Model is slut-shamed after pervert takes upskirt photos at Shanghai anime convention

Society & Culture

During an anime convention in Shanghai over the weekend, a man was caught on camera taking upskirt pictures of a female model from behind when she was posing for other photographers. But after the offender uploaded the images to Chinese social media, the victim herself became the target of an online backlash, shaming her for not doing enough to avoid being unwillingly photographed.

During an anime convention in Shanghai over the weekend, a man was caught on camera taking upskirt pictures of a female model from behind when she was posing for other photographers. But after the offender uploaded the images to Chinese social media, the victim herself became the target of an online backlash, shaming her for not doing enough to avoid being unwillingly photographed.

The controversy erupted last Friday when a video (in Chinese) of her being scolded by a convention attendee for “striking inappropriate poses” went viral on Weibo. In the clip, the model can be seen wearing a Japanese-style schoolgirl outfit while lying on the floor on her stomach. As a bunch of photographers surround the girl to take photos, a woman who walks by loudly shouts at her: “Where are the security people? What’s wrong with you? Do you realize how inappropriate it is for you to attend the convention and pose like this?”

The woman also accuses the model of demeaning the community of “JK,” an abbreviation of  the Japanese joshi kōsei which means “high school girls.” In China, it’s common for fans of the JK subculture — including adults — to wear Japanese school uniforms as everyday clothes.

Around the same time the video blew up on the Chinese internet, upskirt images of the model, shared by a man who secretly filmed up her skirt from behind, started circulating online.

The following weekend, the ugly spectacle of slut-shaming the model played out in full force on Chinese social media. Predictably, a large number of critics showed no sympathy for her, even though, according to several people who were at the scene, the girl was totally unaware of the man behind her. Some comments instructed the model that she was to blame for being sexually exploited because she didn’t protect herself from people with ill intentions. “She’s clearly seeking sexual attention. No girls with self-respect would pose like that in public,” reads one typical response (in Chinese). Some people called the girl a “whore,” saying that she should feel ashamed for her own behavior.

As the criticism intensified, the model, whose online name is @卷子啊_, responded to the controversy in a Weibo post (in Chinese) on July 26, saying that she wanted to apologize to people who found her pose “inappropriate” and “disrespectful” to the community of “JK.” “I should have been more careful about how I pose in public, and if my position is safe and proper,” she wrote, adding that she was wearing boy shorts underneath to prevent unwanted gazes, but it was out of her control that someone sneaked behind her as she adjusted her movements.

Meanwhile, some observers came to the model’s defense, saying that regardless of whether she desired sexual attention or not, it is perfectly normal, and not at all deviant, for a woman to possess her sexuality and express it in whatever way she chooses. Rather than slut-shaming the model, the focus of the conversation, as they argued, should be on the man who took the photos and distributed them without her consent. “It seems that many people are sewing a scarlet letter on the model’s chest while letting that perverted man off the hook,” a Weibo user wrote (in Chinese). Another person commented (in Chinese), “Let’s be fair. She wasn’t wearing a revealing outfit and she tried to avoid unwanted photography by wearing boy shorts. She did nothing wrong.”

In a move to shut down personal attacks that the model said had flooded her private messages on social media, she issued another statement (in Chinese) today, saying that she had reported what she called cyberbullying to the police. “I’ve paid a price for my impropriety, but I don’t think it’s a crime to be sexy,” she wrote, adding that she would continue her search for the man who took upskirt images of her and hold him accountable for his behavior.

The public condemnation of women who are comfortable with expressing themselves sexually is nothing new, but the unfair scrutiny is particularly harsh in China, where women are dictated to dress and behave in a modest way according to traditional values. And when it comes to upskirting, which is not a specific criminal offense in China despite being a common concern among Chinese women, the onus is usually placed on women to protect themselves from covert filming and photography.