Which is not to say that anxious poopers or audible flatulators of all genders don’t exist: Indeed, a male friend of ours, a U.S. Marine, recently explained that he often changes out of his military uniform and into another while on base in order to enter an entirely different facility to use the restroom. (He was one of three individuals who responded to a survey we sent out to 100 people, mostly women, about fecal habits at work. Even with the cloak of anonymity, apparently nobody wanted to talk about it.)
But while boys and men are more likely to develop “paruresis,” the D.S.M.-recognized medical term for pee-shyness — theorized by some to stem, in part, from the pressure of standing next to each other at open urinals — it is women who are more likely to have “parcopresis,” the corresponding bowel movement anxiety, which is not in the D.S.M., according to a variety of fecal scholars.
“The bathroom is saturated with gender in fascinating ways,” said Mr. Haslam, a professor of psychology at the University of Melbourne, who noted that women’s aversion, particularly at work, is not entirely unfounded: One unpublished study he mentions in his book found that a woman who excused herself to go to the bathroom was evaluated more negatively than one who excused herself to tend to “paperwork” — while there was no difference in the way participants viewed the men.
“At one level it’s an association of women with purity,” said Mr. Haslam, referring to the double standard. “At another it’s a double standard applied to hygiene and civility, where the weight falls disproportionately on women to be clean, odorless and groomed.”
Or, as one of the woman interviewed in that “Fecal Matters” study put it: “Women are supposed to be non-poopers.”
For most of history, it would seem, they have fallen in line — adopting all sorts of creative ways to avoid mention, inference, acknowledgment, or God forbid, smell, even when inside the bathroom.