March 04, 2010

Private Lives of Public People: Tiger Woods and Other Sex Scandals

new janis By Janis Prince Inniss

I have many reactions to Tiger Woods’ televised mea culpa. The one that prompted this post is embarrassment, however. As I watched a recording of the entire 14 minute speech, I felt an overwhelming urge to look down in order to avoid looking at Woods’ eyes as he spoke. (When his face on camera failed and they moved to a side shot, I like that distance between us better.) Although Woods did not offer any real details about his extramarital affairs, this was the first time he had publicly said anything about them. Instead of releasing another short, crisp written statement on his website, this time he spoke directly to the viewer, saying to me, you, and the rest of the world things like:

Elin and I have started the process of discussing the damage caused by my behavior. As Elin pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words; it will come from my behavior over time. We have a lot to discuss; however, what we say to each other will remain between the two of us.

I was embarrassed to hear this kind of information, for example, because I felt like a Peeping Tom. I could imagine an exchange between the couple in which Elin told Tiger that if he were really sorry he would stop having extramarital affairs. That’s couple talk though—what people couples say to each other in private.

As a professional marriage and family therapist, I have heard such private conversations in my office. But since I don’t know this couple personally, and I’m not their therapist it felt odd to be privy to their deeply personal conversation. It was interesting to note that Woods asked the public to request their privacy just after he revealed part of one of their private conversations. He also revealed where he’s been for the past month and a half:

It's hard to admit that I need help, but I do. For 45 days from the end of December to early February, I was in inpatient therapy receiving guidance for the issues I'm facing.

With this comment, Woods admitted what had widely reported in the news: that he had been undergoing treatment. Although Woods did not directly acknowledge that he was in a sex rehabilitation program, it is easy enough to put two and two together. Again, this is information that I consider private—despite the existence of a television show such as “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew”.

As I proceed, I understand people have questions. I understand the press wants to ask me for the details and the times I was unfaithful. I understand people want to know whether Elin and I will remain together. Please know that as far as I'm concerned, every one of these questions and answers is a matter between Elin and me. These are issues between a husband and a wife.

Indeed, when I imagined what Woods could or would say if he finally made an appearance, like most people I thought he’d express remorse and perhaps offer details about his affairs. But how is any of this my business? When did details about the sex lives of public figures become open to the public? Why are they?

If you’re old enough to remember when the O. J. Simpson court case hijacked our televisions, you might recognize the name, Robert Kardashian. Kardashian—now deceased—was one of Simpson’s attorneys. Today, the name Kardashian is synonymous with the E! reality hit show – “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”– and its star, Kim Kardashian. Best as I can figure out, before getting involved with fashion, and being a spokesperson, Kim Kardashian was famous for co-starring in a sex tape with singer Ray J. Similarly, Paris Hilton’s road to fame seems to have been well paved by her sex video.

A number of the women who allege that Tiger Woods had affairs with them have also gained some media exposure which looks like it will be parlayed into 5 or 10, if not 15, minutes of fame. Rather than being ashamed of their roles in the damage to a marriage, many of these women have made television appearances:

Some of these women have made murmurings of regret and apology but don’t appear to be sufficiently embarrassed to want to crawl under a rock—the place I presume I would want to be if I were discovered in such an entanglement. Instead, high profile journalists such as Meredith Viera air of their stories. Perhaps the greatest example of this publicity hounding was the post Woods apology “news” conference by Veronica Siwik Daniels and her attorney, Gloria Allred. This alleged Woods mistress demanded a personal apology from Woods because she said she had given up so much for him, including her porn movie career.

Actually, I was hoping that Woods would never make a statement or do an interview about his affairs. Why? Because it would be an interesting sociological exercise in what happens when such public figures do not take this beaten path (coming forward to confess, and cry, as they unload their burdens on us).

Every media expert I saw discuss the Woods story said that in order for the golfer to return to the sport and continue to endorse products, he would have to at least make a statement and perhaps also agree to a big, tell-all interview with someone like Barbara Walters or Oprah Winfrey. The sociologist in me couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if he didn’t. Is there another path back? Can some one person redefine the bounds of privacy? Or perhaps Woods would stay out of the limelight…forever.

With 24 hour news reporting and online social media, how much detail about the private lives of public people does our appetite now demand? And what do we gain, or lose, from having access to the private lives of public people?


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I think the media should mature in their understanding of what news is. I am just as embarrassed as you are. For Tiger, for his wife, and for all of us that pry into the private lives of others

Tiger woods is a public figure so people are still going to talk about him both in the game or outside the game.maybe his followers are not doing good job protecting him now because it looks like he started his behaviour long time ago but nobody knew.The ladies are also looking for fame and maybe money too that is if he shared with them. The media could have find out this long time ago,it was not a big secret.It is good Tiger went to sex rehab and came out to apologise to his wife and fans.If he is still addicted he is going to do it again.But i believe he should stick to his wife.

