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“If This Is Your Husband…”

The Huffington Post recently ran an article regarding a photograph a woman had taken of a fellow train traveler and then posted it to Facebook with the following comment:

“If this is your husband, I have endured a 2 hour train ride from Philadelphia listening to this loser and his friends brag about their multiple affairs and how their wives are too stupid to catch on. Oh please repost…”

The photo went viral and therein lies the dilemma.  Was she right to publish a photo of a man claiming he was bragging of being a serial adulterer?

My take on this is that the photograph is not evidence of the behavior the man is being accused of at all.   It merely identifies an anonymous stranger on the same train as “Stephanie”, the witness to the alleged vulgarity who snapped the picture.   The photo tells us nothing other than what the man looks like.   Is “Stephanie” lying? I don’t know but I remain skeptical that the man is guilty as she charges solely because it is a “he said,she said” situation.   Had she videotaped him that would settle the veracity issue but still leave open the question of whether she should have posted it all.

Second, in a confined yet public place, you will undoubtedly overhear conversations that will not meet with your own standards of appropriateness.  Back when I was a 20-something, I was in a restaurant and could not help overhearing the table of men next to me seriously discuss why women were inferior to men.  It made my blood boil but I had no right to intrude on their conversation whatsoever.   Freedom of speech is still a cherished Constitutional right in the US and like it or not, you will hear topics discussed that will offend you.

So, “Stephanie” overheard a conversation among several men on a train discussing their serial adulteries and how stupid their wives were for not knowing.   While disgusting that they are braggart adulterers, I’m not sure that rises to the level of being offensive to the welfare of the train passengers.  Committing adultery is an offense against the wife and family but not against the transient population of the train.   What would make the overheard conversation rise to the level of being offensive to their fellow train passengers is if those conversations contained graphic descriptions of sex acts in language most people would consider to be vulgar.   There is a time and place for everything and a public mode of transportation is not the venue to espouse one’s tales of sexual exploits loud enough to be overheard by passengers who cannot escape hearing it.   In this scenario, I do think passenger(s) have the right to confront the offender with the request to cease the topic and switch to another.

“Gentlemen, we  are not in a bar nor a men’s locker room therefore the loud, lurid and vulgar tales of your sexual exploits is offensive and out of place here where we are all compelled to overhear it.   None of us want to hear it so please put a lid on it.”

And I would video their behavior and my request because if the behavior continued, I would have no hesitation to use social media to pressure a change in behavior.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kay L June 10, 2013, 7:59 pm

    After a sitting president confessed to adulterous acts in the White House Oval office, is anyone really shocked by someone bragging about adultery? It seems so 1990’s really.

    I really don’t understand why it matters whether or not the person who made the post is lying about what she heard or not–its just an anonymous person on the internet. A better question is why huffington and slate would bother to write an article about it.

    I think most people are savvy enough to know how to consider an anonymous internet posting. If she is lying, she could be sued possibly by that individual for lying about it and possibly damaging his reputation. If he was bragging about it in public, well then, you get what you get!

    All of these things have real life consequences to them. Etiquette wise, men should not engage in such banter in a public place, strangers should not seek to overhear others’ conversations and if so and if offensive should politely ask that they quiet down–or they should seek some authority figure to handle the breach of peace.

    Posting it on the internet? Well, they would have to have breached etiquette to get to that point!

  • lakey June 10, 2013, 8:46 pm

    I have very strongly negative views of adulterers. They are liars and cheats. However, it is not my place to interfere in someone else’s marriage. Posting this on Facebook falls into the same category as spreading gossip, there’s just something seedy about it.

    I had a sister that, years ago, let me know she was cheating on her husband. I despised her for doing it, and I despised her even more by dragging me into it by telling me about it. I did not tell her husband. I spent as little time around her as possible and let nature take its course. They eventually divorced.

    And there’s still the chance that the poster never overheard the conversation, and is just stirring things up. There are people out there who make things up.

  • lakey June 10, 2013, 8:59 pm

    Another aspect of this is that finding out you have been cheated on is hurtful and humiliating. By posting this on Facebook the poster is potentially making the wife’s humiliation public, thereby increasing it. The person most hurt by this, isn’t the cheating husband, it’s the wife. There could also be children who could see this. Putting people’s family issues on Facebook isn’t just rude, it’s vicious.

