Before anyone freaks out about the title of this article, let me say that I absolutely know that being an entitled jerk on the NYC subway is not only the territory of dudes. I have seen other people being douchebags on subway, too. Lots of them. But if I had to do a quick tabulation in my head, I’d say the odds are at least ten to one (and that’s extremely generous) that if I see someone engaging in any of the behaviors listed below… it is a male-identified, male-bodied individual. I’ve lived here, on and off, for over ten years now, and this ratio has stayed pretty much a constant.
I also want to point out, lest I appear to despise all dudes, that the vast majority of men do not do things that make me want to gouge somebody’s eyes out with sporks on the public transit system. For every dude who engages in this kind of stupid bullshit, there are at least two hundred others behaving themselves. As a matter of fact, most people on the subway are polite, kind, and gracious to the point of being almost unbelievable. If someone tells me that New Yorkers are mean, I like to show them a photo of what the inside of the subway looks like during rush hour and tell them that it’s a testament to our hearts of gold that we are so civil to one another, given the circumstances. But the one issue with this politeness is that the proto-human dickbags tend to get away with their jackassery, because the rest of us are too nice to say anything.
So, I’m saying something. On the internet, true, instead of in a crowded subway car. Because–and here’s the rub–I don’t want to get harrassed or assaulted for calling someone out on their shittiness, and I don’t want to hold up a subway train with 1,000+ people on it to make a statement. Well, I often do, but I’m not going to, because I’m a nice fucking person. Although you might not know it after reading the following rant.
Anyway, back to the point: dudes being d-bags on the subway. I’m not convinced that the below behavior is always symptomatic of a larger gender problem. But I do know that these are things I see men doing way more often than women or people of other genders, and most of them reek of entitlement, at least from where I’m sitting (or standing, because let’s be real: subway seats are rarer than cronuts served by leprechauns). I mean the kind of entitlement bred of a culture that oozes the idea that masculinity is the same as intimidation, domination, and constantly proving how “badass” you are. I understand that for many people, proving oneself in the public sphere is a survival mechanism, but there is a difference between watching out for yourself and displaying outright contempt for other people’s comfort and well-being, like when people–usually dudes–do any of the following on the subway…
CAUTION: SWEARING AHEAD. LIKE, A LOT OF SWEARING.
1) Getting way too into your music. I don’t know why this tends to be a male issue, but I literally cannot think of one time that I have ever seen or heard anyone who was not presenting as male loudly rapping or singing in the middle of a crowded, otherwise-silent car, or walking down the platform headbanging and air-guitar playing. It’s always dudes. And hey, dude: No, your vibrato is not masterful. No, your rhymes are not impressive (nor is your ability to recite the rhymes of the artist you’re listening to). Dear lord, no, your ability to pantomime the finger placements for this thrash metal riff is not making me want to drop my panties right here and now. And sweet baby Jesus, your headbanging does not make you look like a badass. You actually look and/or sound obnoxious and like you have self-confidence issues that you think your obnoxiousness is masking. Guess what. It’s not. It’s making you look like a jackass, and one who is whipping his greasy hair into the faces of everybody around him. Gross.
2) Leaning up against the pole. Ok, this isn’t just the purview of the male-identified douchebag–I’ve seen douchebags of other genders do it, as well. But I’d put the odds at five-to-one that somebody doing this on the train is a dude. So, dude, hey. I need to hold onto something to avoid falling over when the train moves. So do these other ten people. There’s enough room for all of us to put one hand on this pole, so we can all arrive at our destinations broken-ankle-free! Yippie! Except we can’t grab the pole right now because your ass, in all its obliviously overwhelming glory, is shoved up against it. And we don’t want to touch your nasty butt, or whatever other body part you’ve decided to use to declare that this pole is yours, because you deserve it more than we do. I guess we’ll all just fall over on one another so we don’t have to disturb the clearly very important assflesh of you. Because you are apparently a very big deal. And so is your ass. You shameless slimeball.
