Mar 122012
 

If you troll around the internet looking for porn, you may stumble upon the genre of “creep shot.”  This is when a photographer takes a photo of an unknowing model, usually in public.  I think I learned this term at Girls in Yoga Pants.  Or maybe at Black Sheep Candids.  Given my porn preferences – generally speaking, I’d rather look at women in clothes than out of them – this sort of site appeals to me.

But there’s an ethical problem.  Or is there?

In general, the women on these sites have not consented to the use of their images for my wanking pleasure.  But they have ventured forth on the street (or the subway, or wherever), and by so doing, consented to my SEEING them.

Occasionally, I have taken my own creep shots, furtive shots of beautiful women (almost always) taken in public.  There’s something odd about this behavior on my part.  More than anything, what’s odd about it is this:  I almost never have gone back to admire my photography, to admire my subjects.  No, it’s akin to the journals I keep:  it seems their purpose is fulfilled simply by my keeping them, by capturing them.  When I write in my journal (or here in this blog, for that matter), more than anything, the act of writing is itself the purpose.  I rarely re-read what I’ve written.  My navel-gazing impulse is satisfied simply by the recording of my thought.  So too with the images of these beautiful women.  Is it an assertion of my power – to capture their images, and keep them?  Or something else?  I mean, the “violation” is simply in the moment of the capture of the image.

I don’t know about this – my opinions are unformed.  On the one hand, they’re called “creep shots” for a reason – there is something creepy about taking them, and something even creepier about sharing them, posting them for others.  In other words:  when I take such pictures, I’m a creep – sure.  But am I a bad person?

What harm is done?  I’m not sure.  What do you think?

  36 Responses to “Creep shots”

  1. Uh,  Yeah it’s wrong. Everything should be done with consent . Just because I wear a skirt does not mean I want you or any other creep taking pictures. Maybe I’m crazy but you’re logic is a little like “she should have not been dressed slutty if she didn’t want get groped”. Yes, it’s an extreme comparison but that’s what I think when I read your logic there.As a woman it feels invasive and wrong. My two cents

    • First, let me say thanks – I appreciate your straightforwardness. And I’m going to argue, but I’m going to try a) not to be defensive, and b) to accept the basic point that, regardless of the outcome of any “argument,” the point that you would feel violated is, if not dispositive, at least very important.

      But here are a couple of responses, just to what you write: first, “everything should be done with consent.” As my son would say, “EVERYthing?” Really? If I’m taking a picture of a sign, or a friend, and you stroll through the frame, do I need your consent? Not really. Presumably, there’s something about my intending to photograph you (and let’s assume it’s you for the purposes of this exchange) that makes your consent feel appropriate, necessary.

      Second, I’m sorry, but there’s just no analogy between photographing someone and groping them. I grant that you may not wish to be photographed, that photographing may be a violation of a certain type of privacy, but surely it’s radically different than invading your physical space, touching you.

      Third, and this is an extreme response, just because it’s one that’s been on my mind lately: at our son’s school, there’s all sorts of hysteria about the possibility of putting kids’ pictures up on the internet because, well, you know – you never know about the sickos out there. I’ve been talking about this with other parents and this is what I think: if what we’re concerned about is kidnapping, that’s one thing. But that’s not what people are, for the most part, concerned about. What people are concerned about is pedophilia, about lonely guys jerking off to images of our kids. I’ve thought about this a lot – and surely, if you object to my taking a picture of you on the street (and NEVER doing anything with the picture other than saving it), you likely will object far more strenuously to the possible creep jerking off to a picture of my kid.

      But you know what? I don’t. Not that I think it’s good, decent, right, tasteful, pleasant to contemplate, or whatever. Just that it doesn’t really bother me that much, because I understand where reality ends and imagination begins.

      I think somehow that we have this vestigial sense that when I “take” a photograph of you, I’m really “taking” something of yours, and that’s what this all reflects.

