In 2003 I spent a year studying in Germany. It was an enlightening time; my eyes were not only opened to energy and resource conservation but ways to make the most of everything. Their attitude changed my outlook on life completely, and to this day I value the lessons they taught me. That aside, it was also the only place I ever came across a female urinal. It was in a pub we used to frequent.

Like most girls, I envy guys and their fortunate plumbing when plagued by a full bladder. I also hate queues and the water wasted by loo flushing. So I was sorely tempted to give the urinal a go. However, a number of questions crossed my mind as I walked towards the cubicle door; why was the floor wet? How did I use the damned thing? Was I to ride it like a motorbike facing the wall or tentatively back up into it looking at the door? Did it take paper? What on earth did I do with my underwear? And worst of all, I’d had a bit to drink, thus adding a hint of danger, risk and sods-law ability to go wrong. My fear peaked as I thought, what if I came back looking as though I’d wet myself? Strangers wouldn’t know that I had just conquered the female urinal for the first time (my German wasn’t that good); they would just think I was a horrendously drunk English girl who had lost control of her bodily functions. It also had the potential to cut short my extremely enjoyable night.

Image of Kate

So I did what any other Brit would have done in this situation: I skipped on by, happily joined the queue for the (pardon the pun) bog standard loos and used a piece of kit I felt comfortable with. I wasn’t soaking wet from the waist down when I returned to my friends. I sat down and carried on drinking; no one had missed me, there was nothing to report. I was now comfortable enough to resume pub chat banter: job done.

In the grand scheme of things a trip to loo is a sideline to all activities, not the main event. Whilst an unavoidable necessity, it’s something we keep to ourselves as it accompanies us through life. We get on with it, as and when required. Our lives are stressful enough without worrying about the basics. We want to save water but not looking like a fool at every opportunity. The female urinal, whilst it can save water, has the potential to make an unskilled user look devastatingly and embarrassingly foolish very quickly. It’s not something us women like to do very often, if we have a choice.

But in an effort to save water, how do you get women of all shapes, sizes, colours and creed to use them? For me there are two aspects that ideally need addressing before I would even dare to take the plunge.

Firstly, and most importantly, tell me how to use it. This doesn’t have to be through an interactive tutorial given by a kind member of the pub’s staff but clear diagrams on the wall; a step by step process of what to do to avoid eternal embarrassment. It needs to be realistic, so make the assumption that I’m wearing underwear (apologies if this only applies to me and not the masses).

And secondly, to all the pub owners out there with underused female urinals, please mop the floor at regular intervals. There is nothing like the hint of a previous accident to put a curious woman off giving it a go.

I’m sure most of us, given the chance, would like to save water but we won’t if it is not easy to do and comes at a high price. No woman with a shred of integrity or self preservation is likely to undertake the female urinal challenge in a pub for the first time, without thinking she knows what she’s doing: although, I would like to add, unless she’s half cut, absolutely desperate, it’s dark outside and close to closing time.

I still think about that urinal even though I’ve not seen one since. To me urinals make sense; they save water and, I imagine, once all ladies are practiced and up to speed astride them (if that’s what you do), reduce relieving time and, as a result, queue size. But it’s getting ladies up to speed that’s the issue. I really wanted to like that female urinal but was too scared to use it. There were just too many things that could have gone wrong. Maybe if I there was one at home to practice on, things would have been different. I could have used this strange piece of kit with confidence; safe in the knowledge it wouldn’t end in a wet trouser disaster, a trip to the nearest department store to buy dry undies or apologising in terrible German to the bar owner about the flood in his pub. The likelihood of installing a urinal at home is so ridiculously minimal it’s not worth considering. I suppose I will have to hold on to my one regret from Germany. Maybe I’ll get the chance again and be brave enough to take it. In the meantime, I could always invest in a she-pee to get my eye in for when the time comes.

Kate Fewson
Closed Loop Projects

Posted October 2013

A nervous woman’s view on the female urinal – Kate Fewson, Germany