3) Sitting with your legs so far apart that you are taking up two or three seats. (This issue is so prevalent that there’s an entire Tumblr dedicated to it, and other variations thereof.) I’m sorry, dude, that you are forced to go through life with testicles the size of eggplants. This must be difficult for you, and I would imagine that though it may give you bragging rights (I’ve been led to believe, by certain hair bands, that big balls are to be coveted), it might scare off potential paramours when you reveal your gargantuan gonads. I’m sure that walking must be tough if you want to avoid bruising your sensitive dangly bits. But, here’s the thing: I don’t care about your dangly bits. I really don’t give one percentage point of a flying fuck if you have swollen testicles—you do not need to sit with your legs that far apart. You are actually denying other human beings the ability to sit down after a long day at work when you refuse to come up with a solution for dealing with your massive nuts. They are your testes, but this is our shared public space and you do not deserve to take up that much of it. Also, by the by, nobody here believes for a second that your balls are really that big. Nobody. But we all know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are an asshole.
4) Treating the poles and other furniture like your own personal jungle gym. This particular phenomenon tends to happen on less packed trains that lend themselves to the “nobody will mind” mindset adopted by people (again, mostly dudes) who feel the need to really stretch out and get comfy. They tend to do this by grabbing onto as many poles and overhead supports as possible at once, splaying their legs akimbo, leaning forward or back, and swaying with the motion of the train in an exaggeratedly “cool” fashion. The mood seems to be one of, “I am so relaxed that I am going to assume a pose that takes up five times more space than is reasonable, because I’m so confident that I’m, like, totally at home enough to do yoga on the subway.” It’s a less-aggressive symptom of entitlement to public space than some others listed here, but it nevertheless annoys the living bejesus out of me (yes my bejesus is living—what?). Because, dude, I’m not interested in how relaxed you are, especially when that relaxation is causing you to stretch your body across the entire doorway. I don’t need to see your armpit hair hanging over my head when I glance up to see which stop I’m at. Do I even know you? I’m sorry to interrupt the very smooth and confident way in which you are talking to that woman who I’m sure is totes down with your Warrior 2 posture, but other people have shit to do. Get the hell out of the way and stop taking up the whole car.
5) Staring at every woman that gets on the train or walks by on the platform. Hey, dude bro, I know it’s totally amazing how attractive the women in this city are. I know they’re just like, so beautiful that you’re blown away by it all. But those women whose chests and posteriors your eyes linger on before passing up and down the rest of their bodies on repeat? They’re not dolls for you to dress and undress. They are not walking or standing near you for the express purpose of making you feel manly or aroused. They, actually, don’t give a shit about you. They’d much prefer listening to their podcasts or spacing out and thinking about what to have for dinner or even staring at the Doctor fucking Zizmor poster over feeling like they’re on display for some creepster like you to ogle. For New Yorkers, the subway is analogous to the rest of the country’s cars—a space it is necessary to be in to get around. It is not a runway. We do not do this so that you can get off on making us feel like objects for you to enjoy playing with. But hey, if you feel like it’s ok for you to behave like an outright misogynist lech in public, I’m going to go ahead and feel like it’s ok for me to imagine how good it would feel to knee you in the face. And if what I’m imagining shows on my face—should your eyes stray up that far, you troglodyte—I won’t be sorry that you notice it. Fuck off.
6) Walking around with a hand up your shirt or down your pants. The thing that pisses me off the most about this one is that when I see this—inevitably being done by an ultra-male macho man, who we’ll refer to here as Douchebag A—my impulse is to mimic the behavior in a particularly gross way to exhibit to Douchebag A that it’s not cool. But, as a female, I feel reasonably certain that if I walked down the platform with my hand down my pants, Douchebag A and his group of friends (Douchebags B through H, collectively, here, the Douchebag Posse) wouldn’t think it was gross so much as “slutty.” It would most likely be treated by the Douchebag Posse as an invitation for sexytime, or at least an indication that I would be absolutely into sexytime with said Posse. But goddammit, that would not be what I was going for. Because, dude. Gross! We all have to hang on to the poles in the subway, as I’ve mentioned. It’s bad enough knowing that I might contract a cold, the flu, or some other ailment because I touched the same pole as some scumbag who wiped their nose with the same hand they touched the pole with. That sucks. But it is way, way worse to think that I might contract whatever things might be lurking in your bellybutton hair or, dear lord, your filthy JUNK, because you can’t keep your hand out of your clothes. Ew. Just… DON’T FONDLE YOURSELF IN PUBLIC. I can’t believe I even have to say that.