  • --Lia June 10, 2013, 9:11 pm

    For the sake of argument, let’s say that the men really were having extra-marital affairs, really were bragging about them, their wives really didn’t know, and the men really were bragging that their wives didn’t know. From that alone, we can surmise that the men think all of the above are things to brag about. You, me, everyone on this list, and the society at large may think those are things that shouldn’t be bragged about. We may think being a CPOS is reprehensible, but the men evidently disagree. When they speak loudly about their exploits, they’re not just bragging for each other, they’re bragging for everyone who can overhear them. If that’s the case, how on earth is posting it on the internet such that it goes viral doing them any harm? They’d love it. Now EVERYONE knows how studly (/s) they are, and they didn’t even have to spread the word themselves!

  • DianaG June 11, 2013, 12:28 am

    Considering that there is new, completely drug resistant form of VD on the scene I feel that people making statments of this nature deserve to be publicly outed. The man is a stranger and a public outing of his behavior is the only way to possibly get the information through to whatever poor soul is in a relationship with this individual. Hopefully he will be recognized and the spouse/SO will be clued in to what is going on.

    I don’t see these actions being about etiquette nearly so much as trying to desperately warn someone through the only means possible that they may be on the receiving end of diseases that are forever.

    I would hope that someone would go out of their way to try to get this information to me if I was the spouse of that person. I would be eternally grateful to them.

    Perhaps from a strictly etiquette POV is could be considered to be unseemly but if the actions save me from a nontreatable disease I would feel like the person did me an immense favor. Health and personal safety to me are more important than blindly following what etiquette says is correct. Many etiquette practices have been around for a long time and what was once the right way to do things may no longer be relevant when the results can be so serious.

  • sv June 11, 2013, 2:39 am

    Whether or not the man is actually an adulterer, all I can think is what a humiliating experience for the wife to have to face everyone she knows after they have seen this post. How on earth can the poster think she is doing anyone a favour here? The poster did this for vindictive, self serving purposes – not to help the wife or to bring about justice.

  • Alazne June 11, 2013, 3:13 am

    I read the articles on this yesterday, and found it quite interesting reading. I’m still not sure where I stand on it. It does make me feel slightly uncomfortable, despite the fact that I’m often grumbling to friends about the awful people on my regular train commute.

    What I also find interesting is where peope would draw the line. There’s been several recent cases in the UK in the last couple of years where people making racist and xenophobic rants on trains have been filmed and the resultant footage uploaded to YouTube. In more than one case, the person has been identified and charged by the police and convicted of hate speech. What are people’s opinions of this?

  • Little Mac June 11, 2013, 3:21 am

    Let me add my two cents as a woman whose husband was unfaithful. Freedom of speech is irrelevant here. Let us say this story is true. If this is the case, then yes, the man was indeed vulgar and tasteless to brag in public, but the poster went beyond rude and straight into busybody territory. She may have thought she was doing the wife a favor, but TRUST ME, she WASN’T. Maybe the man deserved to be publicly shamed, but his wife DID NOT. What if the wife’s family or employers saw this? If this happened to me, I would have been beyond humiliated. Not only would I have found out my husband was cheating, but THE WHOLE WORLD would have known. Being cheated on brings a special kind of pain and humiliation, but at least I got to deal with it in a private manner and choose who I shared the news with while I considered my options. That privacy was a godsend in the most hellish time of my life, and the poster has potentially denied this from the man’s wife. Shame on BOTH of them. In my opinion and personal experience, what both of these people did was disgusting.

  • Louisa June 11, 2013, 4:38 am

    I agree with Huh. My opinion is skewed because my husband had affairs for years on end, and eventually left me with two babies under two when I caught him. I would have been totally grateful for the heads up. My life was devastated by the actions of my husband, and my kids were badly affected too-I may have mitigated this had I known (or NOT had kids with him). So his wife has my sympathy, and I am shaking my head at all of you rushing in to defend him. IMO,there are more deserving recipients of your moral outrage.

  • The Elf June 11, 2013, 6:38 am

    Louisa, I don’t think many people are truly defending the alleged cheater as much as saying the facebook poster needs to but out. There’s a difference.

  • The Elf June 11, 2013, 6:48 am

    “There’s been several recent cases in the UK in the last couple of years where people making racist and xenophobic rants on trains have been filmed and the resultant footage uploaded to YouTube. In more than one case, the person has been identified and charged by the police and convicted of hate speech. What are people’s opinions of this?”

