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Brits Tell Us What They Really Think About Unisex Public Toilets

Girls, are you happy to put your bum where a dirty boy's bum has been?
April 20, 2016, 11:00pm

(Photo by Dinky123uk via Pixabay)

Unisex bathrooms are on the rise. Alongside table tennis tables and people wearing shirts with jeans, they're now a part of the hipster office cliché, springing up in web start-ups and advertising agencies across the country. Restaurants, universities and other public spaces, increasingly conscious of thorny issues around gender and bathrooms, are also more likely to have unisex toilets. In fact, 57 percent of Brits say they have found themselves in a unisex bathroom at some point. But just because we're seeing more unisex toilets, it doesn't mean everybody's comfortable with them.

A study by YouGov revealed that British women are most anti-unisex public toilets, with 56 percent saying they would not feel comfortable using them, compared to 47 percent of American women and 46 percent of French women. Meanwhile, men seemed to take a slightly more pro-unisex stance. A mere 27 percent of British men said they wouldn't feel comfortable using unisex toilets, compared to 25 percent of American men and 20 percent of French men.


Did you get that? Would you like to see it in a handy infographic? Okay, here you go:

The issues surrounding mixed gender toilets, however, are more complex than the chart above reveals. Would unisex toilets curb the number of human shits found in the sinks of public toilets, for example? Can we trust drunken pub-goers to share toilets without breaking them because of all the surely inevitable sex?

We took to the streets to see what people of different genders think about sharing toilets with each other.

Amelie, 29, works in a music venue.

VICE: Would you feel comfortable or uncomfortable using a unisex toilet?Amelie: Comfortable.

How comes?
As long as there's a basic level of privacy, I really don't see what the difference is. I'm from Belgium, and there, it never really seems a problem.

Are there a lot of unisex toilets in Belgium?
No, but you would just go to the men's toilet when the queues are too long for the ladies' and you really have to go. No one really minds. But here I feel a certain vibe if I do that.

Where did you use a men's toilet in London?
Well, I work in a music venue. I often have to walk inside the toilets to put posters u I would walk in the toilet when someone is using the urinals

Have you ever seen really confusing toilet signs?
Yeah, I went to a very overrated restaurant in Mile End that was trying to be super cool, but it was just crap. It was just like two triangles and they'd positioned them in a certain position, that seriously could have been either or.


Should Britain introduce unisex toilet?
I just don't care. I just want to go to the loo.

Kevin, 23, architect and experienced toilet designer (left); Peter, 31, architect and experienced toilet designer.

Wow, this is pretty convenient, bumping into two toilet designers. What do you think about unisex toilets.
Kevin: Completely fine with it. I see no issue at all.

Do you think it would bother women if men were in the toilet?
I mean, we live in the 21st century, right? Now we have gender fluidity, people have different sexes; we've just reached a point where it shouldn't really matter.

Have you ever used a unisex toilet?
I've been to Goldsmiths University's student union building, which is completely unisex. I was a bit shocked. It's just unexpected.
Peter: A lot of the unisex toilets you see in restaurants are not concerned about dividing genders, but commercial constraints and space constraints.

Why do you think there is still a gender divide in Britain's public toilets?
Kevin: Tradition, I guess. At the Pentagon, for instance, they have double the number of toilets because it was segregated according to race. So until about the 1960s, I think, you had a special toilet for black people. So maybe in the future we'll move past this divide as it's becoming more and more acceptable to be of the third gender. I think it's the way forward.

As toilet architects, if you could design the don of all lavatories right now, how would you design it?
It depends on so many factors, but I like the idea of the ones in Fabric [nightclub] – one where everyone sort of congregates around the central wash. So yes to Unisex toilets in Britain?
Yeah, sure. Whatever people want, really.

Axel, 28, app developer.

Would you feel comfortable using a unisex public toilet?
Axel: Yes. The women's is usually cleaner than the guys'. A lot of guys stand up urinating, whereas girls don't have much of a choice. I usually sit down. I never use urinals.

Do you have anything against urinals?
Yeah… I'm shy. Sometimes, in unisex toilets, women have become a little aggressive. They think I should use the urinals and not the cubicles because I'm a guy. I tell them I'm shy and close the door.


Seeing as you don't use urinals, what's the dirtiest thing you've seen in a cubicle?
I've seen blood a few times. Blood and shit on the seat. Combined, it's like someone had a really bad experience in there.

What do you think would happen if a cheap British nightclub introduced unisex urinals?
I think it could be a fun experience. There would be a lot of interesting conversations going on in there. But queues might be longer.

Marina, 21, student (left); Andrea, 21, receptionist

Should Britain have unisex toilets?
Marina: It wouldn't matter. The important thing is the cleanliness of the place. Men's toilets are always in a worse condition to the women's.

Does anything other than dirt put you off sharing a toilet?
Yes. I have no problem with sharing a toilet in a student hall of residence. But in a pub, I don't know if it would work well for women to share a toilet with wasted men who have different tendencies. Maybe partygoers should not have unisex toilets.

Have you seen some pretty disturbing things in the women's, or something?
Yeah, I've seen some really bad things in McDonald's toilets. They were splashed in blood. I know it's a chain, but come on now.
Andrea: I've seen pretty much everything. If people have a problem, they find a place. And that tends to be the public toilet.

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