When I was a sophomore in college, making my dollars working in the theatre department’s costume shop, I stitched alongside a posse of unspeakably cool senior girls. Being prime players in the University’s theatre scene, they were into shock and awe when it came the way they dressed, did their hair, and even - or especially - in what they talked about.
One day, two of them were deeply engaged in a dialogue about how awesome pooping was. “Did you know,” said one to the other but for the whole room’s benefit as we ripped out seam after seam, “That when you take a shit, it triggers the exact same chemical reaction in your brain as when you come?”
“Well, that makes sense,” said the other one. “All that build up followed by a release, I can see it.”
They turned to me, and eager to be viewed as cooler than cool, I was all “Totally.”
Inside, however, I was questioning the veracity of their science. I was also rapidly going through the catalogue of every dump I’d ever taken to see if I’d felt anything that could have come near to being an orgasmic experience. As a late-blooming nineteen year old, I didn’t have a lot of (read: any) basis for comparison out of movies and my own limited self-fumbling. But since these women were my newfound experts on all things, I became deeply concerned that the best I could hope for from sex when I finally had it wouldn’t come near to rivaling say, my time in the bathroom in the morning following my second cup of coffee.
Everybody poops. There are books about it. Everybody has seen their own poop and the person who says that they haven’t is a vile poop-denier, and thus, ought not to be trusted.
If you’re a guy, and you have guy friends or work with other guys, you probably have at least one story about a guy you know doing gross, pranky things with his own poop. (Storing it inexplicably in a jar for months to “see what would happen” is one of my favorites.) You have, at the very least, discussed it. Of course, when you do this at work, you take care not to offend the ears of delicate ladies in your vicinity. If you aren’t at work, you watch the delicate ladies around you to see them squeal appropriately at the very thought of a twisted, faceless, stank-snake escaping from your bottom hole.
Because to be a woman and to talk about poop -- about anyone’s, but especially your own -- that’s subversive. It’s weird. It’s immature. It’s inappropriate. Those same senior girls in the theatre shop taught me a lot about being a modern feminist, sometimes engaging in serious debates about what being female even means, and conversations about sex and sexuality were explicit, positive, and frank.
Yet it was talking about shitting that had people in the costume shop up in arms. “You guys stop -- that’s so gross,” said a male coworker during the Pooping as Orgasm debate of 2006. Strangely, I think if the girls had couched the subject differently, maybe talked about feces in terms of scat play or other fetishes, it wouldn’t have been met with the same outcry.
But(t) why? (I’m sorry, I know we’re anti-pun here - but(t) come on!) What was the difference? As far as I could tell, sex and poop were permissible subjects only if you were talking about the two as something a couple did together. But the minute you equated taking a solo dump, a necessary biological process, with sexual pleasure -- it became even more illicit than talking about say, a Cleveland steamer. Pooping on someone’s chest, or onto a table directly above them was safe because it was easy to deride and laugh at.
But the very idea of a woman pooping alone and coming? It is was a deadly cocktail, bursting as it did two myths about women -- we are precious, sainted creatures impossible of doing something as base as pooping (so we’re not human), and we can enjoy sex with ourselves, outside of an encounter with a man for creating children. With these two things proved false, what other illusions fall next, like scales from our eyes? Can women actually hold high-ranking political offices EVEN THOUGH WE GET PERIODS?
“I don’t think it’s gross,” I chirped, and not even because I wanted to please my erstwhile mentors -- because as inexperienced as I was, and as fledgling as my philosophies were, I sensed danger. For a non-orgasmic virgin, I certainly had no issue taking a hard line on the issue, apparently.
The coolest, most confident women I know, the ones who get up in arms about slutty Halloween costumes and binders full of women, very often don’t even feel comfortable enough to poop at work. “I just save it up for when I get home,” they say. I can’t help but picture their insides as some sort of macabre, shit-filled cookie jar. The guys I work with have no problem taking their deuces on the company’s time. “Think about it,” said a male friend of mine. “They are literally paying me to take a dump.”
I have always taken a perverse amount of pride in my ability to maintain regularity even during a workday. I get needing to feel comfortable and clean (though you seat-hoverers forever will incur my wrath and disdain for your dogged refusal to admit that by hovering you are perpetuating the tide of urine you so greatly fear) but to deliberately avoid evacuating your bowels -- something we all have to do -- because of fear or shame makes zero sense to me.
This isn’t to say I haven’t had my moments of “Is she just sitting in there waiting for me to leave so she can go?” angst, or that I don’t practice basic courtesy, doing stuff like double-flushing on those double-latte mornings (it’s a communal space, and I know what my body is capable of inflicting upon others.)
As human beings, there are facets of our humanity that link us. I think it’s important, living in an age like ours that preaches connectivity but breeds isolation, that we remember these links whenever we can. We all poop, male or female, and perpetuating the idea that women don’t is hurtful to us, not just as a gender but as a people. I think about it the workplace most of all, especially when I read articles on the glass ceiling.
Its existence is one of those pernicious realities that rears up and hits me in the face every time. When I sit there worrying about equality and about the sort of world I might one day be bringing daughters into, it’s something I worry about explaining. “You’ll never make as much money as your brother, and a lot of people will think it’s weird or gross if you have to poop at work.”
Both are equally ridiculous, both are things well within our power to change. So I say, get to eating your seasonal fruits and veg and head to the office head with pride.