The life of a photo journalist isn't always glamorous. To get your story, you have to do just about, well, everything. NBC 10 photo journalist Joe Frederick was assigned to catch sex cruisers in the act, which meant, yes, he would have to seek out men pleasing themselves and film it. Oh, the life of a journalist. Here is one assignment, which probably left Joe scarred for life.
I was the undercover photographer who actually had to watch people pleasing themselves in bathrooms of local stores. I was even propositioned and asked to join in, but politely declined and said, “I’ll just watch”. It kind of made me feel more perverted than they were.
My producer and I set out on this story feeling we wouldn’t find anything. I actually volunteered to go undercover for that very reason. It was easy overtime. I felt although this may be actually happening, what are the odds I would run into anyone actually doing this in public?
Well, this would have been akin to winning the lottery for local TV news, but the very first place we tried, the bathroom in a mall, I met a man who went to town on himself. He even asked me to come home with him. That's how close I had to be to them.
From the first bathroom I went into, I quickly learned how to signal my “interest”. All of the signals and signs the young Exton boy described are exactly what is done by these sex cruisers-- the moving of the feet, the reaching down to the floor, even the opening of the handicapped stall door so people could watch and join in are all ways of communicating.
I had to experience these things first hand (no pun intended). I engaged in conversation with the people who do these things and actually watched the acts as they happened. I had to so I could record the video! I had a hidden camera in my glasses, so it's a little hard not to watch. You can't really close your eyes and not be conspicuous.
When I was finished with the investigation I felt, to say they least, disturbed. And I'm an adult. I can imagine how a young child might feel.
At one location, I had three men engage together in masturbation. Actually, it started with just the two guys but suddenly the handicapped stall door opens and this dude pops out with his penis in his hand. One guy who had white hair and dressed in a blue blazer could have been your grandfather. He’s the one who asked me to join in, but I said I was only into watching. They must have thought what fun is that or this guy is really perverted.
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The video of people looking under the stalls and helping themselves was captured just by laying my undercover camera on the ground pointed down the row of toilets. They did the rest. This time I didn’t have to get near these people. Thank goodness.
The only time I felt threatened was when I went out again after the story aired. We wanted to see if it was still happening. It was! I met a guy who asked me a lot of questions about the backpack I was wearing. This was a red flag to me. He was more interested in me than he was in masturbating. After politely answering his questions I quickly left the bathroom but noticed he was following me. My producer and I made it to the car and left the mall.
The people I ran into who were engaging in this type of behavior looked no different than you or I. They were young, they were old, they were good looking and they were not so good looking.
Profiling is no protection. The only way, in my opinion, to protect children who go into public bathrooms is to go in with them. Granted, it isn’t always possible. In that case, monitor how long they have been in there and go knock on the door if it’s been to long.