There’s been many a time in my life, where I have had to make the guilty walk from the seats in the law library to the toilets. Despite some intense buttock clenching, I often have to walk awkwardly as my poo begins to turtle out. I shrink under the glares of wanky law students, who’ve probably never taken a poo break in their life.
But the anxiety doesn’t stop once I’ve reached the toilets. Once I find the only toilet not covered in shit, the real test begins. I’ve been holding this mammoth in for the past 20 minutes, and it’s not going to leave me without a loud fight. I decide to do a test run, giving a little push. It goes horribly, horribly wrong. An abortive fart—embarrassingly impotent. And then, every toilet-goer’s worst nightmare: splash back. At that moment I know I am in here for the long haul; this poo will take some serious manoeuvring.
I begin to realise that I’ve been in here for a while, and my friends are likely going to start questioning whether I am merely “taking a piss”. Just as I start formulating an excuse, the dynamic changes—utterly. The door next to me slams shut and I hear someone sitting down on the seat. The stakes just got a million times higher. For the first few minutes both of us play it conservative, faintly farting and gently plopping—testing each other’s boundaries. If we’re feeling daring, we may even tease each other with a more audible release of gas. Eventually however—around the seven minute mark—we both get our sweet release, as one of us lets out a bellowing fart followed by an aggressive heaving of the toilet paper roll. From that point on, it’s an absolute fucking free-for-all.
It’s difficult to put into words the joy I feel in those moments. There is, perhaps, no greater solidarity than the shared experience of dropping an embarrassing shit with your comrade. You’ve finally exposed yourself to someone else in your truest and most instinctive form, free from the pretences of our grand social charade. It’s a daunting experience but an undeniably rewarding one. But if that’s the case, why do I hang my head in shame as I exit the toilet, weighed down by the disapproving stares of my friends?
There is, perhaps, no greater solidarity than the shared experience of dropping an embarrassing shit
Because we live in a poo negative world, where we free shitters become social pariahs. I’ve tried to break the cycle before, tagging my friends in poo memes or sending them snapchats from the toilet. I’ve managed to recruit a few friends into the poo positivity movement, and it was a proud moment when a formerly poo negative mate started speaking openly about the double-flusher they had dropped that morning.
Overwhelmingly though, it feels like I am fighting a losing battle. The most common response is one of disgust, an insistence that we should all feel shame over something that most (healthy) humans do once or twice a day. This is something we should hide, the consensus seems to be. And indeed, in some Japanese toilets, users have the option to play loud, pre-recorded sounds to drown out their shitting experience.
But the poo positivity movement is important. Beyond the clear benefit of ending unnecessary shame, there are real possibilities for policy: for instance, with a more open attitude to this basic bodily function, we might be more willing to improve the ungodly state of most public bathrooms or offer better healthcare to people with bowel problems. As someone with Crohn’s disease, that is certainly a world I aspire to live in. Naturally, the poo positivity movement faces problems: gender norms, for instance, make it far easier for men to embrace their poo, while tropes of femininity pressure women to be poo negative. But for the movement to overcome these issues, it must first exist. When we start recognising and celebrating the fact that we all poo, our digestive systems go from being our achilles heel to our greatest strengths.