Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Mar 06, 2014

A weekly chat about the best ways to kill time online. Our Web Hostess, Monica Hesse, sifts the Internet so you don't have to, searching for meaning, manners and the next great meme.

Afternoon, everyone, and thanks for stopping by. This will be a short chat -- I'm typing from an airport in Ohio, and I'll have to board around 2:45.


As many of you may have seen in the news already, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts recently ruled that it was legal for a man to take surreptitious photographs up women's skirts on public transportation, due in part to the fact that these women were only "partially nude." 

That, combined with the Google Glass kerfuffle we briefly mentioned last week (A San Francisco native got in a bar fight when other patrons believed she was recording them with her Glasses) are part of a discussion related to how much privacy we  expect and deserve today.


Some discussion prompts:

1) I think the Massachusetts Supreme Court Ruling is _____.

2) In the Google Glass matter, I side with _____ because _____.




And now let's talk more about this "partial nudity" bit. Please evaluate the following circumstances, 1 being "Totally cool with it" and 5 being, "Totally squicked out." (3, for these purposes, is equivalent to, "Gross, but whatever.")


A) A fellow passenger takes a photo up your skirt (or shorts, fellas) while you stand in line at the grocery store.

B) A fellow beach patron takes a photo of you in your bathing suit. You don't see him do it (i.e. he makes sure to do it when you're not looking), but another person tells you what happened after they see it.


C) A fellow beach patron takes a photo of you in your bathing suit. You see him do it, and he knows you see him. (i.e. he's not trying to hide).

For C and D: Does it matter at all what the photographer is wearing, i.e. if he is also  in a bathing suit or if he is fully clothed?

I know I told you to rank these with numbers, but in your responses, please elaborate with what you're thinking or else it gets confusing for everyone.

And further on the subject of the Google Glass spat:

How does your answer change, if at all, depending on the context of the Google Glass filming? i.e. is one kind of bar/nightclub/restaurant more acceptable than another?


We'll get started at 2, I just wanted to post a few topics early, since I'll be leaving early, too.

Could we maybe have people share what their jobs are that allow them to be at the computer participating in this chat? Not looking to incriminate, just curious. I am a content strategist, fyi

Sure, if anyone feels like sharing.  I am a water buffalo trainer.

If Google-glass wearers would agree to use these glasses only where appropriate (are you listening, cell-phone users?), there would probably not be any brawls. I'd say the answer is not to wear Google-glasses at a bar.

But I think it's the "where appropriate" that we're currently trying to figure out. Where, exactly, is it appropriate? Not bars -- okay. But where?


It reminds me of the marijuana legalization in Colorado. It's now legal to  buy it, but people can't find anywhere to smoke it, since its still banned in restaurants, public parks, etc.

I'm having a really hard time being objective on this one. I get the parallel (sort of) with swimsuits, I really do, but I still think it is really pervy. It seems to me if you are wearing a swimsuit you've made a conscious decision to present yourself in a certain way, whereas if you are wearing a skirt to work you should really not have to worry that some weirdo is going to be trying to sneak a peak.

I'm not sure there is a parallel to be gotten, actually. I'm just throwing a few things out there. We have visceral reactions to behaviors sometimes -- we just know they're "wrong." I think it's interesting to tease them out and figure out how we just know.

What is this that you are 4000 words into your next novel? WHat are you able to please tell us about it?

Told you last week! It's Amsterdam and World War II. The rest is secret.

the up-skirt or up-short photo. No question that these perps are pervs. The beach thing isn't quite so obvious. I'd say to someone taking pix of me on a beach, "Please go away." ALthough I have to say that if the beach photog were fully clothed that would make it squickier, or at least more suspect.

I wondered if the clothing of the perp would make a difference. It adds yet another layer of vulnerability and imbalance to the exchange. (Side note: A friend of mine went with his wife and young daughter to  the public pool a few years ago. He was dressed and reading a book on the deck while his family played in the water; a lifeguard told him it was policy that he, as a man, wasn't allowed to be clothed at the pool).

I am a member of the Flying Wallendas.


Holy cow. How is shooting a not authorized pic up someone's skirt NOT an invasion of privacy? She has not chosen to show that area of skin or make her undies visible, like someone on a beach arguably is by appearing in a bikini. And I am a lawyer and I so don't get this...

I didn't bother to check the gender percentages of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. I'd like to think it wouldn't make a difference, but I am curious.

Libraries are fine. The office, fine, if your boss doesn't object ("Are you SURE that's research for your project you're doing?"). Walking down the street -- not safe. "Distracted walking" might be the next misdemeanor. All in all, I'd say anywhere people might object to being filmed, take 'em off.

Hmm. Why libraries? Because we're all just reading or studying there and not doing anything embarrassing like getting intoxicated?

The court got it right; the law needs to be amended. But of course anyone doing up-skirts is a perv.

Yes, I suppose the law needs to be amended. But it's flabbergasting that we need to have a law stating this. It reminds me of when you discover an ancient law in some state's code that reads something like, "It is illegal for a man to place a pumpkin on the head of his cow like a mask." And you realize that in order for that law to be made, someone first had to, you know, put a pumpkin on his cow's head.

If someone takes a photo of me at the beach wearing a swimsuit, I'm dressed the same way everyone else is in a garment that is small but designed to be seen in a specific type of public setting. If someone takes a picture of my underwear by aiming a camera lens up my dress, it's a violation of privacy because I'm not dressed to expose said underwear. The photographer has to make a very determined effort to get that photo as opposed to one of me sitting on a beach towel.

I'm going to post a few responses that all say similar things in different ways.

The Mass Supreme Court ruling is wrong and will likely be overturned if it goes to a Federal court. Google Glass matter, I side with the wearer but she's an idiot and shouldn't wear them out like that. A - Upskirt/shorts) - 5 and the person will get a butt-kicking. B - at beach) - 1 as what I'm wearing is to be fully seen by all. C - at beach) - 1 as what I'm wearing is to be fully seen by all. D - there is no D.

I would be pretty squicked out in all three instances. Why would someone take a photo of someone they don't know, in any state of partial undress (or fully dressed, really), for any reasons other than to either make fun of them or think dirty thoughts about them? As a female, this seems like an enormous invasion of privacy and feels pretty disrespectful. I can't stop anyone from ogling me in public or taking a mental photograph of me, but using my image for their own purposes just feels wrong. Especially since they can then upload their photo of me to any website anywhere in the world and share it with anyone they want. That's just creepy. And yes, I think the Supreme Court of Massachusetts ruling is flat-out wrong. Up-skirt or up-short photos are an invasion of privacy and should be illegal. I have a right to expect that anything under that skirt/shorts remains unseen. Otherwise, why wear a skirt or pants at all (hygiene issues aside)?

If you are in public I can take your picture, you have no expectation of privacy no matter what you are wearing.

Just me, or did you phrase this in a totally creepy way, dude?

If you use marijuana (legally of course), and since one should not be driving or working or generally interacting with people who are not aware you are stoned, marijuana smokers should do so in the privacy of their homes or friend's homes and remain there or under the care of someone alert until they are no longer stoned. Medical marijuana establishments let people smoke and remain there until they are fit to leave (at least the good ones do). Some establishments use vaporizer machines that remove most of the high effect from using marijuana, which negates this problem.

Noted. (You realize I only brought up medical marijuana because I see parallels between Colorado and Google Glass. Social mores are changing, somewhat, but we still haven't thought through exactly what that's going to look like or how it's going to work.)

Presumably google-glassers are not filming fellow patrons? Oh, wait. I've read that flashers tend to target libraries because the shock potential is greater. Never mind.

I don't know if the shock potential really is greater. Most of the librarians I know are pretty unflappable. 

