Your Privates Are Public

Privates are public if we're in public?

Privates are public if we’re in public?

A 61-year-old man takes a picture up the skirt of a 13-year-old girl while she shops at Target. And gets away with it.

Yes, it’s lewd and appalling, but the girl was in a public place so it’s not against the law,

(to paraphrase the judge in the case).

Another guy takes up-skirt photos of a woman at the Boston subway. He gets away with it, too.

Technically, she was fully clothed. And there’s no law against photographing fully clothed people.

That’s a statement from another judge.

An Oregon school boy takes an up-skirt of his teacher, Dana Lovejoy, and shares it on social media. When she learned about it she exclaimed,

I felt immediately in shock and violated. Not only was I photographed without my consent, not only was it of my genital area, but the majority of the school had seen it before I was even aware it existed.

Once again, declared legal.

In response, several states have passed laws against this sort of thing.

But it doesn’t always work. Texas’ highest court deemed a law banning “improper photography or visual recording” to prevent under-clothing photos “unconstitutional.”

Free speech, after all.

What’s free speech?

Sure, posting online involves speech. But how is taking the picture in the first place speech?

What’s “public”?

Archaic justice

Archaic justice

We all wear clothing to shield our private parts when we are in public. In fact, we wear clothing over our undergarments to shield our undergarments from public view. So how does simply being in public make our privates public?

Whose perspective?

Judgments in these cases seem to come from the perspective of those who needn’t fear anyone taking crotch shots of themselves. Specifically, men — who don’t wear dresses and skirts.

Once something becomes part of the culture – including judicial culture – women can internalize it, so there may be female judges who join in on these decisions. But if women had held the majority of court seats over the years I suspect that the decisions would be very different.

If anyone began taking crotch shots of judges would they still insist that their privates are public when they are in public?

Doubt it.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on June 17, 2015, in feminism, rape and sexual assault, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 50 Comments.


    I cannot believe these perverts got away with it! The fact that a woman’s career probably ended because of a photo of her PRIVATE parts were made viewable to her students is saddening. It’s degrading to have your private parts shown to people that you socialize with. Women aren’t really free to wear skirts now because we have creeps doing things like this. Laws should be established to protect unwanted pictures like these to be taken.

  2. Jansi Christhuraj

    This is really crazy!! Now a days, we are all having camera in our hands in the form of cell phone, and we are taking pictures and video recoding so many things. It is nearly impossible to get consent from people when you are in public. But at the same time, when you sneak into someone’s private matter and video taping them is not acceptable. Will the judges give the same judgement if this happens to their mother or wife or daughter? The United States government is still following some old procedures, it needs to be updated and creates new rules and regulation to avoid those unwanted incidents.

  3. Really! The judgements passed according were according to me so not right! And you asked the exact same question in the end, will judge be ok if theirs is shot in the same way!

    • Yeah, when I read the reasoning for their judgments I could see the possibility of reasoning in three different ways. The perspective seems to come from people who don’t have to worry about this sort of thing happening to them.

  4. In todays world, a lot of pictures and other personal media is posted. Whether you THINK it is private or not, anything posted out there to the web is there for anyone to see. It scares me to think about it, but everything you put out there it can be found eventually. My mom tells me all the time of how careful I need to be what I put out there for people to see. I am always consicous about what I choose to show people.

    • But here the women don’t even have any choice as to whether the pictures taken or gets posted. And that’s a way bigger problem. Thanks for the warning. It probably needs to be heard over and over again. Both men and women have been denied jobs because of things they have posted, For instance.

  5. This is sickening. If you want to look at a vagina or butt, go to a strip club or get a prostitute. It is every woman’s right to decide whom they show their body to, and I can guess it would not be a 20-year old woman’s choice to show her vagina to a 70-year old man. As for boys in middle or high school taking pictures, that is just wrong and is objectification of the female body. Women are not around just for men’s pleasure. Contrary to what media shows women as, we are not just sexualized body parts. Women have a right not to be photographed, and it’s the responsibility of men to respect and uphold that.

  6. The fact that in all these cases the plaintiffs went out of their way to get these pictures and them not being punished for their efforts is appalling. When a person commits a crime and is caught on surveillance cameras, they are held accountable for their actions. Yet, you have a clear violation of ones right to privacy frozen in someone’s camera and all of a sudden their aren’t any laws available to reprimand the violators. of course, because women are the more susceptible to being victims of this undocumented crime, its no big deal. But like stated about, if it were to happen to a man, let along a male judge, it would probably become a huge deal and fast. Their is a huge gap in harassment and privacy laws and it should be addressed sooner rather than later.

  7. I am really surprised by this. Also pretty sad that I believe all this really occurred and the judges of course didn’t do anything about. Sad to see that even fully dressed we still don’t get the rights we deserve as to getting respect from the judges that our supposedly suppose to make the area you live in a safer place.

  8. I have seen many celebrities over the years who suffer because there is no law protecting citizens from these involuntary photoshoots. It’s interesting how people react though, people seem to “celebrity shame” them for being famous and rich saying things like “they asked for it by being an actor in the public eye”. I feel for them, I always have. NOW, reading this, it’s even worse, this girl, who is not in the public eye is being violated because she was wearing a skirt with easy access. I’m sure she will think twice before wearing a skit again. This is another form of suppressing women, a form of slut shaming her. She did not ask for this to happen. The only thing she can do about it is wear jeans next time she goes out. America is progressive in many ways, unfortunately, our constitution is not. It leaves giant loopholes open but I think a women judge would be able to see that and have sympathy. Things aren’t so back and white anymore. This leaves people feeling vulnerable in public, our country should try to amend the law to prevent this. It’s their civic duty to protect us. This is not specifically a democrat or republican issue of controversy like Obama care, its fairly strait forward and something that both parties can agree on and work together to change.

  9. I have to agree with the last statement that mentions if the judges where the victims then I’m sure that we wouldn’t be in the same place. There are places around the globe where men are seen wearing dresses and the rates of underdress pictures are not as much as those we see in the states. We are a culture that sees women as the sexy one so we must know everything about her even if it includes her genitals. Since most of these judges are men they don’t see the problem of showing a picture to the public. Also, if it were a guy’s genital I am sure that it wouldn’t be as a big deal as to a women’s.

  10. I think that this article has some really good points of view that we need to consider. Some guys could take the photos of girls under the skirt at public places, and they could run away from the punishment. It makes the girls’ privacy unsafe. I used to hear the similar news multiple times in the recent years. Some guy liked to take the photos of girls under skirt at the subway station because it’s summer time so that many girls choose to wear skirts. When the police got this guy, he explained as he did this just because the girls who wear skirts encouraged him. I think that it’s really ridiculous. In fact, this kind of behavior could be considered as harassment, a type of violence among women. However, he blamed for what the girls wear. Meanwhile, it’s sad that these guys do not get the punishments that they deserve. Still, the main reason that they could escape from this is that our society and laws provide limited protection for women and relative weak punishment for men who have violence towards women.

  11. I really don’t understand how this wasn’t turned into a law after the first time it happened. But I am glad that they are finally deciding to make a law about this. Some people just don’t understand how degrading it is if someone takes a picture of your private area and then shares it on either so social media or just with that persons close friends. I feel like nobody should be able to take a picture of your private area without your consent because it is just wrong it should be against the law everywhere.

  12. This got me so angry! This reminded me of the website where boys would post their ex girlfriends nude pictures online. If something happens without consent it should be totally illegal! It hurts people in the long run…. Maybe their careers, like the teacher and even their life, because she will always be the teacher that got her picture taken…. I hope laws will come and judges changed their opi ions. Or does it always have to happen with a family member or friends before they will react?

  13. Nathalie Waldenryd

    Unfortunatly there is so many loop holes in the law and if its benefiting the majority of the ones in power, they see no need of changing it. That this is even considered legal is baffling my mind. Its 2015, but america doesnt seem to suprise me anymore, if it was the other way around that a girl was doing it she would imidiatly be slut shamed and put out so the media could have at her, and people around her. Maybe even she would be fined and/or have to apologize for everything she did. But society wont change in a night unfortunatly.

  14. This should definitely be an ethical issue brought up in the courts and their should be laws passed everywhere that covers these sorts of issues and issues related to it! Its upsetting in the first place that there are types of perverted people who would do such a thing as going as far to take crotch shots of girls! Who are these judges who are declaring this legal? Are they men, women, or both? Maybe one of the problems is that it is a male judge who maybe has a scewed perspective. We should have more laws and equality to protect things like this from happening! This was really informative, I didn’t really think up the skirt pictures were taken like this that is horrible!

  15. I find this matter awful, I may be a male. But if someone was to put there camera down my shirt I would feel violated.

    And the fact that this is “legal” is outrageous, there should be a major fine or jail time for doing something like this. I would consider this borderline rape.

    This also makes me think of patriarchy since mostly men would do these acts, and the legal system is protecting them. So it has the male view in mind more than the female victims. They should change the laws related to this to protect the victims of this abuse.

  16. It’s seems to me that all the acts that had happen where legal because the judges that were judged the acts were men, so they see nothing wrong with it. Patriarchy I guess! Men are powerful and rule the world. The solution might be to have more women as judges. Because as long as men will be the judges those issues won’t be seen as problem or wrong.

  17. Wow. I never knew about this. How appalling. I wonder if it’s the same in Australia.

  18. Dear Georgia…

    These two judiciary cases not only show that they are relative, as they “come from the perspective of those who need not fear anyone taking crotch shots of themselves. Specifically, men — who don’t wear dresses and skirts”… But that Justice might be unfair at times…

    What truly caught my attention here was the fact that there was no explicit or subtle consent of the victims… Thus, the legal reasons and decisions seem crudely unjustified.

    A very interesting read!… Thanks for sharing and all the best to you. Aquileana .💫✨🌟

  19. I think even if people do aware of how “not right” these behaviors are, we still do not much power to interfere with the law, to be specific, lawyers. Many people can get away with what they have done, because if they were sued, those who have money can hire good lawyers to help them win the case. As we all know, lawyers are really good at finding grey areas in the law and make things practical legal. Even sometimes we know that the thing that person did is wrong, but they can still be innocent under the law. You just need to find evidence to prove it, and basically you are good to go.
    I know for sure we can use education to change what people’s thought on this issue, but it will take a long time. The immediate action we should do is to change the law. I don’t know if we can really make a new law against these kinds of behavior, but since we don’t have it now, those people can literally free to do it anytime.

    • Oddly enough if you look at the reasons the judges give for ruling as they do the law doesn’t seem to be the problem so much as their interpretation of it.

  20. Another difference is that male judge would never be made to feel the same shame and humiliation even if a picture of their privates was taken. Gals receive nude picture from their boyfriends just like guys do but there aren’t revenge porn websites containing nude pictures of males. Men aren’t shamed over this the way women are. Female celebrities have to worry about their private nude pictures being stolen but their male partners don’t have to worry about that and even if their’s is stolen and distributed, they don’t have to worry about it really negatively affecting them and their life the same way it would for a female person.

    Think about how guys randomly send dick pics to women and that has pretty much no social consequences or risks. In our culture only pictures of female bodies can be used to humiliate and shame the person who that body belongs to

  21. When I read this I thought, these creeps are basically Stalkers. Maybe not the type most people have been exposed to but Serial Stalkers, who are either opportunistic and/or predatory.

  22. Gross! What kind of creepy-ass judges say that banning people taking these kind of photos without consent is ‘unconstituatonal?’
    I am not sure the law here (Australia) exactly but I do remember a man getting into a lot of shit for taking photos of women sunbaking topless at the beach (which is legal), without their consent.

  23. Good points. There are lines that the laws draw that are clear cut but don’t allow for the nuances of experiences by those involved. So much has been established according to how men are impacted/not. Another reason we need even more female lawmakers and pointing out such discrepancies need to continue. It’s so easy to assume things are a given because we are used to them when that’s not the case.

    • Yes, exactly! There’s no reason you have to interpret the laws the way these judges are interpreting them. Interpretation comes from a male centered-perspective.

      Once that interpretation becomes common it doesn’t occur to people that you could see it other ways.

  24. The judgement process, it seems, in every country, is ridiculous. 😦 Most of the times, women have to suffer…

  25. If you like my solution, write to your state legislator.

  26. Legally, I think we should explore the constitutional concepts of “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the context of this kind of invasion. While the constitution only protects us against intrusions by government, I can see an easy transition to a statutorily created right, in tort, for invasion of privacy.
    We already have privacy torts protecting us from the usurpation of our image, and unauthorized use of our likeness for commercial purposes. It’s not such a stretch from there, to covering these kinds of violations. Add a claim for infliction of emotional distress and suddenly the fear of big judgments may do what criminal prosecutions cannot achieve. Moreover, being sued for such an offense may bring about the social opprobrium and scorn that could deter the conduct–at least in adults.

    • And really, the law just doesn’t have to be interpreted the way it has been. It’s an interpretation of comes from a male-centric perspective. From people who don’t have to worry about having their privacy invaded this way.

      When you have shielded your private parts from public view, you have done everything you can to not make them public. They actually are not part of the public realm when you dress this way.

      But once decisions are rendered, especially repeatedly, people have a hard time thinking outside the box.

  27. Oh wow! This really angers me.

  28. This is nothing new, and one of the loopholes with our law. This has been discussed before in a law class I took. I know you take it toward women and sexism agaisnt women, but unfortunately people’s rights go out the window when in public property as far as pictures taken or video. There have been instances where paparazzi take private pictures of male celebrities from a long distance away, but not in trouble for infringment of privacy because of distance or something else. It’s been a long time and men can be just as much victims of this too. It’s the same reason photos can be taken against people’s consent of say embarassing pictures by strangers without them knowing and the stranger not being in trouble legally.

    • The things I write about are rarely anything new.

      I just don’t see any reason to rule that something that you are trying to shield from public view is public just because you happen to be in public – and have made an effort to shield the view of your privates. It’s just contradictory.

      No reason to interpret law in that contradictory way.

      I haven’t thought much about the other example you give. There could be good reason to say that those judgments are stupid too. I just don’t know much about the arguments in that case.

      • The point is that while you see it against women, I see it against “people” in general. There are loopholes and things with the legal system that aren’t right. The reason you see this more against women, is because unfortunately men are more often pervier and peeping toms towards women. And because women’s body parts or more of them are private parts.

        However, this was something discussed in class before and everyone thought it was stupid about the lack of privacy when in a public setting and techinicalities even if you think you are in a private spot. You say its against women, but from what I’ve learned about how the law sees public infringmentm a gay man could peep on a man’s penis in public property. Say something allowed a man to do so, he wouldn’t be in trouble for the same reason you brought up with the woman being perved. A woman viewing a man’s private though it’s in a public setting would be the same scenario, actually she’d less likely be charged, because shes a woman and a man can’t be a victim to women in that way and women can’t be a predator in that way either.

      • It could be against people in general, And in this case against women in particular.

  29. I was surprised my the mentioned judgement in all the above cases. Sometimes, even the legal machinery gets bounded by the rules. I wish the judges also gets something like veto-power, which they can exercise in such cases.

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