Creepshots Or Not: Isla Vista

Paleo Retiree writes:

As an artsbuff and an enthusiastic snapshooter, I was fascinated by the debate that kicked up a while back about “creepshots.” (Gawker and Jezebel attack; Reddit bans a few sub-Reddits.) Briefly: young women protested that photographers shouldn’t be posting photos of young women online. At least none that are provocative, and were taken without first asking for and receiving permission. Well, as with so much having to do with young women and their militant political causes, the fact is that it’s hard to tell exactly what the criteria are, beyond “nobody should ever do anything that makes me feel bad.”

This kerfuffle and the debate that followed left me amazed. How naive and childish can people be? Isn’t it common knowledge that if you’re out in public you’re fair game for photographers? Apparently not. The word “non-consenting” shows up regularly in articles and comments attacking creepshots … yet it’s a simple fact that many of the photographs that are generally considered among the greatest ever taken were snapped without the knowledge and/or consent of the people in them.

Some visitors, for example, were offended by this posting of mine, which included a snap I took of an oblivious couple, and asked how I’d feel if someone posted an unflattering picture of me online. One commenter asked the question with a huge flounce of self-congratulations, as if she knew she was scoring some big, game-ending point. How to persuade such a my-feelings-above-all-things person that, if I were photographed, say, picking my nose, and someone posted the photograph online, I wouldn’t be much bugged by it? I’d probably blush and grimace a bit, but then I’d shrug and get on with life. What chance is there she’d believe me?

Nonetheless, my reasons:

  • For one thing: Fair’s fair. If I’m going to sneak pics of people in public, other people can sneak pics of me in public.
  • For another: Practically speaking, in today’s digital world, with millions of photographs being uploaded to the web every day, what are the chances of me ever encountering such a picture of myself? It’s seriously unlikely that I’ll ever learn about it. And with ignorance sometimes comes equanimity.
  • For a third thing: The freedom to sneak pics in public generally is ‘WAAYYYYYY more important to me than any briefly miffed feelings I might personally experience as a consequence of a sneaked pic. You’ll perhaps forgive me for being reminded of the ever-ongoing debate about free speech, and for being perturbed by the way so many young people in these self-esteem days are apparently more determined to protect their tender feelings than they are to experience and enjoy freedom.

Part of what intrigued me about the discussion was realizing that, by the standards that were being laid out by the young and intolerant, my personal photo collection includes hundreds of “creepshots” — pix, possibly erotically intended, of random young women. Here I was, thinking that I enjoy taking shots of life as it’s currently being lived (and OK, also indulging my eternally bemused, wandering eye). But by certain obsessed-by-microaggresions contempo standards, despite the fact that I’m behaving in the ways I always have, I may now qualify as a creepy, wicked old man. (I don’t take this seriously, btw. It’s just interesting to observe how standards change over time.)

I’m also struck by how often the word “creepy” has been coming up recently. Creepshots. Creepy old men. What’s going on in the culture that’s making young women think “creepy!” so much these days? I was first struck by this in the early 2000s. Young women started showing up at the office who were really, really shocked that older male colleagues would dare to flirt with them, let alone hit on them. As an oldie, I was ultra-baffled. For decades the arrival of new young employees had meant a fresh crop of eye candy and potential lovers. Even in the neofeminist ’90s, few of these youngsters complained. Some abstained; some enjoyed the attention; some used it to get ahead … But even the feminists among them didn’t complain. But in the early 2000s, young women who were otherwise startlingly hearty and headstrong — team-playin’, hyper-confident Alpha Girls — were expressing dismay that “creepy older guys” were teasing them, eyeing them, and trying to make some time with them. WTF? Was it growing up during crazy ’90s feminism that had infantilized them so? Does today’s education-for-nice-kids both fill girls up with ego AND turn them into naive 12 year olds?

In any case, as for me, where photography in public goes, I’m a simple soul: Out in public, it’s it’s all fair game. My personal morality says that you shouldn’t point your camera into people’s private spaces, such as houses. But when a person is out in public, it really is open season, and I’m OK with that. Happy to agree that there are more elegant and less elegant, and more and less considerate, ways of dealing with these questions. But I’m seriously wary of drawing moral lines (let alone passing laws) based on someone’s idea of taste or talent. Why would I trust someone other than myself to make those judgments?

