The Last Thing I Loved: The Shewee

Brenda Ray gushes over the positive impact of peeing standing up.

I pee a lot. Like all women, my bladder is located just below the uterus, in front of the vagina, on the pelvic floor. Living in New York City, I find myself in that constant precarious position of having to pee but with nowhere to go. “Bathrooms are for customers only!” the shopkeepers urge me. Most days, I stick near Union Square because, if anything, I can use the university’s restrooms. And I know it sounds like I pee an abnormal amount — like maybe I drink more water than I’m supposed to, or maybe I should’ve peed before I left the apartment — but I still can’t help but wonder: Do I really pee much more often than men? Why is there always a line outside the ladies’ restroom? Are there any other options for women to pee in public?

When my boyfriend said he had a surprise for me, I didn’t really know what to expect. “Is it a plane ticket?” I asked.

When he told me no, I was a little bummed but opened the thick, plastic packaging to reveal a slender, pink item that resembled a funnel. “A Shewee!” I shouted. “You got me a Shewee!”

I stepped into the bathroom to try it right away. Reaching for the thin, leaflet instructions, I read: Practice in the shower first. This will give you the hang of the device and allow you to learn your own positioning before you start using it out in the world.

The phrase, “out in the world,” stuck with me. Maybe I didn’t have to linger around Union Square when I shopped in Manhattan. Maybe now I can venture off to a shop in Soho.

In the bathroom, I stripped off all my clothes, stepped into the shower, and turned on the faucet.The Shewee is shaped like a thin, open tunnel with one side used to hold gently beneath your urethra, while the other end funnels outward and into the toilet — not unlike a penis.

I stood there, carefully, timidly, holding the pointy end of the device against my body. Should I shift it higher or lower? I referred to the instructions for guidance: Try holding the device beneath your urethra but above your anus, pressing the end gently but firmly against your skin, then begin to urinate. Once everything was in place, I took a deep breath, certain that the device would fail and that the pee would leak from the funnel and go splashing down my legs and all over my feet. Soon I relaxed, and without another thought, my bladder let loose.

The stream was a miracle. I watched as my urine emerged peacefully from the device, a perfect arc, dropping directly into the drain before me. Not one drop trickled down my leg. Not one drop splashed up onto my hands — a clean and perfect execution. Shocked, I pulled the plastic from my body and gave it a few shakes. Placing the device back in its self-sealed container, I pulled on my clothes and burst from the bathroom.

“I did it!” I shouted. “I peed standing up, and none of it even got on me!”

My boyfriend laughed. “That’s great, babe,” he said. “I’m really happy for you.”

For the next 72 hours, I brought my Shewee with me everywhere I went. I brought it to my office job. I brought it out with me to the clubs on Capitol Hill. I even brought it on our camping trip. Each time, the Shewee offered a new advantage. If I didn’t feel like hovering over a nasty toilet, then I’d just use my Shewee. Were bathrooms for customers only? I’d just step into an alley and use my Shewee. Were there ticks and spiders in the bushes? I’d use my Shewee.

Is this how men have been living their whole lives? Had they just been able to pee like this, whenever, wherever, without once thinking about where they were, or if it were private enough to pull their pants to their ankles? Had they never thought about what they’d hold onto as they were squatting, or whether their shoulders, elbows, or knee joints could handle such a squat? Had they never considered if the pee would get all over their clothing or shoes? Now with my Shewee, I could potentially pee anywhere, any time. Sure, I would need to be discreet, but the Shewee was discreet. I could meander off, stand against a wall, and be done with it.

A few days later, I texted all of my sisters. “You guys,” I said. “This product is amazing.”

Brenda Ray with her Shewee, day one.

That afternoon, I took a video (censored) and showed the image of me standing up, fully clothed, peeing into a toilet.

“That’s amazing!” They texted back. “How do you do it?”

“Doesn’t it make a mess?”

So few women seem to know about the Shewee. So many of the friends I’ve talked to actually didn’t know it existed, or they saw it as a joke — something to laugh about but nothing they would ever seriously use in their daily lives.

I had first seen the Shewee on tour in England when I was playing at The Glastonbury Festival (The Blue Room — shameless plug), and all the women seemed to have this small, plastic device they carried with them to the restrooms.

“Is that a stack of tampons?” I asked one of them.

She laughed. “No, babe; it’s a Shewee,” she said.

“A shewee?” I asked.

She said, “Yes, it’s really helpful at places like music festivals because the restrooms are so nasty. This way, I can stay safe and clean.”

I stared at her, shocked. All this time I’d been squatting over the grimy toilet, trying to keep my legs from touching the pee-sticky surface. Why hadn’t anyone told me about this? I knew of other feminine products. I knew of tampons and Monistat and pink razors, but the Shewee was something I’d never seen before. There were no advertisements on television. The product wasn’t even really sold in stores.

I went home and did a Google search, learning it was first developed by U.K. entrepreneur and inventor, Samantha Fountain, and later introduced to the British market in 2003. On the official Shewee website, the page states:

The Shewee was made as a way to improve trips to toilets for women. The germs, doors that don’t lock, lack of (toilet) paper; all things women hate about (the usually disgusting) women’s public toilets can be solved with the use of a Shewee.

It had never occurred to me that I didn’t have to live like this — that there were actually other options.

It’s been a couple months, and the Shewee has caused me to realize a few things. For one, I never understood how often people tell me “bathrooms are for customers only” or how few public restrooms are actually available. While this is problematic for humans, it’s especially problematic for women. What are our options when we really have to go? I suppose one could buy something, but then we have to spend our money. We have to spend our money when a male-bodied person could simply go outside and find a tree. And what happens if we don’t have any money? Do we step outside, squat between two cars, or duck behind a bush? I never realized how embarrassing and vulnerable it can be for a person to have to expose herself, all the way to the ankles, just to relieve herself behind a bush, while our male counterparts can do the same standing fully clothed.

Of course in my ideal world, there’d be a lot of other options for women. We wouldn’t even need the Shewee at all. Little girls would be taught to pee standing. Or maybe bathrooms would be designed by women so there were hundreds of them up and down the street — complete with bidets and self-cleaning services. Or maybe women’s bodies wouldn’t be so taboo, so that when you noticed a woman squatting between two cars, it wouldn’t really be that big of a deal — in the same way you see a man peeing near a tree, it’s not that big of a deal. All these options would be wonderful. But right now, in this current reality, in this current culture, I think the Shewee is a great option.

These days I bring my Shewee with me most places. Its container bounces effortlessly in my backpack or purse.

When my boyfriend asked, “How do you keep pee from getting all over your stuff?” I explained that the plastic is water resistant, so it dries almost immediately, and the container is designed to seal perfectly. Not once have I opened my purse and seen my Shewee busted loose from its confines.

Whenever my boyfriend has to pee, I offer my device because I am just so happy it exists. I really want all women to have one. It makes your life so much easier in ways you don’t even realize. Buy one today — right now. Never squat to pee ever again. Your dress is too beautiful, your joints are too tired, and your dignity is too great ever to pee squatting.

BRENDA RAY is an internationally touring artist from Boise, Idaho, and an MFA student at the New School in New York City. Her work has appeared in Brooklyn Magazine, Yahoo Beauty, SoFar Sounds New York, and Four Chambers Press.