From the Forum – “Creeper in Columbia Heights Metro”

Photo by PoPville flickr user washingtonydc

Creeper in Columbia Heights Metro:

“Waiting for the train Saturday Afternoon when I spied a 40 odd year old black male, thin build, 6’1″, with a creeper mustache (essentially looked like Mayor Gray with more of a goatee) walking around with his phone pointed up. I spied him out of the corner of my eye taking a picture of my girlfriend — then he walked off. I followed him over as he was taking more pictures of other women on the metro platform. I confronted him loudly ensuring the rest of the platform was aware of this creeper and told him to delete the pictures he was taking. He proceeded to fumble with the phone acting like he had no idea regardless of the fact I caught him red handed with a picture of the girl he just took a picture of in his gallery. Called him out loudly of being a pervert and walked away which infuriated him (perverts dont like being called out?) He approached me again and quickly changed face and called himself a pervert and showed me he was deleting the pictures. This kind of person exists on the metro people — keep an eye out for him.

Light brown skin, early to mid 40s, goatee, relatively tall (6’1) short brown hair. Was dressed casually in a light brown sweater shirt with khaki pants. Using an older model black android phone.”

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74 Comment

  • Taking photos of people in public is not illegal.

    • There are plenty of legal things that are still creepy.

      • Especially when done by a black male, right? I suspect that if it had been a 20 year old white kid, OP would be considerably less creeped out.

        • I beg to differ. A 20 year old white kid taking pictures of strange women on the metro is creepy as hell.

        • I think that either way, women have a right to not be photographed by some random guy that they don’t know who’s probably just going to use those pics to whack off to later. Don’t you think?
          If the dude was taking pics of small children, would you say we’re only bothered by it because of his race?

          • The point is that many people are more willing to jump to the conclusion that he’s going to whack off to them if the photographer is a black guy. For what it’s worth, I’m a white guy who years ago did a photo series of small children from around the world. No one accused me of being a pervert (and I am not).

        • That’s actually really doubtful. And speaking from a woman’s perspective, if a stranger was taking my photo I would be upset regardless of what he (or she) looked like.

        • I think you’re wrong, actually. I think age and the fact that he was taking pictures with an iPhone are the most creepy characteristics. Had it been a 20 year old black male taking photos with a DSLR this would be considerably less creepy.

        • No, there are plenty of things that are perfectly legal, still creepy, and done by all races and ages.

    • Agree, however a Metro station isn’t public.

    • Just because a man hasn’t yet written a law making it illegal to take upskirt pictures of women, doesn’t mean it’s right or we collectively shouldn’t call people out for it.

      • Oh sure, let’s just walk around accusing people of things they *could* or *might* do. Ridiculous.

      • A lot of people are assuming that these were up-skirt pictures, which is not what the OP said. Maybe that’s what he meant, but that wasn’t clear to me from the post. I would think that if the guy was taking pictures up women’s skirts, the OP would have just come out and said so.
        OP says that the guy was “walking around with his phone pointed up.” I don’t see how that points up anyone’s skirt unless he was on the escalator. It sounds more like OP noticed that the guy was photographing because he had is phone in front of his face.

        • OP here: he was taking pictures of their butts and boobs. Social norms are in play here.. if you like yours violated have at it. Its on thing to take a pic of a crowded metro stop — its another to frame a picture of a girls tits.

      • …Charges have been dropped against a man accused of taking photos of women’s “private areas” at the Lincoln Memorial after a judge ruled that he did not do anything illegal and that police did not have a probable cause to investigate him.

  • Is this the same idea behind someone simply you look nice today being harassment? Were they upskirt photos (I don’t think so from the post)? What is the issue exactly?

    • Someone saying you look nice today isn’t harassment.

      Harassment is if someone on the street says I look nice, then gets mad at me for not acknowledging their comment/engaging them in conversation/giving them the response they want.

      And yes, if some guy took a picture of my boobs or ass anywhere, you can bet I’d be irritated, feel violated.