Nonetheless, despite the fact that the basics of this argument were settled for me long ago, I’m still intrigued by how other people feel today.

So in this posting I’m offering up a case study (the first of many, I’m hoping). Recently I spent a half day strolling around Isla Vista, the small town on the California coast where the University of California at Santa Barbara is located. I snapped away happily, as I’m wont to do: architecture, funny signs … Really, truly, this is something I do: I photograph places that interest, amuse or delight me. Proof of this, from my day in IV:

ca_sb_2013_09_isla_vista_scenes_collage

I make zero claims for myself as an arty photographer, but I like noticing things and I enjoy the way themes emerge from the visual notes I take. In this case: I’m following the vogue for localism; as a fan of idiomatic pop architecture, I’m collecting shots of bicycle stores around the country; I have a folder of pix I’m building up on the general theme of “what the hell happened to American church architecture in the  post WWII years?” … I also like funny signs, which I consider to be a legitimate form of folk art, and I’m gently beginning to take snaps of crazy street people. Crazy street people are a big part of American life, you know? And that bench buried in the sand by the stop sign is a hoot, right? Original mind and eye that I possess, I was probably the 10,000th person to take a snapshot of it.

But back to creepshots. During my afternoon in IV I also fired off some snapz of the local female wildlife. UCSB recently came in #2 on some ranking of “biggest party schools,” and the town has a very frat-kid vibe — not many hippies or geeks or goths to be run into on campus or in town. (Fun to see that “party school” has its own Wikipedia entry.) Surfer style and surfer-chick style are the main things on display. And those are the kids I snapped some shots of.

So I’m proposing a game. What do visitors make of these shots? Legit street photography or creepshots?

Example #1.

ca_sb_2013_09_isla_vista_girls01

Anything objectionable (in a moral sense) with this shot? If the girls in the photo were to become aware of the shot, as unlikely as that is, would they have any legitimate reason to complain about it?

Example #2:

ca_sb_2013_09_isla_vista_girls02

Do the photographer’s intentions matter where determining whether a snap is a creepshot or not goes? (And how can we determine those intentions?) In this case my own feeling is: Hey, maybe it’s a creepshot, maybe it’s not. Maybe I was motivated to snap the shot because I was hot for the leggy young girl. But maybe I was hot for the woman next to her, who I take to be her MILFish mom. On the third hand, maybe what prompted me to take the snap was that I was feeling annoyed by the way so many people march around in public these days eating. (The girl was reaching into her bag and stuffing her face with chips.) Jesus Christ, America, stop it already with the compulsive eating in public. Is there any way for someone looking at this snap to know what the photographer’s intentions were?

Example #3:

ca_sb_2013_09_isla_vista_girls03

Maybe I’m displaying this snap because I have an ongoing project of documenting people using smartphones. If so: Not a creepshot. But maybe I took the shot and posted it because I have a raging hard-on for skinny dark-haired girls in off-white pants. If that were the case, would this qualify as a creepshot?

Example #4 is the same photo twice, so let’s call it 4A and 4B:

ca_sb_2013_09_isla_vista_girls04-2

This photo seems pretty obviously centered on the girl’s wonderfully vulnerable pink flesh, and maybe especially on the youthful weight of her curvy butt. Creepshot, I guess — though, since you can’t see her face, who cares? She’ll never know about it. In fact, though, the shot is just a crop from this photo:

ca_sb_2013_09_isla_vista_girls04

… which might almost be taken to be a comic (and, OK, comically untalented) effort to make some Antonioni-esque comment about concrete, modern life, alienation, etc.

Example #5 is two photos taken mere seconds apart. 5A:

ca_sb_2013_09_isla_vista_girls05

Isla Vista street scene. Palm trees, co-eds … The girls may be showing a lot of leg, but it was a warm day, and really they’re just part of a much larger scene. But moments later this is what my camera grabbed:

5B:

ca_sb_2013_09_isla_vista_girls06

Yow. This snap is entirely about the one girl’s creamy thighs and punkette-Victorian boots. It’s near porno, not that I’m bugged by that. For taking this snap and including it in this blogposting, am I a creepshooter? Could be. Yet: Did I even intend to take this shot? As a matter of simple picture-taking fact, all I did was press and hold the shutter button — it’s a near-accident that this particular frame was one result. Yet, of course, here I am choosing to display the picture, and that’s nothing if not a deliberate action. Complications, complications.

