The Sexist

Passengers Targeted By Orange Line Public Masturbator

Over the past week, Holla Back DC has received two very similar reports of a man masturbating on Metro's Orange Line. The first incident occurred near the Metro Center stop on a train heading toward Vienna; the second occurred near the L’Enfant Plaza stop in the same direction. In both, a man targeted a female passenger and proceeded to masturbate at her.

From the first incident:

I was playing solitaire on my phone, not really paying attention to what was going on around me. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a man, about 5’10″ wearing a white t-shirt tucked into black gym shorts wearing a backpack. I noticed him because he was standing closer than most people do. I saw a jacking off type motion out of the corner of my eye, but wasn’t sure that is what I was seeing so didn’t look over.

When the train arrived I hurried toward the front of the car to sit down. A man came and sat down beside me. I thought it might have been the same man but I wasn’t sure. When a similar motion caught my eye again I looked down and realized his penis was outside of his shorts and he was using a grey sweatshirt to prevent other passengers (other than me) to see what he was doing.

From the second:

I was engrossed in a book and on “auto-pilot” on the way to work. When I got on the train, a man sat down next to me, in the seat closest to the aisle. I sat next to him for about 10 minutes before I realized he was masturbating right next to me. I was shocked! When he realized that I had noticed he started talking to me, and making comments about oral sex. The train car wasn’t full, but there were many people in my near vicinity including families with small children. I had to ask him to get up and let me out, which thankfully he did, and moved to another car.

The first victim reacted in the way that many victims of public sexual harassment and assault do—she froze. Later, she reported the experience to Holla Back:

I took a minute to think of what to do—snap a picture, no because I don’t know how to turn off the picture taking sound on my phone—say something? no, what if he is a psyco, plus bad shit happens to people all the time when they say the wrong thing to the wrong person—even if there are many others around. I picked a third option—I got up, walked around him (luckily I was in the seat with no seats in front of it) and took a seat next to a woman.I feel bad because by not saying anything I may have made him more likely to do this to another woman, but at the same time someone who would do this clearly has limited sense of propriety. I wanted to post to Holla Back DC! to at least have my experience documented or recognized in some way. Unfortunately this is the second time I have had to post.

The second victim had a less common reaction—she reported the incident to Metro Police:

I was so nauseous and disgusted after this whole incident. Its especially shocking considering the time of day and the amount of people on the train. I reported the incident to Metro Police. The man was African American, about 40 years old, wearing jeans and a baseball cap. We were in the last car of the orange line train departing from L’Enfant Plaza in the direction of Vienna at about 10:30 AM this morning.

I don’t know what good it does to tell you this story, but I know there is little that the Metro Police can do.

There are a variety of reasons why victims might be uncomfortable immediately reporting an incident like this to the police—fear, shame, self-blame, the possibility that they won't be taken seriously, the idea that incidents like this don't constitute "real" threats, and the suspicion that the cops wouldn't be able to do anything about it. Thanks to Holla Back, public records of this pattern of behavior that can help to empower future passengers who sit down next to a guy like this. Writes Holla Back: "If you feel comfortable reporting this perpetrator, contact Metro Transit Police at  202-962-2121. And/or, take a picture of the perpetrator on your cell phone and send it to us. HOLLA BACK DC!"

Photo via stevebott, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

  • Cash Dollars

    Is there a problem here? Was he h-o-t? He wouldn't continue using this as a means to meet elibible women if it didn't work. He seems to be being discreet, not flashing his pleasure wand in front of kids, etc., so if this bothers you move on, there are probably plenty of chicks who appreciate the attention. I'll bet on the Orange Line he scores a lot.

  • chris

    Cash Dollars. There are so many things wrong with your comment. The first being the fact that you named yourself Cash Dollars.

  • Emily WK

    The issue of kids being around is something I hadn't thought of. This has never happened to me, but I have tried in my head to imagine what I would do, and to imagine myself yelling something and making the shame land where it belongs - on this sexual predator.

