used to shit into holes in the ground.
Frankly, it amazes me that we ever stopped. This happened around four millennia ago and across a range of ancient societies, according to Wikipedia. Those ancients were right about some things, but oh so wrong about many others, including the correct posture of human defecation.
That’s right: we used to squat and shit into holes for valid biological reasons. Meet your puborectalis muscle—it’s a bit like a rope looped around your rectum. A squatting position naturally unclenches this muscle, rearranging the colon just so, and leads to poops that are free-flowing and incredibly time efficient—which is important given that we spend 92 days of our lives on the can. How many of those days do we spend desperately clenching to squeeze out the last bit?
I cannot stress this more: squatting lends itself to incredibly satisfying dumps. In fact, seated dumps can cause all sorts of crap, like haemorrhoids, constipation and bloating. Take a minute now to stop reading this and, no matter where you are and what you’re doing, imagine the experience of an effortless, 30 second poop. Imagine the efficiency. Imagine the grace. You’d almost wish it was just a little longer.
I’ll admit that there’s an ease of access argument to be made in favour of seated toilets, but let’s also consider hygiene for a second. Squat toilets: a literal hole in the ground that never needs to touch your bare, exposed bottom. Seated toilets: a nesting place for bacteria from god-knows-how-many other people’s bare, exposed bottoms. Your bottom deserves better. Pooping really should be an impersonal experience that is entirely your own, and so it should involve no other bottoms besides yours. Bottoms’ rights matter.
So next time you’re choosing which MSD basement toilet to use, stop, drop and do a squat instead. You and your insides will thank me.
AGAINST by Allen Xiao
Arguing this side puts me in—pardon the pun—a bit of shit. After all, most countries in Asia and the Middle East use squat toilets, right? As a Chinese person, it’s part of my culture, right? Did growing up in Australia infect me with internalised racism and colonial prejudice?
Firstly, squat toilets are uncomfortable as hell. Try squatting down, right now. No, not those half-assed hip thrusts you do at the gym to pretend you’re working out; I’m talking a proper, Asian squat. Feet flat, toes forward, centre of mass at your base. Hurts, doesn’t it?
Now imagine holding that position for up to an hour, while taking care not to slip, making sure everything… lands where it’s supposed to. Our ligaments aren’t designed to bear so much body weight; in fact, there’s a greatly increased risk of osteoarthritis for habitual squatters.
Beau Annoptham, resident toilet expert at the University of Melbourne, concurs. ‘It’s hard to aim. [And] it’s bad for your back if you’re there for a long time.’ I, for one, trust her insight—she’s made a comprehensive video review of the University’s cubicular offerings, but even she shied away from the squat toilet lurking in the MSD basement.
Besides being ergonomically nonviable, squat toilets are a health concern too. While a lack of physical contact between skin and toilet might mitigate bacterial transmission, squat toilets also leave the public dangerously close to unprocessed human waste. (Especially if you slip and fall).
I want to conclude with some history: did you know that the old word for ‘toilet’ in Chinese literally means ‘straw pit’? Even today, rural squat toilets are literally that—a deep hole lined with pathogen-infested straw. Those Japanese toilets with bidets and dryers are the polished, eye-catching exception, not the norm.
While I can respect the decision to use squat toilets, don’t exoticise it; don’t confuse it for Asian culture. Recognise it as a byproduct of incomplete modernisation, reflecting the tensions between rural customs and the demands of an industrial, hyper-technological society. In the past fifty years, this conflict has permeated to all levels of life—even a space as intimate as the bathroom.
Whew. That got deep. Let me go sit—that’s right, sit—on my toilet and have a big ol’ think about it.