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Court Says Secretly Taking a Photo Up a Woman’s Skirt Not a Crime

Court Says Secretly Taking a Photo Up a Woman’s Skirt Not a Crime

Secretly taking a picture up a woman’s skirt without her knowing is a definite violation of good taste and manners. Unfortunately, it appears that such conduct isn’t actually a crime, at least, not according to a Massachusetts judge who has ruled the action does not violate the state’s “Peeping Tom” law.

According to ThinkProgress, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court came to the decision after a man was arrested for taking multiple pictures of women on the subway, which the judge agreed was tasteless but not definitively illegal, since the act of being out in public apparently negates any belief that she should expect privacy.

“The judges sympathized with the notion that a woman should be able to have a reasonable expectation not to have secret photos taken up her skirt when she goes out in public, but ruled that current state law does not address that,” writes Aviva Shen. “Massachusetts’ ‘Peeping Tom’ laws, as written, only protect women from being photographed in dressing rooms or bathrooms when they are undressed. Since upskirt photos are taken of fully clothed women in public, they don’t count, according to the court.”

In other words, if she’s going to wear a skirt, it’s her job to ensure that she is covered at all times, and be prepared to treat any person she runs into on the street as a potential photographer, hoping for a sly shot. The Massachusetts legislature has responded by saying they will consider a bill to make this illegal to address the problem in the future, but still would leave it defensible and not a crime in other states that haven’t taken active moves to do the same.

The lawyer defending the “photographer” said his client’s actions were an expression of free speech, another novel moment where, when it comes to photographing women, her right to privacy is superseded by an aggressor’s apparently endless expanse of first amendment rights. It’s a rule that comes into play daily outside of reproductive health care providers, where anti-abortion protesters who claim that they are “sidewalk counselors” take pictures of and video tape patients as they enter and exit the building.

Although websites like the one referenced in this Wall Street Journal article, cataloging the patients who obtain abortions, have mostly disappeared, recording patients at many clinics has become common place, and abortion opponents will often upload those videos or photographs onto social networks as well, with no regards to a person’s privacy. Sometimes such pictures will even make it onto news sites, even professional, mainstream publications such as state newspapers.

And, sadly, sites that track patients still exist.

The practice is so commonplace that the National Abortion Federation has even addressed it in their frequently asked questions page, as to whether or not it is a punishable offense. The answer, sadly, is no, probably not. “Taking somebody’s picture, either still or moving, without their consent is not an act of force or a threat of force, therefore this is not a FACE violation. However, it may be actionable under state law.”

If taking photos up women’s skirts, or of them about to possibly be undergoing medical procedures, without their consent, is a matter of free speech, all photography must be, right? Ah no, of course not. Once farming conglomerates are involved, suddenly privacy can be invoked, such as in the case of ag gag bills passed across the country that forbid filming as a part of undercover investigations into potential animal cruelty. In that case, forbidding photography is “an ‘agricultural security measure’ that was intended to protect farmers from trespassers, theft, wrongful employment and recordings taken undercover.”

In other words, women can be filmed at any time with no privacy violations because it is free speech. Advocacy investigations on behalf of ending animal abuse? Well, that’s obviously violating a business’s privacy.

Once again, it would be nice if women had half the rights businesses are granted.

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Please sign and share this petition telling the Massachusetts Supreme Court that it is not OK for a stranger to photograph up a woman’s skirt.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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250 comments

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6:33PM PDT on Sep 29, 2014

What comes to mind is.Only in the USA.

8:39PM PDT on Mar 16, 2014

I am sad to say that I am not surprised by this ruling. In this day and age where men are treating women as no more than a chunk of meat to be dealt with as they please while being condoned and promoted by the government, we should expect no less. I have seen this happen to a lady by a well-known figure in this specific circle - total loss of respect for the creep who did it.

6:37PM PDT on Mar 15, 2014

In this world where the government and every business around the country has cameras on you at all times you can not suspect any privacy at any time. in fact if you wear a skirt you can bet some camera has peared up your skirt some place.

7:25AM PDT on Mar 15, 2014

Wtf ???? Think laws are made by dirty pervs and they protect other dirty pervs

7:25AM PDT on Mar 15, 2014

Wtf ???? Think laws are made by dirty pervs and they protect other dirty pervs

2:26PM PDT on Mar 14, 2014

UNBELIEVABLE that a state like Massachusetts, home to both Harvard and MIT, two of the most renowned Universities in the world, Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute can also be home to such near-sighted judges as this MORON...What's next burning women at the stake once more...You never know, they may very well be witches...Especially if they have red hair!!!

1:14PM PDT on Mar 12, 2014

scary judgement. Awful.

6:02AM PDT on Mar 12, 2014

carla v.; I never said anything about fair. I was talking legality of the action and the fact that we are surrounded with cameras already. I mentioned I don't go out much. Because I am aware of all the cameras (cell phones included) and I don't like my privacy invaded. Just as I don't want companies and corporations collecting data on me. It all stinks of J. Edgar Hoover and his ilk (FBI, CIA, NSA and others)! Sorry if I didn't completely express myself. My thoughts race faster than my fingers. Thank you for your comment.

12:37AM PDT on Mar 12, 2014

@Maria A, do you really think that it is fair (never mind legal) to take pictures of strangers entering women's health clinics? many are there for prenatal screening which they cannot otherwise afford. It is an invasion of privacy. One used to have permission, or a signed form from the subject of a photo. Whether up a skirt of entering a clinic or merely walking down the street, no one should have the right t take amd publish one's photo without consent.

12:27AM PDT on Mar 12, 2014

A camera up one's skirt is NOT free speech. We have a presumption of privacy. And BTW, peepers often turn into rapists, so shame on the court!

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