Last year one of the boys at my daughter’s school was upsetting her and her friends by looking up their skirts. I spoke to his teacher and it apparently stopped soon after, but those girls were greatly distressed and a few months later Years 5 and 6 adopted this season’s return of the leggings-under-skirt look en masse to accompany their school uniform.
This week in Melbourne shows, sadly, that this hobby persists long after primary school for some men. A third man has been found to have photos on his digital camera taken under a woman’s skirt at the Australian Open (he was arrested in a backpackers’ hostel when a showering woman saw a camera come under the partition and yelled for others in the shower room to hold onto the photographer). Two other men were arrested for similiar photos taken at the tennis earlier in the week in what are believed to be unrelated incidents, while another man was arrested for taking similiar shots on a Melbourne tram (and allegedly confessed that he had been filming up skirts for years).
I doubt it’s anything special about Melbourne. It makes me wonder just how many other voyeurs are out there are doing the same thing.
A search on Google images with the safesearch filter off shows that there’s plenty of upskirting sites out there. Some are a collaboration between exhibitionist and voyeur, with women knowingly playing up to the camera while out in public places, but many others purport to be photos of totally unsuspecting women. As Kenneth Nguyen points out in the Age, upskirting of the unknowing is a power-trip:
The key pleasure for the consumer, (academics who wrote a paper on pornography and digital photography) say, is a sense of power.
“To gaze (at an up-skirt image) implies more than ‘to look at’,” Dr Schroeder and Dr McDonagh write.
“It implies a social psychological relationship of power in which the gazer is superior to the object of the gaze.”
This particular form of voyeurism is not specifically legislated against in Victoria (status quo in other states unknown). Current stalking laws do not generally cover such filming, although the man arrested on the tram is being charged with stalking presumably because of the particular circumstance of using a surveillance style camera in his shoe. The other men will be charged under general offensive behaviour laws.
Various people are now calling for legislation making upskirting a specific offense, and for states to make it a uniform law across Australia. The argument is that a specific law sends a stronger message than just including it as an “offensive behaviour”.
I bottled out of speaking to the boy’s parents, and now they’re all going to different high schools, and I mightn’t see them again for years. At least these arrests in the news, and maybe a new law specifically targetting upskirting, might make him think about the consequences of continuing his little hobby.