    But what SHOULD one do if there are children around? Geez, that's a whole new thing I have to think about.

  • J

    When is a lady going to scream and kick him in the balls? Come on ladies- u have to do it. He has to know you mean business. This coming from a dude. I wouldnt want my sister or mother dealing with that nastiness

  • Jenny

    J, that's a great idea. Until the dude shoots/stabs/punches you in the face. Women often freeze or just try to get away from a harasser because you never know what these guys will do.

    http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist/2010/05/03/woman-shot-after-refusing-strangers-advances-the-harassees-dilemma/

  • anon

    I am a youngish man and I was actually once fondled by a middle-aged white woman on the Orange Line. As tough as I am, I froze up too. I just let her touch me and then got up at the next stop. Weirdest darn thing ever....

  • http://bikegroggery.blogspot.com groggette

    hey J, the best way to keep your sister or mother from dealing with that business is to call out the guys who do this sort of thing yourself when you see it happening. The less support or avoidance they get from people of their own gender, the harder it will be for them to get away with this crap.

  • http://rickmangus@aol.com Rick Mangus

    CATCH HIM AND CUT IT OFF!

  • kza

    It's important to report this to the police. A cop can actually do something unlike a regular citizen. I'm not quite sure how you could blame yourself or feel shame...

  • Emily WK

    kza, telling a victim of sexual assault what they should do afterward is in a general sense not very helpful at all. Neither is dismissing their very real and valid feelings of helplessness or shame. You might want to learn a little more about sexual assault and why people who have been victimized feel the way that they do before you start proclaiming what's best and what each person should do in a particular instance.

    Until then, you don't really know what you're talking about.

  • kza

    I think shame comes about after doing something shamefull. I don't believe being a victim is a shamefull act. And I know I don't know what I'm talking about here but I'm going to go out on a limb and say the women in these stories weren't soliciting the guy so it's not as if they are to blame...

  • Emily WK

    kza, try this:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=why+do+victims+of+sexual+assault+feel+shame%3F

    That's a start for what you might be able to find out about shame and why it isn't always what you expect it to be. Human emotion, particularly when it relates to something like sexual assault, is a lot more complicated than "You have to do something shameful to feel shame." You're way over simplifying it.

    Nobody here posting thinks these women should feel shame. But when we live in a world where women are routinely blamed for being raped, what on earth reason do you think these women would have NOT to feel shame? Jeez, dude. Like, think for a few seconds.

  • SophieK

    The saddest thing here is the truth of Jenny's point that people are afraid to protest / intervene because they're afraid of a physically violent response.

    Back when I was about 14, I was getting the tube home with my best friend when a much older, drunk man started to verbally harass us - making really obscene comments about our bodies and what he wanted to do with us - this was a crowded carriage, early evening, and everybody else just pretended that it wasn't happening. We were really scared and humiliated, and just jumped off the train three stops before we were meant to in order to get away. As we waited on the platform for the next train, I caught the eye of a man who had got off at the same stop, and I've never seen anyone look so embarrassed.

    These days, I work in a bar, and dealing professionally with sleazes and idiots has given me a weird sense of confidence when it comes to dealing with them in my personal time. So if I see someone being harassed, I try to intervene, albeit with the nagging doubt at the back of my mind that I'm not actually at work, there are no doormen to back me up, and if the person whose fun I am spoiling has a weapon, this could all go horribly wrong.

    I don't know what the solution is, but I do think a big part of the problem is that this is presented as a marginalised 'wimmin's issue' rather than a deeply disturbing symptom of gun / knife culture in our society at large.

    Apologies for the long post - I'm two glasses of merlot down and the OP really affected me.

  • kza

    Rape is different. People blame victims of rape so I can understand that of course. Anyone who blames the girls that had to forcibly watch some jerk off jackin off is a lunatic who should not be listened to. No person can blame them.

  • Emily WK

    You are willfully not trying to understand. Have a great day, kza, and enjoy your little bubble of ignorance. Hope it serves you well.

  • Sarah #13

    kza:

    I'm going to take a little gentler approach to your remarks.

    No, no one should blame a woman for being raped or being exposed to public masturbation. That doesn't mean that some ignoramuses aren't going to do it. Blame happens all the time to rape victims, and it comes from friends, family, and strangers.

    As far as shame goes, it doesn't have to be logical. Of course it's not "logical" for a rape victim to feel shame, since he or she is not to blame for the sexual assault, but he or she may feel shame for a number of complex reasons. (And I wager that victim-blaming is a prominent one.)

  • kza

    You know what Emily? I probably am wrong. I think that victims should not feel blame but in the society we live in it's understandable that they feel that shame. I would love to live in a world where victims didn't have to feel that way. Maybe figuring out a way to stop making victims feel blame could lead to more of them being able to take a stand and force police into actually stopping this shit. I just feel like the best way to combat sexual assualt is with 1st hand accounts. They have 0 responsibility to stop future assaults but I think they can do more to change people's minds then people like me, a random male who gets outraged by assualts Iread about online.

  • Liz

    On the subject of blaming the victim, if this account of harassment went national, I wonder how long it would be before someone tried blaming women for dressing too sexy and working men up? Or called this guy a result of the overly sexual culture we live in? When a religious leader blames earthquakes on sexy women, it's unfortunately very easy for me to envision some people turning this "incident" into a woman-hating victim blamefest.

  • http://bikegroggery.blogspot.com groggette

    kza, I think you're wrong about that last part:
    I think they can do more to change people’s minds then people like me, a random male...

    Whether we like it or not, men's (or white people's, straight people's, able bodied, etc.) voices are heard more often then women. In general, people are more likely to listen to what you have to say on this, just because you are male. And I want to make it clear that I would never ask someone to do anything they perceive would put them in harms way, but if you see something like this going down and feel safe, you telling the creeper to stop is almost always going to be a hell of a lot more effective than the woman (who should have been paying more attention, shouldn't have been wearing those shoes/that shirt/those earrings, is just looking to be offended, etc.) saying or doing anything.

    And it's not just with the assholes doing what the guy in the OP does. If your friends are always talking about how this or that woman (that they probably don't even know) is a slut for whatever reason, call them out on it. Your words will carry more weight than the women they are talking about.

    I agree with you that these women shouldn't feel shame. But that doesn't change the reality. Men calling out other men is just as effective (if not more than, at least for now) as women trying to call them out and sharing their stories.

  • Saurs

    kza and others like him are merely parroting the party line. Only in a misogynist culture can the majority of people (women) have to fight to get a powerful, vocal, furiously self-centered minority (men) to recognize that their experiences are valid and true. “Changing people’s minds” is a neat little code phrase for “getting men to appreciate that women know what they’re talking about when they talk about themselves and their lives.” It’s a nearly impossible task to actually pull off. Privileged dudes don’t recognize how fucking privileged they sound when they talk about the necessity of “changing people’s minds” or “educating people” – “people” not actually signifying people in this instance, but ignorant men who want desperately to stay ignorant.

    Man becomes the default person, his point-of-view the default point of view. Women, who actually outnumber men, become a fringe group that out of necessity must work in a unified fashion to mold their opinions into something palatable for men, to work hard not to worry male insecurity, and placate their delicate, fragile world-views in order to be “believed.” Sometimes this requires that every woman a man has ever known profess the truth of some perspective; otherwise a complaint is not universal, and therefore not worthy of interest. Other times, like all paternalists, anti-feminist men need other men to explain to them why misogyny is awful; otherwise, it's just a bunch of bitches crowing and clucking, and who the fuck cares what dumb whores think, anyway? The person of the messenger and the appearance of the packaging really become irrelevant, because they're always lacking; women are always fucking up and making men ignore them and discount them.