Example #6:

ca_sb_2013_09_isla_vista_girls07

I see two completely different ways of interpreting this snap. First: Let’s imagine that a chick photographer took this shot and posted it on her riott-grrrlll website. In that case, the snap would be likely to be understood as a celebration of gung-ho, nothing-stops-me-from-doing-what-I-feel-like-doing feminism. But now let’s say that a hetero guy took the shot (and this hetero guy did). In that case, you might take it to be a creepshot. Hey, she’s skateboarding in short-shorts and a jog-bra top — hawt. So it could be a feminist statement or it could be a horndog creepshot … Yet isn’t it the same bucket of pixels that’s being discussed?

Example #7:

ca_sb_2013_09_isla_vista_girls08

Perhaps I took this picture because the girl’s leopard-print miniskirt and pretty legs were getting me hard. But maybe I snapped the pic intending to include it in my folder of pictures of people eating in public. How to know (and thus judge) for sure?

Example #8 is three snaps taken in less than a second. 8A:

ca_sb_2013_09_isla_vista_girls09

Maybe it’s a sweet, and not an offensive, picture. Maybe I was touched by (and wanted to capture and share) these girls’ fizz and rapport. And, you know, where any sexiness goes: It isn’t me who dresses these California college girls. They go around dressed like this of their own accord.

8B:

ca_sb_2013_09_isla_vista_girls10

Is it the photographer’s fault that these girls are all wearing t-shirts with revealing necklines? Or that every one of them is wearing short-shorts, and showing off dangling pocket-fabric?

8C:

ca_sb_2013_09_isla_vista_girls11

Zoom in on the original of this photo and you’ll be able to make out tiny, fair thigh hairs. You don’t generally get to see those on a girl unless you’re getting pretty friendly with her. And in this snap you can also more or less pick up that the girls are showing off a little underbutt. Is it fair of me to have taken a shot of these girls that highlights their thigh hairs and underbutts? In actual picture-taking fact: Once again, all I did was press and hold the shutter button: clickclickclickclick … Still, it’s true that I’ve chosen the photo, and that I’ve made the effort to put it up on this blog. But maybe my intention was simply to share something along the lines of “Hey, a lot of college girls are going around showing off  underbutt these days.” Maybe I’m just pointing out one particular sociological trend in the driest possible way. Any real way to know that isn’t the case?

Final question-blizzard: How would you respond if one of the girls in the above snapz (unlikely though this seems) ran across one of these photos and was made unhappy by it? Would you sympathize with her and condemn me? Or would we all have a laugh and tell her that maybe the time has come for her to grow the fuck up? On the third hand, if she really were bugged by a picture posted here, and she contacted me and politely asked me to take it down, I’d do so promptly.

Incidentally: Happy to agree that some cases are easy. Upskirt shots of chick students taken and then posted online by male teachers are clearly out of bounds. (Even so, I guess I’m more prone than most to indulge a chuckle or two at the follies of life instead of having a heart attack. The girls are entitled to get indignant; the guy deserves to be disciplined and/or fired. Still, we’re hardly talking about the biggest evil in the world.) But school isn’t exactly “in public,” is it?

It’s not that a few clearcut examples of crossing-a-line exist. They do. It’s that many if not most photos-in-public exist in gray zones. And besides, isn’t it fun and interesting to take note of life as it’s currently being lived, and to share what we notice with others? Do we really want to sacrifice our ability to do that? And if some of our life-as-it’s-lived-today snapz are of girls, and if some of those girls are showing off curves and skin  … Well, why is noticing  all that, snapping it, posting it and discussing it “creepy”?

Your opinions requested: Which of the above snapz is the creepshottiest of them all? And why?

