Female urinal

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A row of female urinals, separated by privacy partitions

A female urinal is a urinal designed for the anatomy of women, to allow ease of use by women and girls. Different models enable urination in standing, semi-squatting, or squatting postures, always without direct bodily contact with the urinal. Sitting models also exist, but with direct bodily contact with the urinal.[1][2]

Unisex urinals are also marketed by various companies, and can be used by both sexes. Female urinals and unisex urinals are much less common than male urinals. Urinals are more abundant in men's and boys' public toilets than in the facilities in private homes.


Advantages compared to toilets for urination[edit]

Urinals for female users could potentially have some of the same advantages as urinals for male users as compared to toilets (with regards to urination):[3][4]

  • lower cost
  • simpler maintenance
  • smaller space requirements (several urinals may be installed on the floor space of a single toilet cubicle)
  • reduced water consumption for flushing compared to flush toilets (waterless urinals can even function without any flushing water)
  • more hygienic, contact-free urination process (and no risk of soiling with feces from previous users)
  • faster use
  • easier recycling of nutrients as fertilizer[5]

Due to an increased number of units in the same amount of floor space, there is usually a faster and shorter queue for public urinals; up to 30% more people can use the toilet facilities at the same time.[6]

Female urinals could possibly be suitable for use in public toilets which are heavily used during peak hours and which are likely to attract large numbers of visitors, especially places like theaters, stadiums, schools, universities, discotheques, shopping centers, and public transit facilities. In addition, temporary mobile female urinals have been developed for use at open-air events and festivals, as well as free-standing units for public spaces.[7]

Design and implementation[edit]

Announcement of women's urinals in front of a public toilet in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Urinals are being developed that can be used by both sexes. While urinals for men and boys can be found almost everywhere in public toilets, unisex and female urinals are still niche products.[8] Many people feel that this is satisfactory because of obvious biological differences that make use of a urinal more convenient for the male population than it would be for the female population. According to Mete Demiriz, professor of sanitary technology at the Westphalian University of Applied Sciences in Gelsenkirchen, economic considerations and social conventions also prevent the wider installation of female urinals in public toilets.[9]

The female urinal models offered today are conceptually similar to each other and follow the shape and design of male urinals but are more closely tailored to the female anatomy. One difference is most females chose to stand with their back toward the urinal and adopt a half-squatting position, which is also sometimes called the "skier's posture" or "hovering stance". This is based on the posture that females generally adopt in conventional public toilets if they are dirty and when physical contact is not desired,[4][8] but hovering may leave urine behind in the bladder[10] and may not be good for the pelvic floor muscles.[11] Thus some people hover only in cases of dire necessity.[12]

In countries where squat toilets are the norm, female urinals can also be found as a ceramic pan at floor level. This kind of urinal would be used in a full squat position to avoid splashing back of urine. In the past, models that were used in a full squat (similar to Asian squat-style toilets) have been developed to the prototype stage[13] or brought to the market, like the "Peeandgo" by Chen-Karlsson, but those did not achieve commercial success.[14] As of 2017 all female urinals available on the western market were wall-mounted and used in a half-squat, "skiing" position.[15]


Female and unisex urinals in public toilets[edit]

Women's urinal "Lady P" at the Dortmund Airport, Germany

In the 1990s, a number of prototypes were developed for female urinals, of which only three were finally ready for the market and are now used: the "Lady P" by Sphinx Sanitair,[16][17] the "Lady Loo" by GBH[18][19] and the "Girly" by Ceramica Catalano,[20][21] which has won several design awards. Since the 2000s, female urinals have been introduced in a few European public toilets,[4][9][16] with more models, like "Ona" designed by Cajsa Flensburg,[22][23] "madamePee" founded by Nathalie des Isnards (2018),[24] "Lapee" created by Gina Périer (2019),[25][26] and "Marcelle" (2019),[27] having been developed.

