Digital Manners: Watching Porn on a Plane

Navigating the intersection of etiquette and technology.
Dec. 20 2011 7:29 AM

Porn at 30,000 Feet (Transcript)

Farhad Manjoo and Emily Yoffe debate the question: Should you alert the flight crew if a nearby passenger is watching porn on the plane?

(Continued from Page 1)

Emily:  I think that’s another good point. Again, I think if you have a child near you and the content was not something that would be shown as the main movie on an airplane and it clearly would be disturbing to a child, in that case if it’s not porn, you might want to say, “I’m sorry to bother you. Do you have any other movies you could watch? My grandchild is seeing some of this and getting really upset.”

Sally:  Right.

Farhad:  I agree with you there. I think a plane is kind of a special place, because we’re captive, we can’t move, we’re all stuck in our seats. You really have to consider your neighbors in that circumstance. I think that you’re perfectly within your rights to ask the person who’s watching a movie very close to you to change the movie or perhaps the change the angle of their iPad so that you can’t see it or your child can’t see it – even if it’s not porn.

Emily:  So, Sally, did your granddaughter notice this? What was the outcome for your family?

Sally:  No, she didn’t. I was in the middle seat so I kept my arm up so that she would not go over there it. It was an evening flight so she fell asleep fairly soon after we got going. My daughter did see it, however.

Farhad:  I have to say, I don’t want to presume too much or psychoanalyze this stranger I don’t know, but I imagine that having other people see this was part of the point. Maybe that’s what he was getting off on.

Sally:  I kind of thought so, too.


Emily:  Well, if that becomes really obvious it’s time for you to be moved to first class.

Sally:  Yeah. And of course, the plane was completely full. Every single seat was taken.

Emily:  Naturally!

Sally:  But had it become obvious, I would’ve said something for sure.

Emily:  On the other hand, the flight attendant could make an announcement. If there’s a row where people would like to be watching pornography, we’re doing some musical chairs here.

Well, we’re sorry you had to go through this. Let’s hope this never happens to you again. But the flight attendants should be able to handle this one.

Sally:  Yes, they should be the ones. And I think I would say something the next time.

Farhad:  You could probably even write to your airline now and probably get a nice coupon or something.

Sally:  Now there’s a good idea.

Farhad:  At least get a free checked back the next time you fly.

Sally:  I like that idea. I think I might try that.

Farhad: Send us your questions about shifting etiquette in the online age. Our address is

Emily:  You can also join our Facebook page where we carry on the conversation throughout the week.  Go to

Farhad:  And we’ll talk to you next time on Manners for the Digital Age.

Farhad Manjoo is a technology columnist for the New York Times and the author of True Enough.

Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column. 


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