What can I wear to prevent anyone taking a photo of my crotch at a festival?
Mary, by email
A vagina. As most of us now know, the practice of “upskirting” – taking a photo of a woman’s crotch without her consent – has now become so widespread that one young woman, Gina Martin, felt compelled to launch a bill to make it illegal after some troglodyte upskirted her in Hyde Park. But, as most of us also now know, a Tory MP, one Sir Christopher Chope, blocked this bill’s progress – not, he has been crossly saying ever since, because he is such a fan of seeing random strangers’ crotches. No, he is just upset about the legislation process, you see. And truly, who could doubt the strong good morals of Sir Christopher Crotch? OK, so he voted against same-sex marriage and against the equal pay bill, he referred to parliamentary staff as “servants” and, just to add the toxic cherry on top, charged £881 to his parliamentary expenses for repairing his sofa. And yes, on the same day he blocked the upskirting bill, he also blocked a bill to protect police dogs and horses. But this is all because he is such a morally upstanding kinda guy.
And speaking of upstanding, let’s talk upskirting. It says a lot about how little people care about female consent that they haven’t been angrier about this before now, because it is not like upskirting has been a secret – upskirt shots of celebrities have been in the tabloids for decades. In fact, most of us have borne witness to the most notorious upskirt shot of all time, when Paul Verhoeven tricked Sharon Stone into taking off her underwear for the shooting of one infamous scene. Verhoeven promised Stone that nothing would be visible, only for Stone to realise too late that Verhoeven had not just upskirted her, but was putting the results in every multiplex around the world.
Maybe people told themselves that upskirting happens because women – those silly women! – insist on wearing skirts so short it turns the world into their gynaecologist, to quote the eternally quotable Patsy from Ab Fab. Those poor photographers – those women will not stop shoving their gussets in their lenses.
A lawyer, Nick ‘Mr Loophole’ Freeman, brought the noble Freeman name into disrepute last weekend when he tweeted: “While this is totally unacceptable conduct, if women assumed some responsibility for their attire, they would not be in jeopardy.”
This point was so absurd even Freeman’s daughter, Sophie, replied to her father to tell him that this was “one of the top 3 stupidest comments you’ve ever made.” Nick then replied, wrongly: “it’s most stupid, not stupidest”. And that, Nick, goes into your top four.
Last month, I saw some paparazzi using selfie sticks to take upskirt shots of young women leaving a movie premiere, and some of those women were wearing dresses so long the photographer had to wiggle his selfie stick under their hems, which were literally dragging on the ground.
So shall we get something straight? Upskirting – like all forms of sexual assault, which is what upskirting is – has nothing to do with a woman’s hemline, but everything to do with that woman possessing genitals. And that’s because sexual assaults have nothing to do with sex. There is nothing sexy about a blurry camera phone shot of an oblivious stranger’s vagina, unless you find humiliation sexy. This is about young women being shamed for going out and having fun, and men wanting to tell them they have power over them. It’s telling that the kind of men who victim-shame are the kind who patronise their own daughters.
A couple of years ago, there was some talk about whether it’s possible to tell a funny rape joke. To date, only Wanda Sykes has managed it, with her riff about how vaginas should be detachable so women could go out at night and not risk rape. Now we know another factor in favour of the detachable vagina, which is that women can go to Hyde Park and have a stranger’s phone camera act like a speculum on her anatomy. So until the upskirt bill passes, I urge Sir Christopher to investigate detachable vaginas. We could even refer to them as our “chopes” in his honour.
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