Is it illegal to enter the restroom of the opposite sex?
October 6, 2004 2:03 PM   Subscribe

So apparently it's legal to have sex in a bar bathroom in Italy, but what about the U.S.? Related question: is it illegal for a woman to go in the men's room (or vice versa)? Anybody ever gotten in trouble (beyond just embarrasment) for something like this?
posted by rorycberger to Law & Government (22 answers total)

I was thrown out of a bar for using the men's room.
posted by pieoverdone at 2:20 PM on October 6, 2004

I have never had any negative repurcussions from using the men's room. But I wouldn't use the men's room at a bar, where it's likey to be grosser. I mostly do it at big events where using the ladies' room would take up the whole intermission, etc. I don't think I've even seen a flinch.
posted by dame at 2:51 PM on October 6, 2004

I'm assuming the same law would apply to a public bathroom, but Opie and Anthony got in trouble for a couple having sex in a church in New York. The couple was arrested for public lewdness.
posted by shinynewnick at 2:56 PM on October 6, 2004

At punk rock gigs, I'd duck into the womens' room to pee if the line to wait was shorter. There would be mild complaints, which would easily be handled via the beer/chewing gum/band pin/show flyer tax. But that was 20 years ago - at "underground" dives.

For sex, you'd have to consider a club which would specialise in that sort of thing. In such cases, you'd better have some money up front. Nobody in the post-9/11 era would even consider washing their hands in the other folk's room for fear of getting assaulted/arrested/infected/et cetera.

And of course, there's still stories of the "Mile High Club", though, again, you'd be better off doing that with people you already knew in the privacy of your own jet.
posted by Smart Dalek at 2:57 PM on October 6, 2004

Once at a sparsely attended rock show, I drunkenly stumbled into the ladies room without knowing it. There were no girls in there at the time, but when i came out of the stall there were a couple who were waiting. They gave me a puzzled/annoyed look... I realized what I'd done, laughed about it, and headed for the door. Over my shoulder, i heard one of them holler, "He even left the damn seat up!!!!"

posted by spilon at 3:17 PM on October 6, 2004

What really burns me are those restaurants and bars that have two single-occupancy restrooms, one labeled male and the other female. They are always both the exact same thing as far as hardware and effects go. Invariably people end up waiting for their 'proper sex' room while the other one is empty. I'm always the guy that goes into the womens' and implicitly gives all the other guys 'permission' to follow when I'm done.

I don't get why these places label the rooms, I always thought there was some stupid law behind it.
posted by neustile at 3:43 PM on October 6, 2004

I was trying on wedding dresses at David's Bridal, in North Olmsted, Ohio. Noone was helping me so I asked my fiance to come into the dressing room to zip me up. No problem. A few minutes later a worker ran up to me and asked if I needed help. I told her "no", that my fiance was helping. She told me that if he goes into the dressing room with me again she'd have to call the cops and have me arrested for prostitution! There's a law in North Olmsted that a man and a woman cannot be in the same dressing room. I explained that he was just helping me but she reiterated that I'd be arrested for prostitution. I was offended, left, and bought my dress elsewhere.
posted by sadie01221975 at 3:59 PM on October 6, 2004

I was in a Marshall's (yes, a Marshall's) in Salt Lake City. Picked out some pants in the men's department, for the simple reason that as a pudgy woman with short legs, men's jeans have always fitted me much better, for cheaper, than women's jeans. Went into the nearest try-on room, which was NOT labeled with a gender. The salesperson rushed in after me, yelling that I had to get out of there or her manager would call the police and I would be charged with a felony.

For what? Going into a dressing room with individual cubicles, all of which had curtains? Oh PLEASE.

Her panic did motivate me, though. I was in enough trouble with my life already and surely did not need to have an encouter with the SLC police on top of it. Much as I would have liked to make a stand, I dutifully marched over to the Official Female Try On Room and tried on the jeans there.

But then again, that was Utah. I generally prefer the women's room (less stink, among other things), but have used the men's room urgently several times in the US, without any problem.

Can't comment on the UK/Europe as it hasn't been necessary since I've been here.
posted by Tholian at 4:47 PM on October 6, 2004

I well remember the first time I used the women's room. It was shortly after I moved to NYC, when Tribeca was still a desolate frontier zone and Puffy's Bar was one of the few outposts of civilization there: good jukebox, hip crowd, cheap drinks (important, since I had a crummy minimum-wage job). I was standing around waiting to use the "men's room" when a guy walked around me and into the "women's." After a moment of extreme cognitive dissonance, I realized the absurdity of the distinction (see neustile's comment) and went in after he came out. It was an important part of my acculturation, along with learning the layout of the Times Square subway station.

I miss Puffy's. And Tin Pan Alley on 49th St. But that's another thread.
posted by languagehat at 4:59 PM on October 6, 2004

at the bar I frequent, there is often a separate "ladies line" for the stall in the men's room, as there's often massive traffic going into the actual ladies room.
posted by fishfucker at 5:15 PM on October 6, 2004

I don't think there's a law about labelling washrooms by gender. I've been to clubs with unisex washrooms. This is in Canada though. And it was a drag club.
posted by SoftRain at 6:50 PM on October 6, 2004

at gay clubs and bars the distinction between the bathrooms is often ignored. Although they always have a male and female, many people will go in whichever is less crowded. I don't think it is illegal as it's private property. But there is never sex in the bathrooms of gay bars. ever.
posted by rhyax at 9:47 PM on October 6, 2004

IIRC Michigan had made stronger law about keeping the genders seperate in the washroom, probably in the 70's (when I last lived there).

