So, following our New Statesman article about Ellie Cosgrave’s protest against sexual harassment and assault on public transport, the ladybro herself got in touch to say thank you, but also to pass on something a lot less pleasant and a hell of lot more pervy (like x 10,000). She writes:
‘I’m writing to point you to the latest comment on my blog. It is a man confessing to regularly groping and rubbing himself up against women on the tube when he was in his 20s. “I couldn’t resist this,” he explains, “my only source of physical gratification”. He says that he is ashamed and “will feel guilty for the rest of (his) life”. He also explains that “Ever since, I’ve been careful to move my arms and crotch well out of the way insofar as possible when I’m on a crowded tube train.” What a nice guy right?
The whole comment is just mad, “I even let myself believe that some women enjoyed it as it wasn’t so packed that they couldn’t move a few inches away”. I’m not really sure how to feel about it, I know it hits me harder because I’ve experienced it, but he seems to be excusing himself by explaining what happened. He seems like a dickhead.’
Here is the comment in full:
‘I’m not sure if it helps to read something from the following perspective, but maybe it will help in some way with the emotional healing from your horrible experience or at least not make things worse…
When I was 20 (in my thirties now), working in London, there was a period of several months where I would sometimes do (or as I saw it, let happen) something on my tube to work that I’ve felt very ashamed of ever since. I’d get on a carriage and if it became packed and a woman positioned herself so that her bottom was against the back of my hand, or occasionally even my crotch, I wouldn’t always make much or sometimes any effort to move out of the way. As a point of principle (rather pathetic in hindsight), I’d never actively move any part of myself into contact with a woman, but rather I’d let it happen by her own movement so I wouldn’t feel too guilty, though if she was forced by the crowd into contact I’d reposition myself away. I even let myself believe that some women enjoyed it as it wasn’t so packed that they couldn’t move a few inches away. I knew I’d feel terrible even back then if a woman I was in contact with suspected I was willingly and enjoying being in that situation. In hindsight and reading things like your Guardian article, there must have been women who were bothered that I was in contact with them. So it was a weird period of lamely attempting to get a cheap thrill in the mornings without feeling guilty at upsetting anybody. I was a young, lustful, socially awkward nerd, and sadly and shamefully I couldn’t resist this, my only source of physical gratification. But after a while, it dawned on me more and more how sad, self debasing, and immoral it was of me to do this, even if no-one ever suspected a thing and so I stopped completely.
Ever since, I’ve been careful to move my arms and crotch well out of the way insofar as possible when I’m on a crowded tube train. So I went a step of the way to where the horrible man has sunk, and turned back from that kind of behaviour. I will feel guilty for the rest of my life. I fear though that for a few other men they progress (or regress) from one degree to a worse one. When I first read the guardian article I thought probably your train was so packed that the man simply had nowhere to go, and in such a situation a lot of men wouldn’t be able to help getting aroused, and if it went on for long and was bumpy, even ejaculate (though I never did so), which could seep through their clothes onto yours. But reading the above more detailed account it seems that it was deliberate. I’m both horrified that there are people who do this, and at the same time it painfully reminds me of my shame at my own behaviour of a lesser degree at one time.’
OK, so ISSUES:
‘I even let myself believe that some women enjoyed it as it wasn’t so packed that they couldn’t move a few inches away.’
A rare glimpse into the mind of an underground pervert, perhaps. But it also seems like the guy is making excuses for his behaviour.
‘I was a young, lustful, socially awkward nerd’
Oh, he IS making excuses! Why is it that, in arguments such as these, the harassment is so often ‘mitigated’ by the perpetrators’ loneliness/awkwardness/supposed inability to relate normally to human beings? There are one fuck of a lot of lonely people in the world, and not all of them rub their cocks up against strangers. It was his ‘only source of physical gratification’ he says, thus invoking the ‘lonesome creep’ trope we all know and love. This is the same argument that is often rolled out in newspaper comment threads about prostitution, and the subtext is always: ‘Shallow bitches won’t sleep with me, so what do you expect me to do?’ The answer to which is clearly MASTURBATE, and oh, they probably don’t sleep with you because you spend too much time on internet comment boards, and also they can sense your creepy guy vibes a mile off.