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About Paleo Retiree

Onetime media flunky and movie buff and very glad to have left that mess behind. Formerly Michael Blowhard of the cultureblog 2Blowhards.com. Now a rootless parasite and bon vivant on a quest to find the perfectly-crafted artisanal cocktail.
This entry was posted in Personal reflections, Photography and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Creepshots Or Not: Isla Vista

  1. Will S. says:

    This is the same generation that has filled the internet with selfies, in all different states of dress.

    I wouldn’t worry about what they think.

    Only if they have, or end up getting, the law on their stupid side.

    That said, as an amateur photographer myself, I don’t WANT to shoot anyone who’s such an idiot they’d consider me a ‘creep’ for doing so; why preserve a memory of such silly young things? Screw ’em. (By which I mean don’t.)

    I’ll stick to, at most, the odd candid or crowd shot, but otherwise, mostly stuff like nature photography, old architecture, and such.

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  2. Fenster says:

    The gal in #4, the one walking away from you and that whose face is not visible. That’s my NIECE YOU CREEP! Boy is she gonna be mad when she finds out.

    But seriously . . . the guide you sent as a pdf seemed like a good starting point for discussion of the issue. For the most part, if you can see you can snap. But that’s a quasi-legalistic view. As I see it you are asking a broader question about manners. Especially in an era in which people don’t tote around clunky Weegee cameras with big flashes. In which every hand can hold–or hide–a phone with a camera. And in which photos can be taken completely unobtrusively, as with Google Glass and its spawn to come.

    You come pretty quickly to a situation that is less legalistic and more about negotiating expectations at a time of technical change. Like cell phone conversations on buses, planes and trains. No one says you can’t do it, and maybe you need to make that one call. But over time we have somehow developed a norm, largely though not universally shared, that too much such talk is a bad thing. And that shaming, not law, is the way to regulate the matter.

    I think a similar set of quasi-rules are in the process of being formulated now on images. I generally agree with you that the photographer should be given leeway, and none of the images you posted was particularly offensive. But:

    1. Small cell phones are easy to conceal, unlike old cameras. Do I like the idea of a photographer consciously hiding the fact that a picture is taken? No I don’t. If you want to be Weegee be Weegee and take your medicine if you go too far. But going out of your way to make sure the person does not know they are being photographed risks tripping up the “expectation of privacy” argument outlined in the .pdf. Google Glass will really make this a hot issue in the future.

    2. Even if you are willing to show your camera there are obvious limits to good taste. Recall the guy who was fixed his camera to a grocery cart or some such thing, pulling up behind people to get upskirt images. I believe he tried to use the defense “if you can see it you can shoot it.” The court said no, and they were right to. In a less dramatic vein, if you take an image of a girl’s short shorts in close-up, don’t you think that would be offensive? I mean if you were to yourself move from ten feet away to five to two to one to six inches, getting the camera right up to the line between shorts and butt? That’s does not seem acceptable. Most of the close ups you snapped involved the girls walking. I get that you can take a more or less inadvertent close up if they walk past you two feet away, and you can always crop for greater effect later. But if it is true that you can snap what you see should there be no good manners constraint on how close you get in order to get the photo?

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    • Great reflections and questions. I agree that the omnipresence of digital lenses and sensors makes a huge difference where our assumptions and our habits of photography go. It’s an interesting moment for that reason, along with others. I’ll be posting more snapz that may or may not qualify as creepshots in the future. Curious to hear what your verdict on ’em will be. FWIW, when given the choice I tend to prefer more freedom rather than less. On the other hand, I’m a big fan of shame and manners. On the third, every now and then what’s more thrilling than violating polite practices?

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  3. It helps that these photos were taken and described in a spirit of admiration. And maybe not in Isla Vista, but in most major cities, all our moves are probably being captured a thousand times daily by CCTV. Panopticon and all that.

    Devil’s advocate here for a sec though: what if you were presenting these pictures as objects for mockery rather than praise? Rather than saying, hey look at this beautiful girl in her shorts and tank top, saying hey, look at (for ex) this middle-aged chunkster, isn’t (s)he stupid/ugly looking?

