Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Women's bodies are not public property

Two years ago in Oklahoma, Riccardo Ferrante, now 34, followed a 16 year-old girl through a Target. He snuck up behind her and without her knowledge managed to situate his camera in such a way that allowed him to take photos under her skirt.

Last week Oklahoma's Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in a 4-1 decision that this did not constitute a crime. Blogger Lawhawk has posted the "Peeping Tom" statute under which Ferrante was originally charged.
Every person who uses photographic, electronic or video equipment in a clandestine manner for any illegal, illegitimate, prurient, lewd or lascivious purpose with the unlawful and willful intent to view, watch, gaze or look upon any person without the knowledge and consent of such person when the person viewed is in a place where there is a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy, or who publishes or distributes any image obtained from such act, shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a felony.
It was the majority opinion of the Oklahoma Criminal Appeals Court that once this 16 year-old child dared to wear a skirt in public, she forfeited any "reasonable expectation to privacy" concerning what was covered by that skirt. Huffington Post contributor Jessica Wakeman questions this logic, asking:
So, let me get this's not okay to violate someone in his or her own home, but it is okay to violate that person as soon as he or she sets foot on the sidewalk. Why would the court make such a distinction? To protect all those people who accidentally take photos or videotapes of other people's private parts?
Fortunately, there was one voice of reason sitting on the bench during this case.
The lone dissenting voter on the court, Appeals Judge Gary Lumpkin, wrote, "What this decision does is state to women who desire to wear dresses that there is no expectation of privacy as to what they have covered with their dress. In other words, it is open season for peeping Toms in public places who want to look under a woman's dress."
As shocking and horrible as this case is, it isn't abnormal. It has been "open season" on women in public spaces for quite some time. Allegations that the way a woman dresses could invite sexual assault are alive and well. Allison Stokke and allies are actually having to justify why her picture shouldn't be plastered all over the Internet without her consent. Justifications, we might add, that are falling on deaf ears. The paparazzi and the media consuming public don't think twice about the moral or ethical implications of taking, publishing,or viewing pictures of a private and embarrassing nature.

So Oklahoma didn't trail blaze viewing women's bodies as public domain, they just codified it.


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