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January 21, 2019

How Do Men Miss?

If you possess a rifle and need to shoot a target at distance, there are a number of factors you need to take into account. When you view the target, your line of site is a straight line across the horizon.

However, once you pull the trigger and the bullet is released it is subject, first to the force of gravity, which pulls it downwards; then to a drag force because of air and lastly the force of wind which can be in any direction.

All three forces act to deviate a bullet from its target. A good rifleman has the skill to calculate these forces and make the necessary allowance so that the bullet strikes as planned.

The same person, a hero on the battlefield, may have issues when it comes to aiming in the bathroom or urinal. Visit any urinal and below the bowl you will see a little puddle.

Any woman, living with a man for a length of time will have tales of missed opportunities. The consistency of the inaccuracy leads to the conclusion that it cannot be deliberate.

Nor given that man has reached the moon, can it be a lack of intelligence or diligence. After all the average Kenyan man born today will live to be at least 60 years old. In that time they will urinate at least 130,000 times. That is a lot of practice. Where does it go wrong?

Every day the typical adult produces about one and a half litres of urine which is stored in the bladder. At intervals the bladder empties. The emptying of the bladder depends primarily on the amount of urine present.

At about 100 millilitres of urine there is a vague sensation. Time is important. The bladder is covered by a network of nerves, which fire off signalling total volume and rate of filling.

A slow filling bladder adapts and can therefore end up holding more. Progressively the urge becomes real and at over 350 millilitres, slightly more than a small soda bottle in volume there is distinct need.

At the base of the bladder are sphincters, a band of muscles that keep tight valve like control of the contents therein. There is also a second bunch of muscles, the detrusors that force the urine out when sphincters relax.

For the bladder to empty completely these two sets of muscles act in synchronised fashion with muscles of the pelvic floor, the abdominal wall and the diaphragm. You know this because when you are very pressed, you have this momentary feeling of bliss as all these muscles relax after the initial necessary coordination.

Until this point whether you are male or female, the physiology is much the same. A big difference occurs because in the male, the urethra, the tube like structure that connects the bladder to the outside world is about 20 centimetres long and is housed partly in the penis. The same male urethra is also used as a conduit for sperm.

In the female it is relatively short about four centimetres in length and single purpose. So for males, imagine that urine passes through a thin long pipe, which the control is at the beginning of the pipe not at the end as you would if for example you were using a hosepipe to wash a car.

So even after the bladder muscles have completed their job, there is usually still some urine left in the urethral pipe.

In females because it is a short pipe this is a drop or two. In males it requires some manual manipulation. And at this point there is no science to it. It all depends on how you were brought up and you remembering the key things your father taught you.

Some men shake vigorously in all directions, other squeeze like toothpaste, some unsure do both, while those who have supreme confidence in their detrusors muscles just unload and move on. It is this bit of uncertainty at to precisely what to do that causes the mess on the floor. It can get worse.

Infants lack a mature nervous system and so do not have inhibitory control over urination or in medical terms micturition. So factors that damage the nervous system, damage the control we have over micturition.

Excessive alcohol consumption is a common immediate cause of loss of control. Longer term but potentially non-reversible are cigarette smoking; certain conditions such as diabetes and hypertension; and sexually transmitted diseases.

Obesity particularly central obesity, ‘a big stomach’ weakens the abdominal and pelvic muscles. And as we age a number of factors lead to difficulty in passing urine including blockage of the urethra and loss of elasticity of the various muscles.

So young men are at a particular advantage in their 20s and 30s and therefore have no excuse to not aim properly.

Unless of course they are behaving like the male of many species that need to mark their territory. Take for example the panda.

The male searches for biggest tree with the roughest bark they can find, then pees while doing a handstand, ensuring that the urine is at nose level. They live in desperate times because as a species they are almost extinct, so marking territory and finding a mate is no joke. At least they study a bit of physics.


Belated. Happy father’s day.

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