There are plenty of nice online photos of Virginia congressional candidate Krystal Ball — portraits of a serious young woman in a dark suit, sweet shots of a young mother with her baby girl.
But the ones that put her on the map last week are the ones of Ball in a skimpy outfit, Santa hat on her head, in risqué poses with a guy wearing reindeer antlers and a bright red phallus for a nose that would make Rudolph blush.
They were taken at a private holiday party about six years ago, just after Ball graduated college. The man in the photos is her then-husband.
And they're trotted out now by Republican bloggers whose goal, as they gleefully state, is to torpedo the 28-year-old Democrat in the race to represent the 1st District, which includes Newport News.
No doubt it's also payback for all those rebroadcasts of Christine "I'm not a witch" O'Donnell's many appearances on TV talk shows that are now crimping her Delaware campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Ball is understandably upset. Actually, more than upset.
"I'm pretty angry about it," she has said. "It's outrageous. It's incredibly sexist."
Sexist? Sorry, Krystal. One thing these pictures aren't is sexist: I guarantee you that if the guy in the phallus nose were running for office today, the very same photos would be blasting through the blogosphere.
Ball also insisted to a Richmond television station that she's "being held to a higher standard as a young woman. This is wrong and unfair."
Higher standard? Higher than what?
Higher than Eliot Spitzer, David Vitter, Larry Craig, John Edwards, Mark Foley, Bob Allen, Mark Sanford, Scott Brown, et al., whose racy, adulterous or sexual indiscretions (some of them criminal) have also served as media grist?
She does have a point though, about "wrong and unfair."
First, it's wrong and unfair that holiday costumes for women basically consist of themed underwear. Seriously.
In the movie "Mean Girls," which skewered high school cliques, one character noted that Halloween parties are an excuse for girls to wear lingerie in public. Just top it with a hat or bunny ears and, voila!
It's wrong and unfair that technology today enables and encourages us and others to record every moment of our lives — like reality TV, but without the editing — then post it globally. Long after we've outgrown the drunken debauches, the spring breaks, the youthful experimentation and the search for self, the visual and audio record of our many stumbles will continue to haunt us.
It's wrong and unfair that the Internet can hold forever and ever that one stupid night, that one unguarded moment, of our private lives.
In fact, how did those private pictures end up in public blogs? Were they posted years ago as a goof to get lost among gazillions of other racy photos, and only just rediscovered? Or newly uploaded for a reason?
Ball's Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, has said he had nothing to do with the postings, and asked the bloggers to take them down. But by then the torpedo had already hit its target.
Ball is bailing out her boat as best she can: a combination of umbrage and a high road attained the hard way.
"I have a message for any young woman who is thinking about running for office and has ever attended a costume party with her husband or done anything stupid on camera," Balls says. "Run for office. Fight for this country. Don't let this sort of tactic deter you."
Another possible message: Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be hoochie-koos. But this isn't just a cheap shot, it's absolutely ineffective.
Even the Amish understand that young people need to experience the world for a while, to make mistakes and learn from them, in order to become full-fledged adults.
So these photos could do one of two things.
They could make us more understanding of youthful lapses and foibles, for none of us is without flaw or sin.
Or they could turn us into repressed, intolerant neurotics and hypocrites whose best argument is a pointing finger.
But, phallus nose aside, consider what the photos really show: a very young woman expressing her sexual self in a private moment, never intended for the public, and harming no one.
Contact Dietrich at 757-247-7892 or firstname.lastname@example.org.