Casual Fridays: Who can use the "forbidden" restroom?

Last week we asked readers to tell us under what circumstances they would be likely to use a public restroom reserved for the other gender. We've all been in the situation where there's a long line for one restroom and a very short or non-existent line for the other (although this tends to happen more for women's rooms, which lack urinals). If you're a woman, is it okay to use the men's room? If you're a man, is it okay to use the women's room? Should there even be separate restrooms based on gender?

We asked about the situation where there's a short line at the other gender's restroom and a long line at their own. Most of our readers, it turns out, would just wait it out, as this graph shows:


Male or female, everyone is significantly less likely to use the opposite-gender room when it's a multi-stall affair and the men's room has open urinals. If it's a single-stall restroom with a lock on the door, both males and females are more likely to use the opposite gender room compared to multi-stall restrooms. But they're still more likely to just wait it out for their own gender restroom.

Interestingly, women are significantly more likely to use the men's room in this scenario than men are to use the women's room -- that's the only gender-difference in our bathroom usage results. Does this reflect a general consensus of opinion on who should be allowed to use the other-gender restroom?


It does. Both male and female respondents are significantly more likely to say that it's okay to for women to use the men's room than for men to use the women's room. There's no significant difference between each gender's response to these questions.

Most men and women agree that gender-segregated restrooms are a good idea. About 15 percent of respondents said it depends. As you might expect based on the willingness to use opposite-gender restrooms with a single stall, most readers said that it was okay for single-stall restrooms to be gender neutral, but not multiple stall rooms, especially if they have open urinals.

We asked many other questions in our study, and found some interesting correlations, which I'll summarize for you in two tables:



That's going to have to be it for now. Scienceblogs is being updated this weekend and there will be no posting or commenting here after 1 p.m. EST today. However, I've created a post on if you'd like to comment on today's post.

Update: Upgrade complete! There are a few comments and some additional analysis on the Word Munger post. Feel free to continue the discussion either over there or right here.

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I forgot about this when I took the poll. There is a bar for foreigners in town that I sometimes visit (I live in Korea) and the bathroom is gender neutral with two stalls and a urinal. I don't mind the gender neutrality, but the fact that the urinal doesn't have any kind of barrier or anything around it is a little weird and causes discomfort for some people who don't realize that both genders use that restroom.

Also strange, there are doors on the stalls, but there is no door to the bathroom, so Mr Urinal User has no privacy at all.

I am a female who routinely uses whatever bathroom is available. I work on a construction site, and after the porta-potties, no public restroom can disgust me. I only recieve amused looks from the fellows who see me come out of the men's room when the line for the ladies room is long in restaurants. However, last weekend, when a man came out of the single-occupant ladies room we were waiting for, there was positively a scandal! The women in line acted like he was a predator. Poor guy. But in our defense, guys do tend to leave the toilet a mess, to be honest.

By lynne viescas (not verified) on 12 Jan 2009 #permalink

I'd be curious to see how (if at all) age was a factor in this survey. Additionally, I think it would be interesting to ask how many times people go to the bathroom each day, to see if this had any affect on where and under what circumstances they were willing to do so.

Judging by the responses it looks like I ended up a bit more on the "anyone can go anywhere whenever they want" (though not literally, of course) end of the spectrum...and I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I am young and am often going to the restroom at a bar/club. Many clubs these days (here in the US) have gender neutral bathrooms with no distinction for men's and women's. And when that is not the case and more "traditional" bathrooms exist, I can't even count how many times I have been at a bar or club with many women using the men's bathroom. Whether there are open urinals or not doesn't seem to have any bearing, as long as there is some sort of stall with a toilet somewhere in the men's bathroom. I have seen the reverse as well, though not nearly as often (as the data also suggests). Such experiences have definitely led me to have a more liberal view towards the use of bathrooms, if for no other reason than, when you gotta go, you gotta go :)



If I remember correctly, the trend was for older people to be more willing to use the opposite gender restroom, especially women. But I don't think it was statistically significant.