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There are many sci-fi stories that feature this: a shower or locker room occupied by both men and women, in various states of indecency. I'm sure it all began when someone wanted more nudity in their movie or something like that, but I've been thinking. These days, people are becoming more and more accepting of new ideas of gender and sexuality, many of which reject the male-female binary. It's plausible that some day, the idea of men/women bathrooms would seem just as crazy as the white/colored bathrooms we used to have. Even now, when I see two single-occupancy bathrooms, I realize that it would be almost twice as useful if they were general-use.

So, as far as I'm concerned, sharing bathrooms/locker rooms/showers is something that should happen; what I'm wondering is when it will happen. Are there any indications that this change is right around the corner, or suggestions that we will never move past our current state of modesty? Any places that might spearhead the effort, or vehemently oppose it?

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closed as off-topic by pluckedkiwi, David Mulder, James, ArtOfCode, bowlturner Jun 2 '15 at 20:04

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about worldbuilding, within the scope defined in the help center." – pluckedkiwi, David Mulder, James, ArtOfCode, bowlturner
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Probably when men stop excitedly asking. You've just set us back a bit. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Jun 2 '15 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ "These days, people are becoming more and more accepting of new ideas of gender and sexuality, many of which reject the male-female binary." And pretty much all of those people are exclusive to niche websites. The vast majority of the current human population will give you weird looks and/or roll their eyes if you try telling them stuff about a "gender spectrum". If co-ed bathrooms were to become a normal sight, I'd imagine it'd be for a practical reason, not a cultural one. Heck, disabled toilets are already co-ed. $\endgroup$ – Pyritie Jun 2 '15 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ There is more to it than just San Francisco. Dozens of countries (Australia, Germany and India to name a couple) have official recognition of non-binary genders, and all support for it is within the last 15 years which indicates it's the beginning of a movement. Given Germany's influence in the EU, and France's influence as well as their open views on sexuality, it is very likely you'll see non-binary status recognized in most European countries in the next 20 years. $\endgroup$ – corsiKa Jun 2 '15 at 17:20
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    $\begingroup$ @corsiKa is correct. This is a very common (and widely accepted) thing outside of the southern United States. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Jun 2 '15 at 18:04
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    $\begingroup$ I'm wondering if it's not headed the other way. It seems more and more that showers in locker rooms, etc. are becoming more and more: "doesn't matter gender - but I want my own room/stall". $\endgroup$ – Mikey Jun 2 '15 at 19:11
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Although some clubs and venues which target alternative lifestyles have already adopted shared bathrooms, it is unlikely that this heralds a universal change throughout our culture.

The issue is not solely one of modesty. Functionality also plays its part. Single gender areas serve many purposes beyond their biological and hygenic functions. They provide a sanctuary from undesired pursuit and a place of privacy for planning out a next move. These roles are left unfilled when bathrooms are shared.

As for spearheads, I think that sharing will start in military vessels where gender specific facilities are a waste of space which could otherwise be used for weapons and supplies.

And vehemently opposed, will be churches ...and hopefully, obesity clinics.

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  • $\begingroup$ This should be a comment. True, it addresses some of the question, but as it stands this is a mere speculative observation which doesn't cover most of what is asked. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Jun 2 '15 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtOfCode I'm sorry but I have to disagree. "Your assumption is wrong" is a perfectly good answer, especially if it bothers to explain in detail why it is. $\endgroup$ – o0'. Jun 2 '15 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Lohoris it wasn't this long before. Previously, it was a one liner. I don't know if you can see the previous edit though... $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 2 '15 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Aify good catch! $\endgroup$ – o0'. Jun 2 '15 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry if my edits caused a bit of confusion. When @ArtOfCode made his initial comment, suggesting that my answer was too short, I fleshed it out in reponse. I only had time for the one-liner initially, and should have put that in a comment as AOC suggested. Once done however, I figured it was better to fix what was wrong then to leave it the way it was. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jun 2 '15 at 17:21
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It seem to me more of a case of culture and attitudes towards sex more than anything else. There's a few ways you could have it happen.