In the course of the development towards unisex toilets, designers and developers are increasingly faced with the challenge of creating gender-appropriate solutions. Models, like "We P" designed by Michal Farago,[28] "Captain" by Uridan,[29] "Ti'Pi" by Ves Bat Eco[30] and "Weestand"[31] by LiquidGold,[32] have been developed that can be used comfortably by females and males alike.[33][34]

Berlin now has some unisex toilets and unisex urinals, to be used by both sexes.[35][36] As of 2017,[needs update] with the expiration of a contract for public toilets with Wall GmbH, a new toilet concept for public spaces in Berlin is being developed. Urinals which can be used in a similar fashion (facing the wall) by both sexes are an essential part of the future unisex toilet facilities.[37][38]

Berlin has now taken up the problem heroically and is planning urinals for women and men in all public toilets. This is part of the toilet concept for Berlin, which was presented last week by the Senate Department for Environment, Transport and Climate Protection, together with the company Zebralog and the Technical University of Berlin. The advantage of the unisex urinal is that it catches women's and men's urine stream earlier and thus avoids the otherwise unavoidable splashing and is thus simply more hygienic. Therefore, the urinal can be conveniently used by both sexes. For gender justice[...]![39]

— Wienerin

Problems with implementation[edit]

At present, two different arrangements are currently being implemented in practice: a row arrangement (usually with a partition as a separating element), comparable to male urinals; and in individual booths or cabins, as in classic toilets. The main advantage compared to the classic toilet, compact space requirements, is lost with the latter design. With a row arrangement, the density of facilities can be increased, resulting in shorter wait times. However, this is not the case with the booth arrangement, in which a classic toilet bowl is simply replaced by a urinal.

The booth solution is often proposed with the argument that female use of open urinals is socially unacceptable and associated with embarrassment. However, urination while in the company of others can be a problem for some males as well. There is always the possibility to switch to a classical toilet stall if the use of urinals is associated with shame (e.g. in the case of paruresis).[4][9][40]

Unisex urinals (#2) which may be used by both men and women, combining features of a female- (#1) and male- (#3) only urinal
Wall-mounted urinals that are usable by men and women, in open row arrangement

This problem arises more in the context of increasing trends towards unisex toilets for males and females. A sharing of toilets raises the question of how urinals should be arranged for both sexes in the room. While toilets are usually housed in booths with lockable doors, urinals are usually installed openly in a row in gender-separated toilets. This construction method requires less space, allows for more people to urinate at the same time while promoting better hygiene and economics, and keeps the toilet stalls cleaner and more available for those who need them - which is currently one of the main advantages of installing male urinals. One possibility would be to continue offering urinals in rows. These could, whether separated into male and female urinals or as unisex urinals, be separated by so-called "pubic walls".[41]

However, it is questionable whether the lower level of privacy compared to conventional toilets would be accepted by the general public. Due to socio-cultural conventions, the concept of men/boys urinating with their backs visible to women/girls would possibly create awkwardness for both genders and would currently seem strange and contrary to common morals and etiquette for many users. There are even more practical issues for females, such as women/girls needing toilet paper, having to lower their pants, and sometimes tending to their menstrual hygiene needs while going to the toilet for urination.

An alternative would be to accommodate urinals for both sexes in booths or to continue offering urinals for males only.[9] However, this would at least limit the above-mentioned advantages of the urinals for females. Accordingly, the German lawyer and author Marcus Werner sees a significant disadvantage in unisex toilets if these would lead to the elimination of urinals in classic open rows.[42]

Therefore, it would be very, very sad if the unisex toilet trend would end up causing men to have to queue up because every urinal would be housed in a booth, which would dramatically reduce the number of facilities. That would be a total waste of time, calculated in terms of gender. Men lose time without women winning. There can be unisex urinals here. But please use the ergonomically wall-mounted urinals in a row. That would take the pressure off everyone.[42]

