Jason Whitlock is a provocateur. A gadfly. The Fox Sports columnist writes “from absolutely every angle, including angles other writers can't imagine or muster the courage to address. His columns are humorous, thought-provoking, agenda free, honest, unpredictable and uncomfortable for white and black people comfortable with their biases.” Ah, yes, the old “you can’t handle the truth” gambit.
So when ESPN correspondent Steve Phillips was fired for his fling with an assistant, Whitlock felt an opinion coming on.
The Phillips scandal is so lurid it makes the Letterman contretemps look like a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. After a brief, torrid affair with Phillips, 22-year-old Brooke Hundley sent a letter to his wife, Marni, in which she identified herself as “not just some random girl he had sex with in parking lots” and described the “big birthmark on his crotch right above his penis.” She then filed a restraining order against the ESPN star, claiming she felt “"an immediate and present physical danger" from him. There’s more, including a 911 call from Marni about the “crazy woman” and accusations that Hundley posed online as a teenager to pump Phillips’ son for the details of their parents’ marriage. Unshockingly, Phillips’ wife filed for divorce soon after, and he is now in rehab for sex addiction.
Enter Whitlock, who sees the actions of two possibly batshit individuals as cause for a declaration of war on “Pussy Galore,” a formidable foe who is also one of his favorite topics. In a column that any human with a frontal lobe can only assume is mere parody, Whitlock explains that it was Pussy who “shredded Rick Pitino's reputation. She pushed Josh Hamilton off the wagon. She sweet-talked Charles Barkley into driving drunk. She hoodwinked Dirk Nowitzki into falling in love with a fugitive.” As one of Pussy’s unofficial spokespersons, I believe the correct response is “You’re welcome.”
Whitlock then adds the disclaimer that “The above comments are just jokes,” before really getting rolling. He then offers that “if a man can afford a no-disease, no-pregnancy occasional night on the town without it affecting his financial and lovemaking responsibilities at home, as mature adults we must reach the point where we can allow this without breaking up the family or running a man from political office/off the set of a popular TV show.”
He’s got a point there. An indvidual’s “night on the town” isn’t necessarily the business of anybody but the parties directly involved. And by anybody, I do mean anybody -- whatever the philanderer’s gender may be.
But Whitlock instead presumes that fidelity is a hardship only men endure: “Monogamy was invented before women entered the workplace, text messaging, cell phones, Viagra, exercise, makeup, perfume, hair extensions, shaved legs, clothes that revealed cleavage, Internet porn and on and on.” Dude, that’s not just puzzling logic, that’s some bad writing.
He complains that “women are far more sexually aggressive than they used to be,” but asserts “women are looking for love in the wrong place. It's not in our crotch.” Well, good, because that’s where I usually look for a penis.
Finally Whitlock invents a hardy-har-har scale of how much side action a man should be allotted based on his income: “Any man earning more than $1 million a year should come and go as he damn well pleases.”
But I wonder, would he say, even in jest, that a woman of similar prosperity should enjoy the same privileges? Or is that joke not as funny? If as he suggests, “Only humans are dumb enough to place such importance on sexual monogamy. It's unnatural. It's emotionally crippling,” does that apply to both sexes? Hard to say, because when Whitlock writes about women who aren't mistresses, it's likelier to criticize their bodies. This is a guy who opined recently that Serena Williams "has no business losing a major to a baby's mama. And everyone knows damn well if Serena dropped 20 pounds and focused on her game, she'd be untouchable."
I tried to contact Whitlock via phone and e-mail to get some answers, but didn’t hear back. I'd like to know, because it seems that in true playa fashion, he really does want to have it all. He can enjoy the praise of those who find his remarks entertaining, can dodge accusations of misogyny by claiming it’s all just a joke, and can pull in all the sputtering apoplexy and glorious page hits inherent in a manufactured controversy.
Clever, huh? Except that it’s so gross. I certainly have no fondness for sexism of the true-blue variety, but there’s something particularly offensive about playing the “men are dawgs” card under the auspices of wit. Maybe it would be more effective if it were truly thought provoking or even funny, but honestly, I’ve laughed more at Jeff Dunham. Drumming up attention with cracks about strip clubs and needing “visitation privileges” to Pussy? I'm not the humorless one here if I gag a little. I can’t help it. It's like Whitlock says about cheating, “It's simply not personal. It's physical.”
UPDATE: This morning, nearly nineteen hours after my initial email to Mr. Whitlock, he sent an reply that read:
Just read your piece. Obviously, you didn't really want to talk to me. You gave me all of a few minutes to respond to your interview request.
Anywho, I think I enjoyed your column. My column was humorous.
I wrote back that we would still be happy to talk to him for Salon and include his response to the story. We'll keep you posted.