Going to the toilet is something many people take for granted. Indeed, you may feel a slight sensation in your bowels or bladder as you read this. Thus, as you enter the smallest room in the house, or any other bathroom, toilet or even dunny, you casually either sit down on the seat, or lift the aforementioned to perform your duty.
And there it is. The Toilet Seat. Easily forgotten, but a vital component in the overall human process of sanitary elimination.
The origins of the toilet itself are uncertain. From a mere hole dug in the ground, to the electronically aided, systematic flushing variety seen at the beginning of the 21st Century, toilets haven't really changed a huge amount. They are somewhere for humans to leave behind their effluence. Of course, with the advent of the toilet it became apparent that comfort was imperative when sitting on the 'throne' to do one's business. Especially for those who enjoyed not only the act of evacuation, but also that of cogitation!
As a result, toilet seats were produced. The first were not much more than a bit of wood with a hole in the middle, resembling a polo mint. However, as with any human invention, the design was improved upon and often a long plank of wood with as many holes in as there were members of the family, could be found in some outhouses. These changed in shape and material to the more ergonomic plastic toilet seat seen today, which is of an oval shape and sits neatly upon the toilet proper. Some have a secondary, oval shaped lid, but this is not a vital component.
How to use
Using a toilet seat is a fairly simple procedure, but is rather dependent on what you actually want to do. For the sake of good taste the correct terms will be used. 'Micturation', or urinating, and 'Defecation', or bowel movements, are the two most common processes for using a toilet and its seat. However, there are also different methods for the two sexes:
- Micturation - When men micturate, that is pass urine, tiddle, wee, point percy at the porcelain1 they generally stand at the toilet. They then pass urine into the toilet receptacle, ensuring that the stream hits inside the bowl. Well, trying to anyway. For this purpose it is said that men should raise the toilet seat, and when done urinating, lower the toilet seat to the 'down' position, unless it was already up in the first place2. In some cultures men are asked to sit down to pass urine during the night, as it is thought to be quieter and allow others the luxury of undisturbed sleep. It is more likely, however, that when a man needs to 'go', he will simply wander into the bathroom and aim his penis at whatever looks like a toilet, and not bother whether the seat is up or down. Therefore, tiny little puddles of urine can sometimes be found on toilet seats and around the base of the toilet after a man has used the toilet3.
- Defecation - This process can take a long time. Not days or weeks, but if a man takes reading material to the bathroom, you know he's going to be in there for quite some time. To evacuate the bowels, a man will sit upon the toilet seat, back to the cistern, feet to the floor, and get comfortable. Then he will wait. As said, the process can take seconds or, well, the amount of time it takes to do the Times Crossword. Once finished the seat will remain in the 'down' position. A secondary lid may be closed, but this is unlikely. Some men have also been known to prefer sitting down for the process of micturation - a two for the price of one deal if you get the drift...
- Other - Men will sometimes sit on a toilet seat to perform other actions. The most common of these is quite probably masturbation. Yes, afraid so. And that's about it really. Some men go to the loo to sit down and pass wind, but usually this occurs at the same time as the act of defecation, or shortly before. So, other than reading a good book or standing on the seat to change a lightbulb, not much else. Perhaps sex, if they're lucky.
- Micturation - Women sit down to pass urine. Well, most of the time. There are tales of women standing to pee, but they are rare or the stuff of movies like The Full Monty. So, for arguments sake, they sit. On the toilet seat. Okay? Women will generally sit upon the toilet seat facing forwards, back to the cistern as men do. Some women have also developed the ability to 'hover' over the toilet seat, that is basically squatting a short distance above the seat to prevent any skin contact. Hovering is a fine art and most women usually master it during adolescence.
- Defecation - As with men, women will also sit upon the toilet seat in the appropriate manner to perform bowel evacuation. Again, this can take moments, or a long time. Bear in mind though, that if a lady has gone to powder her nose, she may not only be sitting on the 'bog' for a bit, but also genuinely powdering her nose or re-applying lipstick, adjusting her brassiere and picking broccoli from her teeth in the bathroom, before returning to the outside world. Again, the seat lid may be lowered or raised after use.
