All these photo scandals we’re talking about? They aren’t really about the nudie pics.
These aren’t just dirty old men who want to see bare breasts and thighs.
The Georgetown rabbi arrested for allegedly hiding a camera in the mikvah pool area where Jewish women take sacred, private ritual baths, the Baltimore gynecologist who secretly filmed his patient examinations, the freaks hacking into celebrity mobile phones and even creeps snapping photos up women’s skirts all have easy access to plenty of porn.
(Trust me. As the mother of two boys constantly checking on their computer use, every Hot Wheels Curves track search is a click or two away from high-def depravity.)
But, no, it’s not body parts that these men are after. The turn-on here is about power, subjugation and humiliation. It’s about men getting what they want, despite what women say.
It’s insidious not only because it’s cowardly and cheap, but also because in some cases, it’s done by the very men women trust most. They are the down-low sexists whose version of sexual assault is a mental game.
And it’s an attitude that is disturbingly popular.
Members of the local Jewish community were stunned this week by the news that Rabbi Barry Freundel, a renowned scholar and a towering figure in the Kesher Israel Congregation, had been charged with six counts of voyeurism and could face up to six years in prison. Investigators say Freundel, 62, recorded women in the mikvah area using a clock radio that contained a hidden camera.
This is the wise man who guided women on their spiritual path, who helped them through times of tribulation or urged them on to further enlightenment. One woman who studied with him for her conversion to Judaism said he even helpfully suggested that she take as many practice dips in the mikvah pool as she liked. But she said he also warned her against disturbing that odd clock radio near the water.
And now every woman who has ever come in contact with this powerful figure will wonder.
I’ll tell you this, catcalling on the street is less dangerous than this kind of betrayal.
What happened in that bath area was sacred, it’s where women were at their most vulnerable, unclothed and alone with their thoughts.
Stealing that right to privacy, to comfort and to an expectation of safety is taking away something that can never be replaced.
The same goes for what happened in the medical offices of Nikita A. Levy, a Johns Hopkins gynecologist who killed himself last year in the middle of a police investigation that uncovered two decades worth of patient pictures surreptitiously taken in his offices.
There are few things women hate more than getting on that table. The only solace in this annual torture is that this is a doctor.
If Levy found pleasure in naked women parts, it apparently wasn’t enough to spend his day looking at them. He filmed them. And that, to me, seemed less about having access to seeing even more crotches for pleasure and more about subjugating and objectifying the trust that these women placed in him.
Trust. That’s the theft here.
In Hanna Rosin’s keep-you-from-having-kids piece this week in the Atlantic, Why Kids Sext, she interviews boys who spent an insane amount of time wooing girls, complimenting them, building their trust enough to get them to sext a nude photo of themselves.
Then, the boys drop the girls like rocks and post their photos on Instagram or other sites, where they humiliate the girls and pile on, calling them “down low hos” because they are good girls whose alleged slutty side is below the radar.
Nope. These aren’t the boys sneaking peeks at the Playboys behind the modesty cover at the corner store, because how else are they ever going to see a breast? This humiliation of females they are learning at a young age is the building block for a far more dangerous and insidious sexism.
The predators who aren’t engaging enough to form relationships with women before trashing their trust behind their backs have a way into this game, too.
They are the upskirters, the guys who get close to women in public spaces and shoot photos up their skirts. Charges were recently dropped against a guy who lurked on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and filled his camera’s memory card with under-skirt photos. The judge ruled that he did not do anything illegal, saying the women had positioned themselves in ways that made their intimate areas visible to any passerby.
The comment sections on this court story were filled with hate, telling women they have no right to privacy if they wear skirts in public.
Sound familiar, this blaming the victim?
There is undeniably an epidemic of sexual assault in this country. Nearly 1 in 5 American women have reported being raped at some time in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But this? This quiet, cowardly runaround that manages to rob women and girls of their sense of safety without any physical contact is frightening, too.
For previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/dvorak.