A court has upheld the constitutional right of Texans to photograph strangers as an essential component of freedom of speech - even if those images should happen to be surreptitious “upskirt” pictures of women taken for the purposes of sexual gratification.
Criticising an anti-“creepshot” law as a “paternalistic” intrusion on a person’s right to be aroused, the Texas court of criminal appeals struck down part of the state’s “improper photography or visual recording” statute which banned photographing, broadcasting or transmitting a visual image of another person without the other’s consent and with the intention to “arouse or gratify … sexual desire”.
The case stemmed from the arrest of a man in his early 50s named Ronald Thompson who was stopped in 2011 at Sea World in San Antonio after parents reported him swimming with and taking pictures of children aged 3-11. The local district attorney’s office said that he tried to delete the photographs before his camera was seized and a police examination of it revealed 73 images of children in swimsuits “with most of the photographs targeting the children’s breast and buttocks areas”. [...]
Attorneys for Thompson said that the statute was “the stuff of Orwellian thought-crime” and that it did not distinguish “upskirt” or “peeping Tom” photography from “merely photographing a girl in a skirt walking down the street”, so in theory it could criminalise the likes of paparazzi journalists.
The appeals judges appeared to agree, stating that although “upskirt” type-images are intolerable invasions of privacy, the wording of the law is too broad. Presiding judge Sharon Keller wrote in the court’s opinion published on Wednesday: “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.”
The judges said that photographs were “inherently expressive”, like other artistic mediums such as films or books, and so the process of creating them, as well as the images themselves, was part of an American’s right to free speech because “thought is intertwined with expression”.
So, Texas moms, just to be clear: if you let your child play outside in your neighborhood alone, you can be arrested, but the creepy guy wandering through your neighborhood taking pictures of you in your summer skirt and your daughters in their swimsuits as they splash in a front-yard sprinkler has the right to use those photos for his own (and possibly others’) sexual gratification. Because free speech, or something.And if you’re on your way into Sunday Mass in your best conservative Sunday skirt or dress, and a creepy dude posing as a lawn-care guy manages to get a snapshot up your skirt--hey, that’s his right, and who are you to object?
Maybe all the women of Texas ought to wear pants in public until further notice.