7) Spitting onto the tracks or platform. I’ve seen women and others spit in the subway. Totally. And it’s just as gross when they do it as when a dude does it. But I’d put the ratio at something like 10:1, and that might be conservative. So here’s my question: Why do men spit so damn much? Is there something going on in their mouths that I don’t know about? Is there like a male over-salivation epidemic sweeping this fair city? Look, if you just accidentally ate a cockroach, or if you’re having some gland issue that causes your mouth to fill up with spittle every twenty seconds and you have not yet had a chance to see a doctor about it, then by all means, spit if you need to. There are worse things than spitting. But if you are spitting because… I’ve never quite gotten the psychology behind this one… Because it somehow is cool to vent your bodily fluids in full view of other humans? Or because it… I don’t know… exhibits your lack of giving a fuck about whether people want to hear you hawk a goddamn loogie, and that is cool? Or because it entertains you to see people stepping in your puddle of mucus? Then. Well. Just fuck you. That is disgusting. I don’t want to see your saliva or snot or whatever else might be in your throat/mouth/sinuses, and I don’t want to hear the foul sounds that issue forth from your sinus cavity when you endeavor to produce said fluids. Neither does anybody else here, and I don’t believe it will harm you to keep it the hell inside your body until you find a private restroom.
8) Fucking peeing in the motherfucking subway station. Goddammit. That is absolutely unacceptable. Not only do I not in any way want to see your peen, but if I did want to see it, I can guarantee you that I do not want to see it pissing. I understand that nature calls and it can be difficult to hold it, but you should have thought of that before you left whatever cave you crawled out of. How old are you, like three? Do you need Pull-Ups? No, you don’t. You are a full grown adult and it should not be my problem that your bladder is full. But you’re making it my problem by forcing the smell of your filthy icky horrible urine into my nostrils. I hate you. I really do. I know that we all have moments of “I’m going to burst if I don’t pee,” but I refuse to believe that it happens so frequently that I should forgive the men I see urinating in the subway system almost every day. There is just no way in hell that each and every time I’ve seen this happen was an emergency. This also makes me homicidal because it is a clear-cut sex-entitlement issue. You don’t see non-dudes dropping trou and pissing all over the public spaces around us, because it’d be very difficult for us to do so, logistically speaking. But somehow, because you can pee without removing your clothing, this becomes acceptable? No. It is not acceptable. Not ever. And also, I tend to believe that the real reason you don’t see non-male subway riders pissing all over the damn place is because that is nasty and those of us who don’t believe that it is our inborn right to do whatever the hell we feel like in spite of the health and safety of those around us would never do something so fucking disgusting. You horrible turd.
Ahem. I want to say that the above, I’m fully aware, was a rant. Please bear this in mind, in case I’m being a complete jerk about something. And hey, if you have other opinions on any of this, I’d love to hear them. Because I really don’t want my face to explode next time I see someone doing one of these things, and if you offer me some sound, logical reasoning as to why it shouldn’t piss me off so much, then hey! Face-explodey avoided! Win-win!
Image: Lynsey G.
Lynsey G is a writer, reviewer, interviewer, columnist and blogger writing for and about sex, feminism, and porn since 2007. Formerly a smut scribe for Fox, Juggs, and Tight magazines, she’s also written for xoJane, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Corset Magazine, TOSKA, MadisonBound.com, and WHACK! Magazine. She’s still on a high after winning a 2013 Feminist Porn Award for her short film, “Consent: Society,” and is now at work blogging at her own website and a few books of various types.