Misogynistic urinals and sinks

(This posting is packed with pretty direct talk about bodies (women’s and men’s) and sexual practices (mostly, but not entirely, straight, and some kinky). While NSFW, the images are technically not X-rated. Still, definitely not for kids or the sexually modest.)

Another spin-off from my urinals postings, this time specifically taking off from image #1 in my New Year’s Day posting on “Urinals and the conventions of the men’s room”: a urinal in the shape of a mouth, probably from the Rolling Stones Museum in Germany — where it appears not as an artwork in a gallery of the museum, but as a functioning urinal in the museum’s men’s room.

(Note: the museum was founded, in a tiny German town, by a Stones-mad couple, Birgit and Ulrich “Ulli” Schröder; it has no official connection to the Stones. Meanwhile,  Mick Jagger is considering opening a Stones museum in London.)

Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky then sent me a link to a 3/18/12 piece on the Sociological Images site, “Women’s Parts as Urinals and Sinks” by Gwen Sharp, which begins:

Stephanie Medley-Rath sent in a new example of urinals shaped like women’s mouths. We’ve taken the submission as an opportunity to re-post our collection

She adds also other women’s parts used as urinals: vaginas and perhaps buttocks as well. And to branch out into fixtures for a men’s room that incorporate women’s bodies presented from behind (thus offering their vaginas and/or buttocks) incorporated into urinals and sinks. Some, if not all, of this is clearly misogynistic.

The problematic feature of these fixtures is that they’re fully functioning items in a men’s room, often the only ones available there, so that a man who needs a urinal or a sink is obliged to engage his body interactively with a representation of a woman’s body parts, not merely to appreciate the way these representations are crafted; he becomes an active participant in urinating in or having intercourse (vaginal or anal) with a simulacrum of a woman.

Hold off on those oral urinals for a bit. From Sharp’s collection, we get a female-frontal urinal:

(#1)

and a bank of femae-posterior urinals:

(#2)

and then a bank of female-posterior sinks (in a notably well-appointed men’s room):

(#3)

The user of one of those urinals is put in the position of symbolically humiliating a woman by urinating on or in her body, and the user of one of those sinks is put in the position of symbolically imposing himself on a (passive) woman via frottage or intercourse. That seems uncomplicatedly misogynistic to me. A decent man’s only recourse is to refuse to play, to opt out: find a more conventional urinal somewhere else or use a toilet, find a more conventional sink somewhere else or go without washing his hands.

Now back to those oral urinals in Germany, image repeated here:

(#4)

Here’s a 1/31/12 piece on the Ultimate Classic Rock site, “Rolling Stones Urinals Causing Controversy in Germany” by Billy Dukes:

German women wouldn’t have an issue with the lip shaped urinals at the recently opened Rolling Stones museum in Lüchow, Germany if they came installed with tongues. That way, the toilet would more accurately resemble the famous lips logo the band has long used in promotional material.

(#5)

The mouth, with or without the tongue, has very red (and hence feminine) lips, mirroring Mick Jagger’s frequent presentation of himself in the Stones’ early days as androgynous (while being simultaneously quite nastily homophobic). So I’m not sure adding a tongue would have helped. To convey that the mouth belongs to a man with lipstick on, you’d need to see more of the face: a square jaw, a cleft chin, maybe some facial scruff, or even an adam’s apple. That would require re-doing the bottom part of #2 in flesh-tone porcelain, and making it longer. That’s certainly possible, and it would give the user something to brace himself against white he’s pissing.

But wait a minute? Would men accept the notion of (symbolically) pissing in another man’s mouth? Most, I think, would not, though some might enjoy the sense of dominating, humiliating another man. (There’s a reason why urinals with mouths that are clearly male — belonging to men or boys — are so hard to find. And why urinals with apparently female mouths seem to be powerful for many men; we’re back to misogyny.) And some men might have other motives for fancying a urinal with a male mouth: gay men who are into piss play, for example.

And then there’s the protagonist of Nick Baker’s wonderful and highly original first novel, The Mezzanine, who is entirely straight. This character could use a male-mouth urinal for the technique he employs to overcome his pee-shyness in men’s rooms: he imagines pissing in another man’s mouth (dominance and humiliation again). I’m somewhat pee-shy myself, also kinky about piss, and I’ve found the Baker technique, as I think of it, quite effective.

Back to the Billy Dukes article:

The L.A. Times reports that critics of the bathroom art say it conveys a “misogynistic message.” “It’s discrimination against women,” local feminist Roda Armbruster tells Hamburg based broadcast network NDR, explaining that without the tongue it’s just a woman’s mouth a man is relieving himself into.

It seems unlikely that the outcry will change the decor of the museum’s mens room. Founder Ulli Schroder says they’re art, not a man’s mouth or a woman’s mouth. [They could, of course, be both art and a person’s mouth; that’s what I think they are, in fact.] “They were damned expensive and they’re staying where they are,” he said, according to the International Business Times. “That’s final.”

Dutch artist Meike van Schijndel [a woman] designed the toilets, which have been decorating bathrooms worldwide since the early 2000’s. This isn’t the first time controversy has dogged the manufacture. TMZ reports that in 2004, Virgin Airlines flushed plans to install a pair of these toilets at JFK Airport. These controversial items are marketed as “Kisses!” urinals on Bathroom Mania’s website, and at last check sold for over $900.

As I said earlier, if the urinals were on display in a gallery, as art, I would have no problem; in fact, I’d find them intriguing and entertaining. And there’s a long tradition of treating urinals as art objects, going back at least to Marcel Duchamp’s Dada urinal of 1917, Fountain. More recently, there have been Clark Sorenson’s beautiful and clever flower and shell urinals, which have had at least one exhibition of their own; they are fully functional as urinals, but are sold only to individuals, never (as far as I know) installed in a men’s room (though I’d have no problem pissing into a calla lily or a seashell, objects that, even symbolically, have no consciousness or social identity). For similar reasons, I’d have no problem pissing into a playing card urinal (I’d probably avoid the club one, though, because it requires really careful aim) or a musical urinal, like the ones in my “News for urinals” posting yesterday. And some photographers have shot urinals and presented them as aesthetic objects; these fixtures were, or are, functional in real life, but not of course in a photograph.

As I said earlier, the problem comes when apparently feminine-mouth urinals are actually employed as receptacles for piss. I myself would shrink from using them, no matter how much I might appreciate them as art objects.

Bonus note. The Rolling Stones continue to tour, though all four in the current band are around 70. Here they are in 2015, looking amiable and unthreatening:

(#6)

Charle Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger (all in their early 70s), and the kid of the band, Ronnie Wood, in his late 60s

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