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22 October 2007
The Toilet Seat Debate Revisited
by Paul Aitken

Up or down? If you're a man who's ever lived with a woman, you know what I'm talking about. I spent the first twenty or so years of my life aware of the issue only peripherally. I shared a basement bathroom with an older brother and a sister who was too young to know she had a say in the matter. My mother used the upstairs bathroom so she didn't care. I spent the whole of my life in a house where the toilet seat was left in whatever position it was last used. I never gave the matter a moment's thought, until late one night I was awakened by the scream of a new girlfriend. Suddenly, after 20 years of blissful ignorance, the toilet seat debate was front and center in my life. That girlfriend and every other woman that I've ever slept or lived with has been adamant that the correct position of the seat is down. "How would you like it if you were to sit down on a cold, hard ceramic toilet in the middle of the night?" they would ask. To which I would wearily reply, "If I'm going to sit down I put the seat down first. Duh."

Women generally don't view the issue of toilet seat position as a matter of debate. To them it's a self evident truth that the seat should always be left down and many are genuinely shocked when I contend otherwise. If you're one of those men who've been brow-beaten into submission on this issue, take heart, the immutable laws of fairness and logic are on your side.

Before we begin we'll need to address some a priori assumptions. If your girlfriend insists on having both seats (top and bottom) in the down position as a simple matter of aesthetics, you may be in a losing position. Not only does this require the same amount of work from her as it does you, it probably does make more sense to have the toilet bowl covered. Stuff, like toothbrushes and dental floss can fall in and it's not nice to look at the stubborn remains of someone's last crap while you're shaving. No bathroom featured in a home magazine is ever shown with the lid up. If you're Mom's coming to visit I'm betting you put the cover down too. That said, if you've got a dog that drinks from the bowl you might want to leave the cover up. Your choice, bub.

But if you like to leave the seat in whatever position you last used it as your inherent right in free world and your girlfriend is throwing you the "toilet should be covered" line, remind yourself to check and see if she leaves the cover down herself. If she does, consistently, then your position looks weak. But if she doesn't you've got that hypocrite in the logical crosshairs and we're down to the real meat of the great toilet seat debate.

To avoid unnecessary complications, let's start with a few simple assumptions: Let's say we're dealing with a closed system. There exists in the household one woman and one man and one toilet. No children. No visitors. No thirsty pets. Let's also assume they each use the toilet the same number of times. It's probably arguable that men urinate more than women because they a) drink more beer and b) it's so easy - whip out dick and piss away, no undressing, sitting down and wiping post-use. But in the name of fairness and magnanimity we'll toss our women partners this freebie. We'll also assume that both sexes urinate more times than they defecate. In my case the ratio is roughly five to one. For others the ratio may be 3 or 4. The difference is immaterial to our final conclusions but for accounting purposes let's say the ratio for both sexes is 4-to-1 on a daily basis.

Let's also assume that the same amount of work is required to lower the seat as to raise the seat. Again, in the real world it probably takes more effort to raise the seat especially for men who are taller and must bend further. It's also arguable that it's easier to lower the seat if you're in the process of sitting down because it's all part of one fluid motion. But in the interests of fairness and magnanimity we'll toss our women partners this freebie.

Now, let's approach the issue from a perspective of strict utility and efficiency. The raising and lowering of seats requires the expenditure of effort. While I suppose an argument could be made that effort is exercise and exercise is good, we're going to sidestep that and assume that effort sucks and we want to minimize it.

For the sake of argument we'll look at three systems of use. In the first scenario, advocated by most women I've lived with, the toilet seat is always left in the down position. In the second, the toilet seat is always left in the up position. And in the third, it's left in whatever state it was last used.

The first scenario is clearly disadvantageous to men. Every act of urination requires two separate units of work. One to raise the seat and the other to lower it when finished. For women the output of effort is nil. The seat requires neither lifting nor lowering. Assuming that both sexes urinate four times each day and defecate once, at the end of the day men have performed 8 units of work, women none. Obviously this is unfair.

Now for the second scenario. The seat is always left up. In this case the man performs two units of work while the woman performs 10. Again, obviously unfair although not quite as unfair as the first system - at least the difference between the sexes can be expressed as a ratio. But if efficiency is our goal then system 2 is an obvious loser. More work is required in total.

In the third scenario, where the seat is left "as is" after use, the total amount of effort expended will depend on when the toilet is used and for what purpose. If either sex uses the bathroom more than once before the other, then the total amount of work will be less. There will also be times when the woman will find the seat down after the man has used it. The permutations are endless, requiring sophisticated computer analysis to figure out (and I don't have that kind of jam) so let's assume the worst case scenario: Each partner alternates with the other. Four pees followed by one end-of-day sit down and read. In the real world this would only rarely occur, but let's see what happens anyway. In this case the man performs 4 units of work (raising the seat each time to urinate) and the woman also performs 4 (lowering the seat) for a total of 8 units. Note that this is the same amount of total work as in the first scenario only now the same amount of work is shared equally. Perfect fairness. And remember, this is the WORST case scenario. For any other permutation, the efficiency is increased.

Note that while the second scenario is clearly the most advantageous to men, I'm betting that no man has ever proffered it. We never think that lowering the seat is any big deal when we're about to sit down. We just do it. Even in a houseful of men, no guy leaves the seat up out of consideration for his roommates. The position of the toilet seat is the farthest thing from our minds. As it should be. All we've ever wanted to is to leave the seat as we last used it.

And it turns out that it's not only fair, it's more efficient. End of debate.

Related articles:
The Sleep Stiffy
The Penis Preference
The Fine Art Of Urination In Traction
Marital Strife Brings On Heart Attacks

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