Caught fucking on CCTV: time for these pieces to die

Image by the amazing Stuart F Taylor

Are you one of those people who comments ‘why is this news?’ under every article you don’t like on the internet? Many find you irritating, but I am here to give you a task for which the world will – eventually – thank you. I’d like you to bring your rage, your keyboards, and your frustration to a specific type of article: exposés of people who get caught fucking on CCTV.

I have a bunch of news searches active – most of them relating to sex, wanking or sex toys. I like to keep abreast (pun intended) of what’s happening in the world of sex, so I can either celebrate the good stuff (like this week’s Woman’s Hour discussion on the updates to obscenity/porn laws) or scorn the terrible stuff (like the Daily Mail’s piece this week on how women shouldn’t own cacti because cacti repel men). In these searches, I often see a lot of one particular type of article, the ‘caught fucking on CCTV/camera phone’ article.

Couple Caught Very Clearly Having Sex on Board Airplane

Randy couple caught bending over supermarket conveyor belt before attempting sex act WARNING - ADULT CONTENT: Things started to get heated as the couple stood next to one another at a cashier before they were about to be served

Brazen couple caught having sex in supermarket next to Friskies dog food In shocking CCTV footage, a woman can be seen leaning against a trolley with her back to her partner as the pair engage in an intimate act

GET A ROOM! Horny couple caught romping in a public park as people walk past just feet away The shocking footage, which was shared online, was reportedly filmed somewhere in Mexico

People have sex, Karen

The first thing that fucks me off about these articles is the performative horror displayed by whoever is writing the copy. There is always ‘shock’, sometimes ‘disgust’ and almost always an exhortation to ‘think of the children!’ So let’s put this to bed quickly, shall we? Sex – consensual sex – is not shocking or disgusting, it’s a thing that humans have done ever since the dawn of time, and something we’ll continue to do long after the last tabloid printing press gets shuttered. If it weren’t for sex, there’d be no children for us to think of in the first place.

Considering how large a percentage of the UK population enjoys watching porn (or listening to audio porn, reading sex blogs, sharing saucy photos of themselves, etc etc), and the relatively vanilla nature of public sex (for practical reasons, most it involves missionary or doggy-style sex without any sex toys, kinks or other accoutrements because that shit’s much harder to access when you’re fucking outdoors in the bushes or round the back of your local Dominos) it’s not unreasonable to assume that the person writing this article isn’t actually shocked by this particular sexual act.

So what exactly is so shocking about this couple who were caught fucking on CCTV/smartphone/charcoal drawing lovingly sketched by an incensed passer-by? It’s probably the ethics of public sex generally, and the idea of shagging where you might potentially be seen.

The ethics of public sex

The moral issue, when you’re looking at public sex, isn’t whether it’s OK to fuck in a field, it’s whether you might be seen by people who haven’t consented to watch. After all, if you owned the field, and all the surrounding fields, and there was absolutely no chance whatsoever of anyone else seeing you fuck, there wouldn’t be an ethical question to answer before you whipped off your clothes and started humping like a pair of bonobos. The thing you are risking when you fuck in public isn’t ‘someone catching a glimpse of my bum’, it’s ‘someone catching a glimpse of my bum when they have not consented to see it.

It’s why – in my opinion – public sex is one of those things that can’t really be explained with a blanket answer. Is it OK to fuck in public? Depends on where, when, and how. If you’re shagging in the middle of McDonalds on a Saturday afternoon, obviously the answer is ‘no, there are children here you fucking monster.’ But if you’re shagging in the middle of a field that’s a good two hours hike from the nearest pub, where the chances of anyone but sheep stumbling across you is almost vanishingly remote? I’m going to struggle to tell you that you shouldn’t.

This stuff is further complicated by the fact that ‘public sex’ – the kind of sex that others might accidentally witness – becomes more common as time goes on. The population increases, so there are fewer opportunities for isolation. Public land gets sold off or covered in CCTV cameras. People own drones and are not afraid to use them. Most of us have smartphones, so while you might have made sure your humping won’t traumatise someone monitoring CCTV, you can’t really account for a nosy fucker with an iPhone seeing fit to record your actions with one hand, while they flag down the nearest tabloid journalist with the other.

Whatever the scenario, and however genuine (or manufactured) the ‘shock’ of the person who discovered the public sex act, it seems like everything is pointing towards using consent as a guideline for what kinds of sex we find appropriate. Consent, as ever, is key. And the ‘shock’ we feel when people get caught fucking on CCTV is likely down to the fact that they’ve shown a disregard for the consent of those around them.

Given that consent is at the heart of bystander concerns, I have one question:

What about the consent of those ‘caught fucking on CCTV’?

When newspapers publish articles about people getting caught fucking, often they include stills or clips from the actual CCTV/smartphone footage within the article itself. Oh, who am I kidding? It’s not ‘often’ – it’s ‘always’. I have never seen one of these articles in a tabloid without stills from the footage or an actual video, for good reason: the publisher is relying on prurience for web traffic. They want people’s clicks, and they believe (correctly) that if they don’t include images in the articles people will quickly click away.

Incidentally, many of these sites are ones which refuse to link to sex blogs, adult websites, and other ‘NSFW’ content within their articles because they don’t want to send their readers to porn. OH THE IRONY.

On one memorable occasion, the article included stills from the footage as well as a casual mention that one of the participants was a fifteen year old girl. If it had been porn, they’d have been prosecuted for publishing it, but because it was a still from a video accidentally captured on a webcam stream? Totally fine, apparently. It was posted in 2016, and it is still online.

I’m not going to argue that these articles aren’t of interest to people – clearly they are, or they wouldn’t get published. I’m also not going to try and claim that people have the right to shag anywhere they see fit. But posting pictures/videos of people shagging without those people’s consent is not OK, regardless of how ‘shocked’ you are by the idea that two people fucked in a public park. We recognise consent in other areas where sexual photos are published – we have laws in the UK against revenge porn, for example, and porn websites are supposed to remove content if the people in the videos recognise themselves and request a takedown. So why is it OK if the website claims that content is ‘news’?

Trick question: it isn’t.

It’s a pathetic kind of hypocrisy – one which whips readers into a frenzy of horror over the consent issues involved in public sex, while ignoring the consent of the subjects in order to show readers a glimpse of humping that’s been caught on CCTV.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *