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The Curious Practice of Bathroom Reading


            For a long time, Iíve wondered at the reason why itís such a common practice, almost exclusively by men, to bring reading matter into the bathroom.  It doesnít matter if itís in their home or the somewhat public bathroom at work, but I notice it a lot by way of hearing paper turning or seeing the reading matter on the toilet in other peopleís homes.  This essay endeavors to explore the reasons for this phenomenon, focusing on the male reasons for it.  I acknowledge that women may participate in this practice as well (recall the Glamour magazine meant for his mom that got George in trouble in Seinfeld), but itís less common, especially at the workplace which is my main focus.

            First I will touch on a less common, but still noticeable trend: The Urinal Reader.  I donít see this too often, but you see people reading a one sheet page in one hand while their other hand directs the main affair.  This can be explained simply as the male being a workaholic or person who makes themselves so busy that they have to optimize every second of their time and figure just enjoying a nice piss is a waste of time and so multitask by taking in some information at the same time.

            But, of course, the vast majority of bathroom reading occurs during dumps.  I will start of by explaining why the process of reading in the bathroom at work has baffled me.  Basically, I donít like being in the bathroom and therefore I want to get through my business as fast as possible (while still maintaining cleanliness).  Bathroom reading lengthens the time one is in this, often foul, room and so does not agree with me.  This cause of my bafflement actually plays a part in many of the reasons people bathroom read.

            First, though, I will go into an understandable reason for the practice.  This involves those that maybe have to take a Bad Dump (I will leave the details to the readers imagination) which may involve a significant length of time which can justify bringing in reading matter to pass the time.  I would estimate, for myself, that these occur hardly ever, but maybe itís something more common with others.  So, for those that feel a dump coming on and think ďOh man, this one is going to take some time,Ē I see their reason for taking some reading in.

            But I have to assume most of the time, when taking a dump, donít really need that much time.  So, there are have to be other reasons for bringing in something to read.  I will make a stipulation here: taking a dump is an enjoyable experience because you feel better afterwards getting that excess weight of metabolic waste and gas out of your bowels.  Iíll admit that I enjoy a good dump.  As with most enjoyable things, people want more.  People want to prolong their enjoyment of the dump by extending the time of the process.  So, they may artificially make the actually dump process take longer, or may delay the actual dumping after sitting on the toilet and start reading to extend the joy of the anticipation of the act.  During this delay, they bring reading matter in to justify their extended stay in the stall.

            Enjoyment of isolation is another reason why people may bring in reading to the bathroom.  Itís stressful being a man.  We have a lot of responsibilities.  Sometimes, men need a place to call their own, and for some, the bathroom may be their only sanctuary.  This goes to explain home bathroom reading more.  For married men, the only alone-time they may have when not at work is locked away in the john and their wife canít argue because she doesnít know that there isnít a legitimate gastrointestinal reason for being in so long.  So, for a moment of peace, the man stays in for a while as he contemplates the meaning of life or just zones out a little and relaxes and reads the sports section.  At work, it can be similar for those men that donít have an office or even for those that do but keep having people come to talk to them.  When they have to take a crap anyway, they figure they might as well escape to the menís room for a momentís peace to a place where no one can bother them or see them reading The Onion or that porno mag they keep stashed in the bottom drawer of their desk.

            The last sentence segues nicely into my next theory for bathroom reading.  There may be a somewhat erotic pleasure in sitting on a toilet with oneís pants down.  It might be subliminal and Iím not saying people are regularly ďpleasuringĒ themselves in there or getting ďarousedĒ (though Iím sure this is occurring in some unknown amount), but just being able to sit with your pants down might hold some small thrill for some men and so they bring reading matter in as a way to mask the real goal of their long time spent on the can.  Look at nudist colonies.  Those people enjoy being naked and not really for sexual reason.  There might be a little bit of nudist is men that leads them to want to be naked and based on societal rules, they need to be in their enclosed bathroom stall to get a little taste of this life.  Or it might just be a simple case of men wanting to air out the crouch area a little on a hot day.

            Another plausible reason for bringing reading into the bathroom at work can be out of consideration for fellow users.  Letís say the man can tell they have a real nasty dump to perform where they are pretty sure either the smell or sound will be bad.  They might not want to subject their fellow men to the ghastly nature of the impending bowel movement they feel brewing and so they bring in reading matter to pass the time in case there are people in there.  If there are people in there, they may (if they are able to) delay the foul act for a few minutes until the coast is clear and they pass the waiting time by reading.  If there turns out to be no one in there, they just end up bringing the reading in, but donít actually utilize it.  It also may be that there was no one in when they started, but someone comes in after them and so in this case, the reading matter provides them with a means to pass the time and allow them keep their identity hidden until the other party leaves the bathroom.  I know that I always want to escape out of the bathroom before having to see who it was making the bad noises in the stall, and so on my part, I do my effort to avoid the confrontation, but itís more certain if the violator also takes his part and stays in longer.  Though, there is always the possibility of a stalemate where you have two people both taking revolting dumps and they both are waiting for the other to leave first.  Iím not sure what happens in this case since Iíve never experienced it, but Iím certain itís pretty rare since usually one of the people will have no shame and showing their face after making revolting noises in the stall and they will emerge first while the other, more considerate and self-conscious person, stays in longer.  In this scenario, itís not mandatory  to have reading matter to stay in the stall longer, but at least it gives you something to do while waiting for the proper time to commence the dump or emerge from the stall after the dump.

            Now, letís touch on why this is a mostly male phenomenon in workplace bathrooms.  In addition to the purely male reasons Iíve expounded on, women are more social in the bathroom and therefore have less need for reading in the stall.  They like to talk instead and reading would be rude when instead they could be discussing the latest mascara sale at Macyís. Men, on the other hand, are loathe to make eye contact or more than a friendly grunt to another in the bathroom (exception given if two men are both at the sink area; then they can talk very briefly).  But itís strictly against protocol for men to talk if one is in the bathroom stall or pissing at the urinal.  Women, on the other hand, are more social and at ease with sharing their functions with others so they donít have the hang-ups.  I only profess to know this because I once sat for a year in my first job at BofA in a cubicle 10 feet from the womenís bathroom which was far less than sound-proof and so have a little observational data to back up my theory, though I canít say what they were doing while the talking was going on, for sure.  (As an observant person, I canít help but notice things like this)  By the way, you donít ever want to sit that close to any bathroom because if bad noises are going on in there, it makes you feel bad when the person comes out that they know you know bad things were going on in there.

            While this in no way is an exhaustive sociological study on the phenomenon of male bathroom reading, I hope I have helped those that have gotten through this paper understand a little bit more about why this is happening.  I personally would like to see a stop to the practice because I donít think people should be spending time in the bathroom taking up stalls that might be needed for others.  Also, some people might take their reading out of the bathroom and back into public circulation which is not hygienic.  But mainly, it just confounds me why people would want to spend more time in a place that I donít like being in because of the nature of the business going on in bathrooms.   Maybe one day, my life will change such that I become a bathroom reader also, but I think based on my analysis of the reasons for it, I will resist the temptation.

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