Why The Man Caught Masturbating On A Packed Bus In Philly is Not A Laughing Matter

May 9, 2014  |  

Have you heard the story about the man who pulled his pen*s out and started touching it while riding on a Philadelphia transit bus?

As the story goes, a woman was riding the 23 bus on Philadelphia’s SEPTA transit line. A man sitting next to her pulled out his pen*s and started touching it. Disgusted, the woman, a Temple University doctoral student, pulled out her cell phone and began recording the man as he fondled himself. After publicly shaming him, thus forcing others on the bus to reaction, the man was finally ejected from the bus.

Somehow the video ended up on a Facebook page, mockingly titled People of SEPTA (because poor and possibly mentally ill people riding public transit are funny), where it went viral. Eventually the local media picked up the story, followed by the national media, who can’t resist a good d*ck joke (am I right?). Not wanting to look inept, the local police department announced that it would comb the city far and wide for the perp. Luckily they had some help from folks who saw his picture on the news and recognized him as a coworker and neighbor. An arrest warrant has been issued for the man for open lewdness and reckless endangerment. Reports say that the palm greaser is expected to turn himself in to authorities pretty soon.

And Fin.

Honestly, it is a great story about how a single woman was able to use technology to stand up for herself against a pervert. If only we could be this vigilant when no camera is around. Or when the victim just happens to be a lowly camera-less black girl like myself…

Once, I was driving home from a party when I got to the red light at an intersection, which was only a few corners away from my own block. I was tired and couldn’t wait to get to sleep. I had the music going and the windows down low to keep me alert. I share all of that in hopes that it will explain my delayed reaction to the pen*s pointing at me through the driver’s side door of a man’s car who was also waiting at the red light. A huge d**k. I might have been impressed in different circumstances, like knowing the dude and giving consent before having a huge monster in my face, but not when I’m sitting at the traffic light. And not with a strange hand stroking it back and forth.

Naturally, I refused his offer to watch him slap his man around and freaked out. I called him a bunch of unintelligible curse words and peeled off through the red light. I didn’t get a good look at this pervert’s face (because there was a pen*s in my face), but I do know that he was light brown with a huge afro and kinda resembled that Huey character from The Boondocks. It was certainly enough information to warn some folks. And that’s what I attempted to do, via Facebook. However, some people didn’t think that was enough. They thought I should immediately go to the police and report the incident. I thought that preposterous and a waste of time. After all, I wasn’t physically hurt or anything.

“Yeah but what about other women or even girls, who he may do it too[sic]? Or worse, what if he esculates[sic]? You could be preventing a crime from happening in the future,” advised one good male friend.

Talk about a guilt trip. But they are right. Most research I found says that paraphilia, including voyeurism and exhibitionism (i.e. the flashers, the camera-up-the-skirt guys and public masturbators), includes people with uncontrolled impulses and they account for about one-third of all sex offenders. They also have the highest rate of recidivism of all types of sexual offenders. Clearly, these people who flash you their genitalia are insane in the membrane, Additionally, some physiologists and other mental health personnel believe that exhibitionists do have a tendency to engage in even more deviant sexual behaviors.

I thought about the first time I was unwillingly flashed a pen*s, as a middle school student on the way to school on a SEPTA.  I recalled how I felt again in college, when the police knocked on my apartment door to alert me and my roommate that they had caught a guy who was staring at us through our window. And I remembered again how I felt during one summer semester of of courses at a community college, when a man decided to jerk off in the cafeteria, using my boobs as motivation. In all of those situations I felt disgusted, degraded and, dare I say, violated. But I also felt guilty and ashamed too. As if something I had done had brought on this unwanted attention. As a repeated victim of an exhibitionist’s exploits, I tired of feeling like that. And my friends were right: something had to be done about this.

So the following day I drove to the closest police district and attempted to do my civic duty. A redheaded white officer came to the sliding police window and asked me what I wanted. I told him I was there to report a crime. He pulled out a notepad and a pen and said, “Okay, shoot.” I told him the story. He looked at me curiously for a few minutes and then said, “Is that it?”

Is that it?

Well I’m sorry he didn’t throw me down to the ground, beat me up and then penetrate me, but yeah, that’s all I’ve got officer. He put his pen down, sighed heavily and said, “Well, we’ll make a report and keep it on file. But you know…” And then he shrugged.  Despite his vow to create a file, never once did he ask my name or a description of The Boondocks-looking guy. Feeling dejected, as well as humiliated again, I turned on my heels and left the station, vowing never to “waste their time” ever again. Granted, I wasn’t expecting a dragnet to be dispersed around the city, but couldn’t I at least get a report on file? Just in case this joker shows up again, on more serious charges?

My instinct is to just chalk this all up to the hazards of being a black woman from a low-income community – in other words, I just don’t matter to the authorities at large. And it does seem that exhibitionist crimes are taken far more seriously in predominately white and affluent neighborhoods in particular, having police investigate and provide warnings via media. For example, police involvement came the year that a serial bottom-pincher stalked white women in downtown Philadelphia. The police were all over that. And both the police and media were too all over the creepy flasher dubbed the “Swiss cheese pervert,” who had been been exposing himself to women and asking for hand-jobs with a piece of cheese, also in a predominately white part of town.

But then again, those crimes only seem to matter when they are caught on tape, such as the man masturbating next to the Temple student on the public bus. And I guess it makes sense as the cameras give us a visual perspective to a crime. Sadly, it also gives folks an opportunity to laugh while the rest of us feel disgust (notice most of the headlines attached to these stories about men like the bus masturbator are always tongue-and-cheek). But that’s kind of a real problem, isn’t it?

After all, how serious about ending sexual assault are we if we make light of, or minimize the importance of potential precursors like exhibitionism? I’m not saying we have to lock up every flasher, but we should be just as adamant at intercepting that behavior before they can drop their pants on unsuspecting people.  I think about The Boondocks kid from time to time. And I physically cringe at the idea that he is roaming the streets, pulling his thing out on other young women and girls. As vile as it is, I really hope that is all that he is doing. As we know, the majority of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. As long as we continue to see these stories as harmless and a matter of entertainment, the less serious that these sex crimes will be taken by law enforcement. And more importantly, the less likely women (and men too) will be willing to report said incidents.

 

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