Now, the last thing I want to do is discourage people from taking the train. But since I told you about my earlier train trip, now I'd like to tell you what happened this last time I took the train to come here. You can decide which is worse...
I was on the train from Bordeaux to Lille, getting off in the suburbs of Paris to visit friends before continuing on to Zurich. At one of the stations, a guy who looked to be in his mid-twenties -- neither exceptionally attractive nor unattractive -- got on and took the seat just across the aisle from where I was sitting. (Note that the seat numbers are assigned on the tickets, so he didn't specifically choose to sit by me.) He got out a portable computer and began watching a movie on it. I had an aisle seat, and since there was a guy in the window seat next to me (coincidentally also watching a film on a P.C.), I couldn't just stare out the window as I normally do when I'm riding the train thinking of silly things to write on my blog. So I kind of had to stare up the aisle instead.
While I was sitting there chuckling to myself about all of hilarious things I might write, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Is that guy resting his hand on his crotch? My conscious mind was saying Don't turn and look, don't turn and look, whatever you do, don't turn and look! But my unconscious reflex won out, so I turned for a split-second micro-glance. I confirmed my initial impression, and immediately after the glance, the guy nonchalantly moved his hand away.
A few minutes later, the same guy (sitting across the aisle from me) shifted to a more comfortable, reclined position in his chair. Then he put his hand in his pocket, and it was quite clear that his hand was moving. And I don't mean a simple adjustment or rearrangement.
The film the guy was apparently watching wasn't something erotic as far as I could tell, and he didn't give the impression of creepily leering. He seemed more uncomfortable than anything else. (And, yes, I really did take in all of this information with my peripheral vision alone and didn't look again after that one micro-glance -- well-trained peripheral vision is an important skill for any serious primatologist.)
I could almost sympathize. After all, due to some unfortunate scheduling problems, my husband had to go to Switzerland with the kids (for their school and his job) a week earlier than I did, so I'd spent the week alone (packing and supervising the movers). On that trip, I was on my way to see my sweetie after not having seen him for more than a week, and those of you who have been in a similar situation know what that's like. Of course -- for the few hours on the train, at least -- I was able to keep all of these thoughts confined to the interior of my head and not allow my hands to wander to the nether regions, out of courtesy to the other passengers who don't want to see that.
(Some of you are probably thinking "Actually, Chanson, there's a decent chance that guy did want to see that..." Right. I'm not talking about him. I'm talking about the other other passengers.)
To me, masturbating while riding the train is a little like drinking and driving: neither activity is a problem by itself, but they don't go together. This particular incident didn't bother me -- just more free data for my inner anthropologist, as usual -- but many other people might find it upsetting and even threating. It essentially amounts to a non-consensual sex act. The other people on the train just want to get where they're going, and they certainly didn't ask to share this intimate moment with you.
I think even Dan Savage would agree with me. I don't have the exact reference, but once some guy wrote about how he and his wife like to have sex in public, and was complaining about all the prudes that didn't appreciate the show. And Dan told him that having a kink that involves random bystanders is not fair to the random bystanders, which makes sense. Now you're probably thinking this is incredibly hypocritical of me, considering my claim to fame **cough** BYU library **cough** (and to a lesser degree my tales from topless and nude beaches). As far as the nude beaches are concerned, the people who go there know what they're in for, and as for the BYU library? Well, like I said, it was a case where there was one door to lock the entire room, not just a stall (where there might potentially be random people in the room just outside the stall). I guess it's tricky to decide precisely where to draw the line for what constitutes common decency. Feel free to debate me in the comments. ;^)
Having sex in a public place naturally has its risks. I remember back when I was attending Rutgers, the Mathematics building (the Hill Center) was never completely locked. So there were students in there all the time (24/7, on holidays, weekends, whenever). It was quite convenient for grad students working on their thesis research at odd hours. One time a friend and fellow grad student recounted to me the following story:
She was in her office working on her research during the weekend, and she sent something to the printer to be printed. The way the building was arranged, the shortest path from her office to the printer room was through one of the classrooms. (These classrooms were normally locked, but many of the grad students had keys to them.) So she opened the door and turned on the light, and she found a pair of undergrads having sex right there in the classroom. Then the really surprising part of the story was what happened next. The guy said "Close the door," but my friend refused to close the door, she insisted that they disengage immediately, get dressed, and get the hell out of there. And that's what they did.
My friend told me this story as though that were a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Maybe it was. After all, random undergrads weren't supposed to be in that classroom on weekends at all, much less having sex. But if it were me, after one glance I would have turned the light back off, closed the door, and taken another path to the printer room.
Then I would have immediately gone and written all about it on my blog. ;^)
Is that weird of me? Does any of this make sense?