Saw You Naked! Justin Verlander Pics Strip Our Voyeurism Bare

One of the more disturbing rituals of youth involved bigger kids at the local Boys Club stripping smaller kids of their towels after open swim to point, gawk, and loudly announce: “Saw you naked!”

I watched one tough from the local housing project respond to a target’s resistance to this locker-room custom by pinning his arms down with his knees and beating his nose bloody. This pugilistic feat occurred, a la the ancient Greeks, completely nude and within view of a club attendant—unmatched in his zeal for admonishing adolescent boys to “wring your suits” after swimming and accused posthumously of child molestation, allegations that surprised in their belatedness but not in their substance. So jarring to witness what was surely so scarring to experience, the 8-year-old me simply pulled my sweatpants over my wet swimsuit—even in the dead of the New England winter—after open swim as a protective measure against the violent voyeurs.   

The Boys Club enforcers presumably grew out of this ritualistic humiliation to pursue some other less socially-destructive habit such as methamphetamines or stealing copper pipes. Society retains this locker-room impulse to strip the famous naked and point fingers. Not satiated by the saturation of images of Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst, Hayden Panettiere, and other starlets on screens large and small, hackers pilfered private images of such eye magnets for the purpose of denigrating the celebrated. Saw you naked!

Pitcher Justin Verlander, presumably accustomed to nudity in plain view of cameras in the Tigers clubhouse, appears sans clothes in publicized private pictures with girlfriend Kate Upton, whose presence in the photos tends to avert eyes from the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Award winner. The cell-phone selfies in the bathroom mirror quickly elicited jokes, of which Verlander invariably acted as the “butt.”

 

Saw you naked!

Three societal developments help give context to the controversy.

An evil egalitarianism increasingly compels bottom feeders to pull down top achievers to the muddier depths. The malefactors no doubt rationalize the invasions of privacy because the exposed enjoy better looks, more accomplishments, and greater wealth. It’s only fair to humiliate the successful whose existence humiliates the envious. But the fact that the hackers jealously guard their own privacy behind pseudonymous screen names suggests that, deep down, they know they do wrong.

Second, the supply of such indecent photos--obscene less in their content than in their publication--stems from an insatiable public demand. The nerds wouldn't have hacked if we didn't want. Rather than focus on their own lives, large numbers of bored people choose to live vicariously through their celebrity "friends." Like the papparazi hounding Lady Di, the hackers putting the private moments of public figures on blast stems from the public's appetite. Give the people what they want.  

Third, the Peeping Tom flatters rather than disturbs an aggressively exhibitionist America. We watch more than we do, all the while pining for others to watch us doing nothing. The overwhelming fantasy of the people sharing and tweeting the ill-gotten snapshots hopes that others will someday find their private lives as captivating as they evidently find the private lives of Kate Upton and company. Justin Verlander’s nightmare is their dream. Why else, to borrow a favorite phrase of the Twittericans, all the TMI—the “Dear Diary” blog posts, the YouTube confessionals, the homemade pornography on Tumblr? People devoid of boundaries don’t comprehend violation.

Verlander tweeting out the pics would be cause for embarrassment. But is purloined photographic evidence that one dates a one-percenter in the looks department really cause to hang one’s head? The lookers at the pictures, rather than the lookers in the pictures, should feel shame.

Justin Verlander standing naked in the bathroom mirror next to any one of the millions gawking at him might prove terribly humiliating. A sports-journalist-turned-pornographer snapping a pic of him showering beside Joba Chamberlain certainly would provoke embarrassment. But Kate Upton?

She’s beautiful. The parasites feeding off the pair’s pictures are not.

Saw you naked!


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