1) Space born adaption. They've spent there whole life in space and room is at a premium.

2) Massive social upheaval. Some extreme event (like nuclear war) has caused massive change to cultural norms. Like the setting being a police state that watches its people 24/7.

3) Something happened to make normal sex taboo and/or disgusting. The best candidate would be everyone being test tube babies who's genes are tampered with as a matter of normality.

In all the above you really need at least a generation or two I think for it to become 'normal think'.

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Why would people generally object to co-ed showers?

Most societies value faithfulness in monogamous relationships. Faithfulness helps to raise children, which helps to perpetuate the society. As a result, the society discourages the display of primary and secondary sexual characteristics in public. (Consider that it may be appropriate for males to bare their chest in situations where that would be inappropriate for females, e.g. on the beach.)

The display of sexual characteristics is less inappropriate in groups of the same gender. I guess this shows an assumption that they're not "tempting" each other.

So to create the culture you're describing, you have to explain why those constraints are gone. Are heterosexual families no longer the main way to raise children?

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    $\begingroup$ You changed from saying "monogamous relationships" being the best thing for children to "heterosexual families" being the best thing. Your implied deficiency of same sex parents with all else being the same is unsupported and generally offensive. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Jun 2 '15 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Samuel, let's not be so quick to judge. o.m didn't say heterosexual was best. What I think om is implying is that if heterosexual parenting is no longer the standard in society and same sex marriage is welcomed with open arms, then the idea that we need separate male/female bathrooms would be moot if two men in the bathrooms could be turned on by each other. Thus, what I think om is suggesting is that in such a society just mix up men and women together since it's possible people in the showers will still find someone to be attracted to. Hope my interpretation is correct... $\endgroup$ – jmort253 Jun 2 '15 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ @jmort253 The current system divides on sex lines, not gender lines, which has nothing to do with parenting. Perhaps I'm not seeing the point trying to be made, but as it stands I've downvoted this answer, which can be reversed if the point is made clear. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Jun 2 '15 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Samuel, individuals who look after their own offspring are more likely to pass their genes to the next generation, especially for species with a K-selection strategy. Same sex parents have decided to go against their biological programming -- humans do that all the time, we're a sapient species and not a finite-state automaton. But more parents will decide to go with their programming. For that reason I believe that heterosexual families will remain the most common type, the default type. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Jun 3 '15 at 5:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Samuel That's excellent advice. All I see from you appears to be indignation and strongly worded statements, neither of which actually give any credence to your position. But since you would like to keep this discussion private (obviously dissenting voices is too difficult for you to manage). I'll leave you to have you soapbox. $\endgroup$ – NPSF3000 Jun 22 '15 at 21:13
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Except in the case of massive social upheaval, I think co-ed showers will never be the standard. As @Samuel said jokingly in a comment:

Probably when men stop excitedly asking.

This is quite a humorous comment, but there's a much more serious way to put it - separate bathrooms and showers will always be around as long as rape is still a thing. One rape is all it can take to bring a costly lawsuit down on the heads of whatever organization owns the building.

The only place for co-ed showers is one in which everyone using them feels safe. It's hard to imagine a society in which every single woman feels comfortable having men be able to see them naked without the woman being able to do much about it. Men can also be victims in situations like this - there are male victims of rape.

Co-ed showers can be put in place in limited locations, such as the "clubs and venues which target alternative lifestyles" that @HenryTaylor mentioned. The people that go there expect it, and choose to use them because they still feel safe there.

I wouldn't be surprised if society moves in the opposite direction that you're thinking - rather than having a single co-ed shower, we'll have more single-occupancy showers. It doesn't make as much sense from an efficiency standpoint, but what is there about legal issues that would make you think efficiency is anywhere on their minds? Also think about this question - how can the mother of a 6 year-old girl tell the difference between an honest transgendered person and a committed pedophile man? The best way for a facility to protect itself from lawsuits from both the mother protecting her child and a transgendered person wanting to use the bathroom they think is the right one for them would be to have single-occupancy and family bathrooms.

