feeding my own misguided insanity

Why Men Spit Before Urinating in Urinal or Toilet

August 25, 2011 Dr. Shem 22 Comments

Over the years I’ve often wondered what it is about men and spitting when in the toilet, or more importantly, why they feel compelled to spit before urinating. This whole spitting activity was completely foreign to me, until one day, I noticed that the guy standing next to me spat into the urinal before relieving himself.

Just to be clear, ordinarily, I’m not a spitter. There are of course exceptions, such as: whilst cycling, running or phlegmy cough; the build-up of mucus in these circumstances is quite natural.

The First Spitting Incident

The first time it happened, I thought the gentleman next to me was merely clearing his throat, something nasty that needed to be expelled – and rightly so. I really didn’t attribute any conscious thought to it at that point, although something of the event must have remained in my subconscious because I started noticing urinal spitters more frequently.

At first I put it down to cultural aspects and perhaps also related to the types of places I was visiting. Eventually I realised that this wasn’t connected to cultural or socio-economic attributes at all, it cut across all levels of society.

When in Rome –, Spit

What really surprised me, and in fact spurred on this post, was my own and unconscious participation in the spitting game. Yes, that’s right, completely out of the blue, I found myself baffled by my own actions at the urinal – I actually spat before urinating. It wasn’t that I had phlegm or that I wanted to mark my territory, it was something very automatic and unexpected.

As any self-diagnosing hypochondriac would, I decided to dig around on the Internet; I found plenty of comments by equally puzzled people. On the whole, it didn’t really reveal anything out of the ordinary, actually, most female comments were disgusted at the mere thought of spitting let alone be witness to one in progress.

There were a couple of comments which suggested that men do this – much like animals – to mark their territory. I find this a little hard to believe because, the urine as well as the spit, end up in some sewer miles away from where the territorial claim supposedly took place; although we as human beings engage in some pretty bizarre activities.

Possible Reasons for Men Spitting

Here’s a list I compiled of the most common reasons why people think men spit before peeing:

  1. May have some stuff (phlegm) in their throats which need to be evacuated;
  2. Men are marking their territory;
  3. They didn’t want to spit in the street or floor of the building they were in;
  4. Peer pressure;
  5. (From a woman): I’m female, and I cannot swallow a mouthful of saliva in the restroom. So sometimes I quietly spit into a wad of toilet paper, or into the floor drain if one is in my stall. Or I hold the spit until I’m done and spit into the toilet as it flushes;
  6. It’s a convenient, sanitary place to do it, that’s all;
  7. I like the freshness of a freshly emptied mouth;
  8. There’s a proverb which goes like this: Spitting before peeing brings money luck. Spitting after peeing brings lovers’ luck. You must chose each time you pee. Doing both voids the luck;
  9. It’s a Fashion statement;
  10. To break up the silence of standing there trying to overcome ‘stage fright’ in a crowded bathroom;
  11. Learnt from their fathers;
  12. It might be a relaxation thing. Gets the fluids going and such. Spitting leads to pissing;
  13. Because they are pigs;
  14. It’s manly & threatening – a sign of aggression (You know the saying? I am so mad I could spit!);
  15. Just like a dog salivating before it gets fed, so do some men, automatically salivate before urinating.

After reading through hundreds of posts scattered throughout various websites, I found it most amusing how some women (and men) denied that spitting in this context exists, even going as far as branding anyone asking the question, as deplorable deviants – I guess there is no cure for small-mindedness.

I’ve also discovered that discussing male toilet habits with other males is frequently met with an unusually negative response, as if to suggest that somehow this topic is taboo and should never be touched – nobody told me.

Maybe I did cross the line that one time I asked the guy standing next to me why he just spat. Ok, I lied – I’ve asked quite a few urinal spitters over the years, what better way to collect credible material from the offending bunch?

The abovementioned list, is in no way comprehensive of urinal spitting habits, but one of the most credible theories, at least in my book, is:

  • If you can smell it then you are tasting it. Some people suggest that it’s the body’s natural response to removing foul odour residue that may have been deposited in the mouth. Spitting is a way of clearing it.

