One KSU student knows who to call for a good time

Kristin Thompson

VIEW photos of bathroom graffiti at KSU.

The writing’s on the wall – of men’s and women’s restrooms, that is.

While it may be a place for you to make a quick stop, others see restroom stalls as a safe, anonymous outlet for opinionated public discourse. The words, statements and even arguments scribbled along stalls and walls represent a very specific brand of art crime – bathroom graffiti.

Senior sociology student Alyssa D’Amico conducted an independent study on the symbolic meaning of bathroom graffiti and found different theories.

“Past research has analyzed the meaning of graffiti through different angles,” D’Amico said. “Some have theorized that comments on the stalls represent emotions and ideas that are not socially accepted and therefore hidden. Others view the comments as the ideas and values of society.”

Last fall, D’Amico examined graffiti in the men and women’s restrooms of eight buildings at Kent State. Various buildings with high student traffic included the Student Center, the University Library, dining areas and several academic buildings. Collected was a total of 136 writings from women’s restrooms and 134 from the men’s rooms.

D’Amico said themes were based on love, sex, religion, politics, philosophy, peace, race, music, drugs and pain. She found that gender roles and norms portrayed in society fueled most graffiti writings.

Most notably, bathroom graffiti differs between men and women. Women tend to graffiti far more than men and “are more likely to express hostile, sexual or issue-related content,” said D’Amico. In men’s bathrooms, she found mostly racist comments.

“Since overt racism is not accepted, and many whites no longer display prejudice feelings in a traditional manner, a new form – rather than an end to racism – has been created,” said D’Amico. “A restroom stall can essentially be considered both public and private simultaneously, the author is safe to express opinions without responsibility.”

Freshman exploratory major Dean French said much of the writing he has observed in campus restrooms is angry in nature.

“I think that people who are really angry write a lot of it,” French said. “They write pointless anger statements ’cause where else would they write it? It’s a place where people don’t care.”

Besides race, homosexuality was another theme among bathroom graffiti. A battle of homosexual discrimination versus homosexual defense and pride was common, D’Amico said.

Mike Stanis, a freshman art education major, said anti-homosexuality is a common subject in men’s restrooms throughout campus.

“You can’t take things in the bathroom that seriously. It’s all a joke anyway,” said Stanis. “Either way, I’m for it. It’s somewhat interesting.”

D’Amico said while many may just glance at restroom graffiti, it provides a revealing glimpse into the psyche of students on campus.

“Even though the existence of graffiti in restrooms is typically not considered serious, hidden themes of society and ideologies are apparent,” said D’Amico.

And if nothing else, it can serve as valuable reading material.

“It’s a place to express your opinion,” said sophomore pre-med student Ashley Beaujon. “It’s something to do when you’re sitting on the toilet.”

Sophomore pre-med major Ashley Allrutz said restroom dialogue has progressed from what was written on walls in her high school.

“In high school it was always, ‘this girl’s a.'” Allrutz said. “Now in college, it’s actually about more important stuff that have to do with life.”

Contact student life reporter Kristen Thompson at [email protected].