A reader asks Slate, what’s the appropriate response when someone is watching porn on a plane?
On a seven-hour plane trip, the man squished into the third seat in our row spent most of his time watching male porn movies on his DVD player. I was traveling with my daughter and her young child and it was almost impossible not to see from time to time the screen with some pretty raunchy acts being performed. Since he was on the aisle, I suspect that others were also sharing in his viewing. Any suggestions or is this just another surprise dividend of air travel in the digital age?
I have nothing against porn — watch what you want to watch! — but an airplane is a small space where people are relegated to their seats and cannot leave. It is not an appropriate place to watch people do it on-screen. I’m mostly with Emily Yoffe here:
I’m always the one to call in the authorities in these chats, but this is just gross. And you’re absolutely right. You’re not in your own private little space on a plane. You are inches away from other people, particularly if you’re sitting next to a grandmother, mother, and a young child, it’s absurd. I think you would’ve been perfectly justified excusing yourself, going to find a flight attendant, explain what’s going on and say, “Can you handle this for us? Either you need to move our family, you need to move him, or you need to tell him he just can’t be viewing this on a row with a small child.”
…except on the “grandmother, mother, young child” thing. I mean, young child? Yes, it is wildly inappropriate to watch porn in full view of a young child, no matter who that child is. But there’s nothing especially innocent about a grandmother or a mother that makes porn-watching in front of them particularly bad. What’s bad is watching porn in front of a bunch of strangers who are trapped in a small flying box and cannot get away from your choice of entertainment. I am neither a mother nor a grandmother nor a small child (as far as I know, har har), but if I were sitting next to some dude on a plane and he was watching his favorite pornographic films, I would be majorly skeeved out, and feel vaguely unsafe. Watching porn in public so clearly violates basic social boundaries (and violates them in a sexual way) that I would be immediately suspicious of that dude’s general desire (or lack thereof) to adhere to social and sexual boundaries in public places. And I do not want to be sitting next to the guy who likes violating social and sexual boundaries.