man who appears to be kissing the generous asses of bootilicious women kneeling in the surf

Early on November 19, 2014, Twitter user @Anelieg_17 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa posted the above photo to Twitter with the caption “Pastor prays for single women seeking marriage at a private beach.”

Power tweeter and self-described “social media manager” Shuk’ Knight (@LeratoFiniza, not to be confused with verified Twitter user @SugeKnight) less than two hours later tweeted the same image (with one crucial difference, explained below) with an added lurid detail to the effect that the supposed pastor was actually kissing all that luciously-presented booty, not just praying over it: “Pastor tells single women to strip so he can kiss their behinds for them to find marriage.”

Six hours after that, @TrendingKenya was tweeting the photo with a similar caption, linking to its own web-news version of the story consisting solely of the @LeratoFiniza tweet content.

Let’s pause for a minute and consider image details.

The @Anelieg_17 image is 720×405 pixels, clean and without watermark. The @LeratoFiniza tweet two hours later is identical in dimension but has one crucial difference: there’s a graphical anomaly lower right. At first I thought it was an obscured watermark, but I have come to believe it’s a digital artifact of an incomplete download or upload, such as we oldsters used to see quite often “back in the day” when bauds slowly roamed the earth and a “save as” operation was liable to be interrupted by a dropped telephone connection:


That digital artifact is a significant clue. When versions of this story with the “pastor kissing asses” headline/caption exploded all over Twitter and the web press later on November 19 and during the subsequent week or two, every last one of them had the digital artifact. A few stories (like this one at CKN Nigeria) added shocked and disapproving commentary over the same 720×405 image with the same digital artifact:

The world is truly coming to an end..It has been revealed that the pastor in this picture asked his female members who are spinsters to a beach where they were asked to undress and were kissed on their ass as a sign for them to receive their prospective husbands which they quickly agreed to..Can you imagine such madness.

From there, the story and image (the version with the digital artifact, or obvious crops of it) absolutely EXPLODED. Google Image Search returns 500 results (the effective maximum number possible) of which virtually all are from web and twitter sources dated in late November 2014, all of which include some version of the “pastor kissing asses” labeling, and many of which parrot the CKN Nigeria shocked commentary. Tellingly, there are never any more details, the pastor and his church are never named, and the location offered shifts quite a lot between various African and South American coastal countries.

Here is perhaps my favorite commentary, denouncing the ass-kissing pastor’s shenanigans as “foolishness”:

In my professional opinion, the whole story is bullshit.

At this historical remove, I can’t say that @Anelieg_17 in South Africa (who had the pastor praying but not ass-kissing) entirely made up the provenance; she very may well have been duped by some other source that’s now lost from the internet or buried in the “noise” of the subsequent “pastor kisses buttocks” meme that has flooded the search engines so thoroughly after November 19. Nor can I say for certain whether our so-successful social media manager @LeratoFiniza outright invented the “ass kissing” angle on the meme, or was just a very early amplifier of somebody else’s imaginative embellishment. But it’s certain that @Anelieg_17 had a clean version of the image, while @LeratoFiniza (two hours later) passed on a degraded version with added luridness. That lurid/degraded version we got from @LeratoFiniza became the universally dominant version for the viral explosion that followed.

Where can we find sanity? A good place to start is the comment section (yes really!) at the Trending Kenya web version of the story, which looks like a good candidate for being the web’s Patient Zero for our fun-but-bogus pastor-kissing-spinster-butts gloss on this image. A commenter there was skeptical, saying “Lmao this pic is old…thats not whats happening”. Replies to the Trending Kenya tweet on November 19 and 20 were in accord:

@amegaxi: “this picture has been on twitter for over a year. Suddenly it’s got this caption and it’s gone viral”

@MkJustSaid: “you guys are idiots. This isn’t a pastor, this picture is old.”

(Of possible interest to the serious researcher, see also this November 19 blog post reprinting the CKN Nigeria version word-for-word, followed by 1,316 comments that contain — in about equal measure — wild racism, mocking anti-religious bigotry, and angry religious fulmination. Sprinkled among these many comments are skeptical suggestions that the image might be from porn, or from some sort of private-beach swinger’s event; but no links or evidence about the source of the image are provided.)

The most specific post-November-19 criticism I found is the one quoted above from @Amexagi, warning that the picture had been on Twitter for over a year without any ass-kissing pastor story. And, indeed, by dint of laborious paging through various lengthy sets of Google search results, I was able to find examples from July 2014 (four months earlier) on Twitter and Tumblr both. Here’s the Twitter version, without the digital artifact but otherwise identical to the @LeratoFiniza-tweeted version that lit the firestorm:

Notice the utter lack of a pastor/religous angle; the commentary is admiring but clearly unrelated to the later viral explosion. Notice also that the tweet includes a manual retweet of another tweet not linked and no longer discoverable, plus an image link to yet another tweet from July 2014 that also has nothing to say about pastors kissing butt. It’s fair to say this image was “all over Twitter” months before the pastor story got pasted onto it.

There’s also a Tumblr blog called “I Like Big Butts!” where a different version of the image was posted on July 23, 2014. That version measures 500×285, lacking the digital artifact but having its own blemish (a black line) along the bottom. It seems unrelated to all the Twitter sources.

Where did the picture come from? Well, I didn’t find the original source, that’s clear. The porn-movie theory doesn’t really work for me; there are too many bystanders at the right edge of the shot. Plus, people love their niche porn almost as much as they like to prove somebody is WRONG on the internet. I would expect to have found proof of the porn theory in every long comment thread after the picture went viral.

Some sort of private group sexytimes strikes me as the most likely explanation. A beach resort with a lot of nudists or swingers is hardly unheard of. Perhaps a salacious music video shoot, but that suffers from the same “why didn’t anybody link it?” defect as the porn theory. Ultimately, I dunno.

But it wasn’t a pastor. Those probably aren’t spinsters. I doubt there was any praying. If asses were kissed, which I have no trouble believing, this snapshot provides no direct evidence of the osculation.

What does this whole viral affair teach us? What it shows is that a good sexy lie (especially one that features nudity, racial stereotyping, and fodder for several different flavors of bigotry) will travel six times around the world while the truth is still putting its boots on, tripping over the laces, and plunging face-first into a deep ditch-latrine, never to be seen again.

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