    As is well known, I’m quick to jump on the ridiculousness of the thinning of society’s collective skin. Nobody has a right to a hassle-free life. But I’ve got to respectfully disagree with you, wise Retiree, on the matter of “if you’re in public, you’re fair game to be photographed”. I think I ought to be able to go about my daily business without worrying about whether I might wind up being dissected on the ‘Net. (Note that I didn’t say “I have a right to”: I don’t.) I like to think that I have the ability to exist in my sphere without being dragged into another. Maybe that’s pie-in-the-sky, but there you go.

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    • Context matters a lot, I agree. Plus there’s the fact that, these days, pix can get ripped off and re-used. I think I was pretty appreciative about the girls in the photos in my posting. Yet anyone could take those pics and post ’em on another site that (say) makes fun of girls. The effect would be much different. Speaking of which, how do you respond to my use of the snapshot in this posting? I’m using the youngsters in it as an example of something I deplore, and I sneaked the shot off. Unfair, or maybe even ugly, of me? As far as your “I like to think I have the ability to exist in my sphere without being dragged into another” sentence goes … Well, why not? In reality, so long as you’re out and about these days, your pic is probably being taken by some camera somewhere a dozen times a day. FWIW, my own response to that fact is to shrug and say, “Oh, well, big deal. Seems to be part of what existing in a digital universe is like, and god knows I enjoy my iPad and digicam.” But others will have their own ways of dealing with it.

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      • I think your interpretation of the airport couple is one of several valid ones. The violently negative reaction of your commenters seems like they doth protest too much. But imagining the context and stories around photographs is part of the fun of the art form, I think.

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      • Fenster says:

        Talmud Guy writes:

        That airport shot and the way it was run initially is another thing altogether, IMHO. There, you seemed to have sneaked a shot. That invites the charge (a manners charge not really a legal one) that you have violated their expectation of privacy. But I don’t think that is the case. It is not as though they are doing anything (like smoking a joint) where a reasonable person might expect privacy. They are just sitting, one dozing and one on the phone.

        (BTW I contrast this with someone taking a video of me using Google Glass while in conversation . . . there, joint or not, my expectation is that I am having a 1:1 conversation, and emblazoning that conversation on the internet later is in my mind way out of bounds.)

        But then the story gets interesting. You took this seemingly innocent picture of two people at an airport and used it to frame out a negative story about the decline in gender relations. Here, I think you got a little closer to the line–though I don’t think you crossed it. The two in the photo seem so nonplussed, so relaxed, that in all honesty I think that if you took out a Weegee camera and snapped them, then saying you wanted a picture since it was so cute, they would have been OK with it. Now I know you didn’t get consent, but I don’t think these two had anything to hide, and would not be offended by a photo had they known one was being taken.

        That said, was it OK after the fact to use them as poster children for the decline of masculine virtue? I guess so. You didn’t lie or say anything untrue. You were just offering your own opinion on something you saw. I don’t see anything wrong with that, especially on a blog, which is technically public but objectively semi-private. I am not sure as an editor of, say, Newsweek, I would want to let a reporter rip with a tough gender story using these two in the lede.

        James Estrin, a NYT staff photographer, was interviewed about this stuff, coming down very hard on the side of freedom to snap.

        http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/criminalizing-photography/

        But even he drew a distinction between snapping and using.

        “If you’re in public, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy. That’s the difference between what is public and what is private. It’s the reason that all those security cameras that are on every city street are allowed to photograph us, because when we’re out in public we have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

        There’s a big difference of taking a picture and the use of a picture. If I take a picture of someone on the street they don’t really have a right to tell me that I can’t take their picture. They can ask nicely, “Hey, would you mind not taking my picture?” But they can’t enforce it, because there isn’t a law.

        Now, if I use your picture in an advertisement or use your picture with story about obese people or smoking in America? That’s different. But that’s a whole other issue then the taking of the picture.”

        I actually don’t agree with his absolutist view of no expectation of privacy in a public place. I expect, or hope, he is talking about conventional cameras and not things like Google Glass. I do think totally unobtrusive devices open up new areas for the expectation of privacy, say in that 1:1 conversation. You may be on the street, but you assume the conversation is private.
        ———-

        Now done with the commentary on manners, a note on interpreting that photo. I have to say I was scratching my head over your interpretation when you first ran the post. Sure, it could signify a neutered dolt and the woman he let slide into dominance by his doltishness. But I can see it so many other ways–i.e., that particular reading was not at all the obvious one. I know you were there, and made the point that seeing the two in real time might support that interpretation. But then the actual evidence you posted–the photo–seemed to me to be not all that compelling in terms of making the point you wanted to make.

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      • Fenster says:

        Also on Estrin. It seems to me that the old-fashioned compromise was this: I have the right to shoot your picture with an obvious camera if you are in a public place. Period.
        The subject can say “please don’t”. The photographer can say OK and decline to take the picture. Or the photographer can snap away despite the objection. He will likely put some limits on what he shoots–getting within a foot of the butt/shorts line–given the public nature of the act of shooting.

        Underlying this bargain is the notion that the taking of the photograph itself is a public act, in keeping with it happening in the public square. It is hard to rely on the “public square” rationale as a photographer while resorting overly to camouflage relative to the camera. “Yes, you are in public, miss, and therefore forsake a right to privacy . . . but I am going to snap a photo of you privately”. Doesn’t that mix public and private in a potentially troubling way?

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  4. Malcolmation says:

    The difference between public exposure and unwanted publicity is *Politeness*… The significance of being “impolite” has radically changed from just a few decades ago. And because current times are largely ones of sanctioned surveillance, having so little reasonable presumption of “privacy” makes anything like respect for privacy almost purely discretionary. Voyeurism, in some circumstances is considered creepy, but that is only one flavor of “creepy”. The other flavor, far more prevalent, is “indiscriminate” sharing of voyeuristic views — but even that is considered “creepy” only with the presumption of certain motives. The real problem here is that, as always over the centuries, politeness is a deal: people get politeness *because* they invite it, and those who disinvite it don’t deserve it. This is a classic social “fundamental” that is pretty much completely off the radar of today’s people who were never taught it and have no real experience of it. Photography isn’t any different. But society is different, and communiation is different. Making stealthy pix and sharing them with discretion to discriminating viewers is a formula typically considered Connoisseurship… But dumb exhibitionists can only appeal to being deliberate performers if we’re going to give them any kind of a break. Otherwise, they don’t deserve the break.

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    • Like you say, the definition of politeness has changed a lot in recent decades. It strikes me that maybe the ways we negotiate politeness have changed too. But you’re an experienced (as well as trained and talented) photographer, I’m a snapshooter who’s only been at it in recent years. I’d love to hear what your experiences with these things have been like when you’re out and about with your camera.

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  5. Malcolmation says:

    By “dumb exhibitionists”, I mean the whining self-exposers who complain about being photographed!

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  6. PatrickH says:

    The issue is the sense of entitlement young women feel today. They believe, as do all solipsists, narcissists, selfish self-centred immature adolescents, that they can do whatever they want, say whatever they want, and if you so much as hesitate to “affirm” “validate” “empower” them, why then their solipsistic majesties will do what “empowered” women always do: go running to their boyfriends/husbands/policemen/judges, aka the local patriarchy to MAKE HIM STOP.

    Unfortunately, Ray, we are old guys, and young girls don’t like old guys. The real problem isn’t that they don’t like old guys…what possible difference could that make?…It’s that they are displaying themselves like whores to the men they do like…the PTB. They want to flaunt their cake and have it eaten by only the guys they want to eat it…the PTB. The issue is not then the tyranny of these young selfish useless solipsists…devoid of grace, mystery, poise, interest…it’s the PTB guys that can empty your bank account, drive you out of your home, ruin your reputation, and otherwise destroy you.

    Why would the PTB want to do such a thing? Because they want and claim a monopoly on all women everywhere, and it is THEY who get offended when the only men they fear–white heterosexual “betas” (a term I despise, but use only to distinguish us from the despicable corrupt and useless 1%, the patriarchy for whom all feminists work)–dare to assert any interest at all in any of the patriarchy’s property, be it a living wage, job security, a home, a family…a wife.

