Why Are Bidets Not Popular in the US? (Blame the French!)

Certified Senior Advisor®
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Bidets Not Popular in the US

Why are bidets still uncommon in American households despite their ease of use in the bathroom. This is because of their rather seedy start in French brothels. But, their public image has changed in recent years.

Bidets Not Popular in the US
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The bidet came from France. Bidet is actually a French word meaning pony, thanks to the straddling posture adopted in its use.

You may have noticed that we barely have any bidets in the US. Why is that?

Read on to find out.

But first, what’s a bidet? It is basically a wash basin for your “private parts.” It was invented to help people clean their bottom better after using the bathroom.

So why hasn’t America bought the concept just yet?

Check out these reasons and then take a look at my guide to the best bidets for seniors and the elderly here if you’d like to learn more about using a bidet

Reasons Why Bidets Are Unpopular

1. Americans First Encountered Them in Brothels

During World War II, American soldiers went overseas to fight together with their British counterparts. Before then, most of them had never seen a bidet before.

Unfortunately, the soldiers found them in European brothels and associated them with illicit activity. Upon their arrival back home, no soldier would dare speak of the bidet as that would be admitting that they visited brothels themselves.

2. Bidets Represented France’s Hedonistic Culture

America was once a colony of England and thus inherited many of England’s traditions, customs, and lifestyle standards.

Since the bidet originated from France, the English already had a biased attitude towards the French as they viewed them as hedonistic in nature.

This attitude carried over to the Americans, and thus the adoption of the “french pony” became scarce.

bidets not popular in the US menstruation stigma
Topics such as menstruation were considered taboo in the early 18th century.

3. Menstruation Stigma

In the early 18th century, topics such as menstruation were considered taboo and were spoken in hushed tones.

Given that bidets were initially associated with women, they were required to deal with their menstrual cycles in private. French women saw bidets as a helpful tool in managing this natural occurrence.

Unfortunately, the association of the bidet with such a taboo topic meant that Americans would not take comfort in having it next to their toilets at home.

4. Bathroom Space in the US Is Limiting

American homes are not designed for bidets. By the time bidets became popular in the 1960s, most modern American homes were already fitted with plumbing. The challenge of remodeling your house to fit a bidet meant that you would incur a hefty cost.

Remember, bidets started as wash basins and thus did not come with inlets or outlets. In addition, most bathrooms are small as it is and adding a bidet next to where you do a number two would require more space.

5. Bathroom Talk is Unpopular

The mere fact that Americans have gone to the trouble of referring to toilets as “washroom,” “bathroom,” “restroom,” and “latrine” is a clear indication of how sensitive the topic is.

The fact is that describing to your friend how you installed a handy tool for washing your nether bits is just too graphic.

Try explaining how a bidet works, and it becomes even harder.

6. Habit

You would be right to ask whether bides are more sanitary than toilet paper. Here’s the reality, Americans have grown up using toilet paper. Mass production of toilet paper began in the late 19th century.

Compared to the bidet, which was invented in the early 1600s, present-day Americans may not know what a bidet is and looks like. Therefore, the adoption of a bidet would seem unlikely given that you would stick to that which you are accustomed to – a toilet.

bidets not popular in the US better inventions
Even if there have been improved versions of the bidet, it still didn’t take off in the US.

7. Better Inventions Are Still Unappealing to the Masses

Despite improved versions being invented, the bidet still didn’t take off in the US.

One such invention was by John Harvey Kellogg, the creator of corn flakes. Kellogg’s invention included a small sprayer that would replace your hand when it came to washing.

Unfortunately, Mr. Kellogg patented his invention as the “anal douche” – a likely reason why the bidet did not become as popular as his cereal.

8. The Bidet Faced a Marketing Challenge

New products released into the market usually go through a heavy marketing process.

In the 1960s, Arnold Cohen founded the American Bidet Company and tried his hand at popularizing the bidet. Remember that Americans already shy off from discussing “bathroom stuff.”

Despite Cohen’s best efforts to install bidets across New York, he claimed that nobody wanted to hear about “Tushy Washing 101”.

Final Verdict: Bidets for Seniors

If you are wondering whether to replace your toilet and install a bidet in its place, that decision would be entirely up to you. But, there are many reasons it can be good for the elderly to use a bidet.

That said, it is clear that most of the prejudice surrounding the history and usage of the bidet stems from traditions and culture.

After all, despite the usage of bidets being shown to save at least 15 million trees annually, they are still uncommon in modern American homes. You may, however, choose to use them, but remember to evaluate how safe and hygienic they are for seniors!

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Scott Grant, CSA®, ATP

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Certified Rehab Technology Supplier (CRTS®)

I have been serving seniors and the elderly for over 20 years as a medical equipment and custom wheelchair specialist for a regional medical equipment company. I am also a lucky dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not helping older adult improve the quality of their lives, I enjoy early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. I am also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's. Learn More

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