So, how do you clean your butt?

I was at a bar last weekend when the conversation seamlessly shifted from world politics and gender stereotypes to cleaning your butt, as it does.

We began to reflect on our experiences with toilets abroad…

When I found a bidet in nearly every French washroom, I was perplexed.


When I encountered the classic South East Asian “bum gun”, I was weary.

How the hell does this thing work? I’m scared…

The bum gun is a force to be reckoned with.

We turned to the Egyptian guy we were hanging out with and casually mused, “What do you think about toilet paper? Do you use a bidet?”

His eyes widened. “Oh my god, I don’t understand toilet paper here!”

He was shocked when he first moved to Canada and discovered the lack of bidets. He was disgusted at the thought of just using toilet paper, so he invested in a portable bidet that could easily be attached to his toilet.

“I bring it everywhere,” he said with a smile. “It’s a necessity.”

Battle of the bums

We TP-obsessed folks are a stubborn minority. This Statista report shows Americans use an annual per captia average of 141 rolls, with Germany and England not far behind. But venture to France, Italy, some other countries in Western Europe, South America, the Middle East, or Asia and you’ll find much lower numbers.

There, bidet is queen B.

Then why is it so foreign to our “civilized” societies? This Atlantic article states it likely has to do with North American and British social norms that date back at least as early as the 1930’s:

“In the United States and Britain, when various forms of douching were thought of as a pregnancy preventive, bidets were considered a form of birth control. As Norman Haire, a birth-control pioneer, put it in 1936, ‘The presence of a bidet is regarded as almost a symbol of sin.’ The present-day American sociologist Harvey Molotch agrees, concluding that the devices were tainted with France’s hedonism and sexuality.”

Those damn sinful bidets were just more scandalous and tainted by sexuality than our soft, dry, white TP.

As ridiculous as it sounds, the idea surrounding bidets in North America still isn’t far off. Think about the first time you found one–be it in a friend’s house or a swanky Vegas hotel room. Chances are, if you didn’t grow up with one, you probably giggled or tried to suppress the kinky thoughts that came to mind.

Just last year when my roommates and I moved into a new house and found a removeable bidet attached to one of the toilets, we all awkwardly laughed and barely questioned it when our landlord assumed we’d want it removed.

Toilet paper’s dark side

Truth is, doctors warn that using toilet paper alone does a half-assed job and leaves you less clean than you’d like to think. Plus, excessive use can lead to fun things like anal fissures and urinary tract infections.

“Toilet paper moves shit, but it doesn’t remove it,” says Rose George, author of The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters.

Then there are the millions of trees and gallons of water used to manufacture the toilet paper that we’re flushing away–plus the 200 thousand tons of bleach and other chemicals going down with it.

But who has the money to buy a bidet? Well, before you inevitably go through a few Kirkland toilet paper packs, you do, I guess. Especially if you purchase a portable one or an attachment like Tushy, which specializes in hipster minimalist bidets.

Talk dirty to me

While companies like Tushy are sprouting up to knock some sense into us toilet paper-using Westerners, it’s still a slow process.

Bidets in Canada and the US are so sparse that statistics are near nonexistent. “Intelligent toilets” are gradually growing in popularity, but the good ol‘ bidet largely remains an outcast.

On the other hand, Tonic’s Terri Coles writes more than 90 percent of homes in Spain, Italy, and Greece have a bidet. In Japan, about 60 percent of households have high-tech washlet toilets with features like spraying and air drying, according to

So why doesn’t North American society make the switch? My guess is pooping isn’t something people usually chat about over brunch. And you know what happens to a problem you don’t talk about? It doesn’t change.

Once you do bring it up–whether it’s while you’re 4 beers deep, waiting in line at the mall washroom, or over lamb saag–your friends may also find it strange that they didn’t grow up using some form of a bidet.

Not into reading Shakespear or 20th-century classics? Why not up your cultured level by using water instead of dry paper on your tush? Live with someone that always forgets to refill the toilet paper roll, leaving you helplessly stranded? A bidet could calm your quarrals.

Perhaps it’s time to trade in our toilet tissue-cuddling kittens and dancing cartoon bears for some adorable hygienic elephants.

Could you do it? Do you already use a bidet?

Times are changing, friends. And, while we can’t control everything, at least we can find solace knowing our shit’s in our hands.

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash