The XX Factor

Subway Flashers Beware the Angry Lady With Time on her Hands

Libby , thanks for sharing this video . What a great oh-no-he-didn’t-moment. The offended woman’s  no-nonsense, I’m-just-getting-started attitude is absolutely priceless. I love how she weaves her narrative with righteous indignation and unwittingly turns the other male subway riders into a heckling Greek chorus.

“Let me see your penis,” one jokingly demands.

“Hey, penis man.”

“Oh this sh–t is going on You Tube yo,” one rider insightfully predicts. Um, ya think?

Another guy bends down and takes a cell phone picture of the flasher’s bag-covered crotch.

“Let me take a picture of the penis with a condom,” someone (I think the cell phone documentarian) says. “Penis with a condom,” he repeats in a sing-song voice.

What a hilarious quintessential New York moment. As a former New Yorker, who has had a few of her own subway moments (gropers not flashers), I was right there with that angry woman. That’s right, sister, cancel your evening plans, you’ve got business to handle. As funny as the scene was, this sort of sexual harassment is very serious. Her anger spoke for every woman who has been groped on the New York City subway, and there have been plenty, as the NY Times has chronicled over and over and over again.

According to the Times , sexual harassment is the No.1 quality-of-life offense on subways and that’s why the city transit authority launched a public awareness campaign last year against sexual harassment that included ads, printed brochures and on-board announcements (“A crowded subway car is no defense to unlawful sexual conduct.”) Police arrested 13 men in one week in June 2006 for groping and flashing women on the subways.

One ad, titled “Sexual Harassment is a Crime in the subway, too” states:  “A crowded train is no excuse for an improper touch. Don’t stand for it or feel ashamed, or be afraid to speak up.”

The cowardly flasher in the video clearly didn’t get the memo. He looks like he wishes he were dead, or at least castrated. I think it’s safe to assume by the way he’s pressing his bag against the front of his body that he’s trying to hide his exposed man-part. I’m thinking, why didn’t he try to run away? How’s he going to explain this to friends and family when they see his sick self on YouTube.

What was surprising to me is that the other guys in the subway car were relatively easy on flasher man; I thought (wished a little) that they might rough him up a bit. I’ve seen this happen before. But he really wasn’t worth it to them to risk being also charged with assault. Still, had I been his victim I might have given him a good slap across the face once it became clear that the guy was scared and the other riders had my back. But perhaps the public shaming is more painful and embarrassing than any punches could ever be.

I’ve had two runs-in with flashers, once in Manhattan and once, in of all places Cuernavaca, Mexico. I promptly dispatched each of them with a severe tongue lashing. They both ran away as my insults trailed behind them. I was attending a Spanish language school when the Mexican flasher had the unfortunate luck of choosing me. School officials had warned us about him because he had become a regular nuisance, and the police were looking for him. When he flashed me, I dug deep into my reserve of every Spanish curse word I could remember and correctly pronounce and hurled them at him. I belittled his manhood, and asked what kind of woman had produced a sick pup like him. He was young; his face quivered, his eyes welled and he ran away. The older Manhattan flasher initially didn’t run; instead he looked at me as if were the offending party. But as I started to move toward him to make sure he could hear every mean name I called him, he stood there paralyzed, unzipped and exposed. At one point this look crossed his face that seemed to say: This woman has absolutely no fear of me, maybe she’s dangerous. He zipped up and ran away. I think pervs like him are banking on women being shocked and scared, more likely to look away or quickly walk away. But sometimes it does the spirit good to flash a bit our inner reserve and expose our ability to fight back when the moment calls for it.