Liberation: It comes in many forms. Sometimes it comes in a carrying case. Cleo, a 25-year-old living in the San Francisco Bay Area, identifies as “a fan” of peeing outside. She mostly does it when she’s spending time with friends in nature, hiking or camping, but she tries to avoid shared bathrooms everywhere out of fear of COVID particles. Like several women who spoke to Glamour for this article, she took her outdoor peeing to the next level: “I did some research and ended up purchasing a Pibella, which is a female urination device, or FUD,” she says. “I practiced a few times at home and then loved it so much I bought a Pibella for three of my friends and my mom.” She uses hers to pee out in the open, as well as in bottles in some circumstances. The FUD is a product category characterized by unfortunate names and compact designs: you have your Shewees, your pStyles, your Freshettes, your Tinklebelles.
Before the pandemic, I have never been anything more than a when-absolutely-necessary outdoor pee-er, less because of propriety than because I lack the core strength. Unless you want the experience of both sitting on a bidet that streams pee and also being the bidet, squatting to pee is tricky.
My pandemic peeing protocol involves no squatting. If I am going to an outdoor area or on a long car trip, I wear a skirt or a dress. When the time comes, I take off my underwear, stuff it in my pocket, and pee standing up, essentially fully dressed, like I’m playing a one woman game of tunnel tag. Down with squatting, butt exposed, trying to aim your stream away from your jean shorts. Up with peeing fully upright in a minidress.
The women I spoke with confirmed outdoor peeing is an art, not a science. Sara recommends three techniques: “One, squat and pull underwear to one side, best in a skirt. Two, squat against a tree. Three, standing up (experts only).” Emily’s recommendation is to “wait until you’re desperate; then you pee quicker.” She carries baby wipes with her at all times.
But there’s a dangling-toilet-paper drawback to the glorious golden stream that is outdoor peeing—it is illegal, with a range of serious consequences, depending on the laws where you are. It’s not okay to expose other people to your genitals, even if you’re not doing it on purpose, but public urination is illegal in the same way smoking pot or going five miles above the speed limit is—if you are white and well-off, you are probably more likely to get away with it. Pee privilege, I imagine, is very, very real.
For those of us who are just pandemic-era tourists in the world of outdoor peeing, this time should be a wake-up call to the lack of public bathrooms, and the way our public spaces and law enforcement systems are set up to ignore human needs and marginalize people at every turn. Normalizing peeing outside for women doesn’t mean peeing indiscriminately: Don’t do it on private property, don’t do it on someone’s beautiful and labor-intensive garden, don’t do it in or near a stream or a river, don’t do it in plain sight. It’s ideal to pee somewhere like the woods or a friend’s backyard, rather than next to historic houses of worship, such as the stone foundation of the Ulm Minster church in Germany, which is being eroded by urine.
As the rules of polite living rewrite themselves for an unprecedented age, so do the rules of polite peeing. Cleo, the woman who bought five female urination devices, puts it best—“Spoiler alert: MEN HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR A LONG TIME.”
*Some names have been changed for privacy.
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.