I’m pretty sure I know who 99 percent of my regular readers are, and I’m pretty sure all of them are intelligent, critical and feminist enough to recognize BarstoolSports.com for the piece of misogynist, disgusting, unfunny shit that it is. So it’s possible this column will seem like preaching to the choir, and the true sources (and targets) of my vitriol and ire will never read this. Still, some measure of reaction is necessary.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Dave Portnoy – CEO and “el Pres” of BarstoolSports.com – posted a photo of Tom Brady‘s 2-year-old son, Benjamin, Thursday. A naked photo. A naked photo with comments pointing to the size of the toddler’s genitalia.
I won’t include the link because a) I don’t want to encourage anyone to look at something as horrific and reprehensible as this, and b) because mother Gisele Bundchen already sent a cease-and-desist letter to Portnoy to have the photo removed, and Portnoy has complied (for now). Portnoy also made a video essentially justifying his actions and calling himself a victim after WEEI’s afternoon show “encouraged” violence against him.
Portnoy crossed a line that really shouldn’t even need discussion. How can you argue it’s “o.k.” to put a naked photo of a 2-year-old online and then tell people to gawk at it? What possible justification could you have? Do you think the public has a “right to know” what Benjamin Brady’s penis looks like? Do you think a child who can’t even read “was asking for it” by being naked on a beach? Are children too young to form memories mature enough to make their own decisions about selling their bodies? If this were your kid, instead of a famous athlete’s, would you hesitate for a second to sue Portnoy for everything he has, then fight back the urge to beat Portnoy to a bloody pulp when you faced him court?
Portnoy is an awful human being for doing this, but he’s not the only one to blame. To everyone who’s ever read BarstoolSports.com (and I can thankfully say I’ve not, beyond this column and a class assignment), who’s said how great the site is, who’s given his or her consent (intentional or not) for Portnoy and his staff to perpetuate every misogynistic stereotype on the face of the planet: this is also your fault. Your support led to this. You gave Portnoy an aura of invincibility, of authenticity. Every time you cheered him on, you killed a bit more of his consciousness. Faced with overwhelmingly positive reinforcement, Portnoy spiraled into depravity… because you told him that’s what you want. You devoured his content like a drug, and he became as dirty as a drug dealer.
Barstool Sports readers created a monster, and now he’s done something monstrous.
I’ve met Portnoy: he’s an arrogant, disrespectful jackass. Or, if you like him, he’s a “rascal.” Either way, it’s possible this could put Portnoy in jail, and rightly so. Massachusetts law states: “Whoever, with lascivious intent, disseminates any visual material that contains a representation or reproduction of any posture or exhibition in a state of nudity involving the use of a child who is under eighteen years of age … shall be punished in the state prison for a term of not less than ten nor more than twenty years or by a fine of not less than ten thousand nor more than fifty thousand dollars or three times the monetary value of any economic gain derived from said dissemination … or by both such fine and imprisonment.” They define “lascivious intent” to include if “the focal point of a visual depiction is the child’s genitalia.” On its own, the photo may or may not be pornographic. With Portnoy’s comments however, it becomes lascivious, and Portnoy could be in trouble.
Portnoy, you’re a disgusting, despicable turd, and I hope when you go to jail you’re made to stand in a shower naked while inmates gawk at your genitalia. Then maybe you’ll understand what Benjamin Brady might go through for the rest of his life.
Portnoy should and hopefully will be punished for his actions. But his readers should know they share some of the the blame.