    Why men are the arbiter of truth and reality – those who constitute a group that must “be convinced” of something in order for it to be true – remains to be seen, as most have a vested and entirely selfish interest in disproving or ignoring sexual inequality. It’s frankly laughable why anyone should take anything a man says about sex and gender seriously. When anti-feminists feign dispassionate, would-be scientific skepticism about feminism, they’re being disingenuous; like all conservative counter-reactionaries, anti-feminist men are threatened by feminism and have every reason to be frightened of it. Women, meanwhile, have nothing left to lose. The opposite of a feminist world is the here and the now; things can’t get very much worse, comparatively speaking. The dominant culture in the United States is violent, woman-hating, racist, capitalistic, greedy, and very, very dumb. If we don’t succeed, we know what to expect because we’re living it, and each day we become more backwards and more subject to repressed, oppressive ways of thinking. Men, on the other hand, would very much like things to stay the same – barring bigger tits, more housewives, more houseboys, more male privilege. Most can probably barely fathom a world and a culture in which men do not have the final say, in which what constitutes progress is not decided and fashioned solely by men, in which the minor inconveniences they mistake for grievous injuries against themselves and all men are put into their proper proportion, in which they can actually muster up empathy.

    It’s little wonder why a lot of men need “convincing,” but convincing men is probably not actually a worthwhile cause.

  • noodlez

    Saurs THAT BEING SAID (COMMENT #20) YOU STILL NEED SPERM FROM MEN TO FERTILIZE EGGS FROM WOMEN! WE ALSO HAVE THE X AND THE Y TO DETERMINE. BASICALLY WE DICTATE!

    WHY YOU ALL SALTY?

    THERE IS A REASON WHY MEN DOMINATE AND WILL CONTINUE TO DOMINATE THIS WORLD! HOWEVER, YOU DO YOUR CAUSE A DISSERVICE BY VENTING AND FOCUSING ALL THE ATTENTION ON THE NEGATIVE UNDERTONES OF MEN INSTEAD OF FOCUSING ALL THE ATTENTION ON WHAT WOMEN HAVE TO OFFER AND WHAT THEY ARE GOOD FOR! THE ATTACK AD IS NO LONGER A VIABLE SOURCE OF SUPPORT BECAUSE IT EXHIBITS DESPERATION.

    YOU KNOW THAT WOMEN POOTS SMELLS LIKE SHIT TOO SO DONT THINK FOR ONE MINUTE THAT WOMEN ARE THIS BASTION OF UTOPIA THAT ARE BEING "SUPPRESSED" AND "OPPRESSED" FOR NO OTHER REASON THAN THAT THEY ARE WOMEN! THE TRUE MAN STAYS ABOVE THE FRAY SO I WILL DIGRESS FROM YOUR LEVEL OF PUT DOWNS TO SAY I HOPE WOMEN WITH THEIR MAJORITY NUMBERS TAKE OVER THE WORLD.

    I WOULD LOVE TO SEE A MODERN DAY AMAZONIA. I JUST PRAY I GET PUT ON THE VIP LIST OF HAVING SEX WHEN IT’S TIME TO BREED! SINCE THERE WILL BE A SHORTAGE OF US IMPREGNATORS I WILL BE ABLE TO FUCK YOUR GIRLFRIENDS, YOUR SISTERS AND ANY OTHER FEMALE WITHOUT ANY REPERCUSSIONS. WOW! I CANT WAIT FOR THAT DAY. UNTIL THEN MEN RULE!

    **********************************************************

    I HOPE THEY CATCH THE NASTY ASS MUTHA FUCKA AND HEAVILY MEDICATE HIS ASS TO OBLIVION AT ST. ELIZABETH'S!

  • Cj

    I am so glad to be reading this. I am a student here in Washington and yesterday I encountered this same man at the shw-howard metro station on thr green line. He came up next to me while we were waiting for the train and started masturbating and like one of his other victims I froze. So when my train came I got on the train headed in the opposite direction to avoid actually sitting on a train with this weirdo. I really hope I never run into this man again. It was a horrible experience.

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