Voyeurism has reached a whole new level of creepy thanks to an online community of peeping toms who post, collect and exchange what they call “CreepShots.” The community started on Reddit, a social news and entertainment site known for its often controversial commitment to free speech, however distasteful.
According to the “CreepShots” metareddit, a site which preserves some posts from the since-banned subreddit where the CreepShots craze initially gained popularity, CreepShots are defined as “candid” (read: non-consensual) photos of women that capture “the natural, raw sexiness of the subject without their vain attempts at putting on a show for the camera” Ewwww.
Calling itself a warm and friendly community, the CreepShots subreddit defends its actions as “perfectly legal” by likening itself to the paparazzi. CreepShots claims that public spaces are inherently devoid of privacy, and therefore any internet savvy sleazeball with a camera is supposedly justified in broadcasting whomever’s body he pleases all over the internet.
New CreepShots members are given these simple, skin-crawling instructions:
Use stealth, cunning and deviousness to capture the beauty of your unsuspecting, chosen target.
“Stealth,” “capture,” “unsuspecting,” “target,”—this sentence could easily appear on a website about hunting wildlife, and in a frightening way, it kind of does.
Although the CreepShots community is aware of women’s concern for privacy, it doesn’t care. CreepShots aggressively tells women to “stop complaining” and “respect [CreepShot members'] right to admire your bodies”—because apparently, a woman’s right to protect her body is overruled by a man’s desire to view it.
CreepShots have been banned from Reddit a number of times, but the community proves difficult to remove completely.
The original CreepShots subreddit was eventually banned after a high school substitute teacher posted photos of his underage students to the forum, but a replacement “CreepSquad” popped up in its place (with a new rule forbidding shots of minors). Reddit shut down CreepSquad as well when Jezebel journalist Katie J.M. Baker made the front page, but CreepShots persists on Tumblr, Twitter and even within some Flickr streams. The CreepShots Tumblr has not updated for a couple days, but the Twitter feed is still posting frequently.
Baker’s photo might have been published as “punishment” for writing a story about Predditors, a Tumblr dedicated to exposing personal information about CreepShots contributors. Predditors was briefly deleted by Tumblr due to privacy concerns (while the CreepShots Tumblr remains untouched), but the Tumblr staff have indicated that they are restoring the blog. However, Predditors is currently password-protected by the author, perhaps to avoid legal issues. As of now, there is not a publicly accessible counter-community like Predditor for those who wish to expose CreepShot members the same way they expose their “targets.”
There are a lot of reasons why this CreepShots phenomenon is beyond creepy: Blatant invasion of privacy, lack of action from Reddit and Tumblr against this invasion of privacy and the community’s own terrifying reminder that CreepShots are a perpetual threat (“There are creeportunities everywhere”). But CreepShots are also disturbing on a much larger scale as they indicate a harmful obsession with women and their bodies—not just in sexualizing or objectifying them, but in rendering them powerless.
This community fetishizes a woman’s inability to consent. In fact, any hint of a woman who is conscious of her surroundings actually ruins the fun, claims CreepShots. Lindy West suggests that such extreme voyeurism is an unfortunate cornerstone of the male gaze:
The sexualization of women is only appealing if it’s nonconsensual. Otherwise it’s ‘sluttiness.’
It’s not about sex. [These men] have porn, they have as much fucking porn as they could possibly ask for: They have billboards and ads and primetime TV shows and Hollywood movies, free videos, magazines. They have porn channels, porn movies with sexy images of women … CreepShots specifically says this isn’t enough. They don’t want pics of girls knowingly posing; they want to violate … They get off on your violation. They want more proof that women exist for them and them alone.
This is not the first time male Internet users have banned together to dole out alarming hostility toward women. Now, however, this hostility is convinced of its own innocence, all because there are no comprehensive legal restrictions on its invasive behavior. Unless the target is underage, or the photo is an “upskirt” shot (exactly what it sounds like), anything goes.
Some have offered “advice” about how to deal with CreepShots, but “tips” such as “control your poses” and “do not bend” in public only contribute to trends in rape culture that encourage women to always be on the lookout rather than confronting those who are making the world so unsafe.
CreepShots and rape culture assert that public spaces belong to men, and suggest there’s nothing to be done about it. But threats of assault should not have to be a reality that women are expected to tolerate.
Image of Reddit logo from Wikimedia Commons