You know it when you see it
A writer for Time thinks so. This article is an interesting take on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Back when I subscribed to SI, in the mid- to late-1980s, the swimsuit issue was just really becoming a big deal. The issue was still a "sports" issue with a section of women in bikinis. It was starting to take over the whole thing, but hadn't yet. By the time my subscription lapsed (I can't remember when it did, but it was probably in the early Nineties), the swimsuit issue had become the sprawling thing it is today, with no connection to sports whatsoever. I've heard that they've tried other things - athletes and their wives (and I bet Roger Clemens wishes they hadn't done that!), female athletes, celebrities - but it's kind of lost its cachet, I guess, from the proliferation of "men's magazines" that don't show actual nudity but come as close as you can. That's really the legacy of the SI swimsuit issue.
But is it porn? That's the problem, isn't it? As we can't define porn, it's tough to call something porn unless it's pretty obvious. Are pictures of women in bikinis pornographic? Sports Illustrated has body painted their models quite often, so they're technically naked. Is that porn? If porn is something that titillates people, what about pictures of feet? Some people have foot fetishes, after all.
All of this stems back to America's weird attitude about sex and the naked body, which is, frankly, backward. We fear nudity even if it's not titillating at all, yet violence is fine. I think the Time writer overreacted, but I also understand her objection to having this issue delivered to her desk. I don't think it constitutes sexual harassment, but it's still an odd thing to distribute to the employees.
I'm not sure why we're so obsessed with nudity. I don't think it's all that healthy. We claim we want girls to have a good body image, but we make people in general ashamed of their bodies. I'm certainly going to try to give my girls positive images of the human body when it comes up (and it's something we don't have to worry about for a while, thank God), but I don't want them thinking that nudity is somehow evil. It's a very tough line to walk, I know.
So ... is this porn?