After two men took upskirt photos of Gina Martin, she began a campaign to make it a sexual offense. Now, she’s teamed up with Eliza Hatch, creator of Cheer Up Luv, and Refinery29 UK to tell the stories of women who have been upskirted, and encourage the government to #StopSkirtingTheIssue.
Sophie’s from Leicester, England, and she’s fucking cool. She lives with her fiancé and her two dogs Pablo and Dali. She’s a writer because she’s passionate about telling the stories of people who can’t do it themselves. She writes about prisons, the offenders inside them, and drug policy. She has mad-green eyes framed by a really excellent fringe, and she’s chatty, smiley, and warm.
When Sophie was 17, she and her group of girlfriends used to hang out with a group of male skaters. "They were great fun and we always had a good time when we went out together in a big group," she says.
One night, they were all in a club in Leicester. It was super busy. "I was walking upstairs to another music room and I thought I saw a flash go off behind me. I turned around and saw a couple of the guys around a camera," she recalls. She glanced at the screen and saw a photo taken up her dress. "They were all laughing like it was funny – even a few of my girlfriends were – but I remember being really shocked at how graphic it was because of the flash."
As a group, they all used to put pictures of their nights out on blogs to share with each other, so her first thought was where the picture would go. "I asked them to delete it, and they just kind of laughed and shrugged it off. It was no big deal to them."
She remembers the photo, obviously, and the main thing that struck her was how she looked in it: "I remember feeling so judgemental over my own body, and that's what really upset me at the time, which is silly as, in hindsight, I'd just been hugely violated. But I was more upset by the way the photo made me look. I was wearing tights and my knickers were all twisted, everything was so close-up and it was just horrible." She had no control over how her body was presented. She, like all of us at 17, was self-conscious about her body, so, at the time, that’s what upset her the most.
“I think back to a lot of things that happened when I was 16 or 17 and think to myself, ‘What were you thinking, letting men treat you like that?’ but I guess it's part of growing up – realising your worth and knowing that men are accountable for their actions, even if they say it's 'just banter’.”
As we finish chatting and begin shooting she says: "It’s taking autonomy away from a woman. That’s what really gets me. Losing the control over the way my body looked when it was going to be leered at really, really bothered me."
Now, she’s older, wiser and she feels like she’s dealt with what happened in some way. She’s passionate, though, about the importance of speaking out: "Girls should grow up seeing that this behavior isn't acceptable and that people can be prosecuted for it. If these conversations were more obvious, girls would be less afraid to speak out."
You can sign the Care2 petition calling for upskirt photos to be made illegal under the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 here. Refinery29 UK will be publishing more stories by women who have been affected by upskirting in the coming weeks. Read Gina Martin's original piece here.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).