Bathroom Stall Celebrities

Graffiti persists in many forms throughout the world. Whether it’s initials within a heart carved on a tree or colorful language painted under a bridge, we usually blame these antics on rambunctious teenagers. Most bathroom stall graffiti tends to be vulgar and puerile and a sign that you aren’t urinating at a 5 star restaurant.

Why bother to mark up a toilet wall? Most graffiti inscriptions – whether on the outside of a building or the underside of a restaurant table consist of things such as, “Matt was here,” or “Katie loves Bob.” Is the purpose of graffiti to create some sort of personal infamy? Perhaps people who realize they won’t end up in a history book would like to leave their name in their favorite bar urinal. Perhaps it’s an outlet for secrets or an anonymous bragging forum.

A quick search on Dogpile brought me to a website compiling ancient Roman graffiti. Unsurprisingly, much of this is bathroom wall graffiti and sounds eerily familiar. Some examples are as follows:

“Satura was here on September 3rd
“Secundus defecated here” three times on one wall

“Apelles Mus and his brother Dexter each pleasurably had sex with two girls twice.”

Most graffiti, in ancient Rome and today, is brief and repetitive. Yet, people still feel a need to leave a permanent mark in a public place. Perhaps this is more than an immature way of breaking rules. Perhaps this gives us a peek at the basic human desire to be known throughout time. Perhaps it’s successful. After all, aren’t you curious who Apelles Mus and Dexter are?


5 thoughts on “Bathroom Stall Celebrities

  1. Steve Maiullo

    This is a nice start, but are there people who have arguments for what graffiti is for? This sounds like a good follow-up to this post.

  2. hopeadvancedlatin Post author

    I think that its an interesting point about leaving your mark somewhere public. I am neither affirming nor denying any of this sort of behavior, but I helped to paint a room in the DeWitt Center (and possibly left a hand print somewhere). To me its an achievement to leave Hope in a year and be able to say that I have “left my mark”.


  3. hopeadvancedlatin Post author

    I think this is an interesting topic for a couple of reasons. First of all, there is no getting around the fact that if you have a writing utensil you are going to use on something. I am not really sure what it is, but whether you are bored in class, in a desolate area, or in a bathroom stall, it just seems natural and sometimes funny to leave your mark with a stupid message. I do it all the time. Why? I have no idea other than the fact that it’s something to do and maybe it’s something that the next person to go to that area will find humor in or continue your “graffiti”.

  4. hopeadvancedlatin Post author

    This Post speaks to something pretty fundamental about human nature. Humans feel the need to communicate in some form or another. Hell, I’m doing this mostly because I like seeing my thoughts organized on “paper” so to speak. Most of the creative endeavors I’ve done have been really ego-driven, but at the same time how can they not be. When I show people my writing, I feel like, instead of throwing a bottle into the ocean, I’m throwing a bottle at audience and expecting praise. Remember kids, keep it greasy, so it goes down easy.
    -The Artist Formerly known as, and Currently known as, and Forwardly known Dr. Sir Rev. Notorious T Waafles III jr PHD MD esquire

  5. hopeadvancedlatin Post author

    This is so cool! I probably wouldn’t have thought much about graffiti in ancient times, but I clicked the link and it’s so interesting. It brought back memories from the bathroom stalls in high school and like at the top of towers at the end of a nature walk where everyone carves their name. And I just think that all that graffiti was just from Pompeii; imagine how many other things haven’t survived that were similar. It’s funny how what they wrote seems exactly what people write today–as you said, ‘eerily familiar.’ I am curious though in respect to Steve’s question, what was/is graffiti used for? I wonder what might be some concrete reasons for why people do graffiti; is it more than just wanting to be known?

    So interesting. Loved it.



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