— Marcus Werner

Urinals arranged in booths have not been popular, since the advantages compared to conventional toilets were not obvious, given the unchanged space requirement.[40] After 13 years, the four ladies' urinals in the Salzburg Congress Center were removed in August 2015 due to a lack of interest. They have been replaced by conventional toilets.[43]

In the unisex toilets planned for the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin (Texas) in 2017,[44][needs update] the urinals are to be located in an area separated from the entrance area by a door. These are designed as unisex urinals and are arranged in open rows within this range.[44][45] This would allow men and women to use side-by-side urinals in this room, preferably with both genders standing with their face towards the wall, while those who prefer to not see persons of the opposite sex urinating may use a traditional toilet booth nearby. According to Richard Weiss, the architect who is planning this restroom, this would create the greatest possible freedom of choice for all genders. [44]


19th and early 20th century[edit]

Recent developments in creating urinals for females and for use by both sexes are not a new revolution in sanitation, as some manufacturers suggest. Rather, it is the renaissance of a concept whose roots lie in the 19th century. During the 19th century, in the early days of public toilet development, female urinals were installed and urinals were not thought of as being exclusively for males. For example, the 1897 German Handbuch der Architektur (Handbook of architecture) shows "women's urinals with automatic rinsing"; at that time the advantages featured were less costly installation and water savings:[4]

Pissoirs for the female sex have even been successfully used in recent years. These consist of so-called "urinettes" or porcelain sitting basins with automatic flushing and are set up especially in the waiting halls of railway stations, in shops where many girls are employed, in theatres where there is a large choir or ballet. ... Such "urinettes" have the great fortune of being able to be placed where a 2-inch drainpipe is present, while the rinsing lavatories usually used by women for urination require a 4-inch waste pipe.[46]

— Handbuch der Architektur: "Entwässerungsanlagen amerikanischer Gebäude", 1897

At that time, the female urinal was unable to establish itself in Germany, and they were installed only occasionally. In 1902, on the initiative of the City Building Office, a decision was taken in Munich to install women's urinals throughout the city in public convenience stores.[4] A letter to the Kirchmair Board of Directors, for example, explains the plenary decision of the Baumagistrat on 13 February 1902:

It was suggested by several parties that the various classes of toilets should be abolished, that the establishment should be uniform and that a fee of 5 Pfennig should be charged for all toilets, with the exception of the free toilets, (this corresponds to the II. class), and that free toilets should be set up in all existing sanitary facilities. The construction of women's urinals, such as those found in other cities, was also mentioned.[4]

— Munich City Archive 1902

This idea was pursued further, so that the documents of 13 January 1906 contained plans for concrete implementation:

The basins should be made of cast iron with enamel coating. A seat board is not to be provided. On the other hand, it might be advisable to mount brass rods above the basin, which extend from one wall to another and are fixed there. Older and weaker people could gain support at this pole. An intermittent rinse may be required for both pools every 10 minutes. ... For the first attempts to set up "women's urinals", it may be advisable to choose the locations of such urinals near playgrounds so that nannies or other female supervisors can use the same ones.[4]

— Munich City Archive 1906

In the architectural guide München und seine Bauten (Munich and its buildings) from 1912, the women's urinals in three public toilets (Lerchenfeldstraße, Ottostraße and Max-Weber-Platz) were mentioned in the chapter on "Nursing homes". In contrast to the actual toilets, these were intended as "freehold toilets", i.e. for free use. They enjoyed great popularity and were highly frequented. In the course of the 1910s, there was no further expansion, probably because the free use did not generate income for the city's treasury funds. Finally, the Freiaborte (free public lavatories) for women were converted into fee facilities. A later proposal by the first female city councillor of Munich in 1922 for the reintroduction of those free urinals was dismissed by the exclusively male directors of the Bade- und Bedürfnisanstalten establishments.[4]

