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Where Do Good Men Sit on Women-Only Carriages?

27/08/2015 11:47 BST | Updated 27/08/2016 10:59 BST

I've been having a nightmare this week which I want to share. Picture the scene. It's late, I've been working alone in the office. It's dark, quiet and I'm heading for the last train home. As I walk along the platform to my carriage I pass the newly created women-only carriage and gaze in with envy. Women are safely seated, happy in the comfort that, come what may, they are safe from harm. I pause for a moment wishing I could join them, but I can't. Then I hear the howling.

The howling gets louder as I approach the other carriages which are now known as men-only. I hear the rattling of what sounds like a tin mug against prison cell bars. My pulse rate rises. As I step into the carriage my anxiety rises. I feel like the innocent Andy Dufresne as he enters Shawshank State Penitentiary.

I look to get a seat but it's impossible. There are drunken men staggering around with their trousers around their ankles, energetically thrusting themselves against anything unlucky to be close enough. Spit and other bodily fluids cover the seats. Men are fighting and vomiting. One man walks up to me, his body odour stinks the area around him. 'Hello pretty boy. Wanna be my special friend?' he says, pushing his fingers through my hair. I want to leave, but it's impossible. This train to hell has already left the platform. I'm doomed.

With the exception of public toilets - which let's face it almost nobody likes using - most of my life has been lived in an integrated society. Men and women go about their business in a fairly orderly fashion. There are always times when this breaks down. Only yesterday somebody barged passed me on the Tube and actually pinched me on the side while muttering "f'ing...". I couldn't make out the rest, but it wasn't nice.

Like a lot of men I've spoken to since hearing talk of women-only train carriages, I feel genuinely offended. Most men I know are good guys. They are loving sons, brothers, fathers and husbands. They respect women and men alike and try to live life in such a way that doesn't upset, offend or intimidate others.

This morning I was listening to BBC Radio 4's Today programme discussing the idea of gender segregation on trains and I heard commentator Yasmin Alibhai-Brown say this: "I've seen it. I've seen what they say, and do and they are not even drunk. And sometimes it's in the morning, they feel able to."(About three hours in).

The way we talk about men is not good. The 'they' she was talking about was men. I can't question her experience, but I've literally never seen that myself. Maybe it's because I'm a man and I've glossed over, I don't know. But I like to think if I did see someone behaving in such an obscene way, I'd say something.

A blog on The Huffington Post UK today headlined We Need to Tackle Street Harassment says:

'Nearly 90% of women have experienced sexual harassment by the age of 19, and 1 in 3 have experienced it in their place of work or study - yet 85% of victims never report it to the police. Being leered at in the street or touched up on the train are considered such a 'normal' daily occurrence that they aren't being spoken of, let alone reported.

It continues: 'Street harassment has to be tackled if women are to be safe and feel safe in public - passionate statements condemning sexism without any concrete suggestions for change are not doing the trick. Finally we are having a national debate about practical policies to change men's attitudes and behaviour and improve women's lives.'

I couldn't agree more with this, but safety is not a women's only issue. Back in 2012 an advert ran at London's Waterloo station as part of the first major advertising campaign by a male rape charity.

The idea of women only carriages was rejected in 1999, so it seems. One big reason was 'the greatest threat was to men between 17 and 24, from other young men.'

Perhaps better ways to deal with this issue would be to think inclusively, increase sex education in schools and even on the Tube. We should be educating people and letting them know this type of anti-social behaviour is unacceptable and will not tolerated by women or men. We should be teaching respect, inclusivity and tolerance, not segregation.

And if all else fails, let's just have an arseholes-only carriage which decent men and women can both avoid at all costs.