Delenda Est Carthago

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!

16.2.08

You know it when you see it

Is this porn?


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?

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6 Comments:

Blogger Jeff said...

Arguments over the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue have been going on since my parents bought me my first subscription, 41 years ago. And while the issue has always been controversial, the only sensible answer is no - it is not porn.

However, I'd also venture to say that what happened in her office DOES constitute sexual harassment, because in today's workplace, it is Ms. Cullen who defines the meaning of that term, by what she chooses to interpret as a "hostile workplace." And that seems to be what she's saying.

16/2/08 5:37 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

I personally don't categorize it as porn, but that's probably because of my unique perspective based on my individual life experiences. That said, if I were in your shoes, I wouldn't want my very young daughters to see it because it is inappropriate for children in my view (which sets it apart from the other issues of Sports Illustrated) and it portrays unusually beautiful/airbrushed/proportionately curvy, very young women who as a group can set up unrealistic body image expectations for young (normal, unairbrushed) girls.

While I may not think it's porn, someone else may think it is (like the NY Times writer) and I agree that they have the right to perceive it as such. If it's titallating enough for someone (not you or Jeff perhaps, but you know there are some out there who will use the mag in this fashion) to hide behind a locked door for 10 minutes with a copy of the issue, I could see why it could fall into the porn category.

17/2/08 8:02 AM  
Blogger Woody! said...

What is this "porn" you speak of? I believe I will have to do some research on the matter. Do you think there's anything on the internet about this "porn" subject?

17/2/08 1:45 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I'm not sure, Woody! That's a fine question - I'm sure your research will turn something up!

It really is a tough call, because you can make a case both for and against it. That's why our attitudes toward women in bikinis is so weird.

17/2/08 7:45 PM  
Blogger Roger Green said...

I get a lecture annually from the wife about the SI swimsuit issue, not that it's porn but that it's sexist. This year, she added that there's even less text than in previous years.

19/2/08 5:31 AM  
Blogger Ahistoricality said...

When did "porn" become a unitary category? There's always been a range of sexually objectifying media, ