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Dear Prudence Poll

The Dear Prudie chat today featured a question titled “Moral Dilemma” (aren’t they all?) Somewhat uncharacteristically, Prudie openly solicited alternate opinions from the peanut gallery — whether she’s just trying to kill time in the live chat or losing confidence in her own advice I don’t know.

Anyway, I thought I’d try to replicate the experiment here by copypasting the question and responses and soliciting all of youse opinions. Is ignorance truly bliss, or would you want to know?

Q. Moral Dilemma: I am recently separated from my husband of 10 years. The cause of our marital breakdown is that he is a voyeur; I discovered that he has been photographing and videotaping our female neighbor without her knowledge, while she is in her yard or inside her house. She is not naked in any of this footage, but as the shots are all close-ups of her chest or rear end, it’s very obviously sexually motivated. We are now in family court trying to settle our divorce and custody of our child, and my lawyer has decided to leave the voyeurism “on the back burner,” as he says it’s not a family law matter. I find it repellant to keep his secret, since I would want to know if someone were violating my privacy in such a way. But I’m reluctant to do anything that will damage my son’s relationship with his father, such as bringing the matter to the authorities and potentially getting him in legal trouble. Please give me your thoughts.


A: You’ve already discussed this with a lawyer who’s recommended you not bring forth your allegations. Your husband is sick, and upon finding this out, you have taken decisive action. But this perversion is not the entirety of him, and good for you for wanting your son to be able to have a decent relationship with his father. These videos are gross, and if contacted the authorities might prosecute. If your ex were engaged in the making of child pornography, there would be no question about reporting him. But I think you can go along with your lawyer’s advice and keep this knowledge on the back burner if indeed this is the extent of your husband’s behavior. Let’s hope the divorce has prompted him to recognize he’s sick and needs help.

Q. Re: Moral Dilemma: If my neighbor were taking pictures of me, I would want to know.

A: I’m curious what most people think. If your neighbor were recording images of your rear end as you were weeding the garden—and they were for his private (blech!) use only and not posted online—would you want to know, or prefer to pull up the dandelions without knowing? (I will not make hitting him in the face with a trowel an option.)

Q. Re: Neighbor Photos: As long at they were never shared on the Internet—I would NOT want to know.


Q. Re: Moral Dilemma: I would want to know, so I could get the police involved. A guy with so little respect for women might escalate his invasion of privacy to even more intrusive and criminal behavior. Imagine how the LW would feel if she kept silent and her ex ended up raping someone.

Q. Re: Moral Dilemma: I’d want to know. And hit him with a trowel. Or worse.

Q. Re: Pictures ...: Realistically, in an age when everybody has a cell camera in his pocket, everybody should assume that they might be photographed when they are in public. In this case, the neighbor is plainly visible outdoors and she is clothed. If the pics are for the photographer’s private amusement, no harm done. The real issue would be if the pics were ever posted online, particularly with identifying information or embarrassing captions.


A: Lots of people are saying call the police, this guy is a danger who knows what else he’s up to. However, this is an interesting point about whether it’s in fact legal to film a clothed neighbor in her yard. (And is being in one’s yard considered out in public or not?) I agree with the posters who suggest the letter writer get another legal opinion, one from someone more expert in this aspect of the law.

Q. Re: Privacy: Whether or not it is legal to take pics of the neighbor, she ought to know. However, the LW says her husband is taking pics of her inside her house. This is creepy and the neighbor needs to know immediately.


A: Ah, good point—the wife did say he was photographing her in her yard and in her house. Photographing someone in her house is illegal. But the wife is in a complicated legal situation right now and she needs to talk to her divorce lawyer about the consequences for her divorce and custody proceedings if she calls the police on her husband. If her divorce lawyer won’t explore this, then again, she should talk with another lawyer. She has to move forward in a way that best protects herself, her child, and the neighbor.

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