Monday, April 23, 2007
It was a normal day. I was making my way to the office in South London, alongside the other commuters in the rush hour tube. I sat, as I always did, on the last carriage just by the doors, which lined up perfectly with the platform exit to the elevators: a speedy route to work is important when you’re half asleep in the morning. At Waterloo, as usual the entire train emptied, leaving me on my own in a nice peaceful carriage. Usually I would try to use the quietness on this last part of my journey to relax before trundling off to work. But not this day, because a moment after the train left Waterloo station a man stepped through the connecting doors from the adjacent carriage.
A few thoughts ran through my head as he entered:
1) Why would he move from an almost vacant carriage next door, to mine?
2) Why did he sit almost immediately opposite me, when all the seats were unoccupied?
3) Why did he have an erection prominently showing through his trousers?
Of course I noticed his hard cock: I’m the type of woman who, when she spots a guy – any guy – tends to look at his face, his hands, and then his crotch. Not that this is related to a man’s attractiveness, nor is it associated with his cock size; it’s more to do with, just, you know, checking that it’s there. It’s not necessarily sexual; I’m just curious like that. So as he entered the carriage, my eyes scanned from his face, down his body, and then across his crotch, and I was startled to see the swollen outline of his erection beneath his tracksuit bottoms.
Now, let me just say for the record, that this is actually one of my favourite images – a hard cock under a tracksuit with no underwear that is. Either that or a nice erection under denim jeans: I’m all for a man going ‘commando’ given the right circumstances. But seeing this guy’s cock pressing up against his clothing didn’t turn me on in the slightest. And when he sat down on the seat opposite, and then proceeded to pull out his hard penis and tug at it whilst staring directly at me, my heart began beating in fright.
My reaction surprised me. I always thought I’d behave calmly in such a situation. Ever since I was young, my mother had warned me about something like this happening, and had offered advice and support on how to deal with it. They’re harmless, these men, she would say. They just get their kicks from being an exhibitionist. Don’t give them any attention: they thrive on that. Instead, laugh at them, or ignore them – don’t show you are intimidated. With her comforting words in my ear, I had always felt confident that if it eventually happened, I would be ready to deal with it.
Yet, as this man sat opposite me, grabbing at his penis, my fighting instinct disappeared. Instead of laughing at him, I began shaking from fear. I felt glued to the seat; unable to move because my legs were like jelly. In my head I chastised myself: how pathetic of me to be scared of someone so harmless! How feeble I was not to be able to say or do anything! Why was I so terrified? Surely I should be able to laugh at the fact that a total stranger was jerking off in front of me; it’s not like that would be the first time I had witnessed that. But I wasn’t at a swingers’ club. This was no group-sex situation. We weren’t role-playing in a pre-organised sexual scenario agreed by us both. This was a man who was using me for his sexual satisfaction without my consent - and he was enjoying the fact that this made me scared.
Whilst I sat there, my whole body nervously shaking, he was gripping his penis enthusiastically. As I began to panic and sweat, he increased his masturbatory speed. When my hands became so tightly clenched with fright that my knuckles turned white, his cock-stroking became furious. And as my breathing became shallow and disjointed and I felt like I was going to vomit, he too was out of breath – but his breathlessness was linked to pleasure; he was getting off on my fear.
This was what made me so scared: I was alone in a train carriage with a total stranger who was enjoying the terror he was inducing in me. And no matter how many ‘fucking on a train’ scenarios I may have had, or the desire to shag strangers, or the many thoughts on watching men masturbate that may have run through my head over the years, this was no fantasy of which I could derive pleasure too: this was a real-life situation – and one in which alarm bells were ringing in my head.
I sat there, with my heart in my stomach and tried desperately to figure out what to do. All my planning over the years hadn’t prepared me for how scared I might be, and I didn’t feel able to move, given the shakiness of my legs. But with him directly opposite me, I feared that he might have a weapon and could attack me, so I knew I had to get away from him quickly. I remember yawning; it’s an action that calms me down when I am stressed. I also wanted to give him the impression that I was less terrified than I felt; as if by yawning I would appear relaxed – and therefore not weakened by fear. I set myself the task of standing up on the count of ten, grabbing my bags and exiting the carriage.
One… Exhale. Two… Breathe slower. Three… Calm down. Four… Feel your feet solidly on the floor. Five… Knees together; feel the strength in your thighs. Six…Unclench your hands; have them ready to grab your coat. Seven… Slide your fingers through the bag’s straps. Eight…Look straight ahead, glance at the door to check your exit. Nine… Glance at him to see what he’s doing; if it’s safe to go. Oh god, he’s grinning: he’s enjoying this. Fuck I’m scared, can I stand up? Will I be able to get away? Fuck fuck fuck. Ten… Grab bag, grab coat, run to door, grab handle, thrust it open, pull at the next door, push it open, run into next carriage, don’t look back, find some people, sit amongst them. Breathe.
For the rest of the journey, I waited fearfully for that door to open; for him to follow me into that carriage. He didn’t; I never saw him again. I count myself as lucky, that in this case, I got away with just shaken nerves.
I know that most flashers are supposedly harmless and want no interaction beyond their being watched, but the fact that this man was obtaining pleasure from terrorising a complete stranger, showed his distinct sociopathic tendencies. There’s a term for a man who hates women so much that he lacks empathy and finds it gratifying to sexually violate them without consent, and that’s ‘rapist’.
Once a man lacks the ability to attribute compassion and sympathy and dignity to a woman; once he sees her as something less than, or beneath, him; once he feels so emasculated that his only way to experience pleasure is to undermine and punish her, the groundwork is laid for abuse and violence. And given the amount of women who experience some form of sexual violence in their lives, it appears that resorting to rape is not such a huge leap for some men to take.
I’m not concluding that this man would have raped me had I continued to sit opposite him on the train. But I do worry for the next woman he met, because I’ll never forget the way he grinned as he saw how scared I was: the pleasure he got from the terror he induced in me, he would be seeking again, I’m sure of that.