Are "man poops" a product of sexism?
May 10, 2019 11:04 AM   Subscribe

In various mom groups I see lots of complaints about how long husbands take in the bathroom. Is this a manifestation of sexism or a biological difference or what?

It's a large enough problem that you can find memes about it. And women give advice to other women about how to force the man to shorten his bathroom time.

Is there a true medical reason that biological males need to take longer to empty their bowels, or is this a product of social conditioning and patriarchy? Are you aware of any sociological research about this, similar to this story about the number of bathrooms designated for each sex?
posted by crunchy potato to Society & Culture (50 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
it my home, it seems to be the fact that the man takes his phone into the bathroom with him, and gets distracted, and doesn't come out until i ask him if he's okay. but my bf seems to be mostly non-delightfully single-threaded, so he gets absorbed in things. so neither sexism or that aspect of biology, just simple distraction. ommv.
posted by koroshiya at 11:11 AM on May 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

Interestingly, I've been in many social media mom groups for over a decade and I've NEVER seen this discussed.

My hunches though:
- Some men are using their bathroom time as time to be alone and may be reading/meditating/relaxing. And maybe some women do not feel like they can afford to spend a long time away from the household so are faster.
- Women are more aware of their partners' absence from the household than men are?

Some research:
Gender differences in self-reported constipation characteristics, symptoms, and bowel and dietary habits among patients attending a specialty clinic for constipation (tl;dr, women are more likely to seek medical attention for constipation)

Bowel Habit in Relation to Age and Gender: Findings From the National Health Interview Survey and Clinical Implications (tl;dr, women report being constipated more often than men)
posted by k8t at 11:14 AM on May 10, 2019 [10 favorites]

I don't think it's a biological difference. I think men generally feel entitled to take the time they need for whatever they want to do, whether it's a hobby or a leisurely poop. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, though it sucks when they check out of family life for 45+ minutes in the bathroom. It would be great it women generally could feel equally entitled to take the time they need. Perhaps their bathroom hybernating husbands could help?

And yes, most of them are definitely reading their phones in there.
posted by Aquifer at 11:17 AM on May 10, 2019 [38 favorites]

so neither sexism or that aspect of biology, just simple distraction.

I think -- essentially go in, relax, just relax some more cause why not -- is often the reason. HOwever, that *is* structural gender inequality. After all, women sit down and relax in the bathroom too, don't they? Why don't they end up sitting for 20 minutes+? Because they have other things they feel like they have to do. Especially married women and ESPECIALLY women with kids. Men are much less likely to feel like they have to do those things or at the very least just not to have those things on their mind. This is an extension of all the time-use findings that show men spend much more time in leisure activities.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:17 AM on May 10, 2019 [23 favorites]

a lot of masculine-coded food and drink is kind of hell to digest tbh
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:19 AM on May 10, 2019 [42 favorites]

Anecdotally (FWIW) I've observed men making the same remarks (excessive bathroom time with the door closed and therefore inaccessible to the partner) about women. Both in terms of pooping, and also in relation to other forms of bathroom-connected self care. I should note that, IIRC, the majority of the remarks were from folks who had only one bathroom, so that may also shift matters.

...however, I wonder if it's really a more universal thing ("everyone but me takes too long!")? I mean, there are entire subsets of "humor" relating to how long teenage girls and boys spend in the bathroom.
posted by aramaic at 11:20 AM on May 10, 2019 [36 favorites]

I've asked "does it really take you that long or are you just enjoying the privacy" and he swears it does take, if not all of the time, at least a significant chunk of it. So there's my data. One man in this world (him) takes longer than one woman (me.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:25 AM on May 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

I feel like some people are on a "poop when I actively need to" model, and some are "time for my daily poop, gonna go sit and relax until it happens" model. Men seem more likely to do the latter, and it seems like a habit/conditioning thing, but I'm not sure of the reasons WHY.
posted by songs about trains at 11:31 AM on May 10, 2019 [35 favorites]

Data point: I’m a woman, and if I go into a bathroom to pee, I’m out in about 30 seconds.

If I’m at home and have to poop, I bring the phone and spend as much time as I want.

There is no physical difference that I’m aware of.

