The first time you use a bidet, you’re left with a few questions. Questions like: Where can I get one of these? And: Hold on, why don’t more Americans use bidets? Why has it taken us so long to see the light? Why are bidets not popular in America?
Let’s look at the history of bidet use in America to see why a device that’s standard around the world has taken so long to catch on here.
Any student of bidet history will tell you that the bidet was invented in France in the early 16th century. Once indoor plumbing came into play, bidetmania spread across the globe, with countries in Western Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia embracing this new method of getting clean.
But not everyone was on board. While bathrooms in other countries were getting decked out with standard basin bidets hooked up to their plumbing, people in Britain and America were worried about the morality of such a contraption. That’s because people used to be under the (very incorrect!) assumption that douching was a form of birth control, so uptight Brits and Americans associated the bidet with contraception. Its sinful reputation only worsened during World War II, when deployed soldiers encountered bidets in European brothels.
The rise of the washlet
In the 1960s, entrepreneur Arnold Cohen asked himself, “Why don’t more Americans use bidets?” According to his research, 99% of Americans had never seen or heard of a bidet. Cohen, also known as “Mr. Bidet,” invented a model that worked well for small American bathrooms: a bidet toilet seat that connected to the commode to save space. Cohen was particularly excited about the device’s ability to treat hemorrhoids and other irritation; he had been motivated to create it to make his ailing father’s life more convenient and comfortable.
Unfortunately for Mr. Bidet, Americans were still too squeamish to embrace his model. “Nobody wants to hear about Tushy Washing 101,” he complained. While bidet use in America didn’t take off, his model did catch on somewhere else: Japan. Toto, a Japanese company, began to sell what they called “washlets” in the 80s. They were a hit, but America stayed in the hygienic Dark Ages. Americans looking for a fresher way to get clean turned to wet wipes, despite their negative impact on the environment.
Bidet use in America today
Okay, so that was then. But what about now? Are bidets common in America now that our society is presumably more enlightened? Luckily for a new generation of butts, the answer is yes. Now that it’s not as taboo to talk about, Americans are realizing that the bidet is better for the environment and your wallet. Plus, the simple bidet attachment makes it easier than ever to have a bidet in your own home. Americans can finally enjoy the fresh, clean feel that other countries have loved for centuries.