In High Demand: Online Peepshow of ESPN's Erin Andrews

Erin Andrews, at the ESPY Awards , was videotaped primping in a hotel.
Erin Andrews, at the ESPY Awards , was videotaped primping in a hotel. (By Matt Sayles -- Associated Press)
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By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Apparently she is naked, and really naked. Full frontal, and full back-al, too. Apparently she does something in front of a mirror (fixes her hair?) and something else at an ironing board. Apparently this video is very hot, even while its existence is very slimy. Almost everyone agrees it should never have been made.

The desire to watch is strong among many people.

The video in question unwittingly stars Erin Andrews, the ESPN journalist who has twice been voted "America's Sexiest Sportscaster" by Playboy magazine. The back story, for those who haven't been glued to laptops: Last Thursday, a video featuring a primping blonde in a hotel room surfaced on an adult Web site. The accompanying post hinted that the woman was a drool-worthy sports personality. On Friday, her Los Angeles attorney, Marshall Grossman, affirmed that it was Andrews, and that the video had been taken by an unknown peeping Tom.

Grossman and ESPN's lawyers threatened legal action against anyone who reproduced the content.

This being the Internet, the warning was useless.

Early Tuesday afternoon, the top Google search was "Erin Andrews peephole pictures," likely due, in part, to a New York Post article that ran on the story. The third most popular was "Erin Andrews hotel video." The fifth? "Erin Andrews peephole video link rapidshare." Even "Aaron Andrews" received a bump, from lewd but illiterate voyeurs. The use of the word "peephole" is guesswork -- no one could tell immediately how the video was shot.

The media were happy to feed the frenzy. Fox News aired stills from the video; CBS's "The Early Show" played strategically blurred-out segments. The original video link had disappeared by the weekend, but file-sharing sites all over the Web still lured in viewers: "Erin Andrews Peephole Full Video Online Free!" It was hard to avoid glimpsing a naked Erin Andrews online, even if you didn't want to.

Which so many people did despite warnings in Internet discussions that watching it would make them perverts. Watching would make them complicit. Those who have seen it try to protect others: "I feel dirty having watched it," writes a poster going by "Jacob Schumer" on sports Web site

But these warnings tantalize as much as they dissuade. Would you feel dirty having watched it? Or would you decide, as some jaded bloggers have, that this is all a publicity stunt, that Andrews knew she was on camera? Perhaps it is your duty to watch, just to be informed. Wouldn't you watch a naked video of, say, Chris Berman, just because it was there? An Internet that has made it possible for us to see everything for ourselves prompts the urge to see everything for ourselves, to personally evaluate the horror of Daniel Pearl's beheading or the sick dullness of Saddam Hussein's hanging. (What if you're a woman? If you're a straight woman with no prurient interests in Erin Andrews, just trying to assess the offensiveness, then can you watch it?)

Andrews has declined all interview requests. Grossman released a statement on her behalf, saying that the sportscaster "was the victim of a crime and is taking action to protect herself and help ensure that others are not similarly violated in the future."

In the meantime, the question of whether to watch might be moot: In an unusual case of the Internet censoring itself, many of the links purporting to lead to the video now just lead to viruses -- virtual STDs punishing viewers for their voyeurism. Finding a genuine, unedited copy of the video has become increasingly difficult. The good citizen in you receives this news with relief. Your inner voyeur is slightly disappointed, clicking link after link, knowing that you would watch the appalling video for all the right reasons.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company