I've been to many Rat&EA group houses, offices, and other venues both official and unofficial around the Bay Area, and I can't recall ever seeing a bidet. And because I think bidets are superior technology, this is pretty confusing to me. Why might this be?

Possible explanations for why this might be

Because bidets are expensive? (No)

Well, bidet attachments can be retrofitted onto nearly any toilet for ~$35 (e.g. see amazon). They aren't difficult to install either, taking only a wrench and less than 20 minutes of time. (I've done it myself once or twice.) And because they can be installed as just an attachment onto an existing toilet, they don't take up any extra space either.

I'd bet that installing a bidet saves time and money on net.

Because bidets aren't actually great? (Doubt it)

For one, bidets are great. But even if you doubt this point personally, consider that bidets only need to be useful to a fraction of people who use a particular bathroom in order for it to be worthwhile. Besides, bidets can be installed in addition to wherever there's toilet paper, so I don't see how a bidet installation can ever be worse than no bidet installation.

I suppose this is a somewhat-likely explanation, but it's still not great.

I also spent ten minutes googling for examples of how bidets might actually be ineffective or have unwanted side-effects, but I couldn't find anything that seemed credible.

Bidets aren't intuitive to use if you've never used them before

If you've never used a bidet before (probably because you're American and the rest of America doesn't use them either) and you encounter one in the wild, then it's a little scary and you probably won't be inclined to experiment with it. And because of this and taboo norms around bathroom stuff, then we shouldn't expect bidet adoption to be memetic when we use each other's bathrooms. 

I dunno, this is probably why, but I still consider it to be an unsatisfying explanation. It just boils down to "because almost no one else in America uses them". Aren't Rationalists supposed to be better than this?

My premises here could be wrong

Maybe Rationalists actually use bidets? Maybe I missed them, or I've just been to all of the wrong venues? (E.g.: A friend who has been in the community for several years longer than me said that he's seen "5+" bidets at Rationalist group houses. But only "5+"??)

It could be something else?

That's every explanation that I've been able to think of. If you have any ideas for why the Rationalist community has failed to adopt this superior technology (heh) please leave a comment!

If you don't have a bidet why don't you install one?? (Affiliate link: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases heh.) 

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I think a wrench and 20 minutes of time is (1) a higher barrier than you think (not to say it justifies the lack of bidet) and (2) is an underestimate of how inconvenient installing it is. I installed a bidet a few years ago and it probably took 2+ hours and ended up leaking. When I moved, I opted not to install one again and instead follow #2 with a shower. 

However, I agree bidets are great modulo the installation, and I will try to buy a toilet with one pre-installed.

As a Bay Area native, I have seen bidets retrofitted onto toilets at probably 3-4 places, all of which were at rationalists' houses.  So if anything, it seems to me that rationalists are more bidet-friendly than the average American.

I don't think I've ever heard Americans talk about bidets—except one friend saying that his grandmother had visited Japan and used their toilets and reported "I felt like I was on the starship Enterprise!".

In what I think is the same reference class, I don't think I've ever heard someone mention using wet wipes in the bathroom.  I have noticed seeing them in one or two people's bathrooms (other than my own); and on one occasion I idly asked someone what was in a package he received and he said "wipes" (and possibly seemed reluctant to talk about it, and I didn't ask further).

I think people just don't talk about that kind of bathroom stuff, at least in America.  Chalk it up to puritanical prudishness or something.  Which does make it hard for innovations to spread by word of mouth.  Unfortunately.

There's more bidet discussion on LW than you'd think, considering how rarely it would be appropriate to bring up one's pooping outside certain special-interest fora... I think LW is actually where I first took the idea seriously and got one long ago around February 2015 - totally worth the $15* (now $24) and half an hour it took to install (with no further problems or maintenance). I am no handyman, but it's really not hard to turn a knob to cut off the water, pull off the hose, put it in, and turn back on; the hardest part was physically squeezing the little plastic hose onto the protruding nub (oaths were uttered).

The comment I left in my 2015 spreadsheet rating my purchases is apparently, "I cannot go back to living like an animal or American."

* I bought the cheapest to test it out in a trial period, and felt no need to upgrade. Synchronously, a hotel I stayed at last month, which caters heavily to Japanese tourists, had a fancy bidet installed, with heated seats and all, the sort you'd spend $1000 on, so I could finally try a 'proper' bidet. I wasn't impressed and still feel no need to upgrade mine.