    Does this sound like polygamy? Well, yes. And the 1%’s eunuchs (the media), the bisphenol-A casualties, the soft pj-wearing cocoa-sipping nothings that do the PTB’s nosy parker busybody Harper Valley PTA monitoring, gate control, bourgeois-hypocritizing and social-death expulsion duties for the PTB, are just part of the same old same old making a great big comeback as we speak.

    Those poor useless girls. They stride down the street, displaying their wares, thinking somehow someday their prince will come. He never will…unless it’s once or twice between midnight and two AM after a drunken pickup in a bar. And then, next morning, having emptied his testes, her Prince is…gone.

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  7. PatrickH says:

    PTB is powers that be.

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  8. agnostic says:

    None look “creepy,” but since you asked which comes closest, I’d say #7. Their body language is turned in toward one another, creating a fence-of-backs to keep out the public. Maybe they’re just shooting the bull, or maybe they’re having a sensitive private discussion. You can’t tell. But they seem concerned enough about privacy to be standing in that formation.

    I find it obnoxious when groups circle the wagons like that in public, informal places — if you don’t want anybody to see your faces, hear your conversation, or make eye contact with you, then go find somewhere more private.

    But I don’t think the right way to shame them away from that behavior is to snap pictures of them. It just makes them more paranoid about public spaces, and next time they’ll stand in even tighter fence-like formation, and texting one another from 2 feet away rather than risk being overheard.

    The best way is to create a funner alternative, and make them feel like they’re losing out by huddling together. Have a group that’s standing in a more open configuration, where passersby could join in, and at least making it clear that we’re not bothered if somebody sees us or hears us in public. Semi-circle or in-a-row works well. Anything not closed off.

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    • Those are some sharp points. But to play devil’s advocate: if we’re to avoid (out of respect) taking pix of people who are huddling together in public, aren’t we agreeing to erase from the photographic record an interesting phenomenon — ie., the way some groups of people-in-public will huddle together? Isn’t the huddling-together thing (not that my photo really captured this) itself interesting? And worth a photograph? Not sure of the answer myself.

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      • agnostic says:

        I’m all for preserving trends, even or especially the obnoxious ones, in the record. I’m just saying that we can’t expect that to have the effect of changing the huddling behavior.

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  9. agnostic says:

    Agree about the timing of the “creepy” panic. During dorm room bull sessions or at the dining hall, girls were getting their panties in a wad about “stalkers” when I started college in ’99-2000. So it wasn’t just the workplace. It was worse — even on a college campus, referring to unwanted advances (or usually just looking from afar) from their own schoolmates.

    The difference between cohorts probably comes from how impressionable they were during the date rape hysteria of the early-to-mid 1990s. If they were already 20 years old, it was a bit late to have that paranoia stamped on your mind. But if you were about to or had just gone through puberty, you’re still surveying the social landscape to see what threats and obstacles there are.

    The really panicky women seem to start with those born in the mid-to-late ’70s, not so much the early Gen X women. The latter may voice “support” in the abstract for “victims” of creepiness, but don’t show a visceral reaction — they’re more likely to call the guy a sleazeball, and then go on with life. They seem proud of their toughness or resilience, and don’t enjoy melting down in order to be rescued by society.

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  10. agnostic says:

    I wonder how much of the fear is driven by shots taken by rival females who intend them for “slut-shaming” online. She wouldn’t mind so much if a shot of her wearing only tights and a t-shirt went up on a tumblr called “Fuck yeah, tights as pants!”

    But what if it went up on one of the many tumblrs and blogs called “Tights Are Not Pants,” made by women who don’t like the trend for whatever reason? Then it’s not just “great, now some group of pervy dudes are looking at my butt,” it’s “oh so these jealous bitches are trying to shame me out of wearing tights, are they? bring it!”

    That’s the vibe I get from that Kardashian link, where the bikini babe is calling her own half-sister creepy for taking a picture of her. She thinks the older sister is jealous of her great body, and is going to shame or embarrass her somehow by posting it online, “Look at my perfectly perfect sister, isn’t she perfect?”

    Girls seem to have maxed out their paranoia about guys, so this will probably be the next direction to take the creepshot panic toward — paranoia about their jealous bitch rivals.

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  11. Callowman says:

    Unsurprisingly, I am unbothered by your gallery.