I have also been wondering whether Woods was going to do a "tell all" special with Opera or some other big shot talk show star. But this article also opened my eyes to, why should he have to do that? Just because he is famous? If my neighbor cheated on his wife, he wouldn't be caught dead on Opera! This made me think about how much attention is put on this man simply because he is a famous golfer. I think that the media should settle down and let this man fix his family himself, and that the public should stop concentrating on other people's lives, and focus on their own.

i think that the media need to mind their own business and not pry into the sex lives and private lives of famous people. I am sure if they became famous they would not want that plasters everywhere for the world to see their private lives.

I am in total agreement with you on this Tiger Wood ordeal. I didn't mind the info at first, but the media definitely took it way to far by saying he apologized x amount of time and said sorry x amount of time and blah blah blah.... I mean really?

I agree completely I get really sick and tired of the media always covering the pesonal lives of celebrities. I'll be watching tv and the news will come on and 3 out of 4 stories will about some celebrity scandal, and it's rediculous, there is so much other things going on in the world that the media should really leave peoples private lives out of it.

I think that the media is doing their job that they are suppose to do, but then the question of 'How far is too far?' pops up because this is a very private issue but has managed to get around the world. Tiger Woods is a very known celebrity figure in today's society and he would have to of known that the media would eventually find out about this because everything that stars do, usually gets out into the media. Even though Tiger Woods is a star and is well-known that does not mean that the media has to be 'all up' in his business. His business is his business and he deserves to have his privacy and not have to deal with the media just because he has a known name. Tiger is just like half or even more than half of American, people cheat! That is the truth to it. He has made huge mistakes that might cost him his family but that doesnt mean he doesnt deserve his privacy. I dont think that Tiger needed to televise an apology because i dont feel that i needed to hear an apology because i could care less if he cheated or not. I mean what he did was moraly wrong but him apologizing on T.V. is not going to make it go away or make it a lot better. The only person, that i feel deserves an apology would be his wife and family. Tiger might loose fans from this and he will also keep fans too, but i dont think that Tiger Woods needs to be focusing on the media and what is being said because he knows what happened and what he needs to do to get his life back in order. The media needs to back off and to go onto the next topic and give the man a break.

Woods is just like us. He is real. We have the tendency to glorify public figures and assume that their lives are perfect and wonderful. But he falls, just like we fall. He, too, deserves a quiet recovery and reconciliation just like we want. As a public figure, however, we want to know everything about his fall. We want the interviews and tell-all books before we will put him back up on a pedestal. I agree, it would be a precedent-setting experiment for a public figure not to expose his or her private life.

The thing about the media with public figures is that it is so predictable. The public idolizes somebody for sports, music or acting, it goes to the figures head and then they start to think they are invincible. So, they do something stupid like we all do, and they have to apologize and make amends to the public and the media runs with it. I think that it would be refreshing to see one of these figures say "the hell with what the public thinks, I only care about what my family thinks and they're the only ones getting the apology and explanation." I know that I for one would have a whole lot more respect for them. These people are just like us and basically I feel sorry for them because they have absolutely no privacy.

I believe that the Tiger sex scandel was ok to inform the nation about, but in all reality it's him and his family's problem not the whole nation. yes he is a public figure, but in what reality is it ok for us to pry into anyones personal life and does it help anyone to post it all over the country which will just make it harder for is family. I think all and all it's his personal life and we shouldn't be butting in.

I believe that Tiger Woods’ scandal is, unfortunately, become a model for what men are supposed to do in our culture. By expressing that this is permissible, like Paris Hilton’s or Kim Kardashian’s sex tapes, our culture has expressed that men who have sex with many women are superior because of this. High schoolers already deal with this issue. The teenage boys who have sex are often seen as great people, while teen girls are looked at poorly. If this is already occurring, and stereotypes that are detrimental to a group of people exist, this deviant culture is becoming more mainstream. We as a community (or put loosely a society) are saying that these things are permissible for people to do, and they will be praised for these doings.

The media today is making this form of deviance seem almost glamorous, people often achieve fame from the appearance of sex tapes of sex scandals. In turn, this can also lead to the deviant individual profiting financially from their actions. Tiger was also essentially forced into making a statement about his actions when really the public had no right to information about his private life; no matter how wrong his actions were he should still have a right to privacy.

It is sad and pathetic how much society relies on and believes the media. Celebrities cannot be placed on a pedestal. They are humans too, just like you and me. Tiger made a mistake, but it is time for him to deal with his problems alone without the media, and in turn all of America, following his every move.

Yeah totally agree kelly, tiger made a big mistake, he's paying for it now big time and the press just love to knock people down as it sells more newspapers etc.

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