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“Watching porn in public? It’s 50 shades of wrong” Lucy Mangan on people who view porn on public transport

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Stylist columnist Lucy Mangan tries to put this inappropriateness into words.

So, the other day I’m on the train in town with a friend and notice that the very young man sitting opposite alternates between staring at his phone and staring at me, with an odd look on his face. It registers, but only just. You would hardly manage to get from A to B if you paid too much attention to everyone who gives you strange looks on public transport. And given some of the states I’m often in when I leave the house, I am aware that a) I often deserve them and b) they are often kindly meant. “Should I offer to help this lady who appears to have her health and strength and yet has not managed to run a brush through her hair or find matching socks?” some will be thinking. “Were those jeans an active choice, or has she run out of medication?”

But this time, when we got up to leave, I was able to look over the man’s shoulder and see what was on his phone. Which was porn. I saw a random performer’s vagina closer up and in clearer detail than I have ever seen my own, her already raw-looking organ was obscured by various brutalising instruments going to further town on it.

Lucy Mangan

I told my friend (about the porn-watching, not the detail). My friend was a male friend. My friend laughed. I reflected that this was a different male friend from the one who – when I told him that a man across the aisle on the Tube was taking photos of my legs (in boots and a slightly short skirt) – said that he found it flattering. (Yes, that’s flattering to him. He wasn’t saying I should be flattered. Let me know if you think that’s better or worse. It’s been months now and I still can’t decide.)

WTF am I supposed to make of this? Let’s leave aside the fact that watching porn on your phone on a reasonably crowded train in the late afternoon is now apparently A Thing, because I… well, because if I have to put its inappropriateness into words then the meltdown that is beckoning will arrive too soon for me to finish this column. And let’s concentrate instead on the fact that I CLEARLY DO HAVE TO PUT ITS INAPPROPRIATENESS INTO WORDS BUT NOT FOR YOU. For my friends. For men I like, respect and – as part of that liking and respect – thought had a clue. A clue about how weird and how horrible such an experience might be and how hostile it makes the world feel to you when you experience it. A clue about how common it is and how wearing it is. A clue about how each one makes us a little more careful, cramps us a little more, circumscribes our mental and physical movement just a tiny bit more, and little by little shapes our world into something uncomfortable, threatening and increasingly unfit for our purposes. Which are – for the avoidance of doubt – to live the same kind of safe, unfettered life that men do. One into which we may slot invisibly if we wish and emerge into visibility when and on the terms which we choose. And during which we may generally expect that our basic rights privacy, personal space, that kind of shizz – will not be routinely ignored.

I can’t believe this still needs to be spelled out even for the ones supposedly already on our side. But it does. So I have. And we must. So that our friends, at least, can learn. And stop laughing.


Chelsea is leading the feminist charge

Chelsea Handler

I’m so happy to have Chelsea Handler back. She’s returned to our screens with a series of documentaries for Netflix, as a prelude to a new talk show series later in the year. The programmes, to be honest, aren’t as good as her old show (Chelsea Lately, on E!) but she is still – fabulously, invigoratingly, inspiringly – herself; funny, brutal, clearly unburdened by having any f**ks to give at all. What’s even better, however, is that the entertainment world she has re-entered feels different. She no longer appears like the lone wolf. In the interim, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s profiles have increased and their schtick has become even more scabrous. Amy Schumer’s star has risen and has been illuminating a lot of hidden corners of women’s lives. Likewise, Emma Watson has been adding her voice to the mix, to say nothing of Shonda Rimes’ recent amazing feminist speech. Of course public figures are not everything. But they are something. And suddenly, something, it seems, is everywhere.


Photography: Ellis Parrinder, Thinkstock, Rex Features

To read this week's issue of Stylist, download from app.stylist.co.uk

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