Recently, an individual self-named CreeperComforts came under fire on Reddit due to a proliferation of linked photos of surreptitiously photographed women on the streets in Toronto. The photos in question have since been deleted from the user’s imgur account. In addition to these voyeuristic shots of women, the meta sub-reddit forum ProjectPanda (in the vein of the larger /r/Creepshots), listed detailed tips for other creepers to photograph women without their consent. The comments (since deleted) went like this: “The way my SLR hangs on me leaves it at the perfect “aim at the hiney height”. I just need walk near a sexy booty, press the trigger and bam, I have a 5 shot per second burst of insanely high quality shots of said booty.” (We’ve included a longer excerpt of CreeperComforts’ comments at the end of this article to offer context for the complaint).
Another reddit user, listed as throwawaybew, was particularly alarmed because many of the women were photographed in Toronto, particularly the Queen and University area. She created a specific thread to warn women to be on the lookout for this individual which sparked media coverage of the story and appears to have led to CreeperComforts deleting his threads. She spoke with the Toronto Standard yesterday.
Toronto Standard: Would you like to self-identify?
I would not like to self-identify. It’s too dangerous, especially with the sorts of people on reddit, who enjoy finding everything out about any women they encounter or people who endanger their “Free speech”. Just look at the response from this thread, and the response on tumblr and facebook. The difference is astounding. On this thread, people are worried for the photographers of Toronto, worried for the person we accuse of doing this, arguing against confrontation. They wonder why I bother with this, when there are other “greater” issues in this world. On the other hand, users on tumblr and facebook are outraged and call for confrontation.
How did you come upon the forum ProjectPanda?
I don’t really know what Project Panda is. But I found out about this guy through reddit.com/r/creepshaming where they shame the creeps who do this sort of stuff.
What was your initial reaction to seeing “CreeperComforts” thread regarding exacting techniques?
Disgust and disbelief. It was hard to believe that these creeps were educating each other on the best techniques and the fact that these actions would be so much more difficult to catch.
What about reaction when you realized that many of CC’s photos were Toronto-based?
I felt incredulous that these photos were taken in places I’ve been to. There have been identifications of other cities in other posts, but the impact was never as strong because it wasn’t happening where I actually live.
What troubles you most about this forum?
The fact that these people know what they’re doing is wrong, but are instead encouraged by each other, having their behaviour normalised by each other. The fact that these people get off on lack of consent from women. Everything about it is just so wrong and shows that feminism is still greatly needed in our society.
What were your intentions with drawing attention to the thread?
I wanted to spread awareness about the moderator of the subreddit. There have been ongoing endeavours to get the creepshots subreddit shut down, and I was hoping this would be a step towards that. I also wanted to let the people in Toronto know that these sorts of people exist so they can look out for themselves, and maybe even figure out who he is. Narrowed down to a city, with very noticeable frequent locations, I figured this would be a good way to get this guy to stop.
Do you worry that drawing attention to their creepiness may somehow make them believe their behavior is ‘validated’ and/or stoke their egos?
No, I think drawing attention to this is the only way to stop it. Even if their egos are stoked, hopefully it would only lead to them making mistakes.
What was the response you got from the moderators?
Which moderators? The toronto moderators simply called this rabble rousing (you can see how much the demographics of the site influence the response you get), and the creepshots moderators tried to argue that this was perfectly legal as usual.
Are you female? If so, do you feel that your ability to do as you please without being objectified is impinged on by this sort of site?
Yes, and definitely. You basically can’t reveal you’re female, or you’ll get tons of messages asking for nude pictures, or your argument will be dismissed and picked apart. People dig into your comment history to see if there are pictures of you or any type of information. The only way to be able to reveal you’re female and be accepted is to let them objectify you and tell them that you don’t mind or even enjoy it.
Are you more aware/alert to photographers on the street because of this sort of site?
Yes, this doesn’t mean I’m going to confront every person I see with a camera though.
Has it affected your sense of personal safety?
A little bit, especially knowing that there have been people on that thread joyfully declaring that they’re glad the thread I made helped them find the creepshots subreddit.
Given the proliferation of porn on the Internet, why do you think that they choose to document and make sexual comments about women going about their daily lives?
According to the moderator, he got bored of normal porn. In my opinion, it’s because they enjoy having power over women. They enjoy doing these things without their permission, their consent. They’re also getting encouragement and props from other people and end up believing that it’s not so bad.
Is this not an extenuation of harmless looking? Why is this harmful to women (if they are unaware)?
No, this isn’t. Pictures are being posted up for thousands of people to look at. You can’t control where the pictures go, and people can recognize you in those pictures. This isn’t just one person looking, there are thousands ogling, and it’s a picture frozen in time, not a glance you take.
What they are doing is not ‘illegal’ per se, given that they take photos in public, where the subject’s ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ is upheld. Should laws pertaining to photography be re-evaluated in this hi-tech age where ‘everyone is a photographer’ and ‘internet publisher’? If so, how?
Yes they should. I’m not an expert in law, but I think anyone should have the right to have their photo taken off or destroyed if they are recognizable in the photo and the photo does not have to do with a crime.
After the story was reported in Toronto Sun and Jezebel, the moderator, CreeperComforts, is under threat of being outed. As of today r/Creepshots, has been set to private. Toronto Standard was in contact with the CreeperComforts before the story broke but we have yet to receive a response to our questions, which will be posted in their entirety if they are ever receieved.
More of CreeperComforts comments:
DSLR. By far my favorite camera for creepshots. Why? Because you DO NOT HIDE IT. You can’t really, it’s too big.
See, a SLR is large and typically hangs around your neck. Due to natural walking gate, it will swing wildly unless you hold onto it. The natural way to do this is to rest your right hand on it with your thumb on the trigger.
Most SLR cameras are also exceptionally efficient in that they only use power when you partially press the trigger. So, they can sit there with the power on for DAYS and still be good to go when you call upon them
The way my SLR hangs on me leaves it at the perfect “aim at the hiney height”. I just need walk near a sexy booty, press the trigger and bam, I have a 5 shot per second burst of insanely high quality shots of said booty.
Upside? No one thinks you’ll be taking sneaky shots with such a large camera, in fact, you can be blunt and just hold it up to use the view finder. People ignore you when you use a camera like that. Proof? Try taking a picture on a busy sidewalk and count how many people walk right in front of you. Also, in the dark, you can use the flash and no one even cares.
Down side: Shutter noise on my current system. Newer cameras give the option to turn this noise off for truly silent photography. So, in the mean time, sneaky shots need to be taken around places with lots of masking background noise. Streets, festivals, etc. Malls kind of work, if the lighting is right.
Tiffy Thompson is a writer and illustrator for the Toronto Standard. Follow her on Twitter at @tiffyjthompson.