The Vagenda

Groping on the Tube: One Ex-Pervert’s Bullshit Apology, Digested

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.’
‘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.

21 thoughts on “Groping on the Tube: One Ex-Pervert’s Bullshit Apology, Digested

  1. Ugh, I hate the ‘socially awkward excuse. I’ve heard it after being groped by a disgusting aquaintance, and when challenging friends as to why they stood by a guy who got a girl drunk and sexually assualted her. ‘He’s just awkward and nerdy and doesn’t know how to deal with girls he likes!’

  2. In all fairness, it does seem like he’s genuinely disgusted with himself. Also, he’s not EXCUSING himself by telling us he was a socially awkward nerd. Excusing yourself and explaining yourself are two different things.

    • As the article says though, this isn’t an explanation – plenty of people are awkward and don’t assault others, so there must be something else that made this awkward guy go the extra, pervy step. Saying that he was awkward explains nothing.

      And in context, I think he is attempting to use it as an excuse. It’s directly followed by ‘and I couldn’t resist this’. It’s the equivalent of ‘my penis made me do it; blame him, not me!’. What’s worse, is it seems that he’s actually trying to gain some sympathy. Not only could he not help himself, but he’s got PROBLEMS. Awkwardness problems. As though his victims are supposed to forget about their problems (being assaulted by some creepy stranger seems pretty problematic to me), and forgive him.

    • There never can be an explanation or excuse involved when someone is impinging on the rights of another person — in this case, the right to be and feel safe and not be assaulted while out in public. What’s wrong is wrong.

  3. Wow. You know, women can also be lonely, socially awkward, and lustful. Would men appreciate it if they then started inappropriately touching them on the tube? I really doubt it – being inappropriately touched by a stranger in public is incredibly unpleasant. Have I found myself squished next to an attractive stranger on the tube before? Yes. Did I grope him? No. Because that would be creepy as all fuck, and my loneliness or whatever wouldn’t excuse that.

    I don’t ever use the tube any more, but another place where this shit is prevalent is at music gigs, especially if you, a silly woman, dares to stand near the front. The amount of guys that have ground themselves against me while trying to disguise it as dancing or whatever…it doesn’t bear thinking about. This happened at the last gig I was at when I was standing at the very front of the crowd. The guy was at least twice my age. I have, however, perfected the elbow technique, and I have very pointy elbows. I elbowed him in the chest and he went away. The bands bassist witnessed this and actually paused playing for a moment to laugh and give me the thumbs up, which redeemed the night for me. Many people wouldn’t want to elbow strangers though.

    • Which band was that, if you don’t mind me asking? That seems like a quirky reason to start listening to them… that is if their music is readily available.

      In response to jess108′s point (above), I don’t believe there’s usually very much difference between making excuses and providing explanations when it comes to talking about people’s actions. In the context of an ‘apology’ – where you could, I don’t know, focus more on taking responsibility for what you did and expressing actual remorse – it’s quite simply pathetic.

      And I agree with the final point made in the article: that this confessor doesn’t actually feel bad about what he did to those people. However, I think a distinction can be made between guilt and remorse to really show this. I would say that guilt is an emotion which has an undeniable element of self-loathing to it, for example: “I hate myself for doing that” – this might sound familiar to anyone else raised in a catholic household. Whereas remorse can’t really be felt without acknowledging the impact your action has on another person; in other words “I feel bad for doing that TO you” – it’s empathy after the act… belated, but better than nothing. Now, I’m not claiming to know what’s “inside this man’s soul!” or nothing (illdoc1 anyone?) but he certainly doesn’t articulate any remorse in his comment. He MIGHT feel guilty for what he’s done, but communicates that in a very self-absorbed way (such is guilt) and the value of typing it out and sending it to Ellie Cosgrave as an apology?! …is dubious.

    • I am a huge fan of the elbow technique. My elbows have the dubious honour of protecting, not just me, but my friends as well on a night out.

      Another method is the stepping suddenly and purposefully backward onto his toes. (Bonus points if your elbow is involved as well). I usually accompany it with a sarcastic “Sorry, I was pushed” accompanied with a glare only he can see. The rest of the crowd will forgive you but he will KNOW you KNOW and most of them can’t handle being called out.