–by that token, we would expect fewer men to spit in well-maintained and hygienic urinals. All the more reason to keep scrubbing that toilet. A more Darwinian version would probably sound a little like this:

I spit before I pee because I like to think, “Here in front of me is the primordial soup, the building blocks of life, the nuts and bolts of species to come–here, in this porcelain vessel made by man, from my fluids and the fluids of others could spring a lifeform that in a million years will run down the diminished creature once known as homo sapiens and make it roadkill.” Then I flush because I never have lightning handy when I need it. – Mo Nickels (http://www.metafilter.com/user/264)

What now of my own Spitting Habits

I’m not really sure what will become of my spitting habit. I can’t say that it happens that frequently at all, but when it does, I’m not really aware of it until after the fact. Either way, I put it down to something as primal as going to the toilet, you go when nature decides.

A marine and a naval officer are standing next to each other at the urinal, and upon finishing, the naval officer notices that the marine promptly exits the restroom without washing his hands. Considering it his duty, the naval officer chases down the marine and states, “Marine, in the navy, our officers are taught to wash our hands after we take a piss!”. “Haha” replies the marine, “In the marines, they teach us not to piss on our hands!”.

Saliva (Spit) – A Scientific Look

Saliva (English pronunciation: /səˈlaɪvə/, referred to in various contexts as spit, spittle, drivel, drool, or slobber) is the watery and usually frothy substance produced in the mouths of humans and most other animals. Saliva is a component of oral fluid. In mammals, saliva is produced in and secreted from the three pairs of major salivary glands, and hundreds of minor salivary glands. Human saliva is composed of 98% water, while the other 2% consists of other compounds such as electrolytes, mucus, antibacterial compounds, and various enzymes.

The production of saliva is stimulated both by the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic. The saliva stimulated by sympathetic innervation is thicker, and saliva stimulated parasympathetically is more watery.

Sympathetic stimulation of saliva is to facilitate respiration, whereas parasympathetic stimulation is to facilitate digestion.

Could this then lay the foundation for yet another theory, one where the production of saliva is an automatic reaction because we’re holding our breath when entering a stinky lavatory, and thus increasing saliva production to aid respiration?

As good a theory as any other.


Metafilter.com. (n.d.). What’s with the spitting in the urinal? – men etiquette urinal | Ask MetaFilter. Retrieved May 1, 2012, from http://ask.metafilter.com/21896/Whats-with-the-spitting-in-the-urinal
Why do men spit before they urinate?????? (n.d.).Health24. Retrieved May 1, 2012, from http://www.health24.com/experts/archive/default.asp?postid=191603
Why do Men Spit? (n.d.).tribe.net. Retrieved May 1, 2012, from http://tribes.tribe.net/d71b7e08-f6e2-4cb9-9c9a-2af4bf5f7ce1/thread/0b0cfa27-3177-4f69-b4d3-dbca7c71a7b8
Why do so many men spit into a urinal before they start using it? Is this simply to get the juices flowing, so to speak? It just seems like an odd ritual that many follow. (n.d.).Answerbag. Retrieved from http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/562255
Wikipedia contributors. (2012, May 1). Saliva. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Saliva&oldid=487552277


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22 Comments on "Why Men Spit Before Urinating in Urinal or Toilet"

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Peter S
August 25, 2011 08:13

Interesting. I have no noticed this behaviour in men at urinals. Or more accurately, it does not seem to be particularly or regularly at urinals. I see men spitting more in the street. And about a quarter as often at each other, sometimes in anger, others times because they have something stuck in their teeth. So, is it really a thing men do?

August 25, 2011 11:04

If you’ve never come across the spitting, it may indicate that you and I are simply enjoying very different facilities :) Some people I’ve come across refuse to urinate in public altogether and prefer to hold it in until they get home – painfully so at times.

Dave M
August 25, 2011 12:40

I would have damp pants, no way would i hold on to it unless i had rubber gloves on and the smell of it too

Lucy R
August 25, 2011 13:51

Dear Dr Shem. Normally I would go for the ‘marking territory answer’ however, I would go with number 12. That u spit to get things started.

August 26, 2011 07:42

May be one day (in Nairobi) I will tell you the secret why women go to toilets in little groups. I am sure it will be worth blogging about it too!!! (((: