Upskirt Photos, Law, and Natural Law

(Hello, everyone who was brought here by a Google search for “upskirt photos!” Hope you’re not too disappointed!)

The Massachusetts Supreme Court recently ruled that it was not illegal to covertly point your phone camera up the skirts of women you see in public and take pictures of their swimsuit area. So, the Massachusetts legislature then had to pass a new law that said, “Hey, it is totally illegal to covertly point your camera up the skirts of women you see in public and take pictures of their swimsuit area!”

How did we get here, to a point where a) it was possible that Mr. Upskirt McPervy could present this case and not get laughed out of court, b) it was conceivable that the court could rule in McPervy’s favor, and c) it was necessary to pass a law that explicitly said you can’t take pictures of someone’s naughty bits without her permission?

Human interactions are largely governed by natural law, a combination of tradition, shared mores, and commonly accepted social standards that’s not written down anywhere, but everybody kind of understands. It can be a complex philosophical concept, but it can also be quite simple: it’s playground law. Kids on a playground can self-organize because they understand things like taking turns and the shared responsibility for common safety. When a kid violates the law, other kids bring him back into line.

Under natural law, the upskirt case wouldn’t have gotten very far, because the naughty photographer would’ve just been beaten senseless by the husband/boyfriend/brother/father of one of his victims, and that would’ve been that. If the law was involved at all, it would’ve been because a woman pointed the picture taker out to a nearby policeman. The policeman would’ve then responded by first cuffing the guy around a bit, breaking his camera, and then telling him not to show his face again. Easy peasy, lemon squeezey, and we all go on with our lives.

But we live in an era with lots of lawyers and lots of lawmakers, none of whom can ever bring themselves to leave well enough alone. They have established a lot of law and a lot of legal precedent that usurps and negates natural law, thereby making all kinds of human interactions way more complicated. As much as McPervy’s victims want to punch him in the face, they can’t do it because he might then sue them. There are plenty of lawyers who would take his case, and plenty of judges (who used to be the kind of lawyers who would take his case) who would rule in his favor.

So, instead of slapping the camera out of McPervey’s hands and kicking him in the jumblies, everybody has to go to court. There, a lawyer who makes his living by splitting legal hairs says, “Well, it doesn’t specifically say anywhere that he can’t take those pictures.” McPervy wins the case, and the legislature has to further bloat the law books with yet another law to codify what everybody knew already: it’s wrong to take pictures up the skirts of strangers.

I think we could do with a lot less law. To me, the greatest compliment you could pay a legislative body is that they are “do nothing.” If you’re wondering if I’m in favor of an environment where upskirt photographers could be assaulted willy-nilly… um, yes, yes I am.

Update: Ask the Internet, and you shall receive: Here’s a whole bunch more about natural law, if you’re curious.

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