By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
Back in the year 1999, renowned American singer-songwriter Sisqo enlightened us about, you know, the finer things in life, declaring to the world that indeed, amongst us, some just wanna show, that thong th thong thong thong.
And why not. If that’s what floats your boat, then so be it.
But for one woman in the United States, the choice to let us see that thong as she visited a popular South Carolina beach unexpectedly landed her handcuffed by police and escorted away – her dress too scandalous, for another beach-goer who couldn’t handle it.
(As an aside, can you believe it’s been over 20 years since the hit Thong Song was released?)
Let’s untie this…
How It All Started: “Some Karen” Calls Police Over Skimpy Beach Outfit
In case you haven’t heard of Sam Panda, she’s a well-known acrobat and professional aerial performer in America – so tiny costumes are her thing.
On 2 August 2020, Ms Panda decided to spend the day with friends at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.
She arrived wearing a baseball cap, purple swimsuit top, and a black ‘thong’ bottom, before simply getting on with her day in the sun.
However, it wasn’t long before she found herself in handcuffs and ushered away by police because, as it turns out, another woman on the sand called Myrtle Beach authorities after finding the performer’s bikini too revealing and taking offense to her exposed body.
The startling incident was captured on video, which Ms Panda posted to her Facebook page alongside the caption, “Some Karen decided that my body was offensive to her and showed her child that her body could one day lead to her arrest”.
(NB: A “Karen” is a pejorative term coined in the United States to denote a white woman or man perceived to be entitled and privileged.)
In the footage, which quickly went viral, the acrobat can be seen being shackled and detained by two police officers, neither of whom are wearing a face mask.
Entirely confused, Ms Panda, along with the man behind the camera, demand the officers explain what part of the municipal code she has broken.
“Why is it illegal to wear a bikini on the beach?”, the man asks, while the famous Ms Panda adds, “I literally wear this every day!”
The officers ask the group to follow them to their car, and are then seen reading out the wording of the ordinance.
“It shall be unlawful for any person to appear in the nude on any public beach… or any public property in the view of the public,” one officer recites from the Myrtle Beach municipal code.
“I’m not nude!” Mr Panda protests.
The group then engage in a debate about whether the body parts revealed by a thong should qualify as nudity.
Officers inform Ms Panda that her swimsuit violates both Horry County and Myrtle Beach government laws, both of which have prohibited the type of swimsuit bottoms for several years.
Later, Ms Panda can be heard saying to the officer gripping her arm, “Can you just let go of me?”
“No. You’re in handcuffs,” the officer asserts.
A perplexed Ms Panda gripes, “You put me in handcuffs for being in a thong!”
Backing her sentiment, her friend filming the video adds, “Just because she has a bikini that is more revealing, doesn’t mean she’s in the wrong”.
“There’s no nudity going on here,” he affirms.
Shakin’ That Thing Like Who’s The Ish: Ms Panda Detained for “Dancing”
According to reports from Fox News, it turns out Ms Panda was actually detained because of “how [she was] acting”, which can also be heard later in the clip.
Myrtle Beach police said officers received a report advising that two women who were wearing thong bikinis and a sheer top, were “dancing and soliciting videos on the beach”.
Meanwhile, although the code read out in the footage doesn’t seem to cover the outfit Panda was wearing, the Myrtle Beach municipal code does prohibit the exposure of a person’s buttocks.
“It shall be unlawful for any person to intentionally appear in any public place in such a state of dress or undress so as to expose to the view of others the human male or female genitals, pubic area, pubic hair, buttocks, anus, vulva or any portion of the female breast at or below the areola thereof,” it states.
Ultimately, Ms Panda complied with the police and was permitted to leave the beach without being arrested.
The Skimpy Swimsuit: Viral Video Draws Lengthy Discussion from Social Media Users
Ms Panda’s video drew over 194,000 views in less than a day, receiving thousands of comments and lengthy discussions from users debating the actions of the police officers.
“This is absolutely absurd! It’s a beach! Someone was just jealous because these woman are beautiful, confident and take pride in their bodies,” one user commented.
“You can buy them [thongs] at every beachwear store on the beach but can’t wear it. Makes no sense,” wrote another.
Another user claimed Ms Panda’s style of swimsuit had clearly been banned on the beach.
“Although I think a thong should be allowed, it’s not. Thongs have always been banned on the beaches of Myrtle Beach.”
Ms Panda rose to fame after surviving an accident in Bali during an acrobatic performance which resulted in spinal damage and a broken neck.
Footage of the fall circulated the incident, revealing the aerialist’s strength and optimistic outlook in light of the incident.
Is Wearing a Thong to The Beach Really A Problem? The Law on “Obscene Exposure” in NSW
Generally speaking, “obscene exposure” is categorised as any kind of behaviour that will offend or violate the contemporary standards of decency judged by the current community standards.
Accordingly – and for obvious reasons – conduct such as flashing your genitalia at the beach, walking around naked in a park, sexual activity carried out in public, even streaking at events, are considered offensive to citizens and thus are against the law.
Such offences of obscene exposure can be met with harsh penalties, including jail time, fines, and a criminal record.
However, conduct that does not establish obscene exposure can include where a person visits a nudist beach and does so unclothed.
In NSW, the offence of obscene exposure is outlined in Section 5 of the Summary Offences Act 1988.
It reflects a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail or a fine of $1,100, or both.
Section 5 states that is against the law for a person to, in or within view from a public place or a school, wilfully and obscenely expose his or her person.
It should be noted that someone does not necessarily have to witness the exposure under this offence.
As one would surmise, obscene exposure does not include accidental exposure that was unintentional – for example, if you were to accidentally display your genitalia to someone because of a wardrobe malfunction.
Under section 3 of the Summary Offences Act 1988, a “public place” is understood as a place or part of premises that is open to the public, or is used by the public whether or not on payment of money or other consideration, whether or not the place or part is ordinarily so open or used and whether or not the public to whom it is open consists only of a limited class of persons, but does not include a school.
Have a question on this topic? Get in touch with our criminal lawyers Blacktown, Sydney or Parramatta based today for a free first consult.