- Other - Generally, women will use a toilet seat for the same extra-toileting duties as men. That is, masturbation (although it's not extremely comfortable apparently), passing wind, reading, changing lightbulbs and feminine hygiene. Oh! Taboo subject! But it's true, the toilet and toilet seat are important aids in the insertion and removal of tampons.
There are also cultural differences in the use of the toilet and its seat. In some parts of the world, particularly in Asia and Africa, it is not uncommon to find footprints upon the toilet seat. Many people will squat above the toilet, rather than sit upon the toilet seat, leaving dirty impressions of their shoes or bare feet.
While most humans are quite adept at using the toilet and its seat, other animals have been known to learn the fine art of toileting. Many domesticated cats, and even a few dogs, can, instead of doing what nature intended and 'going' outside, be trained to sit on the toilet seat and lay a 'miaowers' or 'barkers' egg4.
To Lift or Not To Lift
Should the toilet seat remain in an upright position at all times or should it be lowered? Some would say this is personal preference. Some would say it's not. But what are the pros and cons of leaving the seat up?
- It keeps it clean from dust.
- It can be put down before you 'go'.
- It's safer that way because it means you have to look before you sit down.
- It saves on cleaning.
- Dust isn't an issue - there's a lid!
- If in a hurry, time is essential, so pausing to put the seat down can result in an unnecessary accident.
- No, it's not safe. You fell in the loo last time you came home drunk because you'd left the seat up, didn't you?
- Who cleans the toilet seat? You?
See? Contentious issue isn't it? Perhaps it's best you just go behind the tree out back...
Falling toilet seats have been known to cause genital injury to young boys whilst they stand close to the toilet and pass urine. In adults, bruising to the buttocks, or even spinal, hip or coccyx injury has occurred when a person has sat on a toilet without the seat being lowered. Some toilet seats can also work themselves loose on their moorings, and even the slightest movement can cause disastrous consequences. Other dangers the toilet seat may hide are redbacks, nasty little venomous spiders found in Australia that have been known to bite unsuspecting toilet users. So, look before you... leak.
Flush with Style
There are simply dozens of styles of toilet seat available for the modern toilet, and they can be found produced from an amazing array of materials. There are some that have been produced from recycled paper into cardboard and others have even been made from carbon fibre or glass! But usually they come in the following;
- Plastic - The most common of materials used for producing toilet seats. It is light, affordable and can be any colour or design you choose. You can also obtain inexpensive 'fashion' seats, with injection-moulded items such as shells, flowers, barbwire/razorblades or fish/seahorses5. Plastic seats, however, are invariably cold to sit upon and have a nasty habit of either pinching the skin of the buttocks or thighs. If seated for a good length of time sweat build up can lead to what is sometimes referred to as 'sticky seat' - once the user has completed their chore and rises, the seat may remain stuck to their bottom.
- Wooden - Wood is a wonderful commodity. You can burn it, cut it, varnish it, and shape it. This being the case, wooden toilet seats were amongst the first ever to be manufactured. Oak, mahogany, ebony, pine, cedar, the list is as long as there are species of tree in the world (just as long as there are species of trees in the world). Drawbacks to the wooden toilet seat however, are that there's always a danger of splinters and they are particularly heavy, so the chances of accidental finger or male genital injury is high.
- Steel - More commonly found in correctional facilities but also on board passenger aircraft, the steel toilet seat is designed for functionality and not comfort. It is hard-wearing, almost impossible to break and easy to clean. Like plastic, it to can be cold to sit upon at first, but does warm up nicely after some time.
- Porcelain - No you don't just make plates or dolls from this stuff. The ceramic toilet seat is rare nowadays, due to a tendency to break quite easily if dropped, sat on with force or through natural wear and tear, but in its heyday it was often decorated with beautiful pictures, much like china plates.