  • This is unfortunately a common experience on metro. I have actually had a man (the same man) take my picture while riding the metro on two separate occasions over the past three years. This perpetrator does not fit the description (heavy set black male in his 40s), but his identifying characteristic is that he carries a Discman and can be spotted on the Redline heading towards Glenmont during evening rush hour. Though maybe not illegal, this is a completely violating and disgusting experience, and I think you would agree if it has happened to you.

  • This is not illegal. You are the creeper for harassing someone who was doing nothing wrong.

  • He mentioned that the camera was pointing up, so I’m assuming that’s what was going on here (“walking around with his phone pointed up…”).

  • Whoa. The first commenters are probably male and certainly don’t get it. While taking photos of people in public may be “legal,” that has nothing to do with whether it is good or right. I appreciate this PSA. If I saw some creep like this taking pictures of me, friends, or female relatives, I’d be mad as hell. It may be “legal,” but the OP was within his right to call attention to it. Lay off him- he could have been doing me a favor for all I know.

    • I am female, and I certainly get it. Listen, I get hit on while walking to and from work, but I don’t think every compliment or situation rises to the level of harassment. Asking someone to delete a photo of your gf seems ok, but berating and harassing someone if they say no is not ok. This is America, and if you’re uncomfortable with the thought someone might take your photo in a public space then don’t travel in public. Maybe this guy was going to jack off to fully clothed photos of women or they were going into his sicko collage or he just wanted some photos…we don’t know. Any number of people have taken your photo in public; get over it!

      • To me, this is up there with this: Perfectly legal, but does it mean it’s acceptable? And should we accept the men who hit on us as we move around in public? It’s our space, too.

      • The entire point is that women shouldn’t have to choose between feeling safe and staying out of public spaces. If your argument hinges on women making that choice, how would they go to work? School? Worship? Public spaces do not mean spaces in which men dominate and women are occasionally welcome. I think you should read HollaBack DC to see how this kind of continued behavior has the collective effect of intimidating women out of public spaces.

        • You’re saying someone simply saying hello or walking by snapping a photo makes you feel unsafe in a metro….? I’d suggest taking a self-defense class if only to build up your confidence. If these things truly make you feel unsafe, then you should work from home and grocery shop online because your expectations just aren’t realistic. In a work setting, someone asking you on a date cannot be harassment the first time since they had no way to know you were disinterested. Why is a different standard placed on the public at large?

          There are plenty of examples of actual harassment: vulgarity, being followed, being touched, etc, but I don’t see any reason why those things are in line with someone saying even as much as you look nice today, hello, or can I get your number.

          Public space is just that space for the public to use as they see fit (with some restrictions as mentioned above). Wear a sign or something that says don’t talk to me…give someone a warning before you post a video about how you’re being harassed on your walk around town.

          You have a right to say this makes me uncomfortable, but if you refuse to alert the public to your proclivities toward total insolation in public spaces, then someone might speak to you.

          • How is “taking a self-defense class” going to stop someone from taking your photo without your permission? What are you even talking about? If this issue doesn’t bother you, you already stated that. You can leave this thread now.

          • Alan, if someone taking your photo makes you feel “unsafe” you have some underlying issues that perhaps could be helped with a bit of self-defense. These classes would help you determine both when a real threat arises and how to handle it. The class, as mentioned, is to boast confidence. I accept your right to voice an opinion but maybe read the comment before responding next time so we can have a more meaningful dialogue.

    • “The first commenters are probably male and certainly don’t get it.”

      Sexism is ok if it’s directed against males, right?

  • Legality of any expectations of privacy while in public aside, I think that the OP is giving women a heads up about someone taking photos of them in public. Specifically, it sounds like the “creeper” is taking upskirt photos. Regardless of whether the photos were for personal use or whether he intended on posting them, the action itself is creepy.

  • I want to say I can’t believe the comments dismissing this as ~no big deal because it’s legal~ but given all the litigious a#$%holes with no sense of human decency who post on this blog, I am not. Remember the female-jogger photographer creep post? Yeah.

    If you were a young woman and some (older) man took a close up photo of you without permission, you REALLY wouldn’t mind? Please. Maybe it’s legal, but it’s a violation of personal space — It’s deceptive and it’s gross, and SHAME ON YOU for not even pretending to care a shred about the well being of women around you.