Saw a great stand-up routine once. The comedian described the difference between a woman going into the men's, and a man going into the ladies. The ladies screem, then guys respond with a 'Hi! Come on in!'

Its one of those stupid things that are culturally determined, and if you go against them, you become the monkey painted the wrong color.
posted by Goofyy at 12:12 AM on October 7, 2004

Emm...came of age in LES, and the pissers were (almost) universally bisexual. This is circa 1988 or so.

I haven't really thought about it much since then, emm, seems like noone under 100 really cares anymore...a lie...I got busted for using the ladies' about 5 years ago in a small town in SE Penna...

Anywho...I DJ at a club in PHILDELPHIA and we have ONLY bisexual pissers...5 years in those clubs and I've never heard a complaint.

Women wait for the stall, some guys wait for the stall. Noone cares.

Sorta one of those deals wherein once the walls broke down, soon noone cares, methinks.

I don't mind peeing in front of either sex, and I'd wager that most folks who live in cramped urban environs don't mind either.

Now...taking a dump is a WHOLE OTHER STORY! YIKES!

(Yeah,,,there's sometimes sex in the stalls, but I just never really give a crap...emm...why do you? HAHA!)
posted by red cell at 1:43 AM on October 7, 2004

Some of the students here last year were campaigning for a third bathroom for 'undefined' students. Any one come across the third bathroom option in reality?
posted by biffa at 3:38 AM on October 7, 2004

Girls have asked me to come with them to the restrooms in scarier places. I find this very awkward, but if they feel safer I don't really care. I never have been yelled at for what it's worth. Though, I'm far from the type of guy who could actually do something in the event of an attack, but I, like all males, have a bravado that's very deeply engrained and when actually cause us to go up against very bad odds.

Oh what I do find odd, at my work the bathrooms are private, one-room affairs and there are both "Male" and "Female" ones, and it's strictly enforced. The only difference is the male one contains a pisser too, but seeing as how all are single occupancy and lockable, I don't see why all aren't available.
posted by geoff. at 6:10 AM on October 7, 2004

There's a bar I used to hang out at in Detroit that had communal washrooms, I can't remember the name anymore but it was downtown. A friend of mine was trying out the gym I used to frequent in Toronto. He was playing raquetball and the steam obscurred his vision. The end result was that he ended up walking into the women's washroom and actually running into a nude female. Fortunately she had a sense of humour.
posted by substrate at 6:41 AM on October 7, 2004

A likely story, substrate.

I've only walked into men's rooms by accident. One time at George Brown College I was so worried about a project I was working on that I just strolled into a bathroom absentmindedly. First non-school project related thought: Man, it smells really bad in here. Second non-school project related thought: When did they put in all those funny little sinks? That's when I snapped back into the present and realized I was in the wrong place. I walked out cautiously. There was a whole gang of young guys across the hall from the doorway, and they surely must have noticed me leaving the men's room, but they didn't blink an eye.
posted by orange swan at 6:51 AM on October 7, 2004

at my work the bathrooms are private, one-room affairs and there are both "Male" and "Female" ones, and it's strictly enforced

Strictly enforced? How? They have guards permanently stationed at the entrances, grabbing would-be offenders by the neck and hurling them in the direction of the proper depository? Are people occasionally fired, being led out sobbing before a double file of grim fellow employees while wearing a sign around the neck that says USED WRONG CRAPPER?

When did they put in all those funny little sinks?

At my college they had just integrated the dorms when I got there (though men and women were still on separate floors), and the school paper ran a photo of a row of urinals that the new female occupants had planted flowers in.
posted by languagehat at 7:54 AM on October 7, 2004

Once when waiting for a flight at the airport (I was really early and there was hardly anyone else there) , I neede to use the men's walked in, did my business, washed my hands, and noticed that there were no urinals. I was in there for a good 5 minutes too, with newspaper.

As I walked out, hoping that no one saw, there was a young woman waiting for me to get out before she went in. I apologized and looked bashful, she laughed.
posted by sauril at 9:28 AM on October 7, 2004

At the bar I frequent, often the ladies' is empty while there's a line for the men's room - it's a blues bar, which tends to attract about 10 men for every woman.

I pee in the ladies whenever I get up to the head of the men's line and the ladies' is empty. Worst thing that ever happened is some British guy with a Cockney accent shouting "In the Ladies!" as I came out - the whole line laughed at me. It was pretty funny.

I've had sex a couple times in bar bathrooms too - I just make sure the door locks. I even did it in the walk-in refrigerator once - the bartender walked in on us, did a double-take, and then courteously left to let us finish. I don't think I'd like to hang out in the kind of bar where I'd get thrown out or taken to court over this.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:27 AM on October 7, 2004

*zips up his fly*
posted by matteo at 11:42 AM on October 7, 2004

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