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Can Mexico City Subway's 'Penis Seat' Help End Sex Crimes on Public Transit?

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist and writer specializing in sexual and reproductive health and the intersection of bioethics and popular culture. She is an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham ...

Sex crimes on public transportation is a huge problem — are Mexico City's 'penis seats' the answer?

If you’re not a cisgender man and you’ve ever used public transit, chances are pretty high you’ve been sexually harassed, assaulted or at least made to feel very uncomfortable at some point. As someone who has spoken and written a lot about subway sex crimes, I was intrigued by a new initiative to curb the problem in Mexico City.

It’s called the “penis seat,” and is a typical subway seat molded to include a protruding male chest and penis. It comes with a “men-only” label and reads: "It is uncomfortable to sit here, but that is nothing compared to the sexual violence that women suffer on their daily journeys."

Amen, Mexico City metro system!

More: The 10 Things Every Boy Needs to Hear His Parents Say About Consent

This won’t be a permanent fixture of their transit system, but it’s part of a campaign initiated by U.N. Women and the Mexico City government called #NoEsDeHombres, which is attempting to shed some light on sexual harassment on public transportation.

According to figures provided by the Mexican government, 65 percent of women have been sexually harassed on the city’s trains, while 90 percent have experienced some form of sexual violence in general. There have been a few attempts to address this problem in recent years, including offering women city-branded whistles to blow when they felt threatened. In addition, some trains have separate cars for women.

More: Rape: Lessons From Surviving Sexual Assault

Is the penis seat the most efficient way to handle subway sex crimes? I don’t think it is, but I am appreciative that Mexico City is doing something that’s attracting attention to highlight this incredibly common urban problem. Clearly, New York City’s MTA announcements that a crowded subway is no excuse for inappropriate touching isn’t working — 458 sex crimes were reported in the first half of 2016.

If you think that sounds like a lot, keep in mind that these are just the crimes that are reported. I know firsthand that going through the process of reporting a sex crime — at least to the NYPD — can be frustrating, tedious, triggering and full of victim-blaming. They certainly don’t make it easy or comfortable and I know that because of this — and the pervasive culture surrounding not believing women — so many sex crimes go unreported.

MoreMost common crimes against women and how to protect yourself

While I don’t think adding more penises — plastic or otherwise — to my commute would be in any way beneficial, at least Mexico City’s unconventional tactic has gotten people talking.

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