      If I pass you on the street, you’re hot, and I go home and wank to the image I’ve preserved of you in my mind, is that a violation? Is it different, worse, better, than if I take a picture and never look at it again?

      Again – I stipulate that it’s a bit creepy, no argument here. But WRONG?

  2. I know that my analogy was very extreme but as a woman it feels wrong to have my photo taken (and not just as a passerby) if I’m wearing a short skirt or a revealing top. It does not give you the right to do that. It’s very simple. Will I be affected by it? Probably not.

    As a woman who has to deal with cat calls, unwanted creepy stares on the bus, being followed, it FEELS wrong. It’s fucking creepy.I *know* you’re not touching anyone, I *know* you’re not hurting anyone but if a woman catches you taking these photos there is a sense of feeling violated even though you are not groping them, touching them, whatever. It’s not about preserving the image in your mind ( most of us wank of to people we pass on the street or people we know) , for me it’s about the act itself. I’m clearly not nearly as good a writer as you but I hope you get what I’m trying to say.

    • I do get it, and I appreciate it. I hope you understand that I’m not saying – at all – that you’re wrong. I don’t think you are. Mainly what I’m saying is that I think it’s INTERESTING – interesting that you feel, on the one hand, it’d be fine for me to walk past you and be turned on and go home and jerk off, but that, on the other, if I simply snap a furtive photo and never look at it again, that’s somehow WORSE.

      I get it – it feels worse. And I respect that. Seriously. What I really meant to do was just to shine a little light on this thing we think oddly about.

      But one other thing (at the risk of getting myself in even more hot water) – just because it feels bad, does that mean you’re entitled for it not to happen?

      And to be clear – I agree with you that it’s creepy, that someone doing it deserves the moniker “creep.” I don’t mean to defend the doing of it, only to question the objecting to it….

      Maybe this is (the?) one boundary it turns me on to cross, occasionally….

      • Hmmm. I don’t really know how to phrase it but I feel like I should be able to object to someone taking a photo of me. Especially if I’m not consenting to it and if I’m wearing something provocative.Ultimately, you’re going to do what you want. If you want to photograph unsuspecting women you will. Will they care? Who knows. 
        For some women it might be triggering.As someone who was sexually assaulted I know it would put me in panic mode me if caught someone doing it. Like I said, you will eventually do what you want. 

        • This is obviously a difficult discussion. Because – once again – I agree with virtually everything you write. The only question I’m asking is what it is about photography that is *different*. *WHY *does photography feel potentially triggering, where, for example, looking – without catcalls, with respect, doesn’t (presumably).

          • Looking is triggering and there are certain ways someone can look at you that triggers.I understand your confusion but there is a loss of power when someone does anything without your consent ( especially for someone who was been sexually assaulted).

            If I catch someone trying to photograph me in the manner in which you describe it’s seriously triggering. Now, if you’re photographing someone from a  great distance than I guess it’s OK. It does not make it any less creepy but you’re probably not going to get caught and trigger someone.
            I understand the need to push that boundary I was just giving you my take on it. I like your blog a lot and will continue reading it. Now I know who to put on my list of suspects if I catch anyone photographing me while I wear a skirt 😉    

          • I appreciate your kind words, and your loyalty. For what it’s worth, I suspect I’ll be less likely ever to do it again after this conversation.
            And though I’m capable of creepiness, I’m really not a creep…. 😉

  3. Aren’t you the same guy who wrote that you get no pleasure from transgressing boundaries?
    You’re a smart guy.  You understand why this is wrong.   It’s called “creep” porn for a reason. Stop doing it, and stop justifying it.  A woman’s sense of privacy and safety — and her right to not be treated as a sexual object for a man’s pleasure without her permission — is a boundary.  Is it one you respect?  Or are the only boundaries you recognize your own?  

    • This obviously is a difficult discussion because, on the one hand, it clearly is a violation.

      But your objection begs the question of the very point I was making – if, in fact, a woman has a “right to not be treated as a sexual object for a man’s pleasure without her permission,” then am I bad when I masturbate to the image of a hot woman?

