“You can delete the photos you’ve been taking of women’s body parts, or I’m going to announce to everyone exactly what you’re doing.”

posted in: WMATA | 12

Location: Metro – Orange Line towards Vienna starting at Farragut West Metro stop; confrontation occurred near Courthouse stop
Time: Night (7:30pm-12am)

Fourth of July, coming back from the National Mall. Group of us were on a crowded train and an older guy in his late 50s/early 60s, balding white hair, 5’2″, with a European (non-British) accent was using one of those super-zoom point and shoot cameras to take photos of women’s body parts. I didn’t say anything at first because it looked like he could have been taking some urban/street photography photos. But after noticing him taking photographs of exclusively women and specific body parts, I decided to confront him.He was sitting on the aisle seat, first row next to where the map is displayed at each end of a metro car, so he had a lot of open space to take his photos. I went up to him and bent down and said, “You can delete the photos you’ve been taking of women’s body parts, or I’m going to announce to everyone exactly what you’re doing.”

I knew that if he was a real urban/street photographer, he would have responded by defending his body of work. Instead, he feigned not understanding English, and I instead announced it aloud for everyone on my half of the car to hear. He brought up going to the police, and I said it is perfectly within his First Amendment rights to take photos of people in public who have no expectation of privacy, but I was going to let everyone know what he was doing. He tried denying taking photos and I stood directly in front of him, facing him – he kept wanting to go to the police (probably knowing he is within his right), and I kept suggesting he get off the train.

Eventually, he got off at Virginia Square, and it appears the women directly around him kind of had an idea what he was doing and mouthed/said thanks. The two big takeaways for me were: Take a photo next time of the guy in the act (or just a pic of him) – urban/street photogs (real ones) are often confused for these “bottom feeder” photographers.

As a photographer myself, I loathe being associated with these guys. But as long as the person is in public and there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, they are not technically doing anything illegal. If they were using the camera to commit a crime like upskirt photos, that’s a different story and the cops should be called in immediately. These photographers are cowards and shrink away in the face of confrontation.

Submitted on 7/5/12 by “WC”

If you experience or have experienced sexual harassment on the DC Metro system:
Please consider reporting online to Metro Transit Police, on Twitter at @WMATAharassment, or at 202-962-2121. [WMATA’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy, implemented in Spring 2012, is a result of CASS’s campaign. Read more here.]

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to help raise awareness about the pervasiveness and harmful effects of street harassment. All submissions are posted anonymously unless otherwise specified.

12 Responses

  1. […] “You can delete the photos you’ve been taking of women’s body parts, or … .” (US) – Collective Action for Safe Places […]

  2. anon

    You were not in the right here, not at all, and should be chastened.

    You note that what this person was doing wasn’t illegal. What you were doing, based on your description, was – it was harassment. Ironic. You confronted him and suggested he get off the train. If someone confronted you and told you to get off the train, you would probably feel pretty uncomfortable and intimidated.

    You also say that “…after noticing him taking photographs of exclusively women and specific body parts, I decided to confront him.” Do you mean that if he were taking pictures of anything else, you wouldn’t have? What if he were taking pictures of men and specific body parts? He could have a legitimate reason for taking either kind of picture. I’m not suggesting he did, but that he might have. Were I in his shoes, I don’t think I would have felt comfortable explaining myself to someone who was demanding I get off the train. For all he knew, you were crazy – it’s no wonder he brought up going to the police. And he’d have been right to do so, since you instigated the confrontation, had no evidence of wrongdoing on his part (just strong suspicion), and loudly “suggesting” he get off the train for which he presumably paid a fare.

    You bullied him. You seem to imply that you knew he wasn’t breaking any rules, but that didn’t stop you from giving him trouble. There’s a word for this – vigilantism. You even escalated the confrontation by being loud about it (thus getting the crowd on your side, for who wouldn’t side with a woman confronting a man with a camera?) and even further by posting here for people to take pictures OF our (possibly) innocent photographer. Innocent even by your own definition.

    You might not realize that you just harassed an older, diminutive man, but you sure did. I’m sure this blog does a lot of good in educating people on harassment awareness, but this post here simply exemplifies what not to do. For once, you were the harasser. Did you find it fulfilling?

