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Humans use one of three types of defecation postures to defecate: squatting, semi-squatting, or sitting. People use the squatting postures when using squat toilets or when defecating in the open in the absence of toilets. The sitting posture on the other hand is used in toilets that have a pedestal or "throne", where users generally lean forward or sit at 90-degrees to a toilet seat.
In general, the preferred posture is largely a cultural decision. However, people need to adapt their defecation posture to the toilet type available to them, e.g. while travelling or if moving to another country.
The sitting defecation posture involves sitting with hips and knees at approximately right angles, as on a chair. So-called "Western-style" flush toilets and also many types of dry toilets are designed to be used in a sitting posture. One advantage of the sitting position is that it leaves little or no chance of getting fecal matter on clothes or ankles.
Toilet seats are a recent development, only coming into widespread use in Europe in the nineteenth century.
Special devices exist in the form of "wrap-around foot stools" to allow users of western-style toilets to defecate in a posture that is somewhat similar to squatting if they believe that the squatting posture is healthier for them (no reliable medical evidence for this belief is however available).
The squatting defecation posture involves squatting, or crouching. It requires standing with knees and hips sharply bent and the buttocks close to the ground. Squat toilets are designed to facilitate this posture, and can be either with or without flushing water. Squat toilets are more widespread in countries with a Muslim or Hindu majority, particularly in rural areas.
Anal cleansing with water, which is practised by most Muslims due to the Islamic toilet etiquette as well as Hindus is somewhat easier to do from a squatting position than from a sitting position. However, it can also be carried out with sitting toilets e.g. by use of a bidet shower.
People who are not used to squat toilets, as well as overweight people, people with disabilities and elderly people tend to find squatting as a defecation posture difficult, and may therefore prefer sitting.
- A History of Technology, Vol.IV: The Industrial Revolution, 1750-1850. (C. Singer, E Holmyard, A Hall, T. Williams eds) Oxford Clarendon Press, pp. 507-508, 1958.