(I think the women primping in the bathroom forever, and the man pooping in the bathroom forever are cliches that need to be retired)
posted by MountainDaisy at 11:37 AM on May 10, 2019 [7 favorites]

I have simply never understood relaxing on a toilet. However I also had my own bedroom growing up so I also had a personal refuge space. I can also see someone who shared a bedroom using the bathroom which has a lock as personal refuge space. Ralphie used the bathroom to decode the special message because he shared his bedroom with Randy. Of course that’s not gender-specific.
posted by acidnova at 11:43 AM on May 10, 2019

I have a theory on this! Generalizing broadly, a guy only sits down in the bathroom to poop. So he does it once a day, probably, and is more likely to go sit at the earliest physical sign that it might be needed.

A woman sits down in the bathroom several times a day, so she is likely to, if you will, fold her pooping into a peeing trip. She's peeing anyway, oh, hey, here's the poop. This also means she doesn't have to monitor how close she is to pooping, since she has more opportunities to do it.

So I guess I'm saying I have long wondered if women have a more attenuated sense of when they need to poop and are likely/able to hold it until it's actually time, or else get it out while they're doing something else, rather than pick their "poop time" and go work on the task till it's done.

songs about trains's theory is the closest to mine that I see here so far.
posted by gideonfrog at 11:59 AM on May 10, 2019 [26 favorites]


Not all men stand to pee. But your theory certainly makes sense for those that do.

Carry on. Great food for thought.
posted by crunchy potato at 12:07 PM on May 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Very true; that's what I meant to capture with "generalizing broadly," but I should have been clearer. Sorry!
posted by gideonfrog at 12:13 PM on May 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

datapoint: this is not true in my household.

I also sit to pee in my own home, but stand everywhere else (and feel guilty that I have an option that women do not).
posted by terrapin at 12:20 PM on May 10, 2019

a lot of masculine-coded food and drink is kind of hell to digest tbh

This has long been my hunch of what is going on, which is supported by the studies k8t links above. Women also tend to be minutely conscious of what they consume because of the whole diet industry thing and thus tend to eat more food with fibre in it. My anecdata is 1, where my partner ate whatever he eats and is generally regular but takes a long time, but he recently switched to eating spinach-based smoothies I make for him after he had dental surgery and commented to me that he has never been so regular in his life. He's not aware of how much fibre he gets, like, ever, or how many calories or anything are in his food. He has no idea.

The pooping because I'm peeing thing doesn't really ring true for me; I tend to pee because I went in to poop and there is always pee in there.
posted by urbanlenny at 12:31 PM on May 10, 2019 [6 favorites]

I think this is sampling bias.

Suppose, in your group of I'm-assuming-mostly-straight moms, 50% have a husband who poops faster than them, and 50% have a husband who poops slower.

The ones whose husbands poop faster have nothing to complain about. So none of them speak up.

The ones whose husbands poop slower do potentially have something to complain about. Maybe the majority of them stay quiet too. But some subset get really bothered, and they do speak up.

The result is that, of the women who speak up, every single one has a slow-pooping husband, even though in the larger population slow-pooping and fast-pooping husbands are equally common.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:33 PM on May 10, 2019 [20 favorites]

There's also a tendency for people to keep quiet when they feel like an outlier — especially when they feel like an outlier in a way that threatens their social identity. Part of the phenomenon might be slow-pooping women going "Jeez, I must be the only one. Well, I'm sure not going to talk online about how slowly I poop, I don't want all these nice women comparing me to the annoying gross inconsiderate husbands they keep complaining about."
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:37 PM on May 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

My completely un-scientific theory is that period-having people's lower abdominal muscles are stronger and more well-exercised with monthly cramps, so our butts are able to poop faster.
posted by jillithd at 12:41 PM on May 10, 2019 [18 favorites]

To me it seems obvious that we all just notice how long our partners can linger in the bathroom sometimes, especially in situations where there is more scorekeeping in general, like a marriage with shared childcare duties. It doesn't ring true to me at all that in the average hetrosexual relationship the man is sucking down Monster Energy Drinks and burgers and the woman is drinking fiber shakes and smoothies. Couples tend to share a lot of meals and eat the same things.
posted by cakelite at 12:41 PM on May 10, 2019 [6 favorites]

