The disturbing phenomenon of 'creepshots'

CREEPSHOTS.COM: A popular new website encourages men to post images of women taken without their knowledge or consent.
CREEPSHOTS.COM: A popular new website encourages men to post images of women taken without their knowledge or consent.

The men who run, a website featuring pictures of the breasts and bums of unsuspecting women snapped on the street, are ''family guys who love to hang out'', they tell us. A creepshot, they emphasise in the ''About'' section of the site, is a ''CANDID'' picture. ''If a person is posing or aware that a picture is being taken, then it is no longer a creepshot,'' they tell the Creepy faithful. "A true creepshot captures the natural sexy, embarrassing or funny aspect of the subject matter/person without their knowledge.''

Scroll through the Creepshot archive and it's pretty obvious the everyday women pictured are completely unaware they are being preyed upon by a freak with a smartphone. He is the guy standing behind them in the supermarket queue when they pick up milk in their gym gear. He is the bloke below them on the escalator when they're wearing a skirt, or on the next towel over at the beach, when they're wearing a swimsuit. As one tends to do at the beach.

The shots are overwhelmingly of ''asses'', presumably not just because the Creeps enjoy female bottoms, but also because their cowardly act is easier to pull off when they're lurking behind a woman like the drooling sex pests they are.

The bottoms are disembodied and identity-less, except for the tags they are given - ''Creeping bikini thong in South Beach'' (girl with a wedgie on the beach), ''A very fine yogapants ass bender'' (woman stretching her hamstrings out in a park), or ''quality hungry ass n legs shopping'' (Girl who makes the mistake of visiting the supermarket in denim cut-offs).

Apart from this dedicated website, there is also a Creepshots Twitter handle into which people can post their creepshots, and the crowd-sourced social news website Reddit hosts a ''Creepshots'' page. Reddit recently garnered some controversy in the US for hosting shots of girls who looked underage. Despite a cursory ''reminder'' on the site that users must not post ''suggestive or sexual content featuring minors'', one responsible-ish user has pointed out that pictures entitled ''Upskirt in my class'' and "Hot Senior Girl in One of My Classes" seem to have been taken at a school.

There is some speculation this classroom Creep is a teacher, given the access he gets and angle of the pics. It might seem facile or hysterical to draw a link from Creepshots to the actual physical abuse of women, but consider the note the website creators write to any women who find themselves featured on the site.

''If you happen to be one of the sorry people on this site and find yourself ashamed, belittled and embarrassed, please write us your best cry-baby letter and we will honor [sic] your request take it down,'' it reads.

So any woman (they say ''people'' but there are no pics of men on the site) who objects to her genitals, breasts or butt being papped surreptitously without her knowledge while she goes about her business, and sent to a website where literally the whole world (except perhaps North Korean Creeps) can see them, is a ''cry-baby''.

But these girls are asking for it, right? They're out in the public domain, they're wearing what they're wearing. The public they come into contact with sees them as they are dressed that day, so where is the harm in spreading their images a little wider?

The problem with that argument is that it ignores the fact that we all dress for context, and that while women might feel happy wearing short shorts on a summer's day out in the city, they may still feel horribly violated if their image is taken out of that context without their consent.

Creepshots is far more sinister than the regular sexual objectification of women we see in advertising, or even the reams of highly sexualised content girls are subjected to in music videos and on television shows. The thing that makes Creepshots extra creepy is not just the lack of consent from the starring women, it's the fact that the lack of consent is utterly crucial to the enterprise.

Not just that, it is obligatory. As the website creators dictate, unless the Creepshot is candid, it does not qualify as a Creepshot. Presumably the ''family guys'' who host Creepshots would be happy for the arse-cheeks of their daughters to be uploaded to their website. Not until the moment they turn 18, of course.

-Fairfax Australia