      I’m sorry, but I’m just not buying that. I don’t think a woman has the right you’re granting her. Not because it wouldn’t be nice in some universe if she did. But because that’s just not how the world works. A woman certainly has a right not to have to KNOW that she’s being used as wank fodder for someone, and maybe that’s where the discomfort comes – the imposition of awareness that could happen if she were to know the picture were being taken. Surely, this is part of why leering is offensive – not only is it disrespectful, an assertion of power, but it drags the woman’s experience into the man’s chosen (sexual) zone, regardless of whether that’s where she’d like to be at a given moment.

      Maybe I’m making too subtle a point. Or maybe there IS something special about photographs.

      But I guess for me, there are two conclusions:

      1) There’s no rational reason taking a picture of someone (especially, but not only) without their consent _should_ be particularly problematic, or violating.

      2) Notwithstanding the absence of a rational reason, many nonetheless experience it as more of an intrusion, a violation, than simply looking.

      I confess: I don’t really get all this, and I’m unsatisfied with the rationales given in the comments. But I promise – no more pictures.

      • But your objection begs the question of the very point I was making – if, in fact, a woman has a “right to not be treated as a sexual object for a man’s pleasure without her permission,” then am I bad when I masturbate to the image of a hot woman? 
        Really?  You’re comparing it to this? You’re unsatisfied with our reasoning? if you’re potentially making a woman feel violated for whatever reason you’re doing something wrong. END of story, C’mon .

        I really did not want to respond but man. I appreciate the fact that you may not take photos again but you’re ignorance is somewhat sad. 

        • I guess we disagree. I don’t think people have a “right” never to feel violated. And I didn’t make the comparison. I simply followed the logic of the assertion.

          And I’m sorry you find me ignorant. I’m trying hard, here….

          • I don’t have the right to *feel* violated. You have every right to make me *feel* that way. I get it.
            I also understand that what your intentions are not to make anyone feel that way. You are trying to capture ( like someone mentioned above) something beautiful and sensual.Like I said, you ( and those who take those photos) will what you want. 

            I must say that this discussion was a learning experience.It explains the behavior of a lot of men. 
            Good Luck

          • I feel really bad about this exchange. Somehow, I feel as if you’ve ended up concluding that I’ve said, and meant, things entirely different than what I meant. Surely this is my fault – this is a blog, I’m s’posed to be able to write good. Evidently, I haven’t.

            Bottom line: we own our feelings. We have no right to protection from them. Whether I can understand it or not, it makes people *feel* violated for me to take pictures of them. So I won’t. (I’m agnostic as to whether I *shouldn’t*, but I won’t.)

            I’m sorry I offended you, and regretful you feel I’ve said things that don’t feel like what I mean. Oh well. 🙁

          • I think you’re a pretty good writer. I think you’ve made your point. I enjoy your writing very much.I’ve gotten off reading it.

            I guess I’m too sensitive, too paranoid, too something to get you or understand the post. Had I read this a year ago I would have had a different reaction  or no reaction at all. Maybe I would have read it and then scrolled down to the comments.Have you ever read an article and immediately had a positive or negative reaction?  When I read your post I had a reaction and it wasn’t a good one.
            I guess you can blame the asshole who assaulted me.For better or worse ( probably worse) , he changed the way I see things. 

            I wish I felt differently , I really do. You have no idea.I wont debate the issue anymore I’m just trying to give you the reason behind my reaction. You didn’t offend me N, not at all (  though reading my comments it seems that way). I feel bad too for some strange reason , like I insulted you or something.

            Again, I enjoy your writing a lot.I don’t know how I stumbled upon it but I’m glad I did.A.

          • I’m glad too, and I appreciate your sticking around, and commenting.

      • It’s not the way the world works because people have lots of rationales about why women’s boundaries don’t count.   

        When a woman goes outside, she gives her permission to be looked at.  Not to become a star in someone’s porn.   

        • There is a difference between seeing a hot woman and remembering that later and photographing her without permission, and you know that there is.  

      • Also, you answered my question: boundaries don’t matter to you unless they’re YOUR BOUNDARIES.  Her boundaries don’t matter to you, so you go ahead and take the picture.  

    • One other thought – there’s a subtlety to the transgression point that I think I failed to communicate. It’s not that nothing transgressive turns me on. It’s that, generally speaking, the fact of transgression isn’t in and of itself exciting to me. And, as I wrote in a reply to one of Alittlesmirk’s comments, this may well be one exception.

  4. Hmmm. This is a difiicult and tricky question. For what it’s worth, N. Likes, I appreciate your openness, your honesty, and your willingness to debate. It sounds to me like you’re trying to work out what the right thing to do is, and I respect you for that – as should everyone else who comments.

    I’ve tried to think of how I might feel if I found out a stranger had taken a photo of me for a sexual purpose. My main response would be, as you say, that it’s creepy behaviour. That would concern me as I would wonder where it was leading – whether they might potentially stalk or sexually assault me, become fixated, break into my house…

    What you describe however doesn’t seem to be motivated by any impulses of obsession. You’re describing capturing a beautiful woman at a particular moment. It’s a hoarding impulse – sexually motivated, maybe – but it sounds like it runs deeper than that. Who doesn’t wish they could preserve someone at a particular moment in time? Whether that’s your lover at the peak of physical perfection, your child at the moment before they tip into adolescence, your parent before old age takes hold… And a stranger carries with them so many possibilities. The possibility of perfect union, minds meeting, soulmates, mind-blowing sex. The women you take photos of could have been your perfect mate at a moment in your life. By capturing them you’re capturing some of your own memories and hopes.

    Crucially, you don’t take those photos out after you’ve taken them. You don’t stare at them, or wank over them, apparently. So if you were to see me in the street and take a photo (and I hope you would!), I wouldn’t mind. You wouldn’t have captured me. You’d just have captured a moment in my life. And I’ve already moved on, I’m a different girl now, in a different moment…

  5. […] unwitting subjects for the titillation of the photographer and, perhaps, of her/his audience.  The discussion was heated, and the consensus was that I am a creep for ever having done such a thing.  And I told […]

  6. What’s missing from this discussion are the legal rights of photographers. Bottom line, if you’re in public, you have NO expectation of privacy, consent is NOT necessary, and I’m most certainly free to photograph you if I wish. My intent, or the focal point of the image, is irrelevant. Here’s a good link to a summary of photographers right- http://content.photojojo.com/tips/legal-rights-of-photographers/

    Now that being said, are certain images ‘creepy’?  Sure, taking pictures of an underage individual or using specialized equipment (think pin-hole camera to get an upskirt shot) are clearly creepy and may in fact be illegal.

  7. Wow. There are actually quite a few of your old posts that I am somewhat inclined to comment on – and for some reason have decided not to – but I could not not comment here. I looked at the two links you posted at the very beginning of you post and they – the second one especially – made my stomach drop. I’m not the most advanced internet surfer – and had heard a while back of some site that was taken down where people were posting old sex photos of old partners – but other than that did not know that this sort of website existed. Not that I’m surprised.

    For me it’s not the act of someone taking a photo necessarily. I mean I do find that creepy – and that someone might jerk off to it later – but I kinda get your point about where’s the line btwn your memory of them and a photo.

    What really bothers me is the thought that my photo might wind up on some site somewhere – totally without my knowledge or consent – for the sheer purpose of a bunch of men to download and jerk off to.

    So, if you take the idea of seeing someone on the street and thinking they’re hot while masturbating to the thought of them – and this could totally be where men are different than women – it would be way way more than just a stagnant photo of an unknown person. For me it would be the way they moved or the changes in their body language or expressions or the thousand different ways people are when you see them that you might find attractive. And taking a personal photo and looking at it later – although still kinda creepy – to me could sort of capture that – or at the very least remind you of that.

