Reason #1: It would have been a waste of time.
Here's the situation: It is 2am, you're waiting on the train platform to go home. There's nobody around. You just missed a train. It's going to be a while. And on the other side of the platform there's a dude with his dick out, masturbating.
There's no cell service. There's no cops. It's just you and this stranger, who is making it pretty clear that he doesn't care about your safety, comfort, or humanity. What do you do?
Well, if you're me, you roll your eyes and walk away, tossing him the stink eye, which you know he'll ignore, but it makes you feel a little better because at least it was SOMETHING, right? Because taking pictures, calling the cops, making a report to the transit authority... why bother? Even if they catch this guy (and you doubt they'd put in the effort) what are they going to do? He can deny it, it's his word against yours, and why would you want to prolong this encounter? When the end result will just be a lot of frustration, if anyone bothers to do anything at all, it's a giant waste of time.
Reason #2: It wouldn't solve the problem
This isn't the first time this has happened. The first time somebody flashed you, you were underage. After the next two or three, you've lost track.
On one memorable occasion you were on a crowded train and pointed it out to another passenger. He got up and made a huge deal out of it, and convinced a few people to shout the guy off the train. And all you can do is hope he was too ashamed to do it again.
And that's all you can really hope now too.
But it feels pointless to hope. Even if your stink face somehow makes it all the way to the guy on the other side of the tracks, he didn't feel ashamed to start. Didn't give any thought to your comfort. Why would he feel ashamed just because you've made it clear you think his behavior is shitty? And even if he did, you know full well that there are plenty more where he came from. Because this is just one of many isolated incidents.
Reason #3: You're tired.
Not just 2am tired. This is a different kind of fatigue. You're tired of being tired. You're ashamed of feeling ashamed. You're sick of getting sick. It's like sandpaper rubbing against your skin. At first it stings and bleeds, but after a while it's all worn away and there's just this smoothed bone left and you don't have the muscles left to lift it. You're fucking exhausted, not just tired of people but tired of existing. Every time you're treated like you're not even there, like you're not a person but a function, like you're a placeholder for whatever someone else wants, like there's nothing inside you that's valuable or interesting- every single time it happens you feel like you shrink, not your body but YOU shrink, you become less human and more inhumane, you are erased, and everything that makes you valuable and interesting suddenly becomes less valuable, less interesting. Yes, you're tired.
You're not 'letting it go'. You never had 'it' in the first place.
Even if you did call someone, they won't get here before the train does. Are you going to wait around for an hour for someone who might never come, who might not care, who might not even bother to file the report?
The justice system is broken.
There's no cell reception, no emergency light, nobody coming. How would you even do whatever it is you're supposed to do?
It's happened so many times it's not even that upsetting anymore.
Reason #10: Look what it got Ke$ha.
She lost her case the same day this happened, just hours earlier. She wasn't trying to put the man that drugged and raped her in jail. She's just asking to work with someone other than him. Because she fears for her safety. And she can't even have that. So now she either has to work with someone who has caused her unspeakable harm, or give up her career. Seems fair, right?
Someone else came down the stairs, on the same side as the masturbator. I warned him, thinking nobody wants to find out the unsettling way that they're standing less than ten feet away from someone doing that. He went to check. And then he told the guy off. I couldn't hear all of it but the second there was another man present, the harassment stopped. It takes being shamed by another man for this guy to stop. He knows that what he's doing is gross and obnoxious and wrong. He probably knows it's illegal. He just doesn't care until someone he considers a human being is there to tell him off. My obvious discomfort didn't matter, common decency didn't factor in. Which brings me back to Ke$ha.
Taylor Swift and other stars speaking up for her is the decent thing to do, but it is not a resolution. The problem is not with our behavior. Sexual assault happens to eight year old girls, it happens to elderly women in wheelchairs. It happens all day, at work or at home or at the subway. The problem is NOT that we are going "unsafe places". The problem is that we deserve a world that is safe, and it has been denied to us time and time again. Because nobody cares about us.
Don't tell me you're sorry.
Tell me you're fucking angry.
Tell me I'm not going to be the only person actively looking for this kind of behavior. Because it's not enough for me to care about my safety, YOU have to care about it too.
Tell me you're going to talk about this, not with your daughters but with your SONS. Your brothers. Your friends. Because the men that do this have parents and teachers and families and friends just like everyone else. They don't come from nowhere.
Tell me you're never going to ask 'what were you wearing', 'why were you there so late', 'how much did you drink', 'why didn't you/scream/fight/say something sooner' ever again. The only thing you can say is 'what can I do' because the victim is not the person responsible, and only they get to decide what to do about it.
Or don't tell me. But don't speak to me about this or anything else unless you plan on doing it. Not just today. Every day. If I have to worry about this every day, then you should too.