What you should know about being a man – Urinal etiquette

Posted on March 14, 2011


Women tend to grab the attention with regards to visitations to the bathroom, often going in groups. However, there are also rules that come into effect when a man walks into a restroom in a public place.

Image obtained from the ICBE

Firstly, and most importantly, you must remember that the normal boundaries of social interaction that occur in the rest of the world change once over the Gents’ threshold.

The general rule of speech states that conversation is normally advised against, but may on certain occasions be permissible.

Should you be entering an empty toilet facility at the same time as another man with which you were previously speaking to, you can normally expect conversation to continue uninterrupted –

although, it is commonplace for the agenda to take an unexpected turn towards football, women or ill tempered discussions regarding irritable mutual acquaintances.

Topics that are widely not accepted include: Glee, London fashion week and the sport of badminton.

The second condition where conversation may be accepted is whilst standing in line to enter a particularly busy WC, normally situated in a clubbing environment, or sports stadiums.

Phrases commonly heard in this arrangement, which you may use yourself, range from “Bloody hell it’s packed in here isn’t it Dave?” to “Get out of the way, I’m gonna puke!”

When you reach the urinal

Though conversation is OK within the confines of a queuing system, it is vital to remember that once you take a place at a urinal, silence is expected.

Therefore it is a good idea not to engage in something you cannot disengage from easily, such as the existence – or non – of dark matter in the expanse of the visible and invisible universe.

The International Centre for Bathroom Etiquette (ICBE) states the most important rule of all when considering proper behaviour in the bathroom:

‘It is NOT considered proper etiquette to ask a peeing person if he is almost done. Nor is it seemly to attempt to peek in the urinal for activity. If you suspect the patron is merely standing around with his fly open, it is usually best just to keep those suspicions to yourself.’

The dangers of discourse

Whilst queuing you may sometimes feel that you are able to speak of things other than the recommended topics, but beware, there will always be someone more drunk than you who will have eaves-dropped, caught the odd word and decides to join in

This can be a particularly precarious position, as it is invariably with a larger than life man who insists upon speaking to you from the normal distance reserved for food intake.

And remember, within a few moments it is likely that you may have to follow this man to a pair of urinals where the conversation may continue, breaking the sacred code.

You may then find yourself the subject of shocked stares from others observing the way in which you flaunt their rules.

Laugh heartily, never giggle.

Men all feign to be comfortable with the fact that society has decided that the exposure of one’s privates to another man is an acceptable part of public urination.

However, this is a fragile falsehood and can easily be broken if you give the impression than you are laughing at their manhood.

Never, ever allow yourself to be caught glancing to another man’s urinal whilst it is in use. And certainly avoid conveying the message that your titters are a result of this glance.

If you are unfortunate enough to be caught it is vital that you act quickly and naturally. Nod, grimace and raise eyebrows in an impressed manner. This should alleviate any doubt.

Never let your glance linger into a stare once you have been caught.

Never break the rule of silence, or give in to the compulsion to make a comment, positive or negative.

Ignoring the rules

In this blog I am not stating that I necessarily agree nor disagree with the rules, simply I hope to explain what they are. Here is an example of three men living in a world without these inhibitions.

Further reading

These are but a few tips based on my experience. The ICBE has published a detailed set of guidelines for what rules apply when you are faced with:

The ideal situation, etiquette for one urinal

Rules for the more complex situation of two urinals

Three’s company, faced with three urinals

Just four, not more, etiquette for Twice-Two urinals

A handful of urinals, that’s five

A whole wad of urinals, that’s six

Read Jackodile’s blog on the Rules of Urinal Etiquette

If you have your own suggestions for an extended rule-set of urinal etiquette, please comment below.

Posted in: Rules of manhood