You’re in Trouble, Mister (Making a Splash versus European Sitting Pretty)

24Mar10

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[Yeah, I know… sorry about the 2 month gap between posts.  No excuses… just took a break.  Anyway, I’m back.]

Oh, those wacky Germans – they sure do have a knack for inventing words.  Consider these fine examples:

  • Blitzkrieg – A swift, sudden military offensive, usually by combined air and land forces [Blitz, lightning + Krieg, war].
  • Weltschmertz – Sorrow or sadness over the evils or woes of the world in general; sentimental pessimism [Welt, world + Schmertz, pain].

While those words provide plenty of fodder for cultural stereotyping, let’s not forget another classic:

  • Schadenfreude – Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others [Schaden, damage + Freude, joy].

One certainly could speculate about why the Germans felt the need to coin a word for that particular sentiment.

Today, however, I’m going to focus on a far lighter topic: the Teutonic neologism sitzpinkler.  A sitzpinkler is a wussy, literally one who pisses sitting down [Sitzen, to sit + Pinkeln, to pee].  As an insult, it’s not bad (better than “Girlie Man,” in the same genre) and, having both “z” and “k” in it, it’s also fun to say.

If you do an Internet search on sitzpinkler, you might get the impression that, besides being an insult, it’s a movement.  Allegedly, groups of women in Germany and some other Western European countries are trying to make it illegal for men to urinate standing up.  And, like any movement worth its salt, it even has a manifesto:  Das Sitzpinkel Manifest. Hier sitzt Mann.

To top it off, there is even an organization called Mothers Against Peeing Standing Up.1

Several ditto-head bloggers with an anti-feminist and/or anti-European agenda have offered these items as further “proof” that the nanny state is creeping in to emasculate us.

While it makes for an amusing talking point, it really just indicates that their irony detectors are on the fritz.  The “manifesto” (currently out of print) was written by a man.  The Mothers Against Peeing Standing Up website is half satire and half merchandise catalog – note, for example, the banner ad for the FastSize Extender “male enhancement device” accompanying the following blurb:

“Since we at MAPSU are ‘pee-in-our-pants liberals,’ we do recommend lengthening your phallus as a form of HARM REDUCTION, since a longer penis means urine has less distance to travel, and less distance to travel is a very, very good thing.  Furthermore, a longer barrel means increased accuracy; Charlton Heston can attest to that!”2

So, let’s get real:  There is little evidence that anyone is actually trying to outlaw the practice – the example usually cited is a situation in 2006 when the female principal of the Dvergsnes School in Kristiansand Norway attempted to ban boys from peeing standing up.  A conservative Norwegian politician named Vidar Kleppe protested this, saying:

“If boys are not allowed to pee in the natural way that they have done for generations, then it amounts to an assault on God’s creations.”3

Rather overblown rhetoric, I’d say.  People like to pontificate about what’s “natural” but it’s really a bullshit term – poison oak and crab lice are natural.  And, how natural is indoor plumbing?

Nevertheless, I will admit I’d assumed that “men stand, women sit” was, to use Kleppe’s phrase “the natural way.”  But, according to the Wikipedia article on Urination4 (I kid you not, there’s really is one), this is not entirely accurate:

“Because of the flexible and protruding nature of the penis, it is simple to control the direction of the urine stream.  This makes it easy to urinate while standing; most males urinate this way.  …Some men also urinate sitting down, especially if defecation has to be done at the same time.”  [That’s taking multi-tasking too far, if you ask me.]

“In females, the urethra opens straight into the vulva.  Because of this, the urine does not exit at a distance from the body and is therefore hard to control.  Hence, urination will normally have to take place while sitting down.  …It is also possible for many females to urinate standing while spreading their legs.  This technique is not uncommon for a female who wears a sarong, skirt or other such open-bottomed garments, and either wears no underwear, or removes it.  …There are reports that seem to indicate that in Togo women urinate using this method, while men do it squatting.  Herodotus described a similar custom in ancient Egypt.”  [Note that Herodotus has been called both “the father of History” and “the father of lies”5.]

“Though uncommon, it is also possible for females to urinate standing up, in a way similar to that of males.  This may be done by spreading the labia minora open and orienting the pelvis at an angle, and rapidly forcing the urine stream out.  …Reports indicate that it is common that women in the Ivory Coast use this method when they urinate.”  [Question to Susan Wolf and Martha Wolf, who traveled with Robin and me in Italy and also spent several weeks in the Ivory Coast – you told me about the Côte d’Ivoire pastry that looked like a photocopied pudendum; how come you never told me about this?]

“…An alternative method for women to urinate standing is to use a tool known as a Female Urination Device (FUD) to assist.”

Ah, yes – the FUD.  I’d wecently, I mean recently, heard about the FUD.  On the February 26th episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, the New Rules segment began:

“New Rule:  This better not be a device that allows women to pee standing up.”

“Okay, it is, and it’s called the ‘Go Girl.’6  The manufacturers say it’s much more sanitary than sitting on a public toilet seat, unless you consider the fact that you’re walking around with a piss-soaked funnel.”7

Well, just like Herodotus, I seem to have digressed – so, let’s get back to sitzpinkler.  European women may not be crusading to criminalize standing urination, but apparently they are trying to shame men into sitting down, using a gadget called S.P.U.K. or WC-Geist.

Kind of cute, isn’t it?

The aggrieved hausfrau attaches this contraption to the underside of the toilet seat.

When the device detects that someone has lifted the seat, it plays a recorded warning/threat which, according to the ad, is so loud that people in neighboring rooms can hear it.  The installer can select from 8 different messages, including 1 in English.  To hear them, go to http://www.media7trade.de/16.html?&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=5&no_cache=1.

Enough about the Germans – I’m aware of 2 instances in the last decade when the issue of men sitting down to pee was addressed in American popular culture.

  • About Schmidt – In this 2002 film, Jack Nicholson played Warren Schmidt, a retired insurance company actuary whose wife, Helen, insisted that he sit when he urinated (probably not a coincidence that he had a German last name).  After her death, Schmidt experiences a moment of liberation by standing up and pissing on the toilet seat.
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm – In the episode from Season 4 entitled “The Weatherman,” Larry David takes the eternal male-female feud over leaving the toilet seat up and cleverly turns it on its head. 
    First, in a conversation with his father Nat (played by comedian Shelley Berman), Larry reveals his predilection.
    Larry: “Hey Pop, do me a favor, okay? Next time you use the bathroom, make sure to keep the seat down.”
    Nat:   “What’re you, pussy whipped?”
    Larry: “It’s not really about her, it’s about me.  I pee sitting down.”
    Nat: “How long you been doin’ that?”
    Larry: “Well, it started because I was getting up to go at night sometimes and, and I didn’t feel like putting the light on.  So I would sit down and then I figured – y’know, I got very comfortable with it.  I, uh, like…”
    Nat:   “Comfortable with it?  A man doesn’t do that.  A man stands up to pee.”
    Larry: “I like to sit down – and I don’t want to wind up in the toilet because you’re keeping the seat up.  Keep the seat down.”
    Nat:   “No, you stand like a person… I’m, I’m very upset with this.  This is crazy!”
    Larry: “You know what Winston Churchill said?  ‘Why stand when you can sit?’  Have you ever heard that expression?”
    Nat:   “No, I never heard that expression, but I don’t think he meant the toilet.”
    That evening, after eating dinner at his manager’s house, Larry’s wife Cheryl feels nauseous; she goes into the bathroom and tries to make herself throw up.  Later that night, Larry wakes up and goes into the bathroom to pee.  In the dark he sits down and falls into the toilet – Cheryl had left the seat up.  Larry, in true sitzpinkler fashion, kvetches to his wife:  “Awww… y’ gotta keep the seat down, Cheryl.  Not too much to ask, to keep a seat down.  Soakin’ wet… hurt my back… soakin’ wet… awww!”  [A perfect reversal of the classic argument]
    The next day, when he goes over to see Jeff Greene, his manager, Larry is walking with a cane.
    Jeff:   “What happened to you?”
    Larry: “I fell in the toilet.”
    Jeff:   “How d’you fall in the toilet?”
    Larry: “I went to go pee and the seat was up.”
    Jeff:   “What does that have to do with you?”
    Larry: “I pee sitting down.”
    Jeff:   “You pee sitting down?”
    Larry: “Yeah, have you ever tried it?”
    Jeff:   “No!”
    Larry: “It’s more comfortable, when you get up during the night you don’t have to turn the light on and wake up, and you get to read.”
    Jeff:   “What are you reading?”
    Larry: “I’m reading a lot of stuff.”
    Jeff:   “What stuff?”
    Larry: “If I pee twenty times a day, I can get through a whole New York Times for God sake!”
    Jeff:   “Twenty times?
    Larry: “Hey buddy, when you’re peeing all over your shoe, I’m learning something.”
    Jeff:   “What makes you think I’m peeing all over my shoe while you’re learning something?”
    A minute later, their friend Marty Funkhouser joins the conversation.
    Marty: “Why do you pee sitting down?”
    Larry: “Many reasons.”
    Marty: “Do you crap standing up?”8

While this episode is hilarious, I must point out that the argument Larry offers for sitting down is illogical – if he doesn’t turn on the light, then how does he read?  Also, Larry David only sits down to piss when it serves his comedic purposes.  In Season 7, much of the plot of the episode “The Bare Midriff” revolves around Larry urinating standing up. 

So… what have we learned?

  • Re:  Mother’s Against Peeing Standing Up – One person’s deadpan satire is another person’s sign of the apocalypse.  Famously, some readers of Jonathan Swift’s brilliant essay A Modest Proposal express outrage at his apparent suggestion that poor Irish families should ease their economic woes by selling their children as food for rich English lords and ladies.
    [Note:  Standing urination was a plot device in Swift’s most famous work, Gulliver’s Travels.  In Lilliput, where the people were only 6 inches tall, Lemuel Gulliver put out a fire in the Royal Palace by urinating on it – thereby repulsing the ungrateful Empress, who had previously found him charming.]
  • Re:  Larry David’s apparent flip-flop on sitting versus standing.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”  In this case, it might be the S.P.U.K.

I often speculate about ways that I might make a little money off of this blog.  In other media, Product Placement is touted a source of revenue.  Well, this post certainly has an oddball assortment of products woven through it.  I’ll let you know if any manufacturers contact me. 

You Go Girl.

Later…

  1. http://www.mapsu.org/
  2. http://mapsu.org/pe.htm
  3. http://www.theage.com.au/news/world/aimless-youth-embroiled-in-lav-affair/2006/10/15/1160850812221.html
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urination
  5. http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/herodotus/p/Herodotus.htm
  6. http://www.go-girl.com/
  7. http://www.hbo.com/real-time-with-bill-maher/episodes/0/174-episode/article/new-rules.html
  8. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuHDYR9uRGc
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One Response to “You’re in Trouble, Mister (Making a Splash versus European Sitting Pretty)”

  1. 1 john (good name for this subject)

    Can’t say this subject was wee-ll worth the wait or that one ‘urines’ for a lively discussion of peeing standing or sitting (or is it shitting?), but this posting was quite relevant in a couple of surinedipitous ways to recent personal experience. In a nutshell: a la Larry David in the peeing episode, I got up in the night to go pee, and not wanting to turn on the light, sat down on the toilet (did not fall in, and the seat was down thanks to training by a wife and daughter), and felt a telltale spasm in the lower back which put me flat on my back or, if moving about, bent over at the waist like a doddering, shuffling old old man for the better part of two days. Of course I also had to pee standing and had to leave the seat up or risk further complications with the back. So I actually ‘lived’ many of the bits in this blog. Does that make me a reality blog celebrity? Mike, please do another posting soon so we can put the bathroom humor behind us. Always fun to read your stuff.
    john allebrand


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