There is an anti voyeur law working its way through Parliament at the moment and one of the problems it is attempting to solve is men taking pictures of breastfeeding women in public without their permission.
It follows a case in which an understandably upset mum reported it to the police and was told that because she was in a public place there was no law to protect her from this unwanted attention.
This has emboldened that kind of man who is keen to assert his sense of entitlement over a woman the moment she allows herself to be vulnerable and there now appears to be a problem with self-righteous breastfeeding photography going on.
We are all so familiar with the kind of man and the kind of things he would like to do, we hardly even need it to be a genuine problem. The idea of it is ugly enough to legislate against.
However as an instinctive liberal in the area of censorship I often find myself hand wringing in these situations.
To make it a criminal act to photograph the world as it actually is, especially in a public place, no matter what the unprovable intentions of the photographer are, seems like flawed lawmaking.
To stop the anti-social behaviour you need to make it illegal to take the picture so claiming that you were going to ask permission afterwards or even adjust the picture later so no embarrassment or intrusion was caused could not be a defence.
Accidentally or unwittingly capturing a breastfeeder in a wider image would also seem to be something that will criminalise you, no matter what the original purpose of the picture was.
I would have to give any celebrity that went out with an anti-paparazzi bodyguard of six breastfeeding women my grudging admiration.
Is that where my liberal morals lead me though? Am I defender in chief of the trouser rubbing sleaze bags? It’s everyone’s right to take pictures of beautiful natural acts happening in public places?
Not really. This is not just about the eternal wrestling match between morality and freedom. This is also a problem that is particular to this moment in time.
It’s a problem made possible and real by the marvels of digital photography and handheld communication devices. It’s a problem that exists because the same advanced society that brought us those devices also gave us the privilege of a society where it is generally safe for a woman to breastfeed in public.
But what is also being overlooked by those eager to exercise their natural right to get a lenseful is that they are also taking advantage of the fact that a few decades ago a close knit community would not have tolerated such nakedly predatory behaviour.
It’s wrong for friends, brothers, husbands, fathers and uncles, even cousins, to go and dish out kickings (let’s not exclude mothers and sisters from that list either) but once upon a barbaric time those kind of repercussions would have been part of the risk assessment for the average pervert on a mission.
In real terms this enthusiasm for exercising their photographic rights is an opportunistic exploitation of young mums who don’t need this kind of crap. They are advised to breastfeed if they can, encouraged to get on with it when they need too and can be in pain when they don’t. Give them a break.
It’s frankly embarrassing we have to make this law (which of course does not rule out consensual photography). When the future insect overlords of Earth look back on the brief interlude of humanity’s existence I hope they don’t home in on this moment as an example of how well we used our mastery of technology.
“The male ape people kept doing what?” says the Queen Bee “This is what happens when you don’t keep men busy.”