  • I appreciate the PSA, and the OP for calling it out. And I’m glad that this is being posted on a blog where, in the past, many people noted that taking pictures of strangers is not illegal, and that just being in a public space or visible to a public space makes you fair game. “Legal” and “appropriate” can be very different things. To those who experience it, this is a violation, and it’s no less of a violation even if the women aren’t aware that their pictures are being taken. The guy knows he’s a “pervert” — even if some of the people here don’t get it.

  • It’s not illegal to take surreptitious pictures of people in public, but it’s also not illegal to confront someone (non-violently) for doing so. Just because someone is doing something “legal” doesn’t mean you have to keep your mouth shut about it if that person is making you or other people around you uncomfortable.

  • One word: consent

    • You consented by being in a public space. Now if these were upskirt photos, that is a different story, and I’d feel very differently about those. Similarly if someone touched you or came very close to doing so…sidling up to you in a seat, for example. If you took a photo of someone and posted ala people of Walmart, would you need their consent? Of course not.

      • So in your view, taking the Metro or walking to work or standing in line to get a prescription, or awkwardly getting out of a car after going to a funeral automatically means that anyone and everyone can take your picture and use it in any way that they wish? Your “of course not” is my “standards of decency, respect and consideration for others are crumbling”. I’m old enough to remember life before cell phones had cameras — and I’m shaking my head in dismay.

        • Yes, that is what the law says for the most part. No your face shouldn’t end up on a porn star’s body or anything, but yes, you’re taking the risk that someone may take your photo. Some people carry around real cameras to do the same thing; phones aren’t necessarily the issue here. The issue appears to be the expectation that you can dictate the actions of others in a wholly public space. People like having freedom but don’t wish for it to apply to others, it appears. I’ll take your photo if I wish, and you can take mine. Not that big of a deal.

          • OK, you can take my photo in public and I can feel weirded out and ask you not to.

          • Yes, you can certainly do that if you’re uncomfortable, and a person should stop; although, you obviously cannot force them to do so.

          • figby

            What if it was your daughter and some man was snapping phone pics of her tits while she waited for the train? Still “not that big of a deal”? What if your mom, or your wife, was just there at the Metro stop and some dude was snapping pics of her ass, you still good with that?

            “I’ll take your photo if I wish.”

            The creeper was taking pictures of women’s breasts and asses. Women do not like this and some feel terribly violated when it happens. Why is this so hard to understand???

      • “you consented by being in a public space.” I’d laugh if I weren’t too busy puking. What EVEN.

        • Yes, that is what helps to differentiate private from public spaces. You can always wear a burqa if you’re that put off by people taking photos of you. Since when did the metro become as private as your bedroom?

        • I know, right? It’s the same people who say that women who are street harassed should just stay at home. Sexism, people! It’s alive and well!

      • So you believe the creepy photographer was within his right to take these photos. Do you also believe the OP was within her legal right to nonviolently ask someone to stop doing something that was offending/annoying/threatening her? Being in public doesn’t mean letting the rest of the world walk all over you. She stood up to something she didn’t like, handled it herself, isn’t suggesting calling the police and locking the dude up for life, etc. The idea that being in public is consent to being aggrieved by others also in public is equivalent to a pathetic little shrug, like saying “nothing I can do about it.” Sure there’s something you can do. This lady has balls. Clearly not everyone else does.

        • Yes and yes. That issue is how does someone know you’re aggreived until you say something? Should all photo projects be stopped simply because someone might have a problem with you taking their photo? If it was a woman taking photos would that be ok? Being in public doesn’t mean you become the world’s doormat, but it does mean someone might take your photo or say hello or bump into you or any number of other things. If someone made me uncomfortable, I’d speak up, but I just don’t find this situation problematic on its face. The man was also forced (heavily encouraged) to delete other photos who’s subjects might not have minded at all (OP doesn’t mention anyone else getting up in arms). Is that also fair? Also OP is the bf/gf of the photo target not the target. I’m not clear if they’re a he or she.

