Uppie

Above: A photo from the series Upskirt by Meschina. Credit: Meschina.

Upskirt Sex Crime

A private member’s bill was recently brought by Wera Hobhouse--the Liberal MP for Bath. The bill sought to make upskirting--taking photographs up a woman's skirt without consent--a criminal offence. The bill was not taken forward due to a dissenter present in the chamber (Sir Christopher Chope). Subsequently the bill gained much media interest and public support. An anti-photo-upskirting activist Gina Martin has also gained much media interest and support. Soon after the Hobhouse bill was wrecked, the Conservative goverment--led by Theresa May--announced the emergence of a Government bill to criminalize upskirting, and this was followed by the establishment of a cross-party working-group looking at potential loopholes in the wording of the legislation. For example, the initial wording defined an upskirt photograph as one made for "reasons of sexual gratification or to cause distress," and did not mention pictures made of celebrities or those images taken for humour or fun only (an error that the working-group is in the process of rectifying).

Currently the public are protected from upskirters under the law of public nuisance--which covers anything (from excessive noise, to the creation of dust) that the community has a right to be protected from. Many of those seeking a new law banning upskirting argue that those convicted should be placed on the police sex-offenders database--and so the crime become a specific sex crime.

There are a number of established photographers who have taken uppies, such as Richard Kern, Meschina ("The girl who photographs under the skirt"), Araki, Garry Winogrand, Daido Moriyama (e.g., Untitled, woman in white dress running, 1971), Wolfgang Tillmans, and Helmut Newton--of course, there are so many others. The majority of these would NOT be outlawed under the proposed new law, in that the photos were definitely made with the model's consent--and willingly agreed to. What the new proposed law is concerned with is not the upskirt image-as-image per se but rather the act of making one candidly, surreptitiously, and without the subject's consent.

The photographer's Human Right to Freedom of Expression in making such voyeuristic erotic photos will still be in place, just as long as it can be proved that the picture was not at all clandestine. And if not covert, then the snapper would be entitled to continue to refer to his picture as art.

(2 July 2018)