Back in college, my best dude friend laughingly told me a horrifying — and quite possibly apocryphal — story about a “friend of a friend” whose one-night stand lost control of her bowels during a particularly energetic bout of anal sex. Embarrassed for the woman, I tentatively asked what the man did at that point, figuring he’d gotten angry or flipped out or ran into the bathroom to vomit.
“Oh,” my friend said nonchalantly, “Duh. He took her into the bedroom and kept going.”
The story’s stuck with me for years and not just for the gross-out factor: the more I’d hear about women afraid to crap in their boyfriends’ apartments or in shared hotel room bathrooms on weekend getaways, about psychosomatic constipation related to the mere presence of a man with whom a woman was having sexual relations, the more I’d think about the nonchalant way men talk about shit and wonder if we were really just doing all of this to ourselves. Is it really that men (or, at least the kind of men you’d want near your genitals) need us to be poop-and-fart free to want to fuck us, or have we just convinced ourselves they did? Or, worse yet, are we projecting our own learned squeamishness about our bodily functions onto men, as a way to rationalize yet another internalization of the “our bodies are gross” myths that pervade society?
It isn’t as though I was (or am) immune: I’m not sure I have ever blushed harder than the first time I let a stinky one rip just before my then-boyfriend tried to get into bed and I had to explain why it wasn’t a good idea to pull back the covers at that moment. I’ve been known to run the faucet whilst pooping in a hotel room shared with a guy if it didn’t come with a fan, and even recently made the dude I am dating turn on the television when I was not unreasonably concerned that a bathroom trip might involve more splashing than plopping, so to speak. But did he really care? (Hint: he didn’t care.) Only hours before, he’d stood up from breakfast and announced, “I’m going to go take a dump now,” as though it were something I needed to know.
A totally unscientific survey I conducted of guys indicates that, indeed, they really don’t care if you take a dump — one called it an “urban legend,” another “a human activity,” a third said “no biggie” and a fourth said that he didn’t understand why women would, or how they could, hold it for extended periods of time, adding, “I don’t know how women don’t fart either.” For good measure, he added, “pooping aside, I think men get that feeling [that it's not situationally appropriate] too, but in my experience feel more foolish by not farting.” A married friend, who clearly wished to remain anonymous, said he wasn’t a fan of “finding skidmarks or poop nuggets after” his wife used the bathroom nor if there was a distinctive poo odor when he used it immediately after, but that he’d felt the same way about his male roommates prior to marriage. But the important thing is this: None of them said it had any affect on their attraction to or feelings for the women in their lives.
And, no doubt, though the majority of adult men understand that women are — gasp! — actually human, there are some like the actor Terrance Howard, who insists women use baby wipes on all their private parts, who isn’t so keen on the reality of women as fully functioning autonomous human beings with all that encompasses. And goodness knows there’s a whole Beauty Industrial Complex dedicated to pathologizing our humanness, so to speak, designating everything from wrinkles to wavy hair and as “flaws” in need of perfecting. It defines attractiveness as something they manufacture and we buy, and convinces us that we can’t possibly be sexy as our authentic, messy selves.
But if we step back and look at the bigger picture, our squeamishness becomes almost farcical. Why would anyone want to have sex — which is, at its best, sweaty and gooey and downright messy — with someone whose idea of “perfect” is a plasticized, made-up, flaw-free and oh-so-clean, let alone carry on a relationship with someone who would rather mentally deny that you engage in one of the basic acts of life than deal with your messy humanness? And how good can you be to yourself (or someone else), if the person who believes that about you … is you?
So poop with abandon! Drop a deuce in his apartment! Let one rip after a trip to the taco truck! Take your makeup off (if you wear any) before you go to bed! And if you don’t shave your legs religiously or get your vag waxed, so be it. Find the humor in a poop joke, or at least in your reactions to them. And if the dude you’re getting it on with is freaked out, turned off, judgmental or just plain grossed out, think about the wisdom of spending any more of your time with someone who likes you only when you’re a curated version of femininity, rather than human. Because, quite frankly, it all gets a lot messier, grosser, realer and more human from here.