Sunday, July 02, 2006

pervert on commute

In this article on CTA Tattler, Kimberli reports a commuter pervert on CTA's Red Line who takes one of the single seats facing each other at the end of the train car and exposes his erect penis to unfortunate female commuters sitting in the opposite seat. This criminal pervert takes advantage of the isolated nature of these specific seats, which prevents other commuters from witnessing his act.

Seeing the criminal musterbate in front of her twice, she says: "I knew that I should have done something, but was paralyzed. I don't know why I didn't do something, but I guess I was both embarrassed and scared to get up and go press the button on the other end of the car." Why didn't she just get up and let everybody know that there was a pervert playing with himself? Why didn't she just get off the train and call the police? Why didn't she tell the asshole to stop?

All these questions would popp up in my mind, questioning her cowardry response more than the pervert's criminal and hateful act--had I not been victimized by the same guy myself.

About a week ago, I was reading the British Lit textbook in one of the single seats facing each other on the Red Line when I noticed a young white man staring at me from across the aisle. Sipping his Dunkin Donut coffee every once in a while, the man scanned me with his sticky stare. There was something disconcerting about his stare, but I went back to reading. The train was fairly empty. A few stations later I glanced at him before looking around in the train; I recognized something flesh-colored and stick-like against the bottom of his white shirt. Huh? I thought and looked back, to find his pale yet erect penis sticking out of the fly of his pants. At that point, my head was completely washed white and all I could think of was to not let the guy know that I noticed his penis. I dropped my eyes on the page that now conveyed no meaning to my paralyzed mind. As soon as I had a chance to get off the train to change lines, I did so, without looking at the pervert again.

The rest of the day I spent in a strange state of heightened yet detached sensitivity. I didn't tell anyone about the incident. Just like Kimberli, I knew that I should have acted decisively and felt that my inaction was somehow more culpable than the man's silent aggression toward me.

The next day, the same guy took the seat in front of me. Again. Since I was paying more attention to my surroundings, I noticed him right away. This time, I observed that he was doing preliminary masturbation through his pants before pulling out the erect penis. He cleverly used his large black backpack to further shut out any possible witnesses from the rest of the car, putting his penis back into the fly at each station, making sure that customers on the platforms won't see his criminal act. I typed on my laptop, again pretending not to notice yet paying full attention to the man. Since the train was slightly more crowded, the man had fewer chance to expose himself. As the train moseyed through the construction area and as the guy continued his sneaky attack, a different kind of whiteness filled my brain. It was a mixture of many emotions, but dominant were weariness and rage. I wanted to humiliate the guy in the most humiliating way. I wanted to retaliate.

What a pathetic loser, I thought. It was obvious that he does what he does in order to humiliate, stain, degrade, the woman in front of him whom he hates and fears--woman whom he hates because he fears. What a pathetic way to deal with his fear, though--in front of me was a miserable creature who succumbed to his fear without even knowing it, who can only soothe his miniscule, crooked mind by living in the fantasy of humiliating the object of his fear and hatred by making his own sexuality despicable and obscene. If he uses his penis as an instrument of degradation, what kind of impoverished relationship does he have with his own sexuality? As I thought about the repulsive behavior of the man in front of me, weariness overcame rage within me. I felt very tired. Tired that this was the man's only way of self-placation, weary that I felt paralyzed at this utterly pathetic attack directed at women but only coming back to himself.

For some reason, calling the police or the conductor didn't occur to me. When the train became rather empty after leaving Grand, I was weighing something in my mind. There was no one between the man and me when the train arrived at my station. I picked up my backpack and stood up without looking at the man. A part of me said no, it was dangerous, but I wanted to say it.

As the doors opened, I leaned toward him, looked into his small blue eyes and said "loser" and got off the train. My knees shook as I went down the stairs. I was scared that he might retaliate. The rage and weariness were intertwined with fear. I hoped that I sounded as weary as I felt, as firm as necessary for it to be effective. I didn't have time or the guts to observe the emotions that probably sprang up in his small blue eyes. I spent the day imagining what terrible emotion might have been in his blue eyes when he heard the word.

I haven't taken the Red Line since, so I don't know if the man is still harassing other women in his gluey bog of misery.

For once, the radical feminist Catherine MacKinnon was right--sexual crime is a hate crime. Sexuality itself, sexual organs themselves, aren't despicable, obscene, degrading, or repulsive. The criminal pervert's penis wasn't nauseating in itself--it was smoothly shaped and faintly pink-hued, nothing inciting immediate disgust. It is the malice emanating from the man that turned his penis into a repulsive weapon. It was his hatred toward me, me as a woman, that disturbed me into emotional paralysis and near panic. It was his own perception of his penis as something disgusting that made me look away, not the physical appearance of his equipment itself. (This is why being a nudist and exposing oneself on a train are two different things--the former doesn't involve malice and hatred.)

In this sense, the act of exposing his penis to me is only harmful because he means it to be harmful. Somehow I perceived his desire to harm me (probably not me personally but me as a representation of all women) and felt fear and panic. It was when I saw his miserable smallness in turning his own sexuality (and his sexual organ, too) into an object of disgust that my fear and embarrassment turned into weariness. Of course this is all in my head--for all I know, the CTA perv might be leading an incredibly rich personal and sexual life by exposing himself on CTA trains--but the more I think about that man, the more pathetic and miserable he appears in my brain. I just hope that I won't see him again and if I have the misfortune to run into him again, I'll definitely call the police, not because he exposes his sexual organs but because he does it with malice and hatred.

keywords: CTA, public transit, public transportation, pervert, crime, sexual crime, sexual harrassment, Catherine MacKinnon, feminism, public offender, pervert, exhibitionist, penis, masturbation