Is This Normal? I Stand Up When I Wipe My Behind
You’ve got embarrassing, tricky, and otherwise unusual life questions. We’ve got answers. Welcome to Is This Normal?, a no-nonsense, no-judgment advice column from HelloGiggles, in which we tap experts to find out exactly how typical (or not) your situation is.
Dear Is This Normal?,
I stand when I wipe my behind after going number two. In an enlightening group chat, I learned that my friends all sit; they even made fun of me for standing! Am I a weirdo for doing this? Are there any health risks? I tried sitting and it just doesn’t feel right.
Dear Standing Wiper,
I have great news: You’re not alone. Actually, this exact issue sparked quite a conversation on the social platform Reddit a few years ago.
While a Reddit user surveyed 950 participants—626 identified as male, 306 identified as female, and 18 people put their gender as “other”—they found that 65.7% of respondents wipe sitting down and 34.3% wipe standing up. But even though standing wipers may be in the minority, they do exist. I know because I’m one of them! It’s an innate habit of mine, and I don’t feel bad about it—and neither should you.
To figure out why we prefer wiping while standing up, I asked a licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Michael Kinsey, Ph.D., to explain. He says that the habits we acquire related to pooping can correlate with attitudes we have about our psychic and bodily integrity.
[pullquote]“How we respond to the mess we make after pooping tells a story about who we are, how we express ourselves, and how tidy we require ourselves to be in the world. While standing to wipe doesn’t have universal meaning, it does contain personal significance,” he says. “Perhaps the fact that you had never considered this behavior before has significance. Or maybe it’s the amount of agency you feel standing versus sitting. Another hypothesis could be how quickly you’d like to distance yourself from your waste. Any number of meanings are possible, but one of them is certain to fit comfortably within the broader shape of your personality.” [/pullquote]
However, psychologist Jennifer Barbera has another theory on why we stand. “I would suggest that [a stander] might be someone who is restless and tends to rush through things in their day-to-day life, including when using the washroom. They may be prone to pacing and have difficulty sitting still and taking their time with things,” says Barbera. As someone who is very impatient, this resonated with me. Maybe it does for you as well?
But while these two theories sound valid, clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Manly says it could actually have something to do with the way you were potty-trained by your caregivers.
[pullquote]“Bathroom behaviors are often learned from observing or being instructed by one’s parents and caregivers. As a result, we often unconsciously have a wide variety of personal hygiene habits that were adopted throughout childhood. Yet, as we develop, we also personalize our habits to suit our own preferences and needs,” Dr. Manly says. “While it’s common for people to sit down to wipe after having a bowel movement, it makes sense that some people might prefer to stand; it’s all a matter of personal preference.”[/pullquote]
Whether any of these above theories correlate with why you prefer standing up while wiping, all that truly matters is how you wipe when you pee, not just when you poop. Dr. Alexis Greene, a board-certified OB-GYN, says, “I think [standing or sitting] is exactly equivalent, as long as you wipe [from] front to back.”
Dr. Ning Chan, a pediatric emergency medicine physician, agrees. She points out that wiping from front to back keeps your vagina safe and clean by preventing pesky UTIs from occurring. “The most common organisms that cause UTIs are gut flora, aka bacteria found in the GI tract and in poop—particularly E. coli. The proximity of the gut bacteria to a woman’s urethra is quite close,” Dr. Chan says. “In addition, the distance between the bladder and the urethral opening is also short, so bacteria don’t have to travel far to get into the bladder and multiply.”
A Scandinavian study that was conducted in 2010 actually looked at the incidences of UTIs in pregnant women based on if they wiped back to front, front to back, or simply dabbed their vaginas with toilet paper. The findings showed there was a significant increase in the incidence of UTIs in pregnant women who wiped themselves back to front.
But preventing UTIs isn’t the only health factor one should consider when deciding how to wipe after using the bathroom. People who prefer to stand while wiping may also prevent their hands from touching the toilet altogether—which sounds like a win to me. “Touching the toilet seat with one’s hand may be especially concerning if one then plans to engage in an activity where clean hands are a requirement,” says licensed therapist Dr. Matt Glowiak.
That’s why Dr. Chan also notes that it may be beneficial to stand in situations where you are in a public restroom and want to do your best to avoid germs.
[pullquote]“Given how many times [public toilet seats] are used by different people, their bacteria and viruses from their stools can possibly get on the toilet. Then when you sit on the toilet, bacteria and viruses can easily transfer onto your skin. I don’t think people are regularly washing their genital area and legs after using public restrooms, so the germs stay on your skin for who knows how long,” Dr. Chan says.[/pullquote]
Especially now, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, bacteria and viruses can likely spread as there are particles that fall on both surfaces and remain airborne. A 2018 study found that after flushing a toilet, these bacteria particles spiked in the air and that a high concentration may remain for more than 30 minutes past when you flush. Pro tip: Close the lid before you flush. Period.
Overall, whatever works for you is perfectly fine! And for all those sitters out there, don’t hate on us standers. As long as you take your time to wipe, you do you, boo! Plus, as Dr. Glowiak says, “Just remember that this is perhaps yet another thing that makes you unique.” So keep standing, my friend.