Mary and I were sitting on her couch, laughing. “But wait, no seriously, is pooping a feminist issue? Why aren’t we talking about this?” I asked.
It was funny, if only because there was some truth in the (often female) phenomenon of “holding it in.” There’s this prevalent idea that girls don’t poop.
“Ugh. I hate that part of dating,” Mary said. “ I can remember holding it in all weekend, waiting until we got to a restaurant or somewhere!”
I knew this move all too well. I wondered, Is this every woman’s secret?
“30 Rock’”s Jenna Maroney put it well: “Love is wearing makeup to bed and going downstairs to the Burger King to poop.”
But that’s where the women pooping conversation always seems to end — with a joke. I’ve yet to see real scatological discourse in the lady-blog-o-sphere.
Sure, it’s hard to talk about human excrement or flatulence without jokes — nothing is funnier than that which is uncomfortable — but talking with Mary, it started to seem like a real issue.
I brought the topic up again, with my group of female friends.
“Ohhhhh, the poop thing,” Cecilia replied, the rest joining in with a chorus of nods.
Everyone knew exactly what I was talking about. Soon we were discussing the other silent agreement that goes hand-in-hand with the idea that girls don’t poop — the girls don’t fart rule.
“I never fart around my boyfriends,” Cecilia confessed. “But one day, studying in the library with my college boyfriend, I fell asleep. All of a sudden there was this loud sound — BAM! — I had woken myself up with a fart.”
Cecilia’s face fell in her hands at the memory. She was mortified at the time. Consoling her, the boyfriend said, “I don’t get it, I mean you fart in your sleep all the time!”
I learned this lesson in my own relationships. If you hold it in, it will come out in your sleep. This goes for anything you repress — poop, gas, or psychological issues.
Instead of feeling comforted by the female poop camaraderie, I felt awful that so many wonderful women were all too familiar with the feeling of “holding it in.” I wondered if my friends were representative of how many women related to the secret pain of abstaining from going. How many women had experienced the bubbling, the cramping, the pregnant bloat, all while pretending that everything was fine! Okay! Sexy, even! All for the sake of a man?
Why do we feel the need to keep up this facade that we are poop-free, gas-less creatures? Why are we so ashamed?
According to Dr. Jack Morin in his book Anal Health and Pleasure, “holding it in” is not okay. Ignoring bathroom calls can cause serious damage to your internal sphincter — the muscle whose job is to relax, allowing for quick and easy bowel movements. Ignoring the need to go causes the internal sphincter to stop relaxing entirely. Once this occurs, according to Dr. Morin, almost every bowel movement requires straining and pushing, which is unnatural and unhealthy. Holding in gas also brings an unhealthy tension. With each come painful side effects; constipation, hemorrhoids, anal fissures and blood clots.
The mention of hemorrhoids encouraged Dana to start talking. She revealed how she tried to sneak away for poops around her boyfriend, a magazine hid slyly under her arm.
“I know you’re pooping!” he would yell.
Later, when she tried to nonchalantly go to the bathroom with some preparation H for her ailing ass, he called out, “I know you are putting that cream on your butt!”
I loved Dana for sharing this with the group. This sort of open-ness we have with each other is awesome.
But what about our “open-ness” with guys on this topic? Here’s where the double standard comes in. My boyfriends have openly passed gas, pooped freely — one even documented his feces via cell phone pictures.
Sarah had a similar story.
“One day my husband was in the bathroom and he yelled, ‘Oh my God, come see this poop!’” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Do I want to be the uncomfortable one with poop?’ I decided no. So I went. I looked. I was like, ‘Yeah, honey, that is a big one.’”
Is this what liberation looks like? While women are sneaking off to Burger King in secret to drop the kids off at the pool, men are bragging to anyone who will listen about the length, girth, initial scent, and lingering smell of their daily deposit.
The more I read Dr. Morin’s book, the more I became convinced guys were being robust in order to hide something, not a fear of farting or pooping, but a fear of their butts being pleasure centers. According to the Dr. Morin, “Men, straight, gay or bi, might find that anal eroticism brings up homophobia.”
Surely there must be somewhere in between allowing the butt to be a sensual part of the body and a functional one from which wastes are expelled.
But among those of us ladies who have this problem of “repressing” ourselves, I say we take to the streets: “Hey-Hey, Ho-Ho, Poop-Shaming has got to go!“ Okay, maybe not. But we could start talking about it more openly. If not with the men in our lives, at least with each other.