• Thu, Sep 19 - 1:40 pm ET

Inappropriate Or Empowering: Writer Publicly Masturbates On Subway For Cosmo

subway car

Every so often, I come across a piece of writing I do not know how to respond to. Today, it is a blog post from Cosmo titled, “I Had Sex With Myself On The Q Train While Eating a Gyro.”

In it, writer Anna Breslaw details the execution of her editor’s assignment: to masturbate in public. To prepare, she purchased a tiny vibrator from Babeland and went on her merry way to perform the experiment:

About the size of my palm, I shoved it into my underwear before waddling erotically to the train station, grabbing a gyro from a halal cart on the way.

Upon boarding the train, things got weird.

From somewhere else in the car came the whooping cough of a small child, which oddly enough was not doing it for me sexually.

By Union Square, it was working physically, but to have an orgasm you also have to be in The Zone mentally, and I was about eighty miles and one off-road path from The Zone, no matter how hard I tried (Hot guys. This pita bread. Jeffrey Dean Morgan. It smells weird in here. That old woman is staring at me. Hot ex-boyfriend jerking off. Thomas the Tank Engine jerking off. Helllllllppppp).

“THIS IS SO GOOD,” I yelled. Nobody looked up, because New York.

On the one hand, Breslaw is doing this unbeknownst to those around her. Oftentimes, when creepy people (generally, men) on the subway do creepy things, they want nearby people to notice it. But what people don’t know can’t hurt them, right? But then, I contemplate realizing a guy sitting down the train was masturbating and didn’t think I realized it. I would be very uncomfortable. While I don’t think that was Breslaw’s intention, it could have been the outcome.

Historically (and, let’s be honest, currently), female sexuality has been suppressed. Society, the entertainment industry and the media want women to be sexual objects, but not sexually active; to be coy and sexy, but still virginal; to please others, but never please themselves. For this reason, I think talking about female masturbation is a wonderful thing. But I am very, very cautious about making exceptions for people publicly masturbating based on gender.

To be honest, I think I am most uneasy with the idea that there was a “small child” on the train. Up until that point in the story, I guess I wasn’t as horribly opposed to the idea, but then the realization that — duh — subways are public places frequented by children and other people who likely don’t want to be masturbated around. And as much as I personally do not want somebody diddling him- or herself around me, I think the matter would become significantly more disgusting if I knew someone were doing that around my child.

Of course, we could just pull a Sweden and say public masturbation is a-okay provided it is not directed at anyone, right? (No, I’m joking, I really don’t like that idea.)

Photo: Bobolink/Flickr

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  • LynnKell

    I support masturbation as long as it is in private or around knowing, consenting, age-appropriate people. In the subway? Plain creepy, be it a man or a woman. Jerking off in public is frankly uncomfortable and upsetting to the unwilling spectators.

  • Katie

    The first weekend after I moved to Chicago, my friend and I were on a train home late at night, and the guy across the aisle from us was staring at our reflections in the mirror and masturbating over his sweatpants. And then he pulled out his penis just as we got off for our stop. It was absolutely disgusting and so disturbing and I can’t imagine any situation where masturbating on the train would be okay.

  • anna

    It’s involving other un consenting people in their sex lives, that’s the only problem I have with it.

  • Cee

    But the germs!
    And, well, seriously, if a child is nearby and had s/he seen it, its pretty much a crime.

  • Tusconian

    I cannot imagine how this is empowering or sexy at all. What is the point? This is one aspect of sexuality that is suppressed and frowned upon for a good damn reason, not just Puritanism.

  • meimei8

    I think it would be nicer if everyone could agree not to masturbate in public places…

  • Natasha

    This is all about consent. By masturbating in front of a train full of strangers (and a child!), the Cosmo writer was forcibly making them a part of her exhibitionist sex act. The people on the train did not express consent to watch this woman attempt reach orgasm while eating a sandwich in public. It shouldn’t matter that she was female.