Ruth Barcan


This paper examines the spatiality of men’s public toilets in Australia. It considers public toilets as cultural sites whose work involves not only the literal elimination of waste but also a form of cultural purification. Men’s public toilets are read as sites where heteronormative masculinity is defined, tested and policed. The essay draws on Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s concept of homosociality and on Mary Douglas’s conception of dirt as a destabilizing category. It treats the “dirtiness” of public toilets as a submerged metaphor within struggles over masculinity. The essay considers a range of data sources, including interviews, pop culture, the Internet and a novella.

Author Biography

Ruth Barcan lectures in the Department of Gender Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia. She is the author of numerous articles in the field of feminist cultural studies, especially on cultural readings of the body, and the author of Nudity: A Cultural Anatomy (Berg, 2004).