I keep thinking how short this post is going to be. After all, what do I know about men’s restroom and the satisfaction of their users? I can’t speak from my own experience, and I didn’t find any research investigating that topic. Apparently there’s no need to discuss it, which means there are no problems.
Las Vegas Hilton mens’ restroom urinals; photo by Eric Mill
However, while writing about women’s needs being neglected in most public restrooms, I came across few ideas that could improve the bathroom experience for men, too. I figured that there are at least two needs that most contemporary men’s restrooms don’t meet adequately – privacy and baby changing.
Wall=urinal; photo by a_kep
Why do I think that lack of privacy while using urinals might be a problem for (at least some) men? We don’t hear them complain much about it. However, there’s a condition called paruresis (also known as bashful bladder syndrome) which manifests in the inability to urinate in the presence of others. It affects somewhere around 7% of population. The interesting thing about it is that men are much more often affected by it then women (while you might have expected that men aren’t shy). And the reason for that gender difference is quite obvious – unlike women, men are expected to urinate in front of others.
Street urinal, London, U.K.; photo by hoxtonchina
While therapy of paruresis normally consists of cognitive – behavioral techniques, drugs (SSRI’s – normally prescribed for depression and general anxiety) or hypnosis, I prefer interventions that accommodate planned surroundings to the people, instead of acting as if those people were the problem and they were to be changed. Wouldn’t it be just as reasonable to proclaim it to be normal for men to have the need for privacy when urinating? And change urinal design according? It’s definitely something to consider.
Is TV too much?; photo by ashoe
It’s worthy to note that people don’t have stage fright when attempting to urinate only when others can see them. They may have the same inconvenience when others can hear them. To provide a level of acoustic privacy, American Restroom Association suggests using background music in public restrooms. I guess that’s something women might like, too.
Forward thinking; photo by RachelH_
It’ s still very uncommon for a baby changing table to be in men’s restroom, so the design plays its role in preserving women’s monopole in nappy changing. This might be just a small part of fathers’ rights, but it is very limiting. If you’re not able to change baby’s diapers, you’re not able to go out with them anywhere on your own. So it seems adequate for a baby changing table to be in both men’s and women’s restrooms, or in a gender neutral room.
This sign means that there are baby seats inside toilet stalls; a photo by Nemo’s great uncle
There definitely is some room for design changes that would improve the restroom experience for both men andwomen, as pointed out before. However, I’m sure I didn’t cover all issues that could be easily solved by design, and more ideas can be given by men themselves (e.g. http://mensroombible.blogspot.com/ ). You might notice that they’re concerned about these issues after all.
1. Anthony, K. H. and Dufresne, M. (2007) Potty Parity in Perspective: Gender and Family Issues in Planning and Designing Public Restrooms. Journal of Planning Literature, 21, 3, pp 267-294 (link)