Even space constraints alone won't bring about co-ed showers - if you have enough room for two showers, there's no reason you can't have a divider between them that turns it into two bathrooms. So you've either got a single-occupancy bathroom, or enough room for more than one.

A dystopian government, like the one @MrDracoSpirit mentioned, might impose co-ed showers on certain groups of undesirables, but I would not count that as becoming a standard. That government would need to keep enough people happy to prevent a complete revolt, and those people would not be forced into co-ed showers. So rather than becoming a standard, co-ed showers would be seen as a sort of punishment.

@MrDracoSpirit's third point is something that would definitely make co-ed showers likely. If culture lost interest in sex, then rape would most likely stop being a thing. And that, as I said earlier, is something that would make co-ed showers reasonable.

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    $\begingroup$ Costly lawsuits are mainly a thing of western culture. In India, for instance, no one worries about lawsuits because they just aren't rampant like they are, for instance, in the USA... I also think that rape is more common in societies where there exists sexual shame, such as India and the USA. In countries where sex isn't shameful or taboo, I think we find that rape or assault on women is less... $\endgroup$ – jmort253 Jun 2 '15 at 19:23
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    $\begingroup$ Oh man, I was only considering the juvenile giggling that would occur, not this predatory interpretation. I would think that both would be far less common when the whole imposed "mystery" of the opposite sex is not given so much importance. There appears to be a correlation between sexual oppression and rape, for instance. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Jun 2 '15 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ When I was a kid I remember hearing that bathrooms in Europe were already unisex. Not sure if that's true or not, but I often wonder, if it were true, if the giggling would just be passed off as giggling about any other physical or social characteristics, like making fun of someone's haircut. In some societies that haven't been westernized, women sometimes run around with their breasts exposed, implying that they aren't ashamed and if someone were to say something about them in their society, I wonder how she would interpret it. Maybe she'd just laugh it off? Thought provoking... $\endgroup$ – jmort253 Jun 2 '15 at 19:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Samuel I wish it could be just juvenile giggling. It's not a fun subject, but it's a real one that should be addressed. $\endgroup$ – Rob Watts Jun 2 '15 at 20:04
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This is a totally anecdotal, but interesting none the less. When the Youtube Space LA was build it had to be a forward thinking space, etc. etc. So instead of having the toilets separated by gender they indeed had non-segregated restrooms. Well, it was kept that way for awhile and what happened? Males made a huge mess half the time, females hated going to the restrooms due to this and they ended up segregating the different stalls as a 'fix' in the end. So at the very least I guess it's valid to conclude that: No, at the very least it's not around the corner for restrooms.

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    $\begingroup$ This is the negative segregation I'm talking about. Why must men be forced to use the less clean restrooms? Why can't I, as a relatively clean and courteous individual, have access to the cleaner female facilities? We're not fixing the problem, we're just prolonging the stereotype that men are slobs. But yeah, that's a good point. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Jun 2 '15 at 18:26
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    $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh Well, the reality of the matter is that sexes are one of the most useful and objective differentiators between humans. I mean, there is a lot of backslash against it nowadays, but still a persons sex tells you more about his abilities, strengths, weaknesses and habits than any other easily observable attribute. $\endgroup$ – David Mulder Jun 2 '15 at 18:30
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    $\begingroup$ I agree men and women are different on average, it just sucks that we have to draw the line so arbitrarily (or at all), when really humans exist on more of a spectrum. And I think it's more of a self-fulfilling prophecy: men develop manly habits because they spend so much time with other men. I don't think many men would be so messy if they'd never used a men's restroom before. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Jun 2 '15 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh 1) But we can't make restrooms a spectrum. 2) Modern research is showing more and more that nurture is not the basis of a lot of gender traits. 3) The mess males make are caused to a large extent due to their biological features which I do not need to name explicitly here. $\endgroup$ – David Mulder Jun 2 '15 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ Have either of you had female roommates? They can be incredibly messy. Anecdotally, I've only see that the opposite of this stereotype is true. But then most males I know are engineers (not programmers, those guys are messy), so there is a bias in my view. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Jun 2 '15 at 19:12

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