All About Urine

“Germs are boring.” -nobody

Nobody is bored by germs, because everybody fears them. So we all love to talk about them, because what’s more fun to talk about than stuff we’re afraid of?

The problem is, when it comes to germs, you can’t believe a word you hear.

So the first thing I want to talk about is why I think this whole “wash your hands after using the restroom” hysteria is overblown. Here’s an example from Cecil Adams, who is usually quite reliable. Oh, I’m not saying don’t wash your hands. Heavens, please do. But men, if you ever fail to wash after urinating at one of those hands-free auto-flush urinals, I am saying that there are worse things in the world. I definitely don’t think you deserve to be called “stupid,” and you can give Cecil a dirty look for me if he tries that on you. Here’s the thing: if you’re crawling in coliform bacteria “from belly button to mid-thigh,” then I think it is very unlikely that you’ll manage to wash your hands every time they make contact with that area. Your hands are probably already contaminated before you even enter the restroom.

Furthermore: If they really do hide out in the pores so that washing the groinal region of your body won’t cleanse you of them (that’s one of Cecil’s claims), then why should we assume that washing will get them off of our hands? How would washing do any good at all?

And more: if merely grasping your personal equipment long enough to urinate infects your hands with bacterial horrors, then wouldn’t giving oral sex be the equivalent of licking a toilet? Why doesn’t Cecil Adams call oral sex stupid? Are you willing to give up oral sex in order to not be called stupid by Cecil Adams? I’m not. (You’re welcome, Mrs. Hoondat.)

Penn & Teller, on their show, once swabbed a guy’s skin for germs, “an inch from the crack,” and found it remarkably clean. On the other hand, they also made the claim that urine is sterile. You’re familiar with that one, right? You don’t have to swing too many dead cats before you hit a doctor who’s squawking about how there are no germs in urine. And that, with all due respect to Penn & Teller, is bullshit. I had the following conversation with a doctor friend of mine:

Me: I keep hearing that urine is sterile, but that doesn’t make sense. Urine exits the body through the same path as semen, right?

Doc: Right.

Me: So that’s the transmission path for venereal diseases, and other germs can live in there too, right? So, what if you’ve recently been sexually aroused? Don’t you then have contagion lurking in there? And won’t it travel out in your supposedly sterile urine?

Doc: That’s right. Urine is really only sterile while it’s in the bladder.

So hear this, Penn & Teller: I’m going to continue being paranoid about getting other people’s pee on me, thank you very much. And I’ll keep on not believing a thing I hear about what is and isn’t safe, germ-wise.

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