Thanks for the anecdote and the link.

While we're on the subject, the Squatty Potty (bonus silly Amazon review) is something I first encountered at a rationalist's house.  Got one myself probably 5+ years ago; it seems to help, and I've been using it since then.

Yeah, I read about that too and as a trial run, used cinder blocks ($0) to help squat. After a month or two, I wasn't impressed enough to want to continue to spending money on the real thing. (It felt a little bit easier but then was awkward in being additional things taking up space and interfering with pants etc.)

yeah, it doesn't seem like the Rationalist spirit to be hindered by this though :/

I do think that there is a taboo on bathroom discussions in NA, but there are other concerns regarding wet wipes specifically. I do agree that they make for a much more comfortable bathroom experience, but I don't use them anymore because they can apparently cause problems with sewers and plumbing[1]. Many people I've mentioned wet wipes to in conversation cite this as the main reason they don't use them more.

  1. ^

    This is just a more recent article, but I've seen this in the news for a few years now and a heard few anecdotal accounts of issues from friends as well.

Yeah, they have to be thrown in the trash.  Which means they can make the trash smell.  This is manageable in my experience, but I imagine there are people who wouldn't tolerate it.

Personally I don't like the feeling of having a wet asshole

Just a single data point: a housemate of mine installed a bidet in one of our toilets, and as a result of the way the bidet changed the overall shape of the toilet and the positioning of the seat and so forth, my genitalia were physically smushed up against the front of the bowl when I sat. Like actually touching the porcelain. This was unpleasant.

I don't consider this a dealbreaker for bidets =P. But it's a bit of weight on your second point; there are ways bidets can fail to be great and fail to be a harmless improvement over the status quo.

I'm a bit hungry for ... the thing that bidets are a metaphor for, here? Like, I think there's an interesting object-level question about the adoption of (almost strictly) superior ways-of-being, but I'm more curious about something like "what does the non-adoption of bidets tell us about how we are probably thinking and behaving sub-optimally elsewhere?"

I'm a bit hungry for ... the thing that bidets are a metaphor for, here? Like, I think there's an interesting object-level question about the adoption of (almost strictly) superior ways-of-being, but I'm more curious about something like "what does the non-adoption of bidets tell us about how we are probably thinking and behaving sub-optimally elsewhere?"

That's the post that I wanted to write, actually— but I wasn't sure how to do it without being too aggressive

Last summer I went on a week long backpacking trip where we had to carry out all our used toilet paper.  

This year, I got this bidet for Christmas:  https://www.garagegrowngear.com/products/portable-bidet-by-culoclean

You could carry one with you so you are no longer reliant on having them provided for you.

Those are also about 1/10 the cost of the things that you install in your bathroom, so a low-cost way of experimenting, before deciding if an installation would be worth it. There are Youtube videos explaining how to use them -- look for "backpacking bidet".

I have something similar, with a long neck which seems like it would be more convenient.

I got it to see if I'd feel like getting an actual bidet, and decided I probably like it better than one of those, at least a reasonably cheap one. I can aim it easily, control the power, and if I want heated water I can fill it with that. If I didn't have a sink that I could reach while sitting on the toilet I might look into actual bidets more.

I don't use it every time I poop, but it's a minor quality of life improvement.

Bidet usage may be the strongest example of conformity bias ever. Go in Italy, and literally everyone uses a bidet (there is even a law that makes it mandatory). Cross the border with France, and suddenly there are no bidets anymore.

I can't even start to tell how incredibly unlikely would be to meet an Italian claiming not to use it. Italians face a lot of conformity pressure for other things, like being Catholic, drinking small amounts of wine or paying their taxes, and still it's not so difficult to find Italian people claiming to be atheists, non-drinkers or even tax evaders. But I've never ever met anyone in Italy claiming not to use bidets. This is one of the few cases where I am quite certain that the small minority got it right, as conformity bias alone cannot be that strong, and the only downside of a bidet is that you have to reserve some space for it in the bathroom. If you are a bidet user, everyone else start looking like dirty savages, and every Italian lacking a bidet abroad will surely get mad about it.


There are a near infinite number of ways in which I could probably make minor improvements to my life. But it's not even worth examining them, let alone trying them, if the cost of examining and trying them will, on the average, be more than the benefit. Note that it doesn't matter that any particular example will be worth it--I don't know this in advance--so telling me "bidets are really great" won't affect this position.