The classic design of the toilet seat has altered over time to accommodate all walks of life;
- Open Front - Toilet seats with a gap in the front are called open front seats. The open front toilet seat allows the user a more sanitary experience, as it prevents any leaking on the toilet seat front, and is a little more comfortable. However, in some parts of the world the open front also seems to be developing a thinner width and ridges where a backside cannot remain comfortable for any extended length of time. Open front seats can be found in most public toilets and are commonly made of either plastic or steel.
- Children's 'Training' Seats - Children have smaller bottoms than adults. In general anyway. So smaller seats can be purchased to assist a young child in using the toilet and prevent them from falling into the toilet proper. The 'training' seat will slot nicely into the cavity of the adult-sized toilet seat6, and are made of either wood or plastic. A wonderful design, useful in 'potty' training.
- Raised Seats - Specifically developed with either the elderly or disabled in mind, raised toilet seats are designed so as a person does not need to lower themselves a large distance onto the toilet proper, but merely sit from almost standing position and then lower themselves down to perform the necessaries. Usually height adjustable, the raised seat merely fits into the toilet bowl and some even come with frames that go over the toilet and easy-grip handles.
A Wee Bit Special
Some toilet seats are a little more fancy than your average plain-black-plastic-crack-if-you-tilt-your-bum-cheeks variety;
- Padded - Some toilet seats, having a basic wooden or plastic design, have been known to incorporate padding such as that found in cushions or soft furniture. Whilst padding may be more comfortable, and add a certain elegance to the toilet, it is difficult to clean and maintain.
- Heated Seats - First designed in Japan, some modern toilet seats have the inbuilt ability to heat through, or remain at a constant temperature, thus preventing the shock of cold plastic upon the posterior.
- Self-Cleaning Seats - These are quite amazing. With the press of a button, the toilet seat revolves on its axis and after a liberal dosing of anti-bacterial disinfectant returns to its original position. Other self-cleaning toilet seats incorporate a plastic sheath, and once the user has done the deed, again with the press of a button the seat revolves, removes the dirty sheath, and provides a nice new one for the next user of the toilet.
- MP3 Playing - Whistle while you work. The modern toilet can not only heat your bottom, wash your hands, massage your back and make you a coffee, but also play a tune. A little 'tinkling' of the ivories perhaps?
While all the above styles of toilet seat are a fantastic array of the sublime to the almost ridiculous, it is the royal toilet seat that is by far the most impressive. Members of the English Royal Family, it is said, are entitled to a completely new toilet seat on any state visit. Whether it be a trip to the rugby or opening a new hospital wing, a fresh toilet seat is provided for the royal bottom in case one needs to attend to one's base functions. Other Royals and celebrities the world over have also been known to be provided with this incredible service.
The Hygiene Bit
It is a common misconception that you can catch a fascinating assortment of diseases from a toilet seat. Some of the more wondrous sexually transmitted infections are nothing to be worried about when you use a toilet and its seat. Honestly. But for those who are concerned, many public toilets now have toilet seat covers, which can also be purchased for home usage. These little oval-shaped paper 'napkins' sit on the toilet seat so you can rest your buttocks safely, without worrying that some nasty little bacteria or virus might climb into your lower intestine or genitalia, and cause you merry havoc.
If no paper napkin is available, you can simply wipe the toilet seat with a piece of toilet paper before use; or, if you have one handy, you can use a face or baby wipe. This is recommended as due course, especially in a public toilet. Not only does it remove any, unpleasantness, from the toilet seat, it also gives the seat time to cool down from the last user. There's nothing quite so unappealing as sitting down in someone else's warmth. And there's no shame in being sanitary, even Diana Ross insisted on having cellophane wrapped toilet seats before she even thought about doing a wee. But whatever your diva-like preference, be safe.
Put it down after you've used it.