By Hiroko Tabauchi
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Did you just grope me? Shall we head to the police? That's the message women are flashing on their cell phones with a popular program designed to ward off wandering hands in Japan's congested commuter trains.
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"Anti-Groping Appli" by games developer Takahashi was released in late 2005, but has only recently climbed up popularity rankings, reaching No. 7 in this week's top-10 cell phone applications list compiled by Web-based publisher Spicy Soft Corp.
We always thought that getting groped a little was a perk of mass-transit. Glass half-full, we guess. All assault humor aside; this is a pretty excellent invention. While it probably won’t be as effective as other methods in stopping a full-bore sexual assault, it’s a little more subtle than a face full of cayenne pepper or 10,000 volts to the chest. Maybe American women (New Yorkers, anyway) are a little more vocal than Japanese. Why wouldn’t you yell, “get your hands off me, creep,” before setting your mobile on the defensive? Maybe the app makes the 911 call if the harassment continues. Three more comments: 1) we would need to wire our subways for the ‘call 911’ feature to be possible. 2) How often is this going to be used as a joke against some poor shlub on his way home from a job he hates to a family that doesn’t appreciate him? Sure, the Japanese are known for being respectful but teenagers like practical jokes as much as middle-aged men like groping. And 3) this is a slight improvement over the grab-twist-pull approach to sexual harassment that was popular in the mid-1990s.