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Upskirt is the practice of making unauthorized photographs under a woman's skirt, capturing an image of her crotch area, underwear and sometimes genitalia. The term "upskirt" can also refer to a photograph, video, or illustration which incorporates an upskirt image. The term is also sometimes used to refer generically to any voyeur photography – that is, catching an image of somebody unaware in a private moment.
The practice is regarded as a form of sexual fetishism or voyeurism and is similar in nature to downblouse. The ethical and legal issue relating to upskirt and downblouse photography is one of a reasonable expectation of privacy, even in a public place.
The concept and interest in upskirt is not new, though the term is more recent. For example, looking up a woman's skirt was depicted in the 1767 painting The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. In "polite society", looking up a lady's skirt was regarded as impolite or rude. In less polite society, looking up a lady's skirt or her lifting up the skirt or otherwise exposing her underwear was regarded as bawdy, as in the case of cabaret dances such as the can-can or in the case of entertainment involving the raising of a dancer's dress by her spinning rapidly. By the polite society, such behaviour was widely judged as indecent.
The sudden popularity in the 1960s of the miniskirt brought the concept out onto the streets, and was viewed by many as mass exhibitionism. One commentator in the 1960s said, "In European countries ... they ban mini-skirts in the streets and say they're an invitation to rape...."
Many women, on the other hand, viewed the new style as rebellion against previous clothing styles and as women's liberation of their own bodies. For the first time many women felt comfortable exposing their thighs, whether on the beach in a swimsuit or in street wear, and were even relaxed when in some situations their underwear would be visible.
Some upskirt and downblouse images originate as innocent fun images which are made with the knowledge and lack of objection of the females affected. However, some of these images can finish up being more widely distributed or being posted onto the Internet without the knowledge and consent of the subject, for example following a relationship breakup.
Some upskirt and downblouse photos and videos are made specifically to upload onto the Internet, where many viewers seek such images taken surreptitiously (and presumably without the subject's consent). Such photographs are common on fetish and pornographic websites, as well as on video sharing sites such as YouTube.
Attitudes hardened with the very widespread availability and use of digital photographic and video technology, most recently camera phones. Such technology was also being used to record upskirt and downblouse images for uploading onto the internet. Specialist websites came into existence where people could share such images, and terms such as "upskirt", "downblouse" and "nipple dress" (i.e., when an erect nipple is evident through the material of a woman's dress) came into use. Of particular concern were images of minors and of people who could be identified. Celebrities were popular victims of such efforts. Issues of privacy and reputation began to be raised.
The creation and viewing of this type of image came increasingly to be described as forms of voyeurism and pornography. This was not that most of such images were sexual in nature, with most of them being quite innocent by themselves, but because of their association with the nature of the website on which they were posted and because of the size of the collections.
Upskirt photos can be made in a variety of situations, such as when a woman is ascending stairs or getting out of a car or just sitting on a park bench; and downblouse photos can similarly be made in many innocent situations. Upskirt photos are usually taken by a concealed camera attached on the shoe or carried within a bag so it is very hard for a woman to notice that she is being photographed in this manner. There are many methods and types of making upskirt photos and it is very rare for a woman to notice it before actually seeing herself on some of the voyeur websites that display such photographs.
Many countries do not have laws which protect a person's right to personal privacy, especially in a public place, but the legal position does vary considerably.
In 2010, an elderly man had his camera confiscated and was fined 12 day-fines for the act of public obscenity (which was thought to be the closest match in the criminal code), having taken dozens of upskirt photos in a shopping centre in Turku.
In India, under section 66E, of the Information Technology Act, "Whoever, intentionally or knowingly captures, publishes or transmits the image of a private area of any person without his or her consent, under circumstances violating the privacy of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years or with fine not exceeding two lakh (200,000) rupees, or with both". The words "private area" mean the naked or undergarment-clad genitals, pubic area, buttocks or female breast. "under circumstances violating privacy" means circumstances in which a person can have a reasonable expectation that any part of his or her private area would not be visible to the public, regardless of whether that person is in a public or private place.
In Japan, hidden-camera photography itself is not against the law as of 2002. However, distributing such photos publicly may break the law. Camera phones sold in Japan generally make an audible noise when taking a picture, making the person more likely to notice if clandestine upskirt photos are being taken without consent. However, there are also apps that circumvent this by making the camera silent. Since 2017, it is now illegal to take upskirt photos.
In New Zealand it is illegal to make a visual recording of a person's intimate parts in any setting in which the person has a "reasonable expectation of privacy". This includes public and private settings. It is also illegal to possess or distribute such images.
The UK has no specific ban on taking such photos. Because it takes place in public, it is outside the scope of the offence of voyeurism under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Prosecutions have been successful however under the common-law offence of Outraging Public Decency. In August 2017 Gina Martin began a campaign to get her criminal case of upskirting re-opened after the police closed it.
In the absence of specific legislation, upskirt photography and videotaping is not in itself illegal in the United States. The United States enacted the Video Voyeurism Prevention Act of 2004 to punish those who intentionally make an image of an individual's private areas without consent, when the person knew the subject had an expectation of privacy.
Additionally, many state laws address the issue as well.
A 2005 Illinois law made it a crime to videotape or transmit upskirt videos of other people without their consent. A 2014 Chicago ordinance made the crime punishable by a $500 fine.
In March 2014, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court overruled a lower court upskirt ruling because the women photographed were not nude or partially nude, saying that existing so-called Peeping Tom laws protect people from being photographed in dressing rooms and bathrooms when nude or partially nude, but it does not protect clothed people in public areas. A law was then passed in Massachusetts to ban the practice.
In September 2014 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals voided the state's statute against "improper photography or visual recording" including "upskirt" photos, saying its wording was overly broad. The court's opinion stated: “Protecting someone who appears in public from being the object of sexual thoughts seems to be the sort of ‘paternalistic interest in regulating the defendant’s mind’ that the First Amendment was designed to guard against.”
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- O'Hagan, Maureen (20 September 2002). "'Upskirt' photographs deemed lewd but legal". The Seattle Times. The Seattle Times Company. Retrieved 26 December 2006.
So-called "upskirt cams," sometimes called "upskirt photos" or "upskirt voyeur pictures," are a hot commodity in the world of Internet pornography.
- Napolitano, Jo (11 December 2003). "Hold It Right There, And Drop That Camera". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 23 May 2008.
... the proliferation of camera phones had helped give new life to "upskirt" or "down blouse" photography.
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... because of the growing popularity of camera-equipped cell phones.
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- Blog about upskirt voyeurism and site for sharing upskirt photos
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Voyeurs who secretly take pictures up women's skirts or down their blouses will face a crackdown under draft uniform national laws criminalizing the practice.
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- The Crimes (Intimate Covert Filming) Amendment Act 2006 created offences covering the making, possessing, publishing, importing, exporting or selling of voyeuristic recordings. The punishment can be up to three years' imprisonment.
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- Dardick, Hal (May 23, 2014). "Chicago to ban 'upskirt' video taking without consent". Chicago Tribune.
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- "Mass. 'Upskirt Photo' Ban Signed Into Law". Law and Daily Life. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
- "Texas court upholds right to take 'upskirt' pictures". theguardian.com. 2014-09-14. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
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Media related to Upskirt at Wikimedia Commons
- "Gender and Electronic Privacy". Electronic Privacy Resource Center. Retrieved 26 December 2006.