on the issue of selfies, snapchat, and consent

Over the next stretch of weeks, I’ll be writing about my recent trip to work a haunted attraction in Australia – yes, really! Australia! – and it’s a mixed bag of experiences, to be sure…but one of the biggest things sticking in my memory is not exactly related to haunting.


What I found, while being in costume at the haunt, was that everyone wants a photo of characters.  That’s not unusual, but it was…extreme in Sydney.  One of our team members literally couldn’t take a step at times without being asked to pose for a photograph. (I videotaped this because it was truly amazing how many requests he would get.)

Perhaps not unexpectedly, the daytime crowds were nicer about this than the people that showed up as the sun went down.  We moved from having family groups with babies to teenagers and early 20-something year olds that were more aggressive about their requests.  I realized, as the requests came in, that they weren’t requests.

They were demands.

As a woman, this was far from a comfortable situation.  It didn’t matter if I was working, if I was obviously busy, even if I was talking to someone else.  The only answer to, “Can I take a selfie with you?” is, “Yes.”

If you say no, you find a celphone-holding hand being slipped around you and a photo being snapped.  In my case, I was taking tickets in a line queue, so there was no way I could avoid having people surround me, and honestly after 12 hours of work, I didn’t have the patience I had earlier in the day to just grin and bear it.

Also?  That’s a disturbing thought right there. I can’t say no. I can’t stop this from happening. My best bet is to smile and pretend it’s ok.

That’s exactly what I found myself thinking, and in light of the growing awareness of rape culture, that’s friggin’ disturbing.

There’s no WAY this is ok. 

“But it’s just a photograph, right?  Why is that a bad thing?”

Because ANY time your right to say no to something that involves your body, your personal space, is taken away?  There’s no damn WAY that’s anything BUT a bad thing.

I’m in no way familiar with the world of selfies and Snapchat, so maybe the aggressive taking of these pics is only news to me.  But seriously?  I ever catch someone I know treating anyone the way I was treated in Australia, I will make sure that behavior stops ASAP.

And if you’re one of those people thinking you have a right to take a photo of someone just because you want to do it even though you’ve been told no?

You’re wrong.

You’re being abusive.

You need to check your privilege and re-educate yourself about what ‘no’ means.


5 thoughts on “on the issue of selfies, snapchat, and consent

  1. Last night I went to a Heather Nova concert in Philadelphia, and midway through the show, a member of the audience got up, went right in front of her and took several photos from his phone. Since the venue was small, he figured he could just go up and do whatever he wanted. I could see the look on her face, but she didn’t say anything and let it pass. However, for all the rest of the audience who was behind that guy–well, it blocked what we were seeing and lessened our enjoyment of the concert.

    The challenge is that with Periscope, Facebook live streaming, etc., anyone can easily take whatever they want at any time.

    Now I’m guilty of this myself, but I took photos from far back in my seat and a few seconds of video so that I could relive the experience later.

    Hearing of your experience is frightening but I’m not surprised by it. Working in high education, I’m quickly seeing how the upcoming generation is obsessed with their phones: During meetings (even interviews!), people are answering their texts. I don’t expect this behavior is going to change any time soon. I’m all for technology but it appears that understanding social boundaries is simply being ignored (and that’s not right). Sorry to hear that you had to deal with such issues.

  2. Ron Vitale is correct… it’s really not a technology issue, it’s an issue of ignoring social and personal boundaries. “It’s my right to take a picture when I want to…” Well, not really, unless the laws have changed radically in the last ten years (and let’s not even try to talk about common courtesy, which is less existent today than common sense). For instance, with foster kids… in Pennsylvania, at least, it is legally NOT okay to take the kids’ pictures and post them, as there are laws in place to keep such children from being tracked by potentially abusive genetic family members. You can, in fact, get your tail in the legal wringer even if the child isn’t a foster child… parents’ decision trumps all except state law.

    I know when I was working as a graphic designer, not that many years ago, we had to be very aware of Federal law mandating WRITTEN permission from every recognizable person (even from the back) in any photograph we took to publish. if you could recognize the person, you had to physically walk over to them, explain the proposed usage, and get them to sign a legally mandated release form, again for privacy violation and protection against potential harmful (physically or otherwise) exposure of that person. I’ve actually been waiting for the court case on that one…

    …and for the backlash that has to happen against so blatant and thoughtless a violation of personal space. In fact, let me express my appreciation and admiration for your speaking out on this.

    And for the record, it’s not just the upcoming generation that’s obsessed with their phones. It’s rapidly spreading even into my 60-some gen. In fact, the middle-aged crowd is almost worse than “the kids,” in my current experience… just got out to lunch with a 40-some friend and try to carry on an uninterrupted conversation. I’ve tried to make myself more conscious of it and am usually successful, but honestly, the danged things are like the Pied Piper at times. And to think that 15 years ago, I didn’t even have one!

    • I’ve wondered about the legal aspect, too. And it honestly shocked me that we had to tell people over and over, “No you may not take photos or videos inside,” and how many people still did it and would continue to do it even as you told them, “You have to stop.”

      Thanks for the commendation. 🙂

  3. I like to take pictures, of nature, buildings, people but for people, I ask. No matter if it is a picture of or with the person, if they say no, that’s ok – and actually that is why i ask, to see if it is ok or not O_O°

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