    But – the “photo shoot” on the second site that I looked at was a relatively distant series (like 10) of shots of a woman in a low cut shirt who clearly had no idea these photos were being taken. It looked like photos that might have been taken with a surveillance camera or something. Seriously? Guys actually get off on this? I mean, clearly some do. But, man, I do not get it. At all.

    • 1. If you want to comment on an old post, please do! I love the conversation, and often, comments on old posts inspire me to revisit them, to write something new.

      2. Creep shots: I do understand getting off on those shots that are so invasive, intrusive, violating. But I don’t get off on them. Just saying I understand it. And one point: many of our desires are transgressive. All are beyond our control. Some involve our own violation (rape fantasies). Some involve the violation of others (some other rape fantasies). Or… creep shots. The question for me that’s interesting is just how violating creep shots actually are, for all the reasons I wrote about….

      • After I wrote this I was wondering if all women are bothered by them – and to what degree different women are bothered by them. Mostly because of the differences I see – or feel – in the two scenarios. Like Alittlesmirk said – she has specific issues that are triggered with a photo being taken by anyone she doesn’t know – but for me it’s the idea that my photo being put on a website and looked at my a lot of men behind my back feels like a trick – and being tricked is definitely an issue for me from my childhood. And the more I think about it the more I realize that what I imagine is other people laughing about it and me feeling humiliated – which is really the worst part for me – and is obviously all in my mind.

        But maybe some women wouldn’t care at all cause it is a photo of them fully clothed. I don’t know.

        The one problem I have with commenting here is – and I’ve tried it on every comment I’ve made – I can’t get the “notify me by email” thing to work. So then I have to remember what post I commented on to see if there’s an actual conversation going on or if I’m just babbling. If anyone else has mentioned this or has any suggestions I would be happy to hear them. Oh – and the email notification thing has worked for me with this email address on 2 other wordpress blogs in the last week or so – so I don’t know what the deal is.

        • I’m away from regular internet service for a week or so, so am not in a position to trouble-shoot, but I’m curious as to whether others have had these problems. For a while, there WAS a problem with the subscription to comments on a post feature, but I thought that was cleared up. (I guess not for you). I’ll explore all the troubles you describe later this week when I’m in a better position to do so.

          Meanwhile, one easy way to read the blog from the start is to go to its original location – http://mydissolutelife.blogspot.com. Over there, reading chronologically is much easier, and that’ll carry you through to March at least.

          Thanks for being such a diligent reader – and for helping me improve the reader’s experience, too.

          N.

  8. I don’t get it. Taking a picture in a public place is legal. What a person does with their photograph is a matter for their own conscience and I don’t really feel that’s anything to do with me. I cannot imagine a picture taken of me in a public place would be in any way revealing. Equally I’m not that keen to find pictures of myself online but it happens; from events like weddings. Nobody asks my permission not even if they tag me on Facebook, which is clearly a violation of my privacy because then I am identified in that picture. So I go and un-tag.
    There is an oddity to this debate around what a photograph actually is. It is a picture. A two dimensional representation of life. Whether someone sketches or photographs me, that’s all it is. It’s not me. How they view that picture, where it takes them, is not something I am able or would wish to control. No two people will view an image in the same way but the image never changes. It is simply what it is. A picture, likely crummy, of a stranger. Do I give a shit? Nope.
    So, was Robert Doisneau a creep? Or are his candid pictures OK because he was a pro and you think him an artist. Where do you draw the line in the need for a person to ask permission to take a photo?

    • I should clarify. My final question was to the commenters who so object to being photographed when they are out in public. I still don’t understand that need to censor. How a person sees you may not even relate to anything you consider to be overtly sexual. I have read many of N’s written creep shots. I do not remember them being about short skirts or busty cleavage. Rather an appreciation of many types of women.

    • I agree with all this. It’s why I was so baffled by the conversation….

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