Public Porn Users, Thy Name is Male Entitlement

On the list of harmful crap men get away with or believe they can get away with, “looking at child pornography on an airplane” is a newer one. Grant Smith, a Utah professor, was caught looking at the images in-flight by, of course, the passengers who were sitting around him. Former prosecutor Wendy Murphy told a CNN affiliate, “The notion that someone would be so bold as to view it in public is extraordinary, and I’m not sure what the explanation is.” Well, then. Let’s see why “someone” might do such a brazen thing.

First, a person looking at child pornography is never just a “someone”. It is basically always a male someone. Male perpetrators of sexual abuse and male viewers of pornography vastly outnumber females. Specifically, according to a 2006 U.S. Department of Justice report, 99 percent of those arrested on child pornography charges were male. (Chant with me! MEN. ARE. THE 99 PERCENT! …of child porn users!)

So, why would a man openly view images of children (in this case, girls) being sexually abused? What could have possibly made him so bold as to believe he could get away with it? Because men do get away with it. All the time, every day. In cases of rape, for example, 15 out of 16 perpetrators do not spend a day in jail. The arrogance of men who commit crimes like these is not unwarranted. They probably don’t have to worry about any repercussions.

Technology has made viewing pornography in public much more commonplace, and it was probably just a short leap in this man’s mind to simply be looking at child porn instead. Cell phones, laptops, and other devices allow men to bring their porn wherever they are — and wherever you are. I’ve read a good deal of stories online of women who have seen men watching porn on their phones while sitting on the bus or subway next to them. Oftentimes, as you might imagine, they are also masturbating. (And, oh look, a news story involving a man having child porn on his cell phone.)

This is also a concern for public libraries, and especially for the librarians who don’t wish to make “viewing porn” part of their job description. Earlier this year, an Illinois man was convicted of downloading child pornography on computers at a public library, so airplane-child-porn guy is in good creepy company. Based on a number of comments on this Jezebel post, library workers and patrons inevitably have to deal with dudes and their public porn-viewing:

When I was circulation director at a library in Vermont, almost every day when we went to turn off the machines in the computer area, there was some kind of bizarre gutter-of-the-internet disembodied pulsating pussy website waiting for us. You know some sicko was getting off on us having to see that every night as part of our jobs.

I worked in a public library for a little over two years when I was in high school. On more than one occasion we had to deal with patrons looking at pornography and masturbating in the library. It is outrageous to me that my 26 year old petite female supervisor had to interrupt a man masturbating in a public place. And as a then 16-18 year old girl, it was very uncomfortable when I would have to walk by terminals and see men looking at naked pictures of girls my age. And, when closing the library, I would sometimes have to pick up their pornographic images that they printed and left at the computer terminals.

I feel that I should be able to go to work and not have to worry about some guy grunting and rubbing his crotch while watching porn (this happened).

I am so sick of spending a healthy portion of every part of my workday taking the filters off of computers so that my “regulars” (at least 5-6 men who come in every day, day after day, and I work in a small place) can watch porn. Some of them even have the gall to ask the staff for help with printing.

Hello, hostile work environment!

The only issue – legally – for the man caught looking at porn on the plane is that there were children involved. If it had been adults (or just adult-looking minors) on his computer screen, it is unlikely that the man seated behind him would have caused a stir. While what this creep did was bold, it is only getting him in trouble because of the type of porn that it was. If it had been adult women, the most that could have been done is ask him to turn off his computer.

The kind of men who would look at pornography in public have either normalized porn in their minds so that such a thing doesn’t even strike them as a problem, or they get off on skeeving other people out by doing it. Both, but especially the former, probably come along with some compulsion to view porn, ingrained through heavy use.

Looking at porn publicly is simply an extension of what porn already is: a violation. If he has so little concern for the women or girls he’s looking at in the porn, do you think he’d even bat an eye at ruining a passerby’s day or triggering her? Not likely.

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52 comments
  1. lishra said:

    ybawife – Yes, I agree regarding terminology. It masks what it really is, which is documentation of rape and sexual violence. As an interim step, maybe putting ‘so-called’ in front of it as Hecuba did could work too. I did refer to it as “images of children (in this case, girls) being sexually abused” because I don’t think the term alone is appropriate in communicating the gravity of what it actually is.

    Related… a few years ago, there was an episode of Oprah about “child porn” wherein she described, in detail, exactly what that meant, using real-life examples. It was horrifying, but effective at communicating that this isn’t just “naughty images” as the word ‘porn’ conjures up for a lot of people.

  2. Ugsome said:

    Gina Crossley-Corcoran aka the Feminist Breeder had a similar experience: “Yesterday, HH [hyphenated husband] dropped off our income statements to the county office, and the security guard at the FRONT DESK was reading a Hustler magazine. In plain view. Of our kids. And people have a problem with nursing in public?!?!? (HH reported him, btw.)”

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