Taking A Stand On The Can


Julie Beck looks at latrinalia, or bathroom graffiti:

While it would be impossible to come up with a comprehensive unified theory of why people write poop jokes and names with hearts around them while they’re on the pot (other than the perhaps scientifically unsatisfying “Because it’s fun”), there are several factors that seem to be at play. One is that bathroom graffiti is a forum for anonymous, often-inappropriate expression, not unlike an Internet comments section, except with the added bonus of creating something tangible that exists in the real world. Plus, as Matthews notes, “It’s still illegal. It’s deviant, but it’s a low-cost deviant thing to do.” There’s a low likelihood of getting caught, and it’s usually something that can be washed off, or painted over.

Toilet graffiti also offers an interesting contrast to the way people typically behave in the bathroom. The unspoken rules of keeping to oneself, not making eye contact, and avoiding talking to strangers, all contribute to a sometimes-tense environment with the goal of shifting focus away from what’s actually happening behind stall doors. But the graffiti on the stall doors does not ignore it one bit. It crudely acknowledges and pokes fun at what we all go to the bathroom to do, and flouts the politeness surrounding it as well.

(Photo by Flickr user liquidsunshine49)