Furthermore, I'm more skeptical than usual about any example that involves small actions that a human has to do routinely. That's a recipe for creating cognitive biases; if the thing really isn't very good, people will rationalize it away as being good so as not to admit to themselves that they're wasting so much time and effort. And doing many small actions related to necessary human bodily functions create positive reinforcement by their association with those necessary functions.

I'm also more skeptical than usual of things that go "make this definitely existing expenditure for this possibly existing benefit".

Also, Chesterton's fence.

I've wanted to install a bidet for 8+ years. However, I've always had higher-priority projects.

Costs that deter me:

  • What for you is a 20-minute project will be 4-8 hours for me because it involves plumbing (and I want it to not leak). The fastest plumbing project I've ever had (cleaning the p-trap beneath the bathroom sink) took 1.5 hours.
  • Hiring a contractor will be $100 because I live in a high-rent area, and they need to cover the expense of coming out. It will take me 1 hour to choose, schedule, and oversee a contractor.
  • I don't know how to choose a bidet. It'll take me 2-4 hours to research them.

The benefits are lower for me than for you:

  • I estimate it will save six rolls of toilet paper per year. That comes to about $20. If I value my hours at $50, hiring a contractor is $150, choosing a bidet is $100, and the bidet itself is at least $35. The sum is $285, a 14-year pay-off time.
  • I mainly want the bidet for comfort and because it will make me cleaner. Comfort and hygiene are lower-priority items for me. $20/year of extra comfort drops the pay-off time to 7 years.

BTW: Aella, a rationalist-adjacent Twitter user, mentioned that she uses a bidet.

huh, you have large estimates

anyways thanks for the aella link

Reading the comments here, I think I may halve my estimate of self-install time.


I have never used a bidet because I don’t like the idea of a spigot that has sprayed a bunch of other people’s butts also spraying my butt.

I’m open to arguments that I’m making a bad life choice here.

Would you drink water from a kitchen sink? 


In my country we have traditional bidets, they're another porcelain furniture that sits near the toilet, so you suffle to it to clean yourself. Usually with warm water and soap. 

Not all homes have it but just using paper feels like savagery, also, access to a full sized bidet like the one I describe allows you to clean yourself without showering, like, all the important parts. 

I have seen such porcelain bidets also in Germany. When I was a kid, I assumed they were footbaths, or baths for babies. 


I frequently drink water from kitchen sinks, yes.

I was trying to imply that the flow of water goes in a single direction. And that it's a quite irrational fear to be sprayed by others fecal matter in this case. 


I dont like the japanese style ones, at my home we have a hand mini showerhead that we direct ourselves. We clean it periodically and it rarely touch anybody's skin. All the muslim world has that. 

Is that because you simulate that there might be backwash back into the spigot?


I think something like that is part of it, yes.

My Bay Area rationalist house has a bidet.

Two, actually

For me, they sound great in theory but I worry about them making an absolute mess by shooting water everywhere if I don't use it exactly right (I have a hard time imagining it being effective without sufficient pressure to be potentially messy). I also don't expect cold water on the undercarriage to be pleasant. Based on what I've heard, I'd guess it isn't hard at all to learn to use one and get used to the cold blast but, not having used one personally, I'm not confident that the payoff is worth the hassle of researching, purchasing, and installing one (which would require far more time than 20 minutes--I guess 2 hours absolute minimum if nothing goes wrong).

I'm sure my skepticism isn't especially rational, but it may be useful as a representative perspective of those who haven't tried one or thought about it too much. I have actually considered getting one before but my laziness and lack of plumbing skills are a significant barrier even if my trepidations were assuaged.

There is now a South Park episode titled "Japanese Toilet", which depicts them as being insanely good (obviously exaggerated) (I haven't seen more than the clip).  I expect this will cause some fraction of viewers to become curious and look into the reality, and some fraction of those to try out something with a bidet.

I got finally convinced to get one for my house after enjoying one at a friend's house (rationally adjacent group house). Installation was a bit of a pain, because it turned out that on the toilet I had it caused my genitals to be smooshed against the front porcelain. I fixed this by buying the same brand of toilet as the bidet I bought. They were engineered to work well together. Worth, but not a small hurdle to overcome.

I think a better question is "why don't Americans use a bidet?" even though they are standard in many parts of the world. My guess is that the perceived benefit is not considered worth changing the habit, especially given the perceived effort required and perceived unknowns and potential downsides. There is nothing especially "rationalist" about it. Note the emphasis on "perceived".