Tuesday, October 30, 2007

On Flashing

Shakespeare's sister has written an excellent post (with a picture which is not work safe) on how sexuality is defined, which jokes are acceptable and who it is who is expected to stop sex crimes. I especially liked this:

Of course, exposing one's genitalia unbidden is not just a crime only when done to children; it's a criminal act to expose oneself to adults, too. I'm reminded of Eugene Volokh's ridiculous argument that the reason we criminalize touching a woman's breast or genitals against her will, as opposed to her shoulder, is because it might sexually arouse her. I noted in my response:

I suspect nearly everyone is familiar with the method of conveying to children what is appropriate and inappropriate touching by using the example of a bathing suit. No one should ever touch you on the places covered by your bathing suit. For boys, that's a signal that a stranger who tries to touch their genitals or buttocks is doing something wrong. For girls, it's the genitals, buttocks, and breasts. Is Volokh seriously arguing that the reason we impart this information to children is because we're worried about the children becoming sexually aroused? Or even just because we're worried about the pedophile becoming sexually aroused? I suspect not. I suspect he would recognize that there are other issues at play here aside from just sexual arousal—issues about bodily autonomy, trust, safety, emotional health, appropriateness. Which means, then, he's attempting to make the argument that sometime after puberty, women lose their right to not have the same body parts invaded on those principles.

It is that very last sentence that rang a bell for me, because I suddenly found my body public property at puberty, and it took some time before I learned how to cope with the sudden gropes and comments.

But what I really wanted to write about was flashing. It's usually regarded as a joke if it doesn't happen to children. Flashers are sorta innocent, only exposing themselves from a distance, and safe to ignore. Pitiable, really. Or so the folklore on this topic goes.

But getting flashed is not a fun experience. The first time it happened to me was in a park at night, while I was going home from school. The guy, hiding behind the bushes, got up and exposed himself. I had no idea what he was doing so I ran, and he ran after me. I ran faster, so to this day I have no idea if flashing was the only thing he had planned.

Most of my other encounters with flashers have been at bus stations and railway stations, late at night when few people sit in the waiting-room. You know, get to the station, buy your ticket, look at the flasher. That sort of an experience. But one other flashing encounter was more unpleasant. I was having lunch at a snack bar, one which had glass windows on three sides and an apartment entryway on one of those sides. The flasher was masturbating in the entryway while watching me eat my lunch.

He was using me to masturbate. Now, I wasn't in any physical danger, what with the staff of the snack bar being present and possibly other lunchers, too (can't remember that part), but I certainly felt used. My privacy was invaded. Nobody asked if I wanted to be part of his masturbation. And I lost my appetite.

I'm groping (sorry) for the connections here, from the effects of puberty as the sign that the hunting season is on to the way we mostly view flashers as not really criminals to...what? Popular culture on sexuality? Pornography and its uses (which sometimes mirror the flashing experience) To who it is who owns my body? Our bodies?

I'm not sure.