Unlocking the mystery: Men’s puzzling acceptance of public urination revealed

Feb 12, 2024
Source: Getty Images.

Why do men find it acceptable to pee in public?

I say men, because to be perfectly honest, when was the last time you saw a woman squat next to a tree or between cars on a crowded street, drop her trousers or raise her shirt, and have a pee.

Public urination – or wild peeing as my son-in-law calls it – is a bloke thing. And I’m not entirely sure that it is something we, as a gender, should be that proud of. The fact that it is easy for men to do, shouldn’t make it right, and because we are seeing more and more of it from our younger generations, doesn’t make it less offensive.

I was driving from Brisbane to the Gold Coast last week and, from a distance, noticed a 4WD parked on the side of the busy M1 freeway. As I got closer, I could see a fit, young man wearing a striking orange and blue Hi Vis shirt – presumably with no prostate issues – standing next to his vehicle whilst peeing on the adjacent concrete wall.

Cars sounded their horns as they slowly passed in the peak afternoon traffic, but they didn’t distract him from the job at hand. Firstly, and this is just an observation, it’s dangerous to pull over on the shoulder of a freeway at any time, especially if you are going to get out of the car and expose your bits to the mid afternoon sun. Secondly, and this is the point I couldn’t understand, why would you stop there for everyone to gawk at you when there was a Hungry Jacks – equipped with I’m sure reasonably clean toilet facilities – less than 100 metres away.

Urinating in a public place is a crime under the Summary Offences Act of 2005. In Queensland, more than 200 people are fined (up to $575) each year for relieving themselves outside on a tree, or next to the toilet block at a sports ground when the toilets are locked, or even filling up an empty iced tea bottle when they can’t find somewhere private to go.

The first arrest my brother-in-law Andrew made as a Queensland policeman was when he caught a young Scotsman peeing on a wall outside a nightclub in Fortitude Valley. The offender thought it was his lucky night when he found out that both he and Andrew were born in the same small town, Arbroath, in Scotland. Much to the young offender’s chagrin, Andrew gave him a ticket, and a lecture, and sent him on his way. On my home golf course, which is part of a fairly elite club, we have three toilets. One near the third green, another at the halfway point, and a final toilet near the 14th tee. Even with that many options, the club has had to erect signs saying “Toilets in two holes” to try and stop golfers, mostly men in their 60s, ducking off behind a tree to do their business. And it’s not just an Australian thing.

The French, especially in Paris, have been trying novel ways to stop public urination for years. They even have a name for it – les pipis sauvages, which roughly translates to wild pee. In 2018, red flowerpots were ingeniously equipped with urinals so men could unzip and unload on the streets of the French capitol’s Ile St Louis. The following year, the French tried to farm the urine and convert it into fertiliser. I’m pretty sure that was just a piss take … sorry mistake.

On my first visit to Mumbai a few years back, I was shocked when the man in front of me on my morning walk just stopped, unbuttoned his pants, and pee-ed all over the footpath. About 30 seconds later, another man stopped and did the same thing. To be gender fair, a woman then followed suit and hitched her sari, and delivered a number one, and two. That’s something once you’ve seen, you never can forget.

In the UK, a borough council in Hertfordshire, ironically named Dacorum, has just engaged a private company to start fining people $170 for “littering’. I guess the upper-class Brits couldn’t bring themselves to acknowledge the offence as public urination. They have made two arrests in the first week. In Amsterdam, an average of 18 people a year fall to their deaths and drown while taking a “wild wee” late at night into the city’s canals. In a bid to combat the problem, the city is installing extra ladders and grab ropes along the 200 kilometres of canal walls.

Boys are taught to pee in public from a very young age. My grandson Joey was visiting in January. He is two and is transitioning from nappies to undies, but while he is doing a great job, he isn’t quite yet toilet trained. We were sitting outside at a restaurant in Sanctuary Cove having pizza when Joey announced that he had to go to the toilet. Rather than take Joey to an actual toilet, my son-in-law said that they would do an “alfresco wild pee” on a nearby tree in the car park. The trouble was that Joey had bigger plans. When a poo started to emerge, my daughter quickly cupped her hands and caught it before it hit the ground. Thankfully she has good hands. Not surprising though as both her father and grandfather were wicketkeepers.

Going to the toilet outside became a thing for small kids, and parents, during COVID, especially when most of the public toilets were closed. I have no problem when it is kids going outside because quite frankly parents are doing whatever it takes to get through the day and stay sane. They shouldn’t have to concern themselves with what strangers think.

But I do think that as we get older, especially by the time we reach our teens, we should be cured of the need to pee outside. The message is simple: Just go before you leave home!

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