Tales From a Bathroom Stall

Above is the link to my Tumblr that begins with the two images I will now discuss which I have found in ladies room stalls. I have seen images such as these many times in my life in many a bathroom stall, we all have. As a female-bodied individual who identifies as such, I have not witnessed such things written in men’s restrooms but have been told by peers that images of the like do exist.

These images share a common ground: both attempt to police female sexuality and adherence to acceptable female gender roles. How does this reflect society’s expectations when it comes to acceptable female sexuality? What follows is my short analysis of each photo, but I really want to hear your thoughts.

‘Standard ASU Female’ was found in a ladies room on ASU campus in Tempe, Arizona. The initial defacement to the “How to examine your breasts” instructions was the Girls Gone Wild reference. The first thing that has been accomplished with this “tag” is the turning of something about the health of female bodies (in this case an instruction for how one can examine one’s own breasts for any abnormalities that could be indicative of cancer) into something sexual. This furthers the gaze of the female body as a purely sexual object to be ogled. This is tied perfectly to what Girls Gone Wild represents: uninhibited (often by intoxicative substance) display of female sexuality for male viewing pleasure. This portrayal of female sexuality gets even more bleak with the addition of “Standard ASU Female” and an arrow pointing to the defaced image. This tells the viewer that the typical ASU female employs precisely this mode of female sexuality. This is as deep as female sexuality gets for the standard ASU female.

‘Jail Bait’ was found at a ladies rest stop along the I-40 between Gallup and Albuquerque in New Mexico. I am assuming Sabina did not post this herself. Whoever wrote this is indicating that Sabina is underage and promiscuous. When females call other females “whores” and “sluts”, they are attempting to police sexual behavior that does not conform to the hegemonic narrative of how (good) girls are supposed to behave sexually. Whoever wrote this is personally harassing Sabina for not conforming to her gender’s norm of sexuality while also purposefully opening her up to be verbally and/or physically sexually harassed and solicited based on the writer’s portrayal of her sexuality.

Your response:

What do you think when you see these images or images like these on male or female bathroom stalls? What messages are the writers trying to get across?What does this tell you about female sexuality? What does this tell you about policing sexuality and gender? Any other thoughts?

If you have any similar images to share, please feel free to send them to me or post them so that I can see/discuss them, along with your thoughts about them.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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