More on Serena Williams’ Sexy Twitter Avatar: Demands of Modern Media Hijack Common Sense

Serena Williams Twitter avatar (briefly)

For some reason, we can’t have a normal, rational discussion about common sense. It takes too much time. So I should have expected the type of reaction I’d get from a little truth I wrote the other day about Serena Williams and her sexy Twitter avatar.

It pushed a button somewhere, and the automatic thoughts popped up about me: Victim-blamer, misogynist. I’ve been called those things hundreds of times in the past few days, all because I said it was reckless of her to post a photo of herself in white bra, panties and high heels so close to her stalker scare.

I’m not sure how this has happened, whether our reaction time is just so fast now because of Twitter and a 24-hour news cycle, but we’ve dropped into such a simplistic mentality about things. We go straight to a yes/no, up/down, black/white, Republican/Democrat faulty either/or logical fallacy. Maybe it’s because of technology’s lightning pace: An idea comes up that people don’t agree with and there is no time to think it through, find shades of gray, so the opposing thoughts fall into neat, orderly, pre-cut extreme categories, names, labels.

I wrote that Williams’ picture, which had you looking at her through a sheer curtain, was suggestive of peeping at her, but was not pornographic. She looked great in it, and under normal circumstances, it might be considered artistic. But not now. Not just a week or so after a stalker had been arrested. At this point, it’s reckless. It’s also hypocritical.

The reaction went a little nuts. Yahoo! wrote a column about it and put it on their email welcome screen. AOL ran my column on its welcome screen. My little tennis blog here had over 700,000 hits. It’s on some foreign site now, but I’m not sure what they’re saying or even what language it’s in.

Next thing you know, one of the on-air people on ABC News is saying my column was “like saying the woman wore a short skirt and opened herself up to some kind of attack.’’ A blog had this headline: “Greg Couch says Serena Williams is asking for it.’’ wrote this: “Who among us has the right to tell a woman when, where and how to be sexy?

It was an amazing example of the immediacy and reach of the modern media, and its potential shallowness.

Yahoo!’s Chris Chase wrote that he disagreed with me: “What’s Serena supposed to do, let the creepy guys win? Dress like Mary Todd Lincoln for the rest of her life?. . .If that’s going to be the case, she might as well stop tweeting since her accused stalker used that as a tool (to track her). . .Hell, she might as well stop playing tennis because that’s how the stalker found her in the first place.’’

Mrs. Lincoln (not her Twitter avatar)

Really? Is that the choice? Put up a photo in bra, panties and high heels or dress like Mary Todd Lincoln? Nothing in between those options? Run that photo or retire from tennis.

Just. Think.

I am not blaming Williams for the behavior of social deviants. She is not to blame for the faulty wiring of some nutjob. Nothing she did caused it.

But a warrant had been put out on this alleged stalker, who had appeared in several places all over the country near her. Once, he reportedly got into her dressing room at Home Shopping Network. How did he know where to find her? He allegedly told police that tracking here whereabouts was easy: She says on Twitter where she’ll be.

Even after she knew she had a stalker, and the search was on for him, she continued to tweet where she would be. Does that make her to blame for the stalking? No. It makes her reckless. She put up that photo on her Twitter account to get people to leer at her just days after having someone put away for leering too hard.

At least SB Nation, in writing that I was victim-blaming, did say I wasn’t a “monstrous misogynist.’’ So at least I had that on my side.

Who has the right to tell women when, where, how to be sexy? No one. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t be an issue at all. But this world isn’t perfect, Williams is a target and the timing of that avatar was all wrong.

It’s not a popular thing to say, because the buttons are ready to be pushed and the labels ready to be stamped. But it’s not blaming the victim to say you should take certain precautions. We all take precautions to prevent bad people from doing the wrong things, even if we shouldn’t have to.

I asked a private eye/security person, who prefers to remain private, what he thought of the avatar.

“She needs new security people,’’ he said. “They should have told her not to put that picture up. It’s not what you put up right after you had a stalker incident. This is the time to let things cooool down a little.’’

I doubt Williams consults security people before tweeting, but instead sees it as a personal thing with her friends and fans. She did take down the avatar after having it up for only a few hours, so maybe someone realized she was playing with something dangerous.

But now a Twitter follower told her she should put it back up, and she responded by tweeting: “OK Tweeple. What do you think?’’

Anonymous tweeple aren’t exactly the best place to go for security advice following a stalker scare.

Give this some cool thought before putting it back up. Ask security people. And mix these two thoughts: 1) You have the right to do what you want 2) There are nut cases out there. Oh, a third thing, but just a suggestion: Don’t dress like Mrs. Lincoln.

About gregcouch

I can talk tennis all day long, and often do. And yet some of the people I talk to about it might rather I talk about something else. Or with someone else. That’s how it is with tennis, right? Sort of an addiction. Sort of a high. I am a national columnist at and a FoxSports1 TV insider, and have been a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2010, I was the only American sports writer to cover the full two weeks of all four majors, and also to cover each of the U.S. Masters series events. I’ve seen a lot of tennis, talked with a lot of players, coaches, agents. I watched from a few rows behind the line judge as Serena rolled her foot onto the baseline for the footfault, a good call, at the 2009 U.S. Open. I sat forever watching a John Isner marathon, leaving for Wimbledon village to watch an England World Cup soccer game at a pub and then returning for hours of Isner, sitting a few feet from his wrecked coach. I got to see Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling joke around on a practice court on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, placing a small wager on a tiebreaker. Djokovic won, and Soderling pulled a bill out of his wallet, crumpled it into his fist and threw it at Djokovic, who unwadded it, kissed it, and told me, “My work is done here.’’ And when Rafael Nadal won the French Open in 2010, I finished my column, walked back out onto the court, and filled an empty tic tac container with the red clay. I’m looking at it right now. Well, I don’t always see the game the same way others do. I can be hard on tennis, particularly on the characters in suits running it. Tennis has no less scandal and dirt than any other game. Yet somehow, it seems to be covered up, usually from an incredible web of conflicts of interest. I promise to always tell the truth as I see it. Of course, I would appreciate it if you’d let me know when I’m wrong. I love sports arguments and hope to be in a few of them with you here. Personal info: One-handed backhand, serve-and-volleyer. View all posts by gregcouch

23 responses to “More on Serena Williams’ Sexy Twitter Avatar: Demands of Modern Media Hijack Common Sense

  • sissi

    You’re the BIGGEST IDIOT ON EARTH Couch, who gives you the right to judge her personal life? Are you a tennis columnist or just another Perez Hilton? Shame on you you get paid for that, obsessing over someone’s life.

  • sissi

    Wait, your son is probably gonna be a future renowned tennis player. I wonder how you’ll feel when someone will blast him absolutely unfairly

  • Yolita

    LOL I can absolutely see your point, Greg! There’s no room for thoughtfulness in the modern world!
    I agree with everything you said, but you should have known the reaction you were going to get! Maybe you knew, but didn’t expect the intensity. 😀
    Just let it pass. One advantage of this frenzied modern world is that people forget everything instantly. They get bored. They want something else! So just ride the storm. In a couple of days everybody will be talking about something else. Cheers. 😛

  • rspatafora

    It’s all about prudence, and I think that’s what you were trying to get at. But there are reactionary types out there who are looking to be victimized and outraged (see commenter sissi, above). There are also pretty heavy-duty sycophant types out there for whom you may never criticize a Williams.

    I think you were fair. And a bit courageous. Strong work.

  • John JM

    GC, everything you wrote was spot on, but yeah, I could have told you you’d be ducking fire. People get touchy about women-as-victim issues, even when the obvious point to be made is that the woman involved should have been smarter.

    But the knee-jerkers aren’t in it for common sense. It’s pure emotion. And theory. They think that Serena SHOULD be allowed to do whatever she wants and be without consequence because it’s her right, and the world SHOULD behave. So damn you for being so…practical!

    I wonder if these same people have ever told their daughters to “cover up” before going out at night, because–ahem–isn’t that preemptive blame??

  • Sean Callanan


    Good article, athletes need to realise especially what they are doing especially with geolocation becoming a big player. Strange Serena did not get better advice or perhaps she wasn’t listening.

    Take a look at Lebron when he (or his people) started tweeting he did not have geolocation turned off –

    @seancallanan from @sportsgeekhq


    I believe in modest dress, but it is Greg Couch who is the hypocrite here. He knows full well that long before Serena Williams started wearing “sexy” attire, she was stalked by a German man years ago. The man was caught and incarcerated after he had a meltdown in the foyer of a hotel he’d tracked Serena to. Couch also knows that Martina Hingis, who also was wearing relatively modest attire, was stalked and testified against her stalker in court. Couch is also well aware that a female Eastern European tennis player appeared NAKED on a HORSE in a men’s magazine YEARS ago. What Couch has done to innocent Serena is racist — plain and simple. He knows full WELL he would NEVER have stooped to blaming the victim if Serena were white. He is evilly cashing in by casting aspersions on a woman of color ( even bragging now about his 700,000 “hits” )– as he has done for years now. His racist digs — and he — are disgusting.


    ??? If Couch REALLY thinks publicizing the picture is “reckless” why is he placing it on his blog?? Either he DOESN’T think it’s reckless and is LYING to get “hits” on the internet, or he DOES think it’s reckless and is recklessly plastering it everywhere he can despite the “damage” he thinks it may do to Serena’s safety!! Either way, Couch has proven once again to be a racist twit out to besmirch the characters of the very decent black women on the tour. For all he knows Serena is wearing a bikini. Certainly more flesh is flashed on beaches all over this country. And I wonder what – if anything – Couch had to say about the female Eastern European player on tour who years ago appeared NAKED on a horse in a men’s magazing. No. Couch’s racism is gag-worthy and if ANYONE’S a “hypocrite,” he is.

  • rspatafora

    it was just a matter of time until someone played the race card. yawn.


    rspatafora, Anna Kournikova was pursued by a NAKED stalker, but I don’t remember seeing an article from Greg Couch about how she should stop making sexy poses for photos in men’s magazines! His ridiculously transparent double-standard makes HIM the person who brought race into this – not I. Several people have stated that Couch is biased – because he has been. There have been glimmers of objective writing on his part, and a few justifiably positive articles about the Williamses, but too often he has either capitulated to a racist element in society or he has a bit of a problem in that regard himself. Either way it’s inexcusable to pretend Serena is allegedly “taking too long” to recover from injury when Lindsay Davenport took longer to recover from the same injury and Maria Sharapova has taken TWICE as long to recover from her shoulder injury! If it looks like double-standard, smells like a double-standard, and whines like a double-standard, then, it’s a double-standard!

    • gregcouch

      Thanks for your thoughts. I just looked up the story about Kournikova’s stalker. That happened in 2005, so you’re right: you wouldn’t remember me writing about that. I wasn’t a tennis writer at the time. Lindsay Davenport was retired before I started writing tennis. So no, I would suggest it’s not a double-standard. I also don’t remember saying that it was taking Serena too long to heal from her injury. Where did I say that? Last, I was very hard on Sharapova. I guess I’d just say that if you don’t like my columns, that’s fine. It’s your choice. But it’s pretty low of you to not have any clue about what I’ve written or what I haven’t written, or even when I started writing, and yet claim that there is some racist double-standard involved. That’s a pretty harsh accusation to throw out so casually.


    Mr. Couch, I thank you for your timely, though irrelevant reply. You may have “just” started writing about tennis, but you didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. You, like everyone else not living under a bridge, were fully aware of the “sexy” poses of white players or you wouldn’t have REFERENCED them (prejudiciously intimating at the same time that they were allegedly “cleaner” somehow than Serena’s pictures when many of them WEREN’T). It would have been an EASY thing for you to look up whether or not any other players had been stalked and when — BEFORE you wrote that evil article about Serena. Martina Hingis’ case against her stalker made INTERNATIONAL news and was covered extensively here in the U.S. And considering NOT winning tournaments and POSING was pretty much ALL Kournikova did, it seems downright strange that you would not have tried to determine whether or not she had been stalked as well – most especially because you LINKED the two – ie., “sexy” pictures and stalking. I’d take you at your word were it not for the fact that
    so many of your articles about the Williams ladies are most unattractively cynical; and lately you seem hell-bent on single-handedly trying to keep the hard-working very decent Williams sisters out of the Olympics with your negative little article that starts with a smell test! I suggest you perform the same olfactory examination on your own writing before you “publish” it. Thank you, kind sir, for your perusal of this missive. Please understand that every WORD is heartfelt and meant for your edification and improvement..

    • gregcouch

      Reality check. There is NO WAY you could possibly have interpreted what I’ve written about the Williams sisters and the Olympics in the way that you did. Here’s what you wrote in this comment: “I’d take you at your word were it not for the fact that so many of your articles about the Williams ladies are most unattractively cynical; and lately you seem hell-bent on single-handedly trying to keep the hard-working very decent Williams sisters out of the Olympics with your negative little article that starts with a smell test!”
      OK, that column that started with the smell test ran on April 5. It’s still here on this site. Just look under past columns. Here is a line that I wrote in that column: “Let me just stop here and say one thing: The Williams sisters absolutely, positively should be allowed to play in the Olympics. They have meant everything to women’s tennis for over a decade.”
      Here’s what I wrote on Jan. 28 on this site: “But most important is this: The Williams sisters have been the face of American tennis for a decade, and to leave them off the Olympic team would actually be an insult.” Here’s what I wrote Nov. 10, 2010: “First things first: I think the Williams sisters should be on the U.S. Olympic team. They have defined U.S. women’s tennis for a decade.”
      Does that sound like I’m “hell-bent” on keeping them out of the Olympics?


    My Dear Mr. Couch, I stand corrected and profusely offer my apologies concerning your other pieces. But when you start an article suggesting that a “smell test” is in order concerning something that a Williams sister is allegedly about to do, and THEN in the same article you ask readers to “vote” on whether such allegedly nefarious goings-on should result in a spot on an Olympic team, what do you expect most readers to come away with? Quite frankly it put me in mind of Mark Anthony’s speech about Brutus in Julius Caesar: “He’s an “honorable” guy but…”

    I can appreciate a journalist’s desire to be seen as “objective,” but in this case your portrayal of an INDIVIDUAL’S (Venus’s) seemingly mandatory adherence to protocol
    as literally “foul” on HER part, makes your work smack a little too much of vaccillation — instead of objectivity.

    Perhaps in painting Venus (whether inadvertently or no) with the same brush you use for the very organization that forces her to “take certain steps”, you almost guarantee that too many of your readers will, with alarmingly self-destructive zeal, “vote” against the Williamses procurring spots on our 2012 team.


    Correction: offer my profuse apologies.

    • Jonathan

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