Gina Martin was at a music festival in London with her older sister waiting for the Killers to come on. Two men standing nearby offered Gina and her sister some chips and chatted. One of them looked her up and down and joked to his friend about her. He rubbed up against her and that’s when she guesses it happened.

“At some point, he put his phone between my legs, positioned his camera up my skirt and took pictures of my crotch in broad daylight,” Gina wrote.

When Gina realized saw the photo and realized what had happened, she grabbed the phone and ran through the crowd. The security guards sent for the police, but all they could do was ensure the photo was deleted, nothing more.

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In England and Wales, “upskirt” photos are not specifically listed as a sexual offense. Since 2009 they have been listed under illegal voyeurism in Scotland. Gina didn’t feel like that was good enough, and so began her efforts through a petition to bring a bill to the UK parliament.

And though the data shows girls as young as 10 have been victims of upskirting, the bill banning the invasive practice has been blocked from passing—for now.

No protection for victims

Tatum Hollon was shopping at a Walmart in Alabama when a stranger snapped a photo up her dress. She tried to take her case to court, motivated by the desire to protect her young daughter in the future, but the judge told her there was no law to prosecute under.

While all US states prohibit photography of a person’s private areas in a private place, like a dressing room or bathroom, this was a public place. Some, but not all, state’s legislation includes public upskirting.

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For example, an almost identical story of a man shooting upskirts at a Walmart in Boston was arrested in May. Tatum’s case eventually caught the attention of a senator who decided to introduce a bill criminalizing upskirting.

As the laws try to keep up with our ever-changing digital society, what is it about our porn-saturated world that gives rise to these disturbing trends?

The price of upskirting

Upskirting is taking a photo or video underneath a woman’s skirt without her consent. As we’ve seen from the stories, the act is often committed in crowded public places like stores, on escalators, trains, restaurants, nightclubs, and more. Sometimes the victim isn’t aware a photo has been taken, but those who are aware often experience emotional distress.

These images, largely taken by men of women, are sometimes shared with other male friends. They are even uploaded online to private forums where thousands of threads of upskirt videos and images exist to be liked and commented on. These men self-describe themselves as “shooters,” taking almost a sense of pride in their work.

According to Carrie Goldberg, an attorney focused on sexual harassment and revenge porn cases, if a woman’s image gets a lot of attention on these forums, she may even be contacted by “fans” who may attack with vicious slurs.

Related: Woman Awarded $6.45 Million In Revenge Porn Case

To better explain the effects upskirting can have on a victim, she continued:

“Upskirt pictures are a form of nonconsensual pornography and its victims suffer the same kinds of harms as anyone who has their sexual privacy stolen from them. The impact varies from person to person, but we’ve seen people that feel they aren’t safe anywhere, that they can’t trust anyone and that something (their privacy) has been ripped away for others’ sick gratification.”

The question is, when more graphic porn images than a woman’s legs and underwear are a few clicks away, what’s the appeal in upskirting?

From fantasy to reality

Porn is easy. A savvy preschool age child could accidentally push all the wrong keys and end up on an explicit website. It’s available 24/7 to anyone with an internet connection and requires less than minimal effort. Unlike an intimate relationship with a person, with their own needs and wants, porn is one-sided. It’s all about the consumer and what they want, even if what they want is illicit.

The underlying issue—in addition to all the obvious issues with the exploitative practice of shooting upskirt pics—is that this practice treats people as products to be consumed. Snapping a photo that violates someone’s privacy is viewing them as less than human, and more like a collection of body parts to be objectified and sold to the highest bidder. And worst of all? Porn culture feeds this mentality that people are objects to be consumed and used, rather than three-dimensional humans deserving of respect and love.

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It’s worth mentioning that porn can become a habit—even an escalating behavior. In the way porn triggers the reward center of the brain, consumers develop a tolerance to those good feelings after extensive use. The brain wants more and more, but porn that used to be exciting starts to seem boring.

As you can guess, consumers then spend more time watching porn, even hardcore content, hoping to get that high.

Perhaps upskirting is a result of searching for this excitement. If porn is a fantasy, then upskirting is an act in reality. While it’s natural to desire new and exciting sexual encounters, going beyond the bounds of consent and disrespecting a person’s privacy is a step too far.

Get Involved

People are not products to be consumed and discarded. SHARE this post and spread the word that upskirting is not acceptable, yet is fueled by porn culture.

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