This development at the turn of the century was not followed up in Germany and these first approaches were increasingly forgotten.[4]

1970s onwards[edit]

Body position taken by women for urination into many female urinals: floating half squat or ″skiing position″

In the 1970s, Alexander Kira, professor of architecture and sanitary engineering at Cornell University, conducted studies on urination behavior of both genders. He pursued the goal of developing sanitary fixtures that are adapted to the human body and its needs, breaking with conventional design specifications.[47][48]

On a conventional toilet bowl, the "correct" use is determined by the shape of the sanitary fixture. Amongst other things, Kira investigated the body positions that males and females prefer to use when no external guidelines are given, for example while urinating outdoors. Examples include urinating in the forest, on a rock, or in a hole. He examined the trajectories of the urine stream and its controllability, as well as comfort and health aspects of different body positions. Males usually urinate in a standing posture and direct the stream forward by hand. Females prefer to take a squatting position with the stream controlled by the posture of the entire body and directed vertically downwards to slightly obliquely backwards. This position is generally the most comfortable for females and is associated with the lowest spray dispersion.[4][8][49][50]

Until the 1970s, a few female urinals were available in the United States from different manufacturers, such as the Sanistand by American Standard Companies. In the 1980s and 1990s various concepts and prototypes were proposed, although most of them were not developed beyond the design stage. Female urinals have become more common since the turn of the millennium and are marketed commercially, primarily in Europe.[4]

From 1950 to 1973, the American Standard company marketed its mass-produced Sanistand.[51] It did not provide significant advantages over conventional toilets, because it used just as much floor space and water for flushing.[52] Its main selling point was that it was specifically designed for women to use without bodily contact.[51]

Several other commercially-unsuccessful designs have been tried since then, but they required the user either to hover awkwardly or to bring her genitals into close contact with the fixture. Current clothes fashions, such as pantyhose and slacks, inhibit females from using them because they do not want their garments to touch the urinal or the floor. In case any females have little experience with urinals and do not know whether to approach them forward or backward, instructions may be posted.[53][54]

In the early 21st century, standard trough models intended for use with a specialised disposable funnel have been introduced with some success, at outdoor festivals such as Glastonbury in 2004, to reduce dwell times and to alleviate long queues.[51] In 2011 a portable female urinal, the Pollee, was introduced at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark and was received enthusiastically by female festival visitors:

"Quite frankly: the girls' response at the festival was overwhelming. We have talked to hundreds of girls and although we received ideas for improvement, the overall message was: We use it and we love it!" — Christian Pagh[55]

Society and culture[edit]

Public perception[edit]

A 1999 study surveyed 600 women to determine their interest in having female urinals which could be used in a standing position. The majority of respondents indicated a desire to have such facilities.[56]

A 2011 study conducted in Australia showed that more than half of the women interviewed would use a urinal if it were available.[3]

Advocacy examples[edit]

Demand is increasing for "urination equality" (potty parity). A grassroots urination equality campaign in the Netherlands caused a sensation in 2017, with women defiantly using urinals in men's toilets. The protest movement was formed under the name of Zeikwijven ("the wild-peeing women"), which advocates urination equality and takes action against the discrimination of women through limited possibilities of urination. The initiative was triggered after 23-year-old Geerte Piening was sentenced to a fine for urinating in public on the street. Her complaint was rejected on the judicial grounds that Piening should have used a street urinal common in the Netherlands. The objection that this was designed only for men was not accepted: "it may not be comfortable, but it is possible".[57][58][59][60] According to one campaign initiator, the problem is that "it isn't possible for women to urinate in a decent, hygienic and dignified manner in a public urinal designed for men."[61]

As part of this campaign, women in the Netherlands began to urinate demonstratively in public urinals for men.[citation needed] Meanwhile, the Dutch city authorities are planning to increasingly offer a unisex version of the Urilift street urinals, which are now available in Dutch city centers and can be used comfortably by men and women.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]