    If it happened in the USA, I would be crying “First Amendment” all the way to the Supreme Court, even if their speech is completely socially indefensible. *That* goes far beyond the line of etiquette into government oppression. Unpopular, insensitive, disgusting speech has to be allowed by law so long as it does not constitute an immediate danger (i.e. inciting a riot). Look up the Westboro Baptist Church (and put “wiki” after the name if you need to keep it safe for work). If those wastes of skin are protected under law, for saying some of the most vile things imaginable at a funeral in front of grieving family, then a merely racist rant on a train is no problem. The Bill of Rights exists for a reason.

  • Lo June 11, 2013, 7:13 am

    “There’s been several recent cases in the UK in the last couple of years where people making racist and xenophobic rants on trains have been filmed and the resultant footage uploaded to YouTube. In more than one case, the person has been identified and charged by the police and convicted of hate speech. What are people’s opinions of this?”

    I love the UK, I loved visiting, but that would never go down in the US and I’m glad for that. Do I want people making racist and xenophobic statements around me? No. Do I think the government should have the right to charge them with hate speech? Absolutely not. That’s a lot of infringement on personal freedom and I don’t trust any government to decide for the people what constitutes “hate speech”. That’s a ridiculously slippery slope.

  • Wendy B. June 11, 2013, 7:59 am

    The wife probably already knows.
    And how would she feel if she found out her husband was cheating (or accused of doing so) via social media or whatever?
    I know the temptation is great, but stay out of it. Unless you know the couple personally (which opens a completely different can of worms) stay out of it. You have no idea if they’re even talking about real wive or “Sim” wives (hey, it could happen!)

  • Ginger June 11, 2013, 8:00 am

    You know, I can’t help but think “What happens in the dark always comes out in the light”. This may well have been this man’s karma coming back to get him. In my experience, lies always come out. I never try to catch anyone in a lie and in fact, I’d rather remain oblivious, but somehow I always get told the truth.

    Whilst I would never post something like that on social media and would counsel others not to, if you are foolish enough to break the trust of your marriage and then brag about it in public, I can’t confess to having any sympathy for the fallout you suffer. And any suffering his wife experiences, is entirely on him. His actions have chosen to put his wife through this. He chose to cheat and he chose to brag and he chose to mock her while he bragged. She absolutely doesn’t deserve any of it but neither does she deserve the kind of husband he is choosing to be by violating her trust over and again.

    And having a video recording over a photo doesn’t make posting it any more right. If it’s wrong to post, it’s wrong to post no matter how much ‘ammo’ you have.

  • Helen June 11, 2013, 10:28 am

    What Jessica said — it is just as much my right of free speech to ask you to be quiet when what you have said offends me, as it is your right to say something offensive.

    The language of the first amendment is “Congress shall make no law.” The Bill of Rights deals with State law (which is governmental law or quasi-governmental law, which has the appearance or connection to governmental law). These rights are specifically against governmental action. Further, they are not absolute. Freedom of speech can be regulated based on context (you can’t protest in certain places; schools limit freedom of speech), but content is generally not regulated with exceptions (yelling fire in a crowded place is not okay; inciting a riot is not okay; etc.)

    Also, your speech can get you into trouble legally (slander, copyright infringement, etc.)

    This woman’s snapping a picture is actually an example of her exercising her freedom of speech. Of course, she may well be sued for slander because of it (as well as invasion of privacy depending on her state’s privacy laws.)

  • Vicki June 11, 2013, 4:48 pm

    The First Amendment part is irrelevant. After all, this is an etiquette website. I think we all agree that there are plenty of things that people shouldn’t do, even though they’re legal. If the woman had, instead of taking a picture and posting it on social media, asked the conductor to make the men quiet down, or to kick them off the train, we might be getting into legal territory (most if not all passenger rail in the U.S. is run by government agencies, so asking the conductor to do anything about another passenger’s activity is involving a government employee).

    If you believe adultery is wrong, you aren’t likely to think “except in New York, where the state Court of Appeals overturned the law against adultery as unconstitutional on privacy grounds.” And if you don’t believe it’s wrong, you are unlikely to change your mind on learning that a state legislature has made it a felony.

    So, we’re on the grounds of ethics and/or etiquette. From the etiquette viewpoint, I think the woman should have either moved, put in headphones, or asked the men to lower their voices or change the subject, not gone straight to “I am going to embarrass one of these men online.”

    I also agree with the posters who say that if they had been in the wife’s situation, this is not how they would have wanted to find out their husbands were having affairs.