    • miss king

      well done. any one who disagrees with the way you handled that situation is narrow in mind and in spirit. Harassers THRIVE on taking power away from you, and when you flip it on them they freak. That dude had a plan in mind if he were indeed confronted, and played the role and “didnt speak english”. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck its probably a duck. And if you WERE wrong (which I highly doubt), at least any other perv in the area knows youre “that crazy b***h” who called out (flipped out?) on a dude for taking- at the very least- consistent photos…. and if you were able to prove he had taken weird pictures of different women and SAME body parts by viewing/showing the pictures, someone should and could have jumped up and smashed the camera. I would rather err on the side of caution, and assume the weirdie was taking pictures. Better safe than sorry, right? The guy wasn’t injured or hurt, so fair exchange no robbery. Im a bit of a crazy bitch myself, and its important to make sure (as sure as you can) that what you’re witnessing is something worth jumping up about. Way to go, and you’re way more lenient that I would have been. 😉

  3. dcn8v

    Disagree with commentet. If I saw a man on a train taking pictures of body parts (their breasts, for example) of women (or men, but in this case it was women), you’d better believe I would speak up. I would probably announce to the women bring photographed what the man was doing. This behavior is very similar to upskirting, IMO. Just because the “photographers” these days have better access to more discreet tools doesn’t make it ok. If I had been the one whose photo was bring taken, I would have appreciated the poster sticking up for me. Just because I choose to bring my breasts out in public with me doesn’t mean I consent to someone photographing them to take home and jerk off to later.

  4. Zosia

    It is not illegal to tell someone to stop behavior that is considered by most to be offensive and unwelcome. It’s interesting that anything can be done to women and their bodies as long as it’s not strictly forbidden by law, but a woman who speaks up ought to be “chastened” if not arrested.

  5. INOSH

    I’m not so sure that what he’s doing is necessarily legal; maybe in D.C. it’s not specifically illegal. I know, in most states, you can be sued for using someone else’s name, likeness, or other personal attributes without permission for an exploitative purpose. Usually, people run into trouble in this area when they use someone’s name or photograph in a commercial setting, such as in advertising or other promotional activities. However, some states also prohibit use of another person’s identity for the user’s own personal benefit, whether or not the purpose is strictly commercial.

    This is because every citizen, technically, own the copyright to their own likeness.

    I cannot for the life of me think of any MORE exploitative purpose, making random women on the streets part of your personal spank-bank. The bigger problem (as always) is enforcement.


  6. Matthew Stevens

    My understanding (as well as that of the OP’s) is that it is perfectly legal to take pictures of strangers on the street or in the Metro, as long as you do not use technology to see places that the person had not expected would be displayed. I agree with the individual who said that the OP was guilty of harassment and intimidation. I also fail to understand her distinction between a an urban/street photographer (presumably such as herself) and some other kind of photographer. If the distinction is between one who displays the pictures in an exhibition vs. one who uses them for private sexual gratification, I believe it is a distinction without a difference.

  7. DC artist

    This is an ugly story but somehow I’m not surprised. Its a mini Duke-lacrosse team moment. There’s so much legal scapegoating of white males in the USA, in particular in liberal enclaves, that this type of harassment is bound to happen. Title IX and quotas for fake victim groups need to go.

  8. Mark

    Gotta admit, I’m on board with the response here. The OP was clearly out of line in this case. Like the reply stated, by her own admission she was unsure of what he was doing or if he had a legit reason. Well let me be blunt. YOU HARASSED SOMEONE. You did EXACTLY what you said you don’t want to happen to you. Just because you’re a female doesn’t give you a pass on civility. You encourage others to act in a vigilant like way and encourage further harassment. You should be ashamed.

    • miss king

      thanks, mark. your manly response to the situation helps the women here feel a little safer. she was well within her right to flip. i dont think youve ever been harassed, and after ten harrassing comments and stares and other shit that happens to women, youll have to forgive us if we’re a little on edge and dont speak when you talk to us, and freak out on a man who her female instincts know is doing something wrong or at the very least weird. if that dude had been taking pictures all day and she just BARELY got to him and called him out, he’s still winning. I know after being harassed all day for walking around my neighborhood on my day off in my gym clothes… any little thing is liable to set me off if it looks like yet another dude is trying to encroach upon my womanhood or anyone elses. A little bit of harassment can look like alot to a woman who has been harassed that day, even if only once. He’s lucky thats all she did. Like i said, I wouldnt have been as forgiving. im not stopping until i go through the pictures. if im wrong, i would probably apologize.

    • Lauravan

      When you become a woman and understand the exploitation involved in being such, you are then qualified to understand why the OP objected to an old man using random women as his masturbation images.

      No technically it can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but technically the metro car wasn’t a court either.

      If it were your daughter or sister or mother you might well understand. And if you don’t, just don’t go around taking pics of any woman’s breasts, butt or crotch. It’s just not a mentally healthy way to pass the time.

  9. wc

    1st amendment right protects those who have an expectation of privacy (see Carlos Miller’s website for more information). and no, you do not have any rights to photos taken of you in public, they do not belong to you – a common misconception.

    i know plenty of women who wouldn’t have spoken up (including the two strangers who witnessed it) and allowed the guy to keep taking pictures. i was speaking for them. you can chastise me the next time i call out someone for their inappropriate actions – but the fact of the matter is, people were thankful i did what i did. maybe you wouldn’t have been, but by not doing anything, you sanction his tacit harassment.

    i guess you’d rather have the silent harasser than the outspoken “vigilante”.