Woman in period dress sitting in a bathroom

Bidet History: From Taboo to Trendsetter

In the whirlwind of modern history, there's a good chance you've come across the word "bidet" at some point. Whether you've tried one or simply heard your friends singing praises about this water-powered toilet innovation, it's undeniable that bidets are making waves in American bathrooms post-pandemic.

Sales figures tell an interesting story, revealing a surge in U.S. interest in bidets and bidet attachments for toilets since March 2020. The catalyst? The great toilet paper shortage scare at the beginning of the pandemic.

Clearly, Americans are on the hunt for alternatives to traditional toilet paper for their bathroom hygiene needs. Bidets, in their various modern forms, have risen to the occasion, despite their somewhat unconventional origins dating back to 18th-century France.

Historically, the bidet was primarily associated with feminine hygiene, often used for genital cleansing before and after intercourse, although it wasn't very effective as a contraceptive. This association, experts suggest, hindered its acceptance in the United States. The bidet was often regarded as the "companion of licentiousness" and "the confidant of ladies."

The Glory and Stigma of Bidets

Determining the exact origin of this technology is challenging, as various cultures have used water basins for cleansing purposes throughout history. However, the modern bidet as we know it seems to have emerged in the early 1700s, with its name derived from the French term for a small horse, presumably because users straddle it.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, bidets were used by both men and women, including notable figures like Napoleon, who even included a silver bidet in his will. These devices served a purpose beyond mere hygiene – they helped cool overheated private parts after long horseback rides and were used by men to maintain genital hygiene.

As plumbing technology advanced, bidets transitioned from bedroom furniture pieces to bathroom fixtures, particularly in France and other countries. They even found their way into brothels, where American soldiers and travelers were first exposed to them, associating them with France's glory but also a certain stigma.

Around the early 1900s in the U.S., there was a movement against bidets. This stemmed partly from design limitations in American bathrooms and a reluctance to acknowledge female sexuality. Some high-end hotels even removed bidets due to backlash after installing them.

Bidet as Contraception

In Vienna's Museum of Contraception and Abortion, bidets are showcased alongside other outdated methods for vaginal douching, a practice discouraged by modern medical experts. These methods shared a common goal: to wash out sperm after intercourse. While douching has been proven ineffective as contraception and linked to various health risks, it sheds light on the challenges people faced before oral contraception became available in the 1960s.

Cleaning the Backside

Over the past century, bidet usage has shifted toward anal hygiene, which is its primary function today. Benefits range from comfort for individuals with hemorrhoids and fissures to assisting with bowel movements and aiding those with limited mobility.

In conclusion, bidets have come a long way from their intriguing and somewhat controversial history to become a trendsetter in modern America. As the bidet's popularity continues to rise, it seems that more and more Americans are embracing this water-powered solution for a cleaner and more comfortable bathroom experience.

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