‘I couldn’t resist this’
Again, tried old stereotype of the ‘lustful’, knuckle-dragging ape man failing to control his sexual urges. Not only is it extremely patronising, but it appears that the writers is trying to get a free pass on his behaviour by using the age-old ‘Um…my penis?’ get out of jail card.
‘Sad, self-debasing and immoral’
Note that at no point does the writer express any remorse for the victims of his youthful frottage. He goes as far as to say that it’s ‘immoral’, but it seems that his reasons for stopping are more to do with the fact that rubbing yourself up against non-consenting women on the tube is pretty pathetic and uncool in the eyes of society, rather than the fact that it probably disturbed and traumatised the fuck out of A LOT of women, some of whom might not even take the tube anymore because it gives them panic attacks.
‘I’ve been careful to move my arms and crotch well out of the way insofar as possible when I’m on a crowded tube train’
Wow, thanks, Bro. I owe you one.
‘I will feel guilty for the rest of my life.’
Yeah, good. You arsehole.
‘When I first read the guardian article I thought probably your train was so packed that the man simply had nowhere to go, and in such a situation a lot of men wouldn’t be able to help getting aroused, and if it went on for long and was bumpy, even ejaculate (though I never did so), which could seep through their clothes onto yours. But reading the above more detailed account it seems that it was deliberate.’
Ok, let me lay this one out. Let’s say that hypothetically a man did get an involuntary erection while standing up against a female passenger – it happens. But no matter how crowded the train, by staying there for the duration of the ‘bumpy ride’ and then jizzing all over her, he’s sort of forfeited his ability to say ‘whoops, my bad’. There are a million things he could have done to avoid this situation. A million. But what did he do? He stayed there. Mr.Writer’s long winded attempt to dismiss Ellie Cosgrave’s experiences is basically the frottage equivalent of the ‘I slipped in the shower’ anal foreign object excuse. BULLSHIT.
Similarly with him holding his hand up against women’s arses. ‘Oh, well, she reversed her posterior into the palm of my hand (officer), thus exempting me from all responsibility for groping her repeatedly for the duration of the journey’
Though BONUS the guy grudgingly accepts that:
‘It seems that it was deliberate’
I have to admit that I am finding it very, very difficult to feel sorry for this man. Maybe I’m heartless, but there’s something about the tone of this ‘apology’ that makes me feel extremely uneasy. What did this guy think he was going to get out of sending this email? It certainly doesn’t seem to be motivated by a desire to comfort Ellie or make her feel better, but rather from wanting to feel better about his own shitty behaviour by attempting to justify it to a high-profile victim of a similar offence. So Mr.Frottage gets to go home feeling one fuck of a lot better about his pervy past, and Ellie is left feeling…what, exactly?
Over to Ellie: ‘But it [the comment] also resonates so much with what happened to me, I remember thinking it was my fault for not moving away, and that perhaps he thought I wanted it. From this comment, seems like he probably did think I wanted it- which means he’s won because he doesn’t have to feel guilty.’
I don’t think this arsehole feels guilty at all. To me, all his bullshit ‘apology’ seems to be saying is: ‘Ten years or so ago, I felt an unhealthy desire to exert power over members of your gender as they went about their daily business. I realised eventually how much of a loser that makes me, and decided to stop, something for which you should not only feel grateful but for which I should be praised. By absenting the menace of my erection from the London underground system, I have made it a safer place, but my behaviour was always to a lesser degree than all those other perverts, so it doesn’t matter that much anyway. I am writing this letter not to praise your courageous activism in the field of sexual assault and harassment on public transport, but because, FYI, I still hold that power, and the presence or non-presence of my erection (according to whether or not I personally decide to exert it) still has the ability to effect how good or bad your day is, because you are a woman and I am a man. But yeah, soz.’
That’s how I read it, anyway.