Maybe MTA Misunderstood When People Said the Subway Was “Filthy”?

Maybe MTA Misunderstood When People Said the Subway Was “Filthy”?

If there’s one aspect of New York’s MTA public transportation systems that is chronically underappreciated, it’s how clean it is down there in the Big Apple’s subways. And if you believe that, I have some primo underwater real estate in coastal Florida I’d be happy to tell you about.

No, indeed, if there is one thing about New York’s public transportation that we all know to be true, it’s that the city’s subways are longstanding metaphor for dirtiness.

Thankfully, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is here to save the day, with a new set of policies and requirements that will wipe away the filth — in a manner of speaking, that is.

How will the MTA go about sanitizing the subways? Will they employ an army of proud New Yorkers, possibly even highly motivated volunteers who will gladly show their civic pride by mopping floors, wiping down walls and scrubbing toilets? And what the hell is the cover of Dianetics doing in a poster about syphilis? Find out in Calico’s new post, “Maybe MTA Misunderstood When People Said the Subway Was “Filthy”?”

– Calico Rudasill,

MTA filthy subway


Public transportation has its pros and cons, I think we can all agree – and some systems have far more cons than others, clearly. 

For some folks, the biggest consideration is reliability; they’re primarily concerned with getting where they need to go on schedule. Others want their trains and buses to be clean, or at least not be massive petri dishes filled with germs like the New York subway system.

While most people probably don’t put a high priority on the sort of ads they’re exposed to while riding public transport, advertising is one part of public transport that can get very interesting, particularly when it comes to what the local authorities will and won’t allow in ads – which brings us back to New York and its fast-moving petri dish trains.

A Controversy Born of Inconsistency – and Hypocrisy

A few years ago, a sex toy and sexual wellness company called Dame Products sued the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (“MTA”) after the MTA rejected some of Dame’s ads for reasons that appeared to be completely inconsistent with the MTA’s past approval of ads for companies such as Hims and Roman, which had previously published sexually suggestive ads for their erectile dysfunction products.

The MTA has also previously run ads from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s “syphillis explosion” awareness raising campaign – which as Mark Duffy pointed out a couple years ago, looked from the artwork as though it was “targeting promiscuous Scientologists.” 

So, imagery that suggests a woman touching herself is an erotic bridge too far, but a phallic volcano spitting out (presumably diseased) lava is A-OK? Typical.

At any rate, the lawsuit Dame filed against the MTA recently settled and the MTA announced that as part of the settlement, “Dame will run a paid advertising campaign on MTA subway cars in November through January,” according to MTA spokesperson Eugene Resnick. “The advertisements will promote Dame’s brand and, unlike the earlier ads involved in the lawsuit, will not specifically depict or refer to its products.”

The Line is Redrawn – Much Closer to the Vest

In the aftermath of the settlement with Dame, the MTA has now revised its advertising policy – and in the process, it has made threading the needle of the MTA’s requirements much more difficult for any ad for a product or service of a sexual or erotic nature.

The MTA’s previous policy included a prohibition on advertising a “sexually oriented business” without defining the term. Now, the definition is quite broad, encompassing “any good, product, or service primarily related to or used for the purposes of sexual activity”, including sex toys, sexual enhancement products and sexual dysfunction medications and supplements, among other things. 

The new policy also completely prohibits the advertising of cannabis products because, let’s face it, the people who run the MTA are just no fun.

When People Ask MTA to “Clean Up” the Subway, This Isn’t What They Mean

These policy changes might ‘clean up’ the MTA’s trains in ways that don’t help much with the germ density, but what they probably won’t do is aid the MTA’s bottom line. According to Brian Rappaport of Quan Media Group, the MTA could lose about 10% to 15% of its revenue due to the new policy.

Of course, Rappaport also said that while the subway is “really a great place for a brand to be,” it’s not worth freaking out if you find yourself as an advertiser on the outs with MTA.

“If you can’t be there for whatever reason, and you’re being blocked by the MTA, you shouldn’t pout,” Rappaport said.

Nobody is ‘pouting’ here, Brian. They’re just asking to be treated fairly under public policy and the law – and OK, maybe also for the right to post an image of a pretty flower with a woman’s fingers caressing the petals where there used to be a syphilitic volcano. Is that truly so much to ask?


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