If you’re not a cisgender man and you’ve ever used public transit, chances are pretty high you’ve been sexually harassed, assaulted or at least made to feel very uncomfortable at some point. As someone who has spoken and written a lot about subway sex crimes, I was intrigued by a new initiative to curb the problem in Mexico City.
It’s called the “penis seat,” and is a typical subway seat molded to include a protruding male chest and penis. It comes with a “men-only” label and reads: "It is uncomfortable to sit here, but that is nothing compared to the sexual violence that women suffer on their daily journeys."
Amen, Mexico City metro system!
This won’t be a permanent fixture of their transit system, but it’s part of a campaign initiated by UN Women and the Mexico City government called #NoEsDeHombres, which is attempting to shed some light on sexual harassment on public transportation.
According to figures provided by the Mexican government, 65 percent of women have been sexually harassed on the city’s trains, while 90 percent have experienced some form of sexual violence in general. There have been a few attempts to address this problem in recent years, including offering women city-branded whistles to blow when they felt threatened. In addition, some trains have separate cars for women.
Is the penis seat the most efficient way to handle subway sex crimes? I don’t think it is, but I am appreciative that Mexico City is doing something that’s attracting attention to highlight this incredibly common urban problem. Clearly, New York City’s MTA announcements that a crowded subway is no excuse for inappropriate touching isn’t working – 458 sex crimes were reported in the first half of 2016.
If you think that sounds like a lot, keep in mind that these are just the crimes that are reported. I know firsthand that going through the process of reporting a sex crime – at least to the NYPD – can be frustrating, tedious, triggering and full of victim blaming. They certainly don’t make it easy or comfortable and I know that because of this – and the pervasive culture surrounding not believing women – so many sex crimes go unreported.
While I don’t think adding more penises – plastic or otherwise – to my commute would be in any way beneficial, at least Mexico City’s unconventional tactic has gotten people talking.