I work in a big office building. The bathrooms are directly across from one another, and a relative distance from where people sit, so you often walk with someone long enough remember who you are going to the bathroom with. In 20 years of research, I'd say people generally take the exact same amount of time to pee and poop, and that women sitting take like 10 seconds longer than men standing to pee, clean up and leave.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:44 PM on May 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

I understand the desire to escape to the bathroom for some piece and quiet in a busy household, but if you do this don’t spend the whole time actually sitting on a Western-style toilet because doing so for extended periods of time can cause hemorrhoids and other bad things!
posted by sallybrown at 12:46 PM on May 10, 2019

I am a man and I definitely take longer. Partly, it's because I just like sitting on the toilet for a while where no one can disturb me and the only thing I can possibly be doing is scrolling through my phone (note: I am literally sitting on a toilet now as I type this). But it is also because a lot the time it can be hard to get that poop out! The idea of a poop taking only 1 or 2 minutes seems like a physiological impossibility to me. Like, I have to work at it. Sure, I could probably do it more quickly if I didn't literally bring a novel to the bathroom with me (beats reading the back of the shampoo bottles for the 50th time). But no matter what, it takes time.

There is also the fear of not getting it all out and the discomfort of that lingering pressure I'll feel low down if I only do a half job. So better to take my time and do it right the first time.
posted by fso at 12:50 PM on May 10, 2019 [8 favorites]

I have been a bathroom reader since about 1979. Developments since then have only encouraged this. I was also conditioned from youth to treat the bathroom as like a little mental vacation. Not defending any of this, just describing.
posted by salt grass at 1:08 PM on May 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

Okay, having thought about this some more, I guess part of my theory is that when you sit to go to the bathroom, you get used to relaxing all your muscles at the same time when you're going. If you stand, you're only going to be relaxing the relevant ones. So this is a corrolary to jillithd's theory about abdominal muscles; women (sitters in general?) can poop faster because they have more practice and precise control of their abdominal/pushing muscles, and/or find it easier to relax them completely for the task.
posted by gideonfrog at 1:19 PM on May 10, 2019

I'm a woman and lingering bathroom time is my jam, whether it's showers that are probably absurdly long, or lots of time sitting with my phone. It's a happy little break! Just me and all three cats that come in to stare at me and ask for the tub faucet to be turned on so they can drink water!
posted by PussKillian at 1:52 PM on May 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

a lot of masculine-coded food and drink is kind of hell to digest tbh

If my experiences with the guys in my life who are horrifying oversharers are any indication, it's not so much that the act of pooping takes longer so much as, um, mudbutt maintenance. A diet with just a bit more Dude Food leads to a lot more buttsplosions.
posted by blerghamot at 1:54 PM on May 10, 2019

Dude here, though I live alone* and don't have household responsibilities to shirk when in the bathroom. At the risk of oversharing (which, I think we've already crossed that line), I will +1 the "dude diet is not conducive to quick poops" theory. Some days, it's all clear after a minute or two and I am on my way - others, it takes a bit longer. Yeah, I read while I'm there, but it's because I generally have nothing better to do while taking care of the other matter.

I've always been faintly embarrassed about it, when having to use the facilities at other people's houses. I'm not lingering because the bathroom is a nifty place to be, I'm just unable to speed poop.

* Not counting the four cats, anyway. They have their own facilities.
posted by jzb at 2:08 PM on May 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am male. I take a long time to poop. Mostly because it is more relaxing and pleasant to do so, and partly because I like reading (or playing games on my phone) on the can. I am capable of pooping in a rapid manner, but just typically choose not to do it when I have that choice. (But if I am pooping and, for instance, my flight is leaving soon, I will poop more quickly.)

I would guess that this rationale does not correlate very strongly with gender. Relaxing is universal!
posted by Dr. Wu at 2:10 PM on May 10, 2019

I am a man, and I have had my gallbladder removed.

Prior to the surgery a trip to the bathroom to poop was a very straightforward and quick thing. I felt the need, I went and did it, and I was done. I mean occasionally things were slower because bodies can be weird but in general it was not a lengthy process.

Post-surgery digestion is different, and trips take far longer, and I don't like it. I wish things were the way they were back when, except for the pain from a gallstone attack obviously.

