Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why Do Squatting Toilets Exist?

After coming across several squatting toilets, the obvious question that comes to mind is "WHY!" I have my theories, mainly that they are sort of an intermediary between an actual toilet and a straight up hole in the ground. To me, that explains why they are more common in the more rural southern France than in Paris. I wanted to double check, however, so I went to the wikipedia page for squat toilets.

There is a surprising amount of information here, including a section titled "Advantages of squat toilets." ADVANTAGES? As in squat toilets might be better than real toilets? I had to read on. Here is the content of that section with some comments:

Some benefits of using squat toilets are:
It is less expensive and easier to clean and maintain.[2]

OK....this makes sense and agrees with my intuition about squat toilets being a result of under-development.

It does not involve any contact between the buttocks and thighs with a potentially unsanitary surface.[3]

This is also a legitimate reason. In fact, when faced with a public restroom, different people go through all sorts of rituals to avoid 'touching' the toilet, be it squatting over the toilet anyways, using one of those disposable toilet seat covers, or constructing one out of toilet paper.

The absence of water in the bowl avoids the problem of water splashing upwards.

Well....there better not be any water in there, because with the fall distance from squatting that would be really disgusting

Squatting might help to build the required exhaust pressure more comfortably and quickly.[4]

WHAT? Regardless of how crazy this claim may be, its ok because the wiki author cited a 1944 gastroenterology paper.

Squatting makes elimination faster, easier and more complete.[5]

Similar claim, similarly strange source. The source paper is titled "Impact of Ethnic Habits on Defecographic Measurements" and is from the Archives of Iranian Medicine. apparently a word.

Elimination in squatting posture protects the nerves that control the prostate, bladder and uterus from becoming stretched and damaged.[6]

...From a paper about Prostate disorders

Squatting relaxes the puborectalis muscle which normally chokes the rectum in order to maintain continence.[7]
Squatting securely seals the ileocecal valve, between the colon and the small intestine. In the conventional sitting position, this valve is unsupported and often leaks during evacuation.[8]


So, in case you were still wondering, THAT's why they exist. If you have been converted, perhaps you might want to look into the following device:

It allows you to convert a regular toilet into a squatting toilet!


  1. I've met several Japanese people who say they PREFER squatting toilets, in public bathrooms at least, precisely because they don't have to go butt-to-seat with a surface of dubious cleanliness.

    More philosophically, perhaps the squatting toilets bring us closer to the defecating habits of our ancestors - it seems doubtful that hunter-gatherers used any chair-like contraptions when nature called...

  2. Relatedly, it's only since the advent of hospitalized birthing that women starting giving birth in a weird sitting/leaning/Seder-attending reclined position, which is convenient only for the (originally male) doctor (as opposed to a midwife). Squatting is considered a far healthier and easier way to give birth. I am not, however, advocating the birthing of children into squat toilets.