          • OP here: I am a he, and the creep was taking pictures of my gfs ass. Shouldn’t honestly matter. At no point did i bring up legality — nor did I call the cops etc… what I did was approach the idiot and ensure everyone on the platform was aware of what he was doing. He knew what he was doing was wrong (by social norms). The real issue that people have neglected here is where does this start and end. Hypothetically — it starts with him taking a picture of women in public spaces and jerking off in private…until he decides why not jerk off in public… and finally it ends with him raping someone because why jerk off when sex right? Maybe I am stretching it– but probably not. fuck this guy, I have no problems calling it like it is.

  • It doesn’t have to be an either / or situation. They can both be creepy and violating. Some of my former friends take random pictures of hot girls and show them off to each other with commentary. It’s gross and dehumanizing.

  • Since a lot of people here seem to be fully in support of the guy taking the photos, I would like to personally thank you, OP, for standing up to him and stopping him. DC obviously needs more people like you.

  • pablo .raw

    I would need more information in order to be able to judge. Taking photos of people inside the metro station doesn’t make anybody a creeper. The O.P. saw a photo on the guy’s phone, was the photo “creepy”? What made the photo creepy? The O.P. doesn’t say anything about upskirts photos. There’s also the fact that the guy was even willing to delete the photos when he didn’t have to, if the O.P. called the police to denounce him, the police would have sided with him and not with the O.P. since it is legal to take photos inside any metro station (except for the Pentagon metro station where there are signs posted saying so).

    • To confirm — he was taking pictures of girls butts and chests. Also to confirm sure its questionably legal — but social norms dictate otherwise. Hey if you dont mind some asshole going up to your girlfriend/boyfriend and taking picture of there parts – cool. I did not and dont expect many others to either.

  • OP here:
    He was taking pictures of womens butts and chests.

    Source: his pictures.

  • This would be unnerving to me and I”ve had a similar situation with someone taking a picture of me in my car…

    My question (which I didn’t get the chance to pursue) is why? Has anyone asked him directly. Is its for lurid purposes, artistic exhibit, documentary etc.?

    IF he posts the images or uses them publicly I would think this would be illegal. As a former professional balle dancer/performer/model I had to give written permission for my images to be published or used in public forums.

  • For many people, women are meat. Certain men – and women, as anon 1.5 proves – continue to accept this perception and tell women that they are at fault for being creeped out or disgusted by some stranger intentionally taking close ups of their T&A. What’s ironic is that while vigorously defending the photographer’s rights, they seem to overlook that the OP was well within his rights to speak loudly and draw attention to what he was doing.

    Still, bitches need to stay inside and order their food online if they don’t like this. Or, ya know, wear a burqa. Thanks for the solid advice.

    I continue to be disgusted by the state of humanity.

  • Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, and any movie star has to put up with this all the time. In the line for Starbucks. walking to their car. walking to a bar entrance.
    It is not illegal. this applies to you taking pictures of Cops.
    what people do with the photo of Brad Pitt could be illegal, if they try and put it in an ad for XXXXX.

    Section 100.8 Filming and Photography
    Still photography that does not require a tripod, special lighting, film crews, models, impair the normal ingress/egress or operation of WMATA services and can be accomplished by a hand-held camera by one person is not regulated.
    Television and newspaper press crews of five (5) or fewer individuals and without any “plug-in” equipment are not subject to this Use Regulation.

  • The guy was being creepy and weird and was making at least one woman uncomfortable with his behavior, let’s just stop defending him. Societal rules didn’t just appear one day, they are developed by a civilized society establishing rules and boundaries for interactions. Some of these rules require or develop into laws, some do not but they are just as important. It’s not about race or age or comparing it to being it in the background of a tourist’s photo, it was anti-social behavior. Legal doesn’t make it less creepy or offensive and it’s disturbing how many people have felt it necessary to put the burden on women to “get over it” or modify their behavior instead just acknowledging that the guy deserved to be confronted and corrected.

  • I had something similar happen to me at a Starbucks — some guy was clearly taking photos of my butt! WTF makes people think this is okay? I wish the police would cite people for doing things like this!

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