Friday 21 January 2011

The Great Debate: Seat up or seat down?

Is there anything else which so fundamentally sets women and men apart? Men are standing on Mars; women are sitting on Venus.

According to Wikipedia: Toilet seat: "Up or down" debate:

While males are used to raising the seat, females are not. Females do not typically raise the seat for anything other than cleaning, which generates debate among cohabiting members of the opposite sex. Frequently, males are expected by female users to ensure that the seat is always lowered after use. A toilet seat tab can be used to alleviate this problem by reminding males to put it down for females and makes it cleaner and easier to lift/lower the seat.

Another line of reasoning holds that the appearance of the toilet, and by extension the bathroom, is more aesthetically pleasing when the lid is left down between uses, conforming to the designed appearance of the toilet.

Leave it down out of love
Put the toilet seat down by Larry James - June 2004
Come on, guys! Maybe it's time to be a little more considerate. Like paying attention to the little things.
Indifference is like water to a fire. The flame of love grows dim with indifference to your partner's needs. By far the most common and important way in which you can exercise your attention to your partner is by listening. Listening is an act of love.
Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes. So, maybe it's time to make the best use of your time to show your partner that you are sensitive to the little things.
I encourage the men in my seminars to use their bathroom experience as an opportunity to ponder the thought that... "Foreplay begins with putting the toilet seat down without being asked!"
Or... as a comedian once said, "Avoid arguments with the Mrs. about lifting the toilet seat by using the sink." (Not recommended!)

The Scientific Analysis
In the paper "Up or Down? A Male Economist’s Manifesto on the Toilet Seat Etiquette" which smells of academia with a whiff of tongue-in-cheek, Jay Pil Choi of the Department of Economics at Michigan State University goes after the issue with a systematic fervour. He carefully examines all sides of the argument with not only unbiased meticulousness but arithmetic precision.

In this paper, I investigate whether there is any justification for the down rule based on economic efficiency.4 I find that the down rule is inefficient unless there is large asymmetry in the inconvenience costs of shifting the position of the toilet seat across genders. I show that the “selfish” or the “status quo” rule that leaves the toilet seat in the position used dominates the down rule in a wide range of parameter spaces including the case where the inconvenience costs are the same. The intuition for this result is easy to understand. Imagine a situation in which the aggregate frequency of toilet usage is the same across genders, i.e., the probability that any visitor will be male is ½. With the down rule, each male visit is associated with lifting the toilet seat up before use and lowering it down after use, with the inconvenience costs being incurred twice. With the selfish rule, in contrast, the inconvenience costs are incurred once and only when the previous visitor is a member of different gender. The worst case under the selfish rule would occur when the sex of the toilet visitor strictly alternates in each usage. Even in this case, the total inconvenience costs would be the same as those under the down rule if the costs are symmetric. If there is any possibility that consecutive users are from the same gender, the selfish rule strictly dominates the down rule since it keeps the option value of not incurring any inconvenience costs in such an event. This logic can be extended to the case of asymmetric aggregate frequency of toilet usage across genders.

Mr. Choi has tackled his subject with the utmost objectivity and scientific methodology. Being an economist, the author goes after his elusive "correct answer" with all the analytic skills at his disposal leading him to produce such explanatory equations as:

I don't know if this constitutes a macroeconomic view within the framework of the Keynesian model or a more classical Marxian labour of value analysis but whatever it is, anything which makes use of indexes and exponents along with Greek letters impresses the heck out of me.

I do make note of three compelling reasons to leave the seat down in one of the footnotes found in the paper:

Internet search generated the following non-economic/scientific reasons for the down rule. First, there is an argument that being considerate to one’s love partner’s needs supports things going well in and out of the bedroom. To quote a phrase in the internet (available at Celebrate Love: Put the Toilet Seat Down), “Foreplay begins with putting the toilet seat down without being asked!” Second, it is not good Feng-Shi to leave the toilet seats up. Third, a toilet is not the most attractive household appliance. Closing the lid improves its appearance and prevents things from falling into the bowl. The last argument, however, proposes not only the seat down but also the lid down.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Choi states that the "selfish rule" is the best and gives what I think is a perfect alternative example: the car seat. In a family where all members share an automobile, each driver adjusts the seat according to their preference when they get in the car. They do not re-adjust the seat when they are finished because arguably, no one knows who the next driver is going to be.

Other opinions
A web site called "The International Center for Bathroom Etiquette" with the slogan "Performing #1 and #2 in comfort since 1995" discusses the problem in their article "Seat Up, Seat Down" and arrives at the conclusion that down is the correct answer.

Somebody by the name of "moJoe" in an article entitled "I will REMOVE the f**king toilet seat if you don't shut up" ponders how anybody can fall into the toilet when the seat is up. Didn't you look to see if the seat was down? He tells of how he fell into the toilet at the tender age of seven and ever since this traumatic and embarrassing experience, he has faithfully verified the position of the seat before embarking on any activity.

The author Jerry Zeinfeld in his article "Keeping it equal" has hit upon an option which levels the playing field for everyone involved.

Keeping on the topic of the bathroom.  I am tired of hearing women bitching complaining about “leaving the toilet seat down”.  And more importantly hearing men complain that they don’t want to do it.

Know what I do? I put the seat and the cover down after I go.

That way no one has the advantage.

Final Word
Men are standing on Mars; women are sitting on Venus. Oh gawd, I am so tempted to mention the seventh planet.

Personally - I know you are dying to find out what I do - I always sit. As somebody pointed out, there's less to clean up. It's neater and cleaning up afterwards is merely a flush away.

For me, the issue is resolved. However for anybody who wants to continue to argue, my response is this: Instead of dancing around the issue, I think I'll sit this one out.


Wikipedia: Toilet seat

Scientific paper
The social norm of leaving the toilet seat down: A game theoretic analysis
by Siddiqi, Hammad - Nov 2006

Scientific paper
The Troublesome Toilet Seat: Up or Down? Three Schemes
by Anand Venkataraman - May 1999
Speech Technology and Research Lab, SRI International

blog: Life, and why it sucks by Infidel, Australia
I shouldn't have to put the seat down! I DEMAND EQUALITY!
This female blogger argues for the seat being down. I'm not sure what "equality" has to do with it but considering her wrath, I'm going to make sure I always put it down. Rule: pick a fight you're going to win. :-)

my blog: Another Great Debate: Toilet Paper over the roll or under


Site Map: William Quincy Belle


Infidel said...

Niiiice. xD
Love guys who sit.

Molly @ Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce said...

You're funny, but I appreciate the humor. It's just neater if the cover is closed too. I'm trying to teach my nine yo son, but he is resisting...