Mexico City subway, UN use 'penis seat' in anti-harassment ads

A frame grab from a video of the “men only” seat on the Mexico City Metro, part of a campaign against sexual harassment. (Credit: YouTube)

MEXICO CITY (AP) - How do you bring home to men the discomfort and disgust caused by sexual harassment on the subway?

The U.N. Women agency and the Mexico City government decided to launch a series of video ads in which the issue comes up, literally. They replaced a seat in a Mexico City subway car with a molded sculpture of a nude male torso, complete with prominent genitals.

Made about two months ago, the ad shows passengers' disgust and discomfort when they sit next to, or on, the high-relief seat. Some move, some look offended, some shake their heads.

A plaque on the floor in front of the seat reads: "It is uncomfortable to sit here, but it doesn't compare to the sexual violence woman suffer daily in their commutes."

The ad says 9 of every 10 Mexico City women have been the victim of some type of sexual violence during their commutes. The problem is so bad that the city subway system has special cars for women only at rush hours.

"In Latin culture, and in many other cultures, the idea of giving 'compliments,' of saying things or wolfish looks, aren't considered violence," said Ana Guezmes, the Mexico representative at UN Women. "So what the campaign is saying is that all of these behaviors do constitute violence, they damage women ... but they also damage men."

The campaign's slogan is "#noesdehombres," which means "It isn't manly."

"It tries to put men in women's shoes, and make them feel that this is what the women in their lives go through every day," Guezmes said.

A second video ad, also shot in a Mexico City subway station, found an interesting way to do that. It shows people waiting on a platform equipped with a big closed-circuit TV screen in which the image suddenly turns to a close-up shot of a male passenger's backside. Targeted men are surprised, shocked and disturbed. Some cover themselves with their hands, or twist to try to look at their butts to see why the camera is focusing on them.

The screen then switches to a slogan, "This is what thousands of women suffer every day."

The third part of the campaign, launched Friday, is a series of posters placed in bus stops and subway stations displaying the faces of leering men with slogans, including: "This is the slimy way they look at your mother every day. Sexual violence is a crime and you can land in jail for it. Be respectful."