The Normative Jurisprudence of Creepshots

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6 Responses

  1. Matt says:

    I wonder if you’re not giving the “creepshot” crowed too much credit here by supposing that they have anything that can plausibly be called a “theory” or “argument” for what they are doing. The justification, as you note, is at best deeply confused and self-serving. Why not accept it at face value, as deeply confused and self-serving? Sometimes people can get away with things by being audacious- you don’t expect them to do something so outlandish, so when they do, you pause. This seems like a case of that to me. I suspect that many of these people are borderline sociopaths and they’ll mouth a bit of nonsense that seems semi-plausible (but is clearly nonsense when pushed on, as you note) to be able to do the vile things they want. What does this tell us about liberalism or critical approaches? Nothing, I’d suggest. It simply shows that deeply unpleasant people will do unpleasant things, and will mouth half-digested bits of things they’ve heard or read to try to defend it when caught. I doubt there’s any deeper lesson to learn from it than that.

  2. Mary Anne Franks says:

    Matt, thanks for your comment. Obviously I don’t imagine that members of the creepshot community are writing up sophisticated dissertations on legal theory as they swap voyeuristic photos and rape jokes. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any legal theory happening here, or that there isn’t something to be learned from the reasons people offer to justify their behavior. Legal theory doesn’t exist in a vacuum – it isn’t something just lawyers or legal scholars or judges do. When members of a community explicitly invoke legal arguments to justify what they are doing, and those who object to it do the same, legal theory is in that game whether we like it or not, and whether it is well done or not. If we rejected all confused and self-serving arguments for human behavior as unfit for legal or moral analysis, we wouldn’t be left with much to talk about. Much of law, to my mind, is in fact about “deeply unpleasant people” who “do unpleasant things” and try to justify it with “things they’ve heard.” Unless legal theorists are only supposed to be interested in what other legal theorists have to say, I’d suggest that making use of legal theory to make sense of important battles over free speech and privacy is a worthwhile endeavor.

  3. Let me add to Mary Anne’s response to Matt. One may want to change the “common sense” or implicit legal theories in our culture. Denying that such implicit legal thought is in play forecloses that option. If one wants people to automatically focus on ideas of duty drawn from the law of obligation, one needs to inject that way of thinking into legal discourse at all levels, including at the level of popular conversation.

  4. Matt says:

    Thanks for these replies, Mary Anne and Heidi. I guess I’m not sure that we should want “people to automatically focus on ideas of duty drawn from the law of obligation”. Maybe that’s right, but I’d have to think more about it to feel sure. And, of course, I think it would be better if people had a better understanding of what privacy law and free speech law really meant (and why it shows the “arguments”, if they deserve that name, of the creepshot crew to be nonsense.) My more basic point, though, was that I don’t think there’s any interesting inference from what a bunch of borderline (or more) sociopaths say to deflect unwanted criticism to a conclusions about liberalism (or critical approaches. That a view, or some sorry unintentional parody of it, can be partially appropriated by fools doesn’t tell us anything about the worth or truth of the view, it seems to me. Perhaps it says something about how well important ideas are taught, or the distorting lens of TV representations or the like, but I don’t see that it shows anything more, certainly not about the truth of the theory.

  5. Mary Anne Franks says:

    Matt, I think you and I may just disagree about how much of the world should be considered part of a discussion of law and legal projects. I also think we have different intuitions about how marginal creepshot defenders and their ilk are – for many reasons, I would be hesitant to diagnose this very active and very popular sub-community as “a bunch of borderline (or more) sociopaths.” The elevation of sexual pleasure to a right, the trivialization of claims of sexual injury, and the selective invocation of legal protection to serve the interests of the powerful are by no means limited to a few angry reddit users.

    I don’t claim that creepshot defenders tell us the “truth” about any legal theory – what I suggest is that legal theory, and particularly Robin’s insightful analysis of various legal theories, can help us assess and reflect on a very live debate over what values, norms, and laws will and should triumph on the Internet. I take this inquiry to be in the spirit of Robin’s project to expand, rather than restrict, both the scope and the ambition of legal criticism.

  6. PrometheeFeu says:

    I want to advance an alternate theory of the view that the creepshoots community expresses and how it is not incompatible with the outrage over the exposure of one of their members.

    If you parse their statement carefully, I think it is best stated not as a justification for their actions but rather as a statement of the law to deter legal actions by offended parties. You can see it read several times: “there is nothing illegal about this subreddit whatsoever”, “there is nothing here that breaks any laws” and even invoking terms of arts: “you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy”.

    In fact, they even admit that “We may be immoral, creepy, sinister (some may even accuse us of being ‘disturbed’) individuals”. And that is where I think their two views can be reconciled: there are two norm.

    On the one hand, there is a legal norm which they strongly claim is on their side. On the other hand, they recognize the existence of a different type of norm which they may be violating and may brand them as “immoral, creepy, sinister” or “disturbed”. As I understand the reddit communities, respecting the anonymity of users is a very important norm. In that context, there is no contradiction or even hypocrisy. They admit to violating social norms, invite the punishment (being labeled “creepy”, “immoral” etc…) and then want to punish the ones who violate other social norms. (the norm of anonymity)

    I realize the last sentence “We kindly ask women to respect our right to admire your bodies and stop complaining” can be read to contradict what I am saying, but I believe it is best interpreted as nothing more than a troll.