The Great Toilet Seat Debate

by robekulick

The paper attached to this link is entitled “Up or Down: A Male Economist’s Manifesto on Toilet Seat Etiquette”

The first two sentences of the paper really speak for themselves.

"This paper develops an economic analysis of the toilet seat etiquette, that is, whether
the toilet seat should be left up or down.  I investigate whether there is any efficiency
justification for the presumption that men should leave the toilet seat down after use."

Unsurprisingly, being a guy, his analysis suggests that women are, from a total utility perspective, wrong to insist that the men they live with always put the toilet seat down.

Essentially, he ends up showing that there are two main factors that should be considered in how the toilet seat is left. The inconvenience cost of having the toilet seat down for women relative to the inconvenience cost of having the toilet seat up for men and the probability that the next user of the toilet is male relative to the probability the next user is female.

In  the first part of the paper he shows that if the costs are equal, the optimal rule is just to leave the seat in the position you prefer it, assuming that the probability of the next user being male is equal to the probability the next user is female.

Of course, an immediate problem jumps out at this point. The true cost to women of having the toilet seat up is that in the middle of the night they may use the bathroom, forget the seat is up, and fall in the toilet. I would imagine falling into the toilet is very unpleasant though I can’t ever say I’ve done it. I do know that Larry David was very upset about it when that happened to him on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Actually later in the paper the author considers this possibility and (after invoking mechanism design) concludes that at night the down rule may be optimal.

However, in reviewing this paper, I realized that his rigorous math may actually work against us men in a way he doesn’t really appreciate. My experience with women is that they use the bathroom A LOT more than men. True we might use it for longer periods while we read a magazine or finish War and Peace, but it’s become abundantly clear to me that on average women have tiny bladders. Unfortunately, this suggests that the probability of your girlfriend using the bathroom again before you use it again is actually quite high.

Sooooo…yeah, I feel like a traitor to men everywhere now, but the math is what it is. Or maybe because I had a Jewish mother I’m just too well trained. I think in psychology they call this phenomenon “identification with the aggressor.”