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Erin Andrews Video Straddles Sports Culture's Sexual Fault Line

Jul 21, 2009 – 10:00 PM
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Clay Travis

Clay Travis %BloggerTitle%

Erin Andrews at the 2009 ESPYsBy now, you or someone you know has forwarded a link to you that may or may not have included the Erin Andrews video, the now famous video ostensibly of the ESPN reporter naked in her hotel room, filmed through a peephole. It's possible you got a woman having relations with a horse instead. With Internet videos you never know quite what to expect. (Or so I've heard.) I think virtually every person who has seen the video agrees that it crosses the line of propriety by a large stretch. But what hasn't been really talked about very much is why Erin Andrews represents more than just herself, she's a symbolic figure, a Rorschach test for modern sexual politics. Don't believe me? Dive into my mind. If you dare.

I'll begin by answering this question: Can a very attractive woman ever be so good at what she does for a living that her attractiveness is ignored by men? I think the answer is no. No matter how equal the sexes ever become. And I get why that totally sucks for professional women.

Let's get this out of the way, if any perpetrator is found, he should be penalized to the fullest extent of the law for secretly filming Andrews inside her hotel room.


That could be under federal or state law for initial or subsequent distribution. The legal complexities of this situation make my head spin.

But I don't think we'll find this person. Why? Because the most brilliant computer minds in the country can't track down those who upload viruses on the Internet. Why do we believe we'll be able to find one pervert who uploaded the Erin Andrews peephole video in a country filled with millions of perverts?

And are the millions of perverts to blame? Did the sexual undercurrent of sports culture make something like this, frankly, unsurprising?

Let's begin with a thesis that I think most men will agree with: "If women truly knew how much time we spend thinking about sleeping with them, they'd never sleep with us."

Probably for the betterment of our society most women have no clue how sex-obsessed we men are in our ordinary lives. I know many women claim to understand, but they don't actually get it. It's like men claiming to understand the pain of giving birth. In theory, we get the concept, but we can't really grasp it. Men help hide this obsession because deep down we're all a little embarrassed by how much sex or the pursuit of sex motivates our actions. At least those of us who are smart enough to realize it. Marketers, television executives, movie producers, and others who make a living off society at large are not surprised by these obsessions. It's why every time I see one of those CSI-type shows, it involves a sex-crime gone awry. Often with a hot, young victim.

Remember back when Cinemax's softcore porn got you through high school? Well, now we live in a softcore porn universe. Everyone toes the line as best they can because sex moves products. Unless, God forbid, Janet Jackson's nipple gets revealed. And then, my God? What of the children?

Sports Internet Scandals

    While undressed in her hotel room, popular ESPN reporter Erin Andrews was videotaped through a peephole, and the resulting footage was posted on the Internet. Now her lawyer vows that civil and criminal charges will be filed against the perpetrator(s). Click through to see more web scandals from the sports world.

    Jamie Squire, Getty Images

    Blue Jays outfielder Alex Rios apologized after his profane exchange with a heckler was captured on video and uploaded to YouTube in early June. "That's not the person that I am," Rios said.

    Mark Cunningham, MLB / Getty Images

    Just days after British tabloid News of the World published this photo of Michael Phelps with a marijuana pipe, USA Swimming suspended the Olympic legend from competition for three months.

    News of the World

    In late January, Dallas Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett was reportedly fined $22,647 for a profane YouTube rap video in which he used derogatory terms for blacks and gays.


    Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart took a dip in some hot water, both figuratively and literally, when Web site released a photo of him partying with four women in a hot tub. The photo was even featured on SportsCenter and drew the ire of head coach Ken Whisenhunt.

    In 2008, controversial Mavericks star Josh Howard was caught on video disrespecting the national anthem before Allen Iverson's charity flag football game. Facing the camera during the anthem, Howard said, "I don't celebrate this s--t. I'm black."


    Redskins tight end Chris Cooley revealed a little too much private information when he snapped a photo of himself with the team playbook on his lap. Underneath the playbook, Cooley's penis was visible, and he later had to offer up a public apology on his personal blog.

    Joe Robbins, Getty Images

    Vince Young's 2008 season was full of more questions than game play for the Tennessee Titans. Some fans doubted Vince Young's commitment to the team when photos of him partying and swigging Patron tequila were leaked on the net.

    Jeff Reed became part of a running joke on sports blogs when numerous photos leaked of the Steelers kicker clubbing with his shirt off and hair gelled up to the heavens.

