23 February 2018

I was a Teenage Upskirting Victim

Image by Laura Haley Photography
In the 4 and a half years I’ve been blogging I’ve been vary cautious what I share about myself online.  This isn’t anything unusual for me, people I work with will often have a different opinion of my from my uni friends, who will think I’m a very different person from my boyfriend’s family and so on.  This isn’t a conscious choice, I am a multisided person with a complex personality that I naturally show different sides of to different people.  It’s how I’ve always been, at work I’m quiet and guarded, at home I’m totally crazy (just ask Harry about what he has to put up with!).  All this is to say that I have had a long documented struggle with putting my personality into my writing, and whilst this has improved a lot, I find there are many subjects in my life I have never written about.  The first and only time I've truly opened up about something personal to me was in my Rockabilly Style and Body Confidence Post and today I thought I’d share a bit more with a short story about becoming the victim of upskirting when I was a teenager.

Upskirting in case you aren’t aware is the process of someone (usually men) taking pictures up the skirts of unsuspecting women without their consent, and often sharing the images online.  It’s something that the paparazzi used to do regularly and there was a whole Reddit controversy around it a few years ago as to weather this was 'fair game' or not.  There are currently no laws in the UK against this and it's been in the news just this week as people fight to change that.

My story starts of simply enough, I was around 15 and decided to head to Alton Towers with my sister for a day of fun.  I have always been what is often referred to as a ‘coaster head’ so leaving my teenage angst behind for a day I ran straight towards the rollercoasters. I was wearing a typical teenage uniform of the day which included a spaghetti string vest top and kaki skirt covered in patches (looking super cool obviously...).  We headed straight for one of the headline attractions of that time, The Nemesis.

If you’ve ever been on The Nemesis you will know it has a pretty distinct queue area.  It winds around a blood red waterfall before climbing up a set of stairs into the loading area. The stairs are directly above some of the queue line bellow it, something that I hadn’t thought twice about as my stomach filled with excitement and nerves as I was nearing the loading area.  That was until my sister suddenly grabbed my arm and pulled me quickly towards her.

I was understandably confused.  My sister quickly told me to stand away from the edge of the walkway and pointed towards the queue below.  I looked down to see a group of 6 or so men (easily into their 30’s) laughing as they held their phones skywards.  It dawned on me what was happening; they were taking photos up my skirt.  Even as I looked directly at them horrified they continued to laugh.  Thankfully the queue moved ahead and I could enter the building out of the way, I was mortified.

Now this was the early 00’s, camera phones aren’t what they are now so I am sure they didn’t have anything exciting to work with.  These days however those high def photos can be on the internet for all to see within seconds.  I felt embarrassed, empty and totally violated and that was without these additional threats.  I never mentioned it again as at the time it was seen as just one of those things that happens, it was part of being a woman.  Although it’s not something I think about often, and as it is something I remember so vividly, it is clear it left an important message on my brain.  My very fragile teenage confidence hid away even further and it’s something I’ve never fully gained back.  My love of vintage fashions is for comfort as well as style, wearing longer skirts and dresses feel safe and generally avoids me being hassled by predatory men.  Women should be able to wear what they want without ever having to consider these possibilities.

Upskirting is now finally being seen as something that is unfair and shouldn’t be done to anyone.  If you see it happen, call it out.  There are times with my male friends where I would have just ignored this kind of behaviours, but as a member of the female race we need to do what we can so no one else is victimised.  My story is relatively tame in relation to some, but I tell you so that we can spread the word and understand that this happens more often then we realise.
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