  4. I have mixed feelings about this. An article about a woman being harassed definitely wasn’t the time or place for said comment and I do think he comes at the issue from a very self centered stand point of view. However I do think there is value in people who have perpetrated this kind of crime standing up and saying “I did something that was wrong, and this is how I justified it to myself at the time, and this is how I was wrong.” I think it could probably be used as an excellent learning tool for teaching. I think that it allows the teaching of the “don’t rape” rather than the “don’t get raped” while somehow sidestepping the issue which sometimes happens where people take comments on sexism as an attack on all of men.

  5. I think it was interesting to hear his perspective, and to me he did come across (no pun intended) as genuinely regretful and ashamed of how he had behaved – in which case i’m not sure exactly what more you expect from him, apart from wishing he had never done it in the first place of course.
    It was also interesting to hear that he thought he was keeping some kind of moral code because he let it happen rather than actively causing it – a sort of equivalent of realising you have walked out a shop without paying for something but then going ahead and stealing it anyway (and yes i know it’s not on the same level!). I can understand how someone would kid themselves into thinking that this way was better and perhaps that they were not entirely to blame. It’s all wrong, but he knows that now and we can only benefit from knowing the reasons why this stuff happens.

  6. I can’t help but feel that an apology, however half-assed, is better than no apology at all. I do feel he’s holding back, and maybe even hoping for pity, but at least it’s acknowledgement that he was in the wrong. I would rather read something like that than something saying “If you touch my cock with your bum, it becomes mine to hump”.

  7. Why do some people find things so much harder (no punn intended). for example, i was/am socially awkward but oddly never found myself assaulting a person who was scared rigid on public transport. GO ME! Congratulate me and tell me how good i am because i’ve never assaulted anyone ANYWHERE! Tell me how good i’d doing and thank me for that.

  8. Slightly off this topic but I’ve just been reading through the comments on the original article.
    I’m so GLAD there are so many people out there who can tell me how I should react when I’ve been assaulted.
    Hang on, hang on…why am I being told how I SHOULD react? Should perhaps, I don’t know…perhaps we should tell people not to go around sexually assaulting people?
    What a refreshing idea!
    *violent fuming and steaming*

  9. I think you have to give him some credit for confronting and reflecting on what he did. He is giving an explanation of his actions. That is different from justifying them.

  10. This is such an unhealthy blog! It’s like a preaching-to-the-converted US evangelist cable channel.

    Don’t think for a second I’m defending what this guy has done – which you’ll doubtless attempt to do, based on your “debating” technique. What I’m about to critique here *IS* your “debating” style.

    Despite all the hate this’ll arouse in most of the readers here – you, author, do realize that he IS showing remorse, don’t you? And that most of the “quotes” you cite ARE completely altered by having been taken out of context, which is a huge no-no in most debates – you do also realize this, right?

    I’m not going to list ALL of your fallacious arguments, but I will point to a couple as good examples of your attempts to create and knock down some pretty shoddy straw men. Such as the fact that he qualifies nearly all of his actions with really negative adjectives, such as “…rather pathetic in hindsight…”, “it was a weird period of lamely attempting to…”, and “it dawned on me more and more how sad, self debasing, and immoral it was of me to do this…so I stopped completely”. Sounds pretty much like he realizes with regret the error of his ways to me, or, as most dictionaries would put it – “remorse”.

    Now, as far as the misquotations on your part – perhaps the biggest one is that he doesn’t say “I couldn’t resist this”…what he actually says is “SADLY and SHAMEFULLY, I couldn’t resist this”. i.e. once again – remorse.

    Aside from your failed attempts to demonstrate his lack of remorse, you also intentionally misunderstand several other assertions of his, such as “I’ve been careful to move my arms and crotch well out of the way…’ – Wow, thanks, Bro. I owe you one.” He never said it as in “he’s doing you a favor”, because the entire tone of the surrounding text shows how he’s now overcompensating for the errors/sins that he’s realized he’s been committing in the past. He’s not attempting to make you feel sorry for him, he’s just stating facts.

    You do know that out-of-context quotes and intentionally misguided conclusions are usually worth shit in a debate? Go think about that for a while before your next post.

    Now, I’m not writing all of this in order to defend this guy – I couldn’t care less, he’s said his piece, and some of your points are correct, such as that “at no point does the writer express any remorse for the victims of his youthful frottage”. That’s true. Though the equally likely reason for this is that maybe he felt so awkward writing all of this that he forgot to tick every single box for every single shade of remorse you would have liked to have seen, even though maybe he did feel that remorse. Maybe he didn’t, who knows. Again, I don’t know and I don’t care. Because all of that would still not detract from this -

    “‘I will feel guilty for the rest of my life.’ – Yeah, good. You arsehole.”

