Steven Powell was convicted of multiple counts of voyeurism in a Washington state court. He will spend 30 months in jail. Voyeurism is an invasion of privacy. It is a form of assault inflicted on unknowing victims, most often females. While it is not a bludgeoning with a pipe, it is an attack with a camera or at the minimum peering eyes. The invasion is unwelcomed and is solely for the corrupted pleasure of the viewer.
It is also an exploitation of another. How would you like to have some captured images of your most intimate moments? It is stealing innocence.
In this and similar cases, it is clear-cut the difference between the victim and the villain. But moving away from open windows and private places, what about the staring that happens all the time on the streets, at the beach or poolside or casually at work? There, the viewed wants the viewer to look.
Men react to visual stimulus. People who design clothing know this; people who make clothes and people who sell them know this; and people who buy and wear such clothing know it as well.
In the scriptures, it says that if your eye offends, you should pluck it out. If we were to follow that as a strict rule, a lot of men and some women would be blind. Without the observers to produce the desired reactions, would people wear the same fashion? Or is the display of immodesty intended for everyone?
The social, not legal, question: Is it voyeurism if fashion is explicitly designed to be alluring and the women and men wear something with that in mind? Who is the victim, who is the villain?
The standard advice is if you don’t want to see, turn away. Good counsel, but with the amount of immodesty our eyes would be spinning. We would get motion sick standing still. However, schoolwork would be more focused on the page.
Give us a break; don’t wear coverings that don’t. If you have to artificially invoke glances, then work on your personality, not your immodesty. It creates a fantasy world of objects.
Seeing and hence treating a person as a thing rather than as an immortal being is like building our own Lego Land. It is fantasy. Everyone becomes, both the object and the object maker, plastic people with painted on smiles. There is no heart, there is no soul, and there are no emotions. We have passed feelings.
There shouldn’t be fashion police as in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, nor a burka-only dress code like Afghanistan under the Taliban, but perhaps more appropriate to the U.S. would be “you are better looking than that cops.”
They would travel in squads like the knights in the "Man of La Mancha" who surrounded Don Quixote with mirrors to break his madness; they would hold mirrors up to the sadly dressed. They would shout, “You are better looking” as they revealed to the person of poor taste the true nature of the person’s appearance.
They would do a 360-degree review and even hold the mirrors from above to point out what we tall people have to endure because of their fashion infractions.
Inciting to riot is a crime. Inciting to gawk should at a minimum warrant a warning.
None of this in any form justifies what the real criminals do.
This is not only about fashion and appearance, it is about respect for self and others.
It is helping us poor weak folks with “bad” vision and abandoning the exaggerated ego to be objects of inappropriate desire.
Lusting eyeballs are in the sockets, and we have muscles that direct our vision. But like waving a red flag at a bull, there are risks the animal will look. For a charging beast, it is not a game of “made ya look.” It is a pending collision.
Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a practicing pediatrician for 30 years and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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