Monday, 19 May 2008

Was he a voyeur?

When is voyeurism not voyeurism? Is taking photos of man boobs as offensive as taking similar photos of female breasts? Or doesn't it count?

The English Court of Appeal had to grapple with this tricky issue last week after a care worker appealed against a court verdict that his secret photos of another man's chest made him a voyeur.

The law* says it's voyeurism if a person's breasts are involved, but it doesn't specify if it applies equally to men and women.

So Kevin Bassett, 44, was convicted after he snapped a male swimmer's torso at a swimming pool with a video camera hidden in a plastic bag.

He appealed on the grounds that male breasts don't count and the law applies only to women. The three Appeal Court judges agreed that only female breasts could be seen in a sexual light and therefore no offence had occurred.

Well, it seems to me there's something wrong here, as clearly there was an offence of some sort, in that the targetted swimmer's privacy was invaded and the other man was taking an undue physical interest in him.

If it's not forbidden under this particular law, there should be some other law that prevents it, or it's a green light for all men to be sexually spied on. On the other hand, maybe most men would just be amused by such absurd interest in their unexciting chests. I certainly would.

But the really sad part of the story is that the man boob-fancying Mr Bassett is a Christian who has hidden his homosexuality for many years as he just "wanted to be like everyone else".

After his conviction he received counselling and support from his friends and family. I only hope they persuaded him there's nothing wrong with homosexuality and he should embrace his true leanings and enjoy them.

PS: Perhaps men with sizeable boobs should do the decent thing and wear a bra??

* The 2003 Sexual Offences Act
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It's about time I awarded Hullaballoo the Rockin' Girl Blogger Award for a blog that's always witty, romantic, optimistic, full of life and often screamingly funny. One of my favourite must-visits!

23 comments:

Fate's Granddaughter said...

How ridiculous!

I would be uncomfortable with the thought of a person taking secret photographs (with sexual interest) of any part of my body, whether it is considered sexual or not - surely that act is a type of victimisation? I suppose the problem there would be proving intent, but it does seem to be quite a double standard.

Your compassion for the situation of the 'perpetrator' is praiseworthy. Whatever the offence, I do believe it is important to know where people are coming from.

Nick said...

FG - You're right, basically he got off on a legal technicality, and a double standard it is. As you say, it's also victimisation. But the court has left the impression that such seedy snooping is just fine.

Fate's Granddaughter said...

I have to add - we are on completely the same wavelength today! I just wrote about how Hullabaloo's blog left me giggling all day long. Great minds, eh?

Nick said...

FG - She's quite the business. I'd love to meet her in the flesh one day! And Bobo's a hoot too.

Hullaballoo said...

Awww Nick you gave me an award, thank you very much. You are very sweet, I have gone all hullababashful. H xx

Nick said...

Hulla, you're more than welcome.

Baino said...

This incident is clearly voyeuristic but the problem can get out of hand. Some schools here have banned parents with cameras at swimming carnivals or on beaches which is ludicrous and as a hack photographer myself, I'd love to take random portraits of people but feel 'instrusive' unless I have their permission then the 'moment' is lost. Thank God for zoom lenses! I think for the very 'few' incidences of perving it would be easy to fly off the scale with yet another ban on say - cameras in all public places. What an irony when we're photographed constantly by hidden street cameras. I wonder if I'd win a court case complaining about speed cameras invading my privacy!

Nick said...

Some excellent points there, Baino! Yes, I agree banning cameras rather than the intrusive acts they might assist is too extreme. As you say it prevents not only offensive uses but also the positive ones of recording happy memories and appealing scenes. And indeed, the irony when we're being watched by numerous CCTV cameras without our permission!

Wisewebwoman said...

Ah moobs! More in evidence now with the aging population. Also did you see the Jimmy Kimmel show with the man who took $100,000 from his buddies on a dare to have silicon boobs? Uneffinbelievable.
but all that aside, I think photos taken without permission are a huge invasion of privacy, no matter whether so-called naughty bits or not.
And I would surmise that naughty bits would be moobs for gay men? Just asking.
Oh what we learn on your blog, Nick!
XO
WWW

Nick said...

www - I just watched the video of Brian Zimbig revealing his fake breasts. As you say, unbelievable! I mean, if a man had natural, attractive breasts, that would be amusing, but fake ones? Though I see he's a professional gambler who did it for a bet, so he plans to have them removed again.

You're right, secret photos are an invasion of privacy, whatever this particular law says. And are moobs generally appealing to gay men? I've no idea. Perhaps we should ask Conor!

Nick said...

Several women on Heart's blog have commented how annoyed they get in the summer that they have to cover up their breasts while men can flaunt their unsightly man boobs and get away with it. Hear hear.

conortje said...

As a spokesperson for my people hehehe I am fairly sure that moobs are not particulary atrractive to your average gay man. Unless you can pass them off as nice pecs :-)

Nick said...

Conor - Thanks for that. As a completely representative sample of the same-sex community, you're undoubtedly correct!!

Thriftcriminal said...

Creates an interesting question. Should you be application of the law be based on the intent or based on the objective facts? Is the intent part of the objective facts? More difficult to address intent I guess, but possibly more thorough? Bit like thoughtcrime though?

Nick said...

Thrifty - I think intent was actually the issue here. Voyeurism is legally defined as observing someone "for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification" which I guess amounts to intent. So I think the question was not the use of the camera but precisely what the purpose was. Presumably the images on the camera and Mr B's admissions will have proved the sexual aspect.

Thriftcriminal said...

Cool. Sensible.

Nick said...

Excellent! Sorted!

Los Angelista said...

Yes to the bra and yes to the conviction!

Just no pushup bras!

Nick said...

Liz - Ah, but there wasn't a conviction, that's the oddity, he dodged it on a legal technicality. Perhaps they should have used a different law. But even thought he got off, he's certainly paid for his actions with the shame and embarrassment and media coverage.

Good point, no push-up bras! Apart from the discomfort, we don't want men making their already unattractive bulges even bigger!

Quickroute said...

it seems we're living in an age where everyone has a camera phone, video phone etc so privacy is becoming less and less available

Nick said...

Quickie - Yes, there are loads of mobile phones and video phones, and of course CCTV, but I don't feel threatened by them. People with camera and video phones don't often use them on strangers, and if they do, usually with their permission. Despite all these new gadgets, there are billions of people whose lives we still know absolutely nothing about.

Actually we probably had less privacy in the days when homeowners and servants lived together and they were all privy to each other's actions!

Geraldine Moorkens Byrne said...

They say only a woman's breats can be seen in a sexual light, but the range of things humans find sexually stimulating is legion. Why was he taking pictures secretly anyway, if not because he got some kind of frisson from it? And whatever the impetus behind the photos - he invaded that man's privacy just as badly (and creepily) as any woman's would have been....with the added distress of people not taking it seriously because he's a man!

Nick said...

Geraldine - Yes, clearly the man was a voyeur, but he slipped through the net because the court interpreted some ambiguous legal wording in his favour. Perhaps the government should step in and clarify that male breasts can also be seen as sexual.