The awful realisation that the person sitting beside you is watching porn

I used a public internet cafe recently out of necessity. It was situated in the basement in Central London. A sense of foreboding came over me as I descended the stairs. There were men in macs living up to the stereotype of being ‘dirty old men’. They were peering very closely at their computer screens. I guessed what it was that they were watching. Porn. I know because I had to walk past them.

Ever since I was in the Channel 4 documentary, ‘Mums Make Porn’, I have been stopped by lovely women who tell me their tales of woe about porn. One of these is about feeling mighty uncomfortable when a stranger, always male, is watching porn within close proximity to them in a public place.

I know how it feels. As I took my seat by a computer I can honestly say that I felt intimidated being in a dark basement with men watching porn. By my definition, an internet cafe open to the public to use is a public place. It defies belief that men don’t feel any social sanction about watching explicit material in public.

The question arises as to what one ought to do in such a situation? I quickly accessed my emails and left after 15 minutes despite having paid for a full hour of computer usage. The situation felt threatening and dark and ugly. I didn’t feel comfortable complaining to the people who ran the Internet Cafe because it was obvious that they didn’t care who or what was watched on their computers. They couldn’t have been ignorant of it by any means.

Women who have spoken to me about similar experiences express a sense of anger and fear. One lady in her 60s told me that she went home and kicked herself for not speaking up. I told her that it was a societal problem which needed a societal answer and she ought not to feel bad. While some women may feel comfortable challenging the situation, others may not and shouldn’t feel bad about not doing so.

British Transport Police advices people to contact them to report such incidents. It is being taken seriously and is further evidence that public watching of pornographic material is a societal problem.

What I mean about it being a societal problem is this. Watching porn is something that ought to be done in the privacy of one’s home. Much as I personally dislike porn, I understand that a sizeable amount of people do enjoy watching it. It is a personal choice and one’s private space (home, shed, garden etc) is the space within which the private enjoyment of an individual ought to take place.

In other words, don’t blinking watch porn in public.

Porn objectifies women. Plain and simple. Porn contains content that glorifies violence against women. The fact that many women enjoy watching such content doesn’t equal blanket consent by all women to having it displayed in public.

I have known of instances where such material is viewed deliberately to provoke others around them. There is another word for this. It is sexual harassment.

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