It seems that I hear a lot more women complaining about this than men. It has just become assumed that men should carry the burden of lowering the seat when they’re done. And if they don’t, it’s just gross. Why is that? It seems like men would have just as strong of a complaint of gross-ness when having to raise the seat.
True enough. But is this really where the grossness complaint comes from? When this topic was last discussed in these parts Deer commented that:
These analyses fail to factor in the "cost" of going to the restroom in the middle of night, attempting to sit down on the toilet which has been left in the "up" position, falling into the toilet, thus having one's ass covered in toilet water (not to mention splashing toilet water all over the floors and walls), thereby necessitating a middle of the night shower.
And I guess I'd have to grant that this is a lot grosser than touching the toilet seat in order to lower it -- even when we're talking about the toilet seat at my swinging bachelor pad.
But I have to say that I've never quite understood where this particular problem comes from. While the great majority of my trips to the bathroom are for the purposes of micturition and so need not involve sitting upon the toilet, I have also, on occassion, been required by various biological processes to recline upon the commode. By my best estimation this has occurred no fewer than 15,000 times. And yet I have never once become soggy for lack of a seat. Perhaps I have unrivaled skills in this arena, but my considered judgment is that anyone can achieve similar results by exercising a modicum of care. Which leads me to the conclusion that if the argument from grossness is just about avoiding this consequence, then it doesn't prove very much.
But I think it's about more than that.
In fact, I think the not-yet-Dr. puts her finger on the core issue when she makes plain that we really are talking about the allocation of a burden. Lifting or lowering a seat may not be a difficult task, but when it comes to the allocation of work it isn't always the intensity of the effort that matters. Whoever does it, the task of raising or lowering the toilet seat has some grossness associated with it. Perhaps it is too much to say that the task itself is degrading, but one doesn't have to listen too intently to the rhetoric of women -- particularly the imagery of sitting bare assed in toilet water -- to hear that part of the issue here is a fear of degradation.
By leaving the seat up a man renders the toilet a device which is not usable by a woman. By habitually leaving the seat up a man creates an environment in which the normal thing for a toilet to be is a device which is not usable by a woman. Which, other things being equal and the argument from grossness notwithstanding, wouldn't be that big a deal. It's a toilet seat for cripes sakes. But other things aren't equal, and so the toilet becomes yet another part of the world which is more suitable for the uses of men than the uses of women.
Except that the toilet is not just another part of the world. The toilet is a peculiarly intimate appliance, and as such the practices and conventions which surround it take on disproportionate importance. Except, that is, if you happen to be a dude. If you're a dude then you have the privilege of not thinking about any of this, the privilege of treating it as something below your notice, the privilege of forgetting several times a day that you have the power, through inaction, to render the domestic environment manly.
Which should bring us back to the allocation of burdens, the fear of degradation, and the question of what it might mean for men to exercise a modicum of care. But this post has already strayed a little further into didacticism than I would have liked, so instead, here's a quote and a picture:
Excrement may be regarded as the corpse of nourishment, what remains when the vital elements in food have been exhausted. In this respect, excrement is a representation of death that we ourselves produce and that, indeed, we cannot help producing in the very process of maintaining our lives. Perhaps it is for making death so intimate that we find excrement so repulsive. --Harry Frankfurt