(A) gets a 5. (B) and (C) get 3s. For me, (A) is terrible because it's not what I'm putting out there. When I'm at a beach, I'm wearing my swimsuit as my outer-most layer. But my underwear, unless I'm not wearing a skirt, is not fair game. And of course, I don't want someone taking pictures of me, but really, what can I do about it? I'm in public. But my underwear, when covered by a skirt, is most definitely NOT.

What if someone took an upskirt photo of you while you were at the beach, still clothed, but just about to remove your clothing to reveal a bikini underneath?

I know, I know, this is getting ridiculous. But I think I'm wondering how much of our squickiness is due to our own feelings of privacy ("I choose when someone gets to see me in a state of undress") and how much of it is the sense that the picture taker wants something he shouldn't, and is going to extremes to get it?

For example: If I forgot my towel and ran from shower to bedroom with no clothes on, and a neighbor accidentally caught a glimpse, I would probably laugh it off and not mind. But if it seemed the neighbor was deliberately watching, I'd be pretty skeeved out. Even though I was wearing/doing the same thing.

If it's legal for a dude to take a picture up my skirt, it should then be legal for me to kick him in the man parts after he does it. Just saying...

For some reason, I read that as "man pants," and found it even funnier.

The founder of Bitcoins

Right on.

I'm fine with upskirting being legal, as long it's also legal for me to break the photographer's nose and/or hand. Also, do we all assume it is men doing this? Has there been an instance of a woman doing this to another woman? Does that say something?

You know, there probably have been incidents of women doing it, but the odds are so great that we're talking about men that I just played the odds. Men of the chat, I hope you realize we're not saying all men, most men, or even a chunk of men do this. We're talking specifically about the creepers.

This is what ticks me off about our legal system. Something like "you can't take an up-skirt photo" shouldn't need to have a law as it should fall under the "expectation of privacy" law. If you have to pick each and every little thing and make a law against it versus - oh, I don't know - using common sense, we are doomed as a society.

Entirely possibl we might be doomed as a society.

It's not just you. As the great Miss Manners says, dude's attitude (lack of respect for others, aka "I can do whatever I want and you can't stop me!") is what makes it necessary to pass laws about this kind of thing, because people don't behave the way they should.

I don't think the poster is actually creepy. I think s/he just chose unfortunate phrasing. (OP, feel free to write back and correct me if you are actually creepy).

I am processing this. If I take a photograph of Alec Baldwin in public, that is fine. If I take a photograph of Alec Baldwin with his wife Hiliaia Thomas, who is also a public person with a radio show, that is wrong. Yet if I take an up-skirt photo of Hiliaria Thomas, that is OK.

Correct. Also correct: None of us have any idea how to spell Alec Baldwin's wife's name.

The forgetting your towel and your neighbor accidentally getting an eyeful isn't really the same thing as the intent of the other party is completely different. Wasn't there a court case around here recently about somebody who liked to walk around their house in the buff and one day a woman accidentally caught a glimpse while she was walking her kid to school and she ended up suing him or something?

Well, that was my whole point: I don't mind if my neighbor accidentally catches a glimpse; I do mind if my neighbor is intentionally trying to catch a glimpse. I don't mind if I accidentally end up in someone else's vacation shot while wearing a bikini; I do mind if some stranger takes an intentional picture of me in my bikini. I'm doing the same thing, I'm even getting the same, or similar, outcomes. But the intent makes all the difference.

And never fear, distracted walking is indeed a growing field of research.

Thank you!

Freelance translator who works from home, so my "boss" lets me chat any time I want. (Of course, I still have to get my work done on time).

Posting. (Which languages?)

Apologies everyone, but Monica is going to have to cut the chat a little short. Airport wifi does not always cooperate. But she'll be back next week, so come back then!

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Monica Hesse
Monica Hesse is a staff writer for the Post Style section. She frequently writes about culture, the Web and the intersection of the two.

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