I hadn’t talked to Lorna for about a whole day. I was angry with her for going out on a few dates with a pick up instructor that I had wanted to take some lessons from to make a long story short. We had just finished having make up torture and sex when she told me she had caught a man violently masturbating after starring at her around 1pm on Wednesday the June 19th 2013 on the 6th avenue L train Platform.
Lorna had been heading towards Brooklyn. She walked past a chubby, seemingly average-joe caucasian guy in his mid to late 40s in jeans and a polo shirt who had not yet begun masturbating. He had been standing about two arms’-lengths away on her right and three women and one man had been standing to her left about an arm’s length away.
Lorna had been staring off into space, totally zoned out into her own thoughts for about a minuet or two, when she suddenly noticed his rapid hand gestures in her peripheral vision. He was shaking something. She did a double take. His zipper was open, his dick was out and he was shaking it really fast.
Lorna clearly articulated that this was a violent session. She couldn’t help but smile a bit as she did so, presumably partially due to the sheer absurdity of the situation, as she told me how utterly disgusting it was. It also seemed a bit like the smile of a cop who is trying really hard not to cry in order to get his job done at a crime scene to me however. There was something subliminally dissonant about it given that she was telling me that it had been slightly traumatic, unsettling, disturbing and violating.
Lorna couldn’t tell if the guy immediately put his naughty bit away when he realized that she realized what he was doing. He hunched over and turned his body away, but he kept his gaze focused on her as he began to slowly skulk behind a case of stairs. Lorna said this creeped her out even more. “Him looking at me looking at him looking at me.”
Lorna moved around the opposite side of the staircase, towards the Manhattan bound side to see if he was still there, which he was, slowly moving away down the platform. He began to pick up the pace and run once he realized that Lorna was still returning his gaze.
Lorna loudly yelled, “Yeah you better run” as he began to run away. She said she was hesitant to use her voice at first but it began to grow louder as she began using it until she was loudly shouting “YOU BETTER RUN YOU FUCKING SCUMBAG!”
She walked back to the Brooklyn side of the train where she had been standing in order to call attention to the situation. The three other women and the man who had been standing there all had frozen looks of disgust on their faces. They didn’t know what the fuck to do. Lorna asked/pointed out “did everybody see that!?!” Most of them didn’t move but one women slowly nodded her head in shocked agreement. The Brooklyn bound L train began to make it’s screeching raucous approach and Lorna couldn’t quite hear the woman’s muffled, drowned out reply and Lorna said “everyone on this platform should feel violated. That man that just ran away had his penis out and was jerking off before he ran away.”
They had heard her, but then the train came. Lorna said she felt like she had to catch her breath before she got on the train. She sat down, put her sunglasses on and shed a tear or two. This hadn’t been the first time she had been sexually assaulted and the experience had conjured up a flashback.
The stranger shaking his penis at her wasn’t the only issue. The entire situation, including and perhaps especially the act of using her voice to call attention to the situation had re-traumatized her. Other adults on the platform were slow, if not completely unwilling and unable to acknowledge the situation even though they had been affected by it, much like other highly trusted adults from Lorna’s past were unable and unwilling to acknowledge things far more severely traumatic and disturbing than what I have just attempted to describe above.
I knew that I should write the incident down and post it ASAP for many reasons. I’ll confess that the story started out on a fairly absurd and entertaining note as I’ve already suggested. Neither of us were particularly shocked or surprised that something like this could happen. Lorna’s not only well aware of how widely under-reported most sexual assault, abuse and rape are but also why so much of it, like the experience she had just gone through remains so widely under-reported.
Calling attention to the assault, trying to convince people that they saw what they just saw, and that what they saw was someone being violated, seemed to conjure more trauma than the actual assault did in this case and I imagine that this is often the case. I recall that my younger sister seemed more outraged about the cops calling her slut after they interrupted some guy taking her clothes off in the back yard of some house party than she did about the guy himself, not that she had in any way consented to it. I imagine that the casual witness is forced to acknowledge that they too could have been violated if the witness were to go through the process of acknowledging the violation they just saw of another. Indeed it’s entirely possible that some of the people waiting on the platform with Lorna could have been violated themselves or perhaps one day they will be given the prevalence and nuances of sexual assault.
It’s not normal to point out that sexual assault, abuse and rape are normal in our society. The fact that Lorna consented to me writing her story was reason enough for me to write and post it. I found other instances of this specific behavior when I tried to find a specific word or category for it online. I found other recorded instances of this behavior even though I couldn’t find a proper frame for it. Jenna Sauers on 9/7/2011 described how the NYPD failed to assist her after a man publicly masturbated while gazing at her for about 20 minuets. The man actually waved to her at one point and I would refer any readers who want to see a first person view of what it looks like to have someone stare at you while masturbating in public to her blog post. I made the photo for this essay out of her YouTube clip.
Readers can find plenty of examples of other readers blaming Jenna in their comments for putting herself in the situation as if she had somehow created it for herself. I imagine that many of these comments could have caused her at least as much trauma if not more than actually having someone stroke a penis in her direction, which by itself continues to strike me as pathetically absurd compared to how profoundly disturbing it is to actually observe people pretend that the raging elephant in the room isn’t there even though, and perhaps precisely because, it could attack them as well at any moment. Worse even still, perhaps it already has.
The prevalence of sexual assault, abuse and rape in our society so thoroughly exposes how thoroughly unjust our society is that it’s impossible to wrap one’s mind around it without at least having to conquer truly legitimate fear. I imagine that it must be understandably easier for most people to pretend that there’s no reason to be afraid rather than it is for them to conquer their fear and to do something about the problem. Worse still is that it seems to be rationally easier for many people to insist that the victim’s trauma was the result of decisions made by the victim as opposed to much larger problems in our society that can just as easily and indiscriminately make victims out of accusers and which we all therefore have a responsibility to respectively acknowledge and address, if only for the sake of self-interest.
It’s important for me to acknowledge that I’m aware of the fact that I’m writing a story about a woman using her voice from a male perspective and doing so in part to deliberately make a selfish point of my own about this social problem. Sexual assault has been a major problem for me throughout my life even though I’ve never been severely sexually assualted. Most of the women who raised me have been however and this trauma has seeped into and forever tainted our relationships in ways in which I can barely comprehend with great reluctance.
As a man, and one who strives for as much dominance over life as I can possibly manage too at that, I believe it is important for other men to realize that sexual assault, abuse and rape is almost every bit as emasculating for us as it is for the women in our lives. Feelings of powerlessness, shame, fear, insecurity and anger are contagious and can be transmitted without ever needing to actually experience the actual trauma of a violation. I relearned this lesson late last summer after a close friend and one of the most effective organizers in the movement was attacked and raped while heading back to her apartment from mine.
Furthermore even though sexual assault as we know it is typically viewed as a problem for women created by men (which it surely is), the more fundamental truth is that it is very poorly documented compared to how common we know it to be. It therefore seems possible and likely to me that people of every and any gender, male, female, and otherwise can and are raped, can be a rapists themselves, or can be deniers of rape independent of their gender.
Male sexual assaults are of course even less thoroughly documented and understood than assaults against females. It therefore seems entirely possible that many sexual assaults against males are under-reported not only out of fear of stigmatization in addition to trauma, but because many men may not even be aware that they are being sexually assaulted when it’s happening. This has certainly been the case for me. This is why men specifically have a self-interest in documenting, understanding, predicting, controlling and to the best of our ability eliminating these pathological behaviors from our society.