    Furthermore, to agree with the woman who posted that photo, you have to believe two strangers. And all you know of either of them is that they are prepared to say specific things in public. The woman might have made the whole thing up, or misinterpreted what she did hear (though it seems unlikely that the guys were rehearsing a play). And one or more of the men might have been lying, because he wanted to impress his friends. Without knowing him, or them, at all, the woman isn’t really in a position to even guess at the truth of what she heard.

    It’s not that I wouldn’t want to be in the position of photo-guy, having to convince his wife that he isn’t really cheating on her, he just wanted his friends be impressed by him. Best case for him, she believes him and suggests that he find some friends with better standards. It’s that I wouldn’t want to be in his wife’s position, having to figure out whether my husband was lying to me or had lied to his friends.

  • Aje June 11, 2013, 9:30 pm

    Who is really being served here? Who is really being punished?

    Is he being punished? Yes. But so is the wife. She must discover this with the rest of the world.

    I would be mortified. Even if I knew- I would be mortifed

  • Mae June 12, 2013, 12:08 pm

    I feel sorry for the wife and/or kids. I don’t know if the wife is friends with someone who may have re-posted or gotten the picture or if she reads Huffington Post or any of the other publications that printed the story. Since the man and the woman who posted the picture were both riding the train and assuming they live in the same city, it’s possible the wife found out and it’s possible she is still in the dark.

    I don’t think the man and his friends were rehearsing a play, repeating something someone else said or talking about another subject and the poster misunderstood. They may have been just bragging or boasting and none of it was true, but they should also consider their wives/children. How would they feel if their wives boasted about the hot stud they were getting in on with and their dumb husbands didn’t know? Maybe she isn’t actually cheating and just saying it impress her friends, but if it got back to her husband, how would he feel?

    I am kind of on the fence about the rest. The woman probably should not have posted the picture but the man and his friends should not have been publicly proclaiming how they were sharing their sexual skills and prowess and how their wives were too dumb to realize it.

    It’s a lose/lose situation.

  • Tallulah June 16, 2013, 6:03 pm

    The 1st amendment protects citizens against government suppression of free speech. It does not protect one from the consequences of extremely offensive speech. If a citizen says something offensive, they can, and these days most likely will be called out in a public forum.

  • Livvy17 June 19, 2013, 11:17 am

    Legally, what the poster did isn’t a problem, unless she lied, in which case the post-ee would have a very good shot at a defamation lawsuit. (and if it IS a lie, he should sue her.)
    Etiquette-wise, I think gossip and privacy concerns would make this a no-no for both the poster and post-ee.

    But I think the real question is whether or not you believe that it’s ok to publicly shame people for misbehavior. Some people believe it’s ok, some people don’t. I myself am torn. If I were caught out doing something embarrassing, I’d be bummed at the unluckiness of getting caught, but would fully accept that they couldn’t have caught me misbehaving if I hadn’t been misbehaving in the first place. Personally, I don’t have a problem with calling out people for bad behavior – I think that perhaps as little as 50 years ago communities were generally smaller, and your friends, neighbors and the community at large probably took on that role via “the grapevine.” Perhaps people will become a bit more circomspect and discreet in response.

  • oregonbird June 20, 2013, 8:20 am

    It was absolutely appropriate. The social miasma of misogyny gets stronger every day, as does racism. The purveyors of these violences feel more and more empowered, and spread their sickness by contact and by acceptance. We hear what they say, and young people hear it, and repeat it, and see nothing wrong with it when it appears on television, and in video games, and in the mouths of their government representatives, their judges, their teachers. And society suffers because there is no consequence to ‘free speech’. You are entitled to free speech. You aren’t entitled to being sheltered from consequence.

    Nobody has expectation of privacy these days — they just produced a game system that tracks your every move, your physical response to stimuli and your facial expression, for goodness sake. Everyone has phones, everyone knows that in public, you are being examined, recorded, etc. It’s what it is. So having your picture taken and your statements exposed – whether they are true or not – is just part of modern life. If you don’t want to be exposed as misogynistic, then keep the ungentlemanly reports for a quiet, dark booth and a low voice.

    There is no reason I can think of that a woman should expose herself to possible verbal and physical abuse — or stalking — by identifying herself to a group of men making their hatred of the women they have married known to everyone around them. But if they are willing to embarrass their wives in public, and insult every female in hearing — then there is no polite bar against shaming them for their lack of manners and their part in destroying public and private life for women in America.

    It’s taking a stand, judiciously. We are all tired of losing more rights because so many people have no problem making us worth less in our own society and culture. Shame is what such men earn. As well as the women who let it pass without fighting back.

    Fight back any way we can.