    Even legends get caught in an awkward position from time to time. After Michael Jordan was photographed looking intoxicated, the "drunk athlete" snapshot became Photoshop material for dozens of sports sites.

We've drawn a weird line here that allows some companies in America to make money off sex while claiming that they aren't actually selling sex. Meet sports leagues. They support the troops. They would never sell sex. Except when they do.

Which ties right in with Andrews. Let's be clear, she's smart. She's good at what she does on the sideline; she's well-prepared, hard-working, professional, and always ready when the camera cuts to her. But, and this is the kicker, how many people in America could do Andrews' job for ESPN every bit as well as she does? I'll tell you, tens of thousands. Maybe even a million. Put plainly, Andrews wouldn't have her job if she looked like YouTube signing sensation Susan Boyle. No matter how good she was. She just wouldn't. Her looks open doors for her that no one else gets to walk through.

Now, once she's through that door she can demonstrate that she deserves the opportunity, that she's actually good at her craft. But it's her looks that open that door. And ESPN put her on television for one reason, because viewers, mostly male, are sexually attracted to her. Put it this way, if Andrews comes on the screen and the television is muted while I'm doing work, am I more likely to turn on the television to hear what she says than if it's an unattractive woman or Chris Berman?


Does that make me stupid?


Does that make me like just about every other male watching television?

I think so.

And Google proves it. While we all may be wagging our heads and tut-tutting about the immorality of the video in question, Google search knows all of our private obsessions. And Google search confirms that come Monday morning, "Erin Andrews" and derivatives were the two most popular search terms in Google; the search graph looks like a bull market. Even by Tuesday afternoon as I write this, she was still sixth, seventh and eighth.

Why is this?

Because ESPN has been selling us softcore sex via Andrews for several years, building up demand for a moment just like this. If you counted how many times men have mentally undressed Andrews while she's giving sideline reports, it would be in the billions. So it's no surprise that tens of millions have viewed the videos. Men from all walks of life, from neurosurgeons to janitors, ESPN executives to the local fan. Erin Andrews working in a 2007 college football game at Texas A&M

But I bet it is a surprise to Andrews. And that really sucks for her. And for women everywhere. It also illustrates how much difference there is between the sexes. Is there any man on earth who women would flock to see ironing clothes naked? I mean for another reason besides confirming that some men do iron clothes for themselves. President Obama? Clooney? Denzel? Mangino?

Nope, nope, nope and yikes. So, right now most women are either offended or befuddled by men's interest. Our minds aren't meeting. And it ain't the first time. The Erin Andrews video is just the latest fault line in sexual politics. Only this time, sports are intimately involved.

I'll put this in a personal context. My wife was a Tennessee Titans cheerleader. I didn't really enjoy it very much to be honest. I was happy when we moved away and she couldn't try out again. Why? Because every time the cheerleaders danced on the field and everyone stood up in the crowd, I knew most men were picking out the girl they'd most like to have sex with. I'd done it for years. Chances are if you're male and you're reading this, you've done it too. There's no other real reason for the football cheerleaders to exist from a male perspective. They're sexual fantasies brought to life.

My wife disagreed that their cheerleading role was entirely based on selling softcore sex. She enjoyed the performance aspect, learning the dance routines, the friendships with the other girls, meeting young children across the community. And that's all a part of it. But more than anything else the leagues are selling sex to their male fans. And most women have no idea how deep that river of desire actually runs.

Then one day a little girl came up to her. "When I grow up, I want to be a Titans cheerleader," the girl said, holding her dad's hand.

"Well, you can do this, but you should want to be a doctor or a lawyer," my wife said.

"Naw, cheerleader'd be good," her dad said, leering.

Later my wife pulled me aside, "Clay, I think most Titans fans would rather their daughter grow up and be a cheerleader than a lawyer."

"I think you're right," I said.

Still do.

Because I think the message we're sending, fair or foul, is that no matter how good any woman is at her job, to a large majority of the men watching her at home, she's just the hot chick that they want to see naked. And you can't tell me that ESPN executives didn't know that too. That, even as they commiserate with Andrews via e-mail, phone calls or whatnot, a large percentage of her co-workers have probably sought out the Erin Andrews video somewhere on the Internet. Because they've probably been picturing her naked, too.

Men all say we all want a son to carry on the family name. But I think in this day and age that's not true anymore. I think we all just fear having a really hot daughter.
Filed under: Sports
Tagged: erin andrews