My point is that I have been on both sides of the time-spent spectrum and not by choice. I can say that there's probably some truth to the idea that men whose bodies naturally take longer to poop probably spend even more time there because hey, already sitting down and relaxed, am I right? But I can also say that pre-surgery I thought the idea of someone spending 30 minutes in the bathroom was ridiculous. Like, what could possibly take that long? So expanding that: naturally fast poopers probably don't dawdle, and naturally slow poopers probably do even if they're not intentionally doing so.
posted by komara at 2:26 PM on May 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

by the way, a foot elevating stool really does help with this. Anyone who has testified in this thread to pooping taking longer than they might ideally like, ought to get one. That is the worst sentence ever but who cares it's probably getting deleted anyway. On sale this weekend too!
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:33 PM on May 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

Here is your TMI for the day:

I am male. I am healthy. I am very hairy and there is much hair between my cheeks. Poop must pass through my bushy butt forest. Sometimes cleaning up that hair can be tricky after a poop. I'm not even talking buttsplosion here, just your standard, mostly firm sausage poops. Shaving/waxing the butt crevasse is ill advised.

What I'm saying is everyone should install bidets and be rid of the tyranny that is toilet paper. Best thing I've ever done.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 4:16 PM on May 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

Books! A good read is rewarding in itself, and the distraction that allows the body to get on with what it needs to do. Job done, move the bookmark, and get on with things. FFS, who puts a timer on? (When a book is unavailable a phone is an acceptable, but poor, substitute.)

Interesting to read this thread, and then the thread on door open/closed.
(Male, if that matters)
posted by GeeEmm at 4:25 PM on May 10, 2019

The idea of a poop taking only 1 or 2 minutes seems like a physiological impossibility to me. Like, I have to work at it.

And to me the opposite is super confusing. I am not disbelieving you, just that's not how my body has ever worked. My man, on other other hand, is a leisurely pooper (and a little ADHD) to the point where if I know we have to be out the door at a certain time I'll make sure has not going to last minute be all "Oh hey, I need a 15 minute poop break!" (I swear he is grown up in most other matters). We've talked about it because I'm sooooo curious but he says that mostly that's how long it takes for him and he finds my own self-reporting confusing ("How?")
posted by jessamyn at 5:27 PM on May 10, 2019

The foot elevating stools linked by fingersandtoes run 7" to 9" tall -- you could try resting your feet on a similar-height box before buying.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:37 PM on May 10, 2019

Mah pappy was a bathroom reader and his pappy before him! I'll be danged if I ain't gonna read in the bathroom!

Just anecdotally speaking, I know a ton of men who consider a "bathroom read" to be a thing like a "beach read" (my bathroom will usually acquire a small collection of periodically rotated books and magazines) and obviously we've only gotten worse since we have phones. Whereas it seems to be less of a thing for lady friends? My ex-wife thought I was a weirdo for doing it at all. But also from using my work's bathrooms, there are a whole lot of dudes that need a whole lot of fiber in their diet.

I could easily see where dad chilling playing Bejeweled on his phone would be infuriating if you're mom and you being in the bathroom means a bunch of kids yowling at the door.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:50 PM on May 10, 2019

Enough men have told me about how long it takes them in the bathroom (30 minutes?!) that I have thought about this. I think that there are a lot of men in the US who eat little to no fiber and are chronically constipated.
posted by medusa at 6:03 PM on May 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Relaxing is universal!

It's really really not. I'm surprised anyone would think this. There is a whole lot of social structure that influences who has the privilege of relaxing and who does not.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:37 PM on May 10, 2019 [16 favorites]

My wife and I support your hypothesis.

She poops three times a day (upon waking, after breakfast, and before lunch) every single day, even though as far as I can tell she rarely eats whole grains, beans, vegetables, or any other fibrous foods. She claims (I have not verified) that her butt is typically on the seat for less than a minute per poop.

I poop maybe once a day. Once every three days is unusual but not unprecedented. Each poop takes 5-15 minutes, and sometimes I'll come back half an hour later for the other half. (I count these paired poops as one pooping event. A poop in two acts, if you will.) This despite making a point of eating hilariously high-fiber meals like half a stir-fried cabbage or a liter of lentils (N.B. if I meant lentil soup I would have said lentil soup) or two ounces of chia seed soaked overnight in soy milk.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 8:15 PM on May 10, 2019

My wife takes a lot longer than me, for a contrarian data point. I'm in and out in a jiffy.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:31 PM on May 10, 2019

I think, stereotypically, that men are allowed or expected to take more time pooping. This is supported by the ideas above that men use poop-time to relax and distract.

There are so many products that provide book or magazine storage in the bathroom, not to mention the books of Letterman's top ten lists, or short jokes/anecdotes to read on the toilet. I've never had the impression that they're targeted towards women, mostly toward men and the length of time they spend sitting on the can.

I was born in 1970 so my perspective may be outdated.
posted by bendy at 11:07 PM on May 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

I (male) have three little kids and not gonna lie, I hide in the bathroom from time to time. However, I am pretty sure my wife does too. Are we sure that men actually take longer to use the toilet, or maybe it just seems that way? When you are sitting on the toilet relaxing it might seem like just a moment, but when you are trying to handle three kids by yourself it seems like an eternity. I'm going to start timing bathroom visits and will update later (not really, because that seems like a pretty unhealthy thing to do).
posted by Literaryhero at 11:09 PM on May 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

My personal theory is that they find the prostate stimulation of eliminating rather enjoyable so they take their time with it.

Alternatively, it could be their own version of "taking forever to get ready."
posted by OnefortheLast at 8:03 AM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

I believe that it is at least partly to do with male-oriented foods being more difficult to digest, which is a cause of both constipation and side issues like haemorrhoids or even fissures (the torturous pain of for example a fissure and the necessity of being so to speak 'careful' means more time spent).

I am a man and I've experienced all three because of a combination (I think) of stress and poor eating habits that go with it.

That's just one data point, and apparently e.g. pregnant women are more likely to suffer haemorrhoids than men because of the pressure on the pelvis, but I think at least in a certain demographic, but at least in my experience it's nothing to do with relaxation or enjoyment. Stereotypically men may also be more likely to be embarrassed about getting medical help here as well.
posted by plep at 8:48 AM on May 11, 2019

Further to bendy's point, there are thirty-one editions of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.
posted by salt grass at 8:57 AM on May 11, 2019

What are male oriented foods?
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 9:05 AM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

a lot of guys also use poop time for self pleasuring time.
posted by evilmonk at 9:17 AM on May 11, 2019

Another thought:
A lot of men's jobs, particularly labor, pretty much require them to hold it all day at work, while at the same time not drinking enough fluids. So it might take longer to coax their bowels into relaxing and cooperating.
I personally know several guys who work in the trades, 10-12/hr a day 6 days a week, who aren't allowed personal beverages on site and only have access to a shared canteen of water at lunch break coupled with strong disapproval from higher ups for even taking a single 5 minute portapotty break to pee during the work day.
posted by OnefortheLast at 9:34 AM on May 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

Guy data point: I've never understood the long-time-to-poop thing, either. I mean, I have, extremely rarely, felt kind of ill and like something in there is going to want out at an inconvenient time, so I sit there until it happens, but that's very unusual. I wait until I need to, then I go in there and do the thing, then I leave. 5 minutes tops.

On the other hand! My whole life I've pooped maybe every 2-3 days. I've been told since forever that that's very unhealthy and I'll get colon cancer and die or something if I don't go every day. I feel vaguely guilty that I should try every day. If I even could, I can't imagine making myself poop when I don't have to, like I don't even know if that's possible. It would take a long time.

So I do notice dudes in the mens room that seem to have been in there some time already when I come in, and show no signs of making any progress by the time I'm washing my hands. I figure those are the "you must go every day, need to or not" guys.
posted by ctmf at 12:13 PM on May 11, 2019

I’m just laughing at the idea that people consider bathroom time to be anything resembling relaxing. My toddler follows me in there and waits expectantly the whole time. It’s all business time. Now, showering. He’s either asleep or someone else is watching him. I can take some loooooong showers :-)
posted by ficbot at 7:12 PM on May 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Completely anecdotal and overly generalized, but I've noticed a trend where many of the men I know seem to basically schedule their poops? It's like someone once told them they needed to go once a day so they just get in there every morning or every evening with their phone or a book and wait for the thing to happen? While I and most of the women I know just go when we feel the urge to go.

Obviously my sample set is limited to people I'm close enough to to be able to observe their bathroom habits. And there's some gender essentialism inherent in my answer that I'm not comfortable with, but that's how it goes with these questions I guess.
posted by rhiannonstone at 6:58 PM on May 14, 2019

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