There’s no denying that Mexico City’s metro has a severe sexual harassment problem and so it’s with good reason that the so-called penis seat (literally, a chair molded into the shape of a male torso, penis and all) has been grabbing headlines worldwide in recent months. However, while this anatomically correct seat has definitely had an impact, the reason behind its existence in the first place remains hugely alarming.
The discomfort and media furore caused by the provocative so-called penis seat (complete with abs, and reserved only for men) has been effective, sparking debate in English and Spanish-language medias, and giving men who used it an anatomically correct insight into the kind of common sexual harassment that women on this public transport system face on a daily basis.
The metro system of Mexico has installed 'male only' penis seats. This is the only one seat you don't want to sit here, as it covered with penis, a male torso, nipples and a belly bouton too. This system has created loads of controversies in Mexico. Someone said that it's uncomfortable to sir here but can't be compared to the violence that women suffer in daily life! #penisseat #controversies #metrorules #nocomparisonwithwomen
Although that’s not to say that everyone was entirely on board with this move. Some complained that it paints all men as abusers and aggressors and others claim it trivializes the reality of sexual harassment and assault. Yet with a whopping 90% of women and girls reporting feeling unsafe while traveling on public transport in Mexico and groping and verbal abuse being all too common, it’s undeniably refreshing to see a campaign which targets not the victims, but the aggressors for a change.
The responses to this penis seat were released in a video compilation titled “Experimento Asiento” (“Seat Experiment”), and this wave-making video was followed up not long after by a second one, titled “Experimento Pantallas” (“Screen Experiment”). The latter featured close up shots of male passengers on the platform televisions, in an attempt to make them feel as uncomfortable as women do when they’re ogled by (mainly) men on the metro.
UN Women’s #NoEsDeHombres (“Men shouldn’t act this way,” in a very rough translation) campaign doesn’t just involve the media-friendly, limelight-hogging penis seat initiative though, as the print campaign has also been prevalent in Mexico City. Posters have been daubed around metro stations displaying men making lascivious faces at the viewer of the photo. Slogans like “this is how they look at your mother every day” really hammer home the message, as well as play on the Mexican people’s typically intense veneration of the mother figure.
While this penis seat campaign is neither the first attempt to combat sexual harassment on the Mexico City metro (there are women and children’s only carriages, the rules of which are regularly flouted), nor will it be the last, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.