    Pretty huge anger issues there, dear author. Maybe they be the source of all of this hate aimed at an apparently genuinely-meant confession…?

    The obvious wrongness of his actions does not excuse the unreasonable manner and tone that you have written this post in. Even the swearword in your very TITLE suggests an overflowing of general hate on your part. Learn to love the world, and to not attempt to mislead others. You don’t appear to be doing either of these things.

    Problem here is – judging by the comments below this article, many angry women read this blog. And with posts like this, you’re in no way contributing to improving the general wellbeing of mankind. On the contrary – you’re helping foment and even create more anger and hate. Is that a nice goal to have in a blog? I don’t know, you tell me. Stay safe!

  11. Hey. I’m a woman, and when I was a teenager I was sat on a bus next to a man and our thighs were touching very closely. I had space to move, but I didn’t. I enjoyed the contact, and even moved slightly closer, enjoying our bodies pressing together. He also had space to move, but didn’t, either because he enjoyed it too, or because he didn’t give a fuck. I was turned on by the whole experience. Does that make me a pervert? Was I someone trying to “exert power” over another human being? I don’t see how my experience was any different from that of the man who wrote that comment, so am I also “immoral”?

  12. Iona, my bets are you probably are a man posing as a woman over the internet.

    I think it’s an absolute disgrace. Last night on my way home from the library I was on the Northern line which Iona, my bets are you probably are a man posing as a woman over the internet.

    I think it’s an absolute disgrace. Last night on my way home from the library I was on the Northern line which became extremely crowded. This is not unusual, and I often become grossly squashed up against people, not through choice at all, I would rather have an entire carriage to myself. But I often see it as a carriage of us all as united fellow passengers, pissed off after a day at work, feeling quite sick as someone has BO just wanting to get home and out of there as soon as possible.

    However, yesterday I was blissfully unaware that I was the victim of a sly shaft rubber. Stuck face to face with other passengers, crammed into the corner near the door, as I usually do to avoid contact with people, I could feel what I thought was a bag rubbing against my leg. It did not bother me at all as in rush hour you expect to be squashed up against peoples belongings or arms, what you don’t expect is someone enjoying it! There were children about 2 bodies away from me, its absolutely revolting! Some weird man gets enjoyment from rubbing his festering sausage against a girl in woolly tights, a smock dress and a long coat around children! I had only noticed as he was walking off the tube, by the time it had registered in my mind I was trying to get off to follow and confront him, give the tip of it a smashing punch, hopefully saving the other girls he was probably going to molest with it on other lines. After this I felt disgusted, my leg had pins and needles instantly as if I should have cut it off. With this I got off the train to find and stop this man with a combination of violence and public humiliation. Me, not usually an aggressive person, was raging. As I realised I could not find this man, I set on my journey home and my anger dissipated into sadness and disappointment and disgust at the opposite sex. I then had to get back on the train upset, violated and getting off the train where there weren’t enough women around me. There is a major unbalanced issue with sexualisation of females (even educational magazines on science or politics almost always use female models in the adverts, Why!?!?!). I think I speak for most (not all) women when I say we work hard, we are intelligent and have no sexual desire to anybody we don’t know, I don’t use my looks for money, fuck off you have no right to touch me. Go pay for services, they hate you too, everyone hates you weird perv!

    A solution I would like to see would be if these men are caught, a forced female contraceptive implant. Unfortunately this is just a fantasy and will never become true, but I can dream. Or castration in the cases where children are involved! They should NEVER be re released!

    From now on I won’t be such a polite commuter, infact, anti social. On edge ready for confrontation in seconds, this isnt a natural state of being for me and I don’t want to be like this but I don’t have a choice, I cant pay for a taxi everyday and I cant stop my life.

    BE PREPARED PERVERTS! I’m a vigilante! (I apologise to innocent men I am aggressive to in the future, I’d rather be vile than violated!)

  13. When these perverts see women with curves of big ass.. That’s it, it’s over for them.. There gonna get crushed n smashed up against on packed trains Because MOST ppl in london r way to conservative.. Yal need to have a more don’t care attitude.. When u women feel dude even to close, Confidently say .. Yo WTF DONT TRY IT, coz these perverts ain’t brave der week cowards who know dey in the wrong.. N if ur wrong.. Ohh well.. The day will jus go on

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