Who Was The First Peeping Tom?

Don't know? Then come, we Google for you!
History LessonsMay 29, 2019
Want to satisfy your idle curiosity, but too lazy to do anything about it? Then come, let us Google for you! This week, we dive into the headline-making case of the “peeping tom”.

We’ve been hearing a lot about peeping toms recently, which is both good (as it seems the only way to stop these cretins is to volubly call them out) and bad (in an ideal world, there would be no peeping toms?!?!).

But anyway, amongst all the outrage that our reading engendered, a random brainfart also crept into our minds… Who was “Peeping Tom”, anyway?

To find out, we go back to the legend:

In Coventry, England a nobleman was oppressively taxing his tenants. His wife, a sympathetic type of woman, asked for a remission of the taxes so the people would no longer suffer. To which her tyrannical husband agreed – on the condition that she ride naked through the streets of town – covered only in her long hair.

She really was a woman of the people! The noble lady accepted the challenge but stipulated that all the towns folk must shutter their doors and windows, so as not to see her. Later records from the 16th century mention a tailor called Tom (actually Thomas) who took the exception and peeped at her. He subsequently was “struck blind” (or killed, accounts vary) by the townsfolk. So it seems he paid dearly for the act. (Quite unlike our 21st century Singapore-side Toms.)

And who was this naked noblewoman, you may ask?

This was Lady Godiva. Yes, that Godiva, of mass-tige chocolate fame – the brand that’s writ large in high-end malls across Singapore. Lady Godiva’s naked, horse-straddled likeness is the logo-mark of the confection house from Belgium, and so by that token, we – like the original peeping Tom – have made the unfortunate transgression of gazing upon her naked form. But in case you were wondering, no, that does not make us actual peeping Toms.

We can also surmise:

1. Lady Godiva was a hero. But also a trusting one. We’re not sure we have the same faith in human character as she did, but we guess that’s why only heroes do what they do.

2. We can… kind of understand Tom’s dilemma? Because to be honest if a politician’s wife, as a dare by her husband, chose to drive topless down Orchard Road so that Singaporeans could see our CPF money earlier in our lives, most of us will stay at home, looking forward to the policy change, but confirm there will be at least 137 uncles from Yishun with telephoto lenses hiding in the trees.

3. Which leads us to consider that perhaps, the original peeping Tom gets a bit of a bad name. And maybe Modern Perverts don’t actually even deserve to be called peeping Toms?

Like everyone who couldn’t tear their eyes from the very first episode of Black Mirror, Tom was set up to peek. The Modern Perverts who take on his moniker, on the other hand, aren’t just “naughty boys” succumbing to the innate weakness of human nature. Modern Perverts make hasty, unsolicited pornos and stockpile them. That’s not just a “little” peep, nor is it a little crime.

Peeping Tom exhibited weakness in the face of temptation. And do note that he was at least blinded, possibly killed, for his act.

Modern Perverts are amateur pornographers who take things too far and need help.

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