    The crux of the creepiness question is that the photographer is aroused by his subjects and would be happy to fuck them them, right? I don’t see how you’re going to get around that. Or why you’d want to. Or how that forms an actionable case for squelching such photos. The only case for that seems like the 1% against the world scenario PatrickH brings up, and to hell with those guys and their urge to step on all that is culturally organic, anyway.

    I ask myself what candids seem over the line. Well … how about upskirts? I’m pretty uncomfortable with them. I wouldn’t do it. And I’d be pissed off if my daughter were photographed that way and posted on the Internet. Though to be honest, I think they’re kind of hot.

    During my San Francisco years in the 80s, I often went to a nude beach down near Pacifica. The beach was at the bottom of a long climb down from highway 1. You’d see these square geeks taking shots of the beachgoers with telephoto lenses far up above. They seemed kind of pathetic from an on the beach perspective. But, man, I seriously didn’t care about them. Presumably they were whacking it privately to those pics. Presumably their online offspring are both whacking it and sharing online for brother whackers.

    I find it hard to care.

    In the coming surveillance society, we’ll all be very clear that our every movement and expression in public is fair game, I think. Indeed, I hope … because the only alternative to that is a society of selective persecution, where qualified beholders of others are free to do as they please, and proles are semi-randomly prosecuted for acting horny in the wrong context.

    Like

    • Fenster says:

      So if the state goes too far in invading privacy we might as well be OK with the commoners doing so as well, on the grounds of fair is fair? And that if there is a surveillance camera on a pole looking at people walking in the street, that it is also fine for someone who you are conversing with to be taking a video of you without your knowledge from his Google Glass, or Google Shirtbutton or Google Contactlens? Makes me uncomfortable.

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      • Callowman says:

        I don’t feel comfortable with the surveillance society, either, but I don’t see any way around it. If surveillance devices are sufficiently discreet – and they will be, if they’re not already now – you will never know for sure whether your actions are being recorded. It will be a strange way to live, without being able to confidently lean on the mild hypocrisies and white lies that otherwise grease social life, and I suspect it will be pretty hard to deal with.

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      • Toddy Cat says:

        There is no right to, or expectation of, privacy in a public place. Full stop. People have the right to do all kinds of stuff that makes me “uncomfortable”. If someone takes a picture of me scratching my ass in public, and I’m embarrassed by it, well, that’s a lesson for me not to scratch my ass in public. And if some woman goes out dressed like a hooker, and someone snaps a picture, well…Now, politeness is another matter, but I can’t really comment on that, since it’s now considered acceptable in polite society to get someone fired for expressing opinions that you disagree with. I guess I’m just not up on modern manners.

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  12. agnostic says:

    Just browsed through the creepshots tumblr. What to make of the fact that the takers and viewers of creepshots are over 95% ass men? Are boob men more likely to be that guy who asks “would you mind if i…?” before every micro-move he makes on her?

    Like

  13. >>I’m also struck by how often the word “creepy” has been coming up recently. Creepshots. Creepy old men. What’s going on in the culture that’s making young women think “creepy!” so much these days?

    I think it’s a combo of two things: the 80s child molestation scares and 90s feminism. Even if both parties are above the age of consent, there seems to be an assumption that there’s something sick or wrong about an older man being attracted to a younger woman, b/c eww, only child molesters pursue such relationships. In addition, b/c of the “power imbalance,” the relationship is likewise suspect.

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  14. slumlord says:

    Most of them are a bit overweight.

    Like

  15. Frank Lee says:

    Can’t help but notice an absence in the photos (including the ones in all the linked pages) of a menacing-looking male walking alongside. Seems safe to assume that, no matter how inconspicuous the picture-taking device, “creep” photographers receive a “better pass on this one” message directly from their brain stems when such an individual is present.

    Also, slightly surprised that no one has mentioned age in this thread. Not that *I* would ever find any girl in, say, her mid teens the least bit interesting to look at… (only pedos react that way!) …or that I ever fail to instantly identify which ones are more than 6,570 days old.

    Like

  16. Scott says:

    Dang, I have got to get back to SoCal for a few days before I kick.

    Like

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