Our laws already recognize that publicly displaying pornography, especially sexually violent material, can create a “hostile environment” in the workplace. No one should be subjected to unwelcome graphic images while working. Respectfully, I ask the members of Utah’s congressional delegation to consider adopting federal standards in commercial airline travel to limit portrayals of sex and violence, particularly sexual violence, over an airplane’s in-flight entertainment system. Please consider the rights of airline passengers not to be involuntarily subjected to unwelcome images while traveling.
In the midst of a national uproar over sexual assault and harassment ignited by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, I recently witnessed on an airplane flight a sickening portrayal of brutal gang rape in a movie produced by the now infamous Weinstein Company.
I was flying home to Salt Lake City after a business trip on the East Coast. During the packed flight, many travelers utilized the airplane’s in-flight entertainment system, capable of showing individually selected movies for each passenger. Over the course of the four-hour flight, dozens of movies illuminated the otherwise dark cabin. Looking up occasionally from my laptop, I could not avoid the images on the seatback screen next to me.
About midway through the flight, I looked up and my eyes caught hold of a horrific scene — an unconscious young woman being violently raped by a group of men. I would later read one movie reviewer describe the scene as “too graphic for even seasoned viewers to swallow without a belt of brandy.” Whenever the scene comes back to mind, I am nauseated and revolted.
Shocked by the unnerving images, I turned to my seatmate, a stranger, and expressed how disturbing it was to me. He assured me that he felt the same as he frantically tried to fast forward through the scene. When I inquired if this was a movie provided by the airline, he confirmed that it was, apparently unaware that he and other passengers around him would be subjected to witnessing such graphic sexual assault.
Having assumed the airlines would edit R-rated movies out of respect for nearby passengers, including parents with children, I was in disbelief that such a scene would be shown in plain view of other passengers without their consent. Over the remainder of the flight, I also observed (on other nearby screens) examples of urination, nudity, sexual encounters, mutilation and massacre.
The next day, I discovered that the movie playing next to me on my flight had been produced by The Weinstein Company, whose co-founder is accused of sexually harassing and assaulting numerous actresses and models. The sad irony was unmistakable. The horrifying scene of sexual assault playing over the airplane entertainment system was financed and produced by one of Hollywood’s most notorious alleged perpetrators of sexual assault. Even worse, reports suggest that Weinstein even demanded nudity and sex scenes in his movies as a way to harass his victims.21 comments on this story
In years past, airlines seemed to have recognized that certain content is inappropriate for broadcast in public spaces, selecting and editing movies for general audiences. Those standards, however, now appear to have been relaxed with the prevalence of seat-specific screens and individually selected movies. But while these seatback screens are not visible to everyone, they are unavoidable to the passengers in their immediate vicinity.
While anyone is free to smoke if they so choose, no one should be forced to breathe another’s second-hand smoke in enclosed, confined spaces. Similarly, no one should be forced to endure involuntary images of sex and violence and particularly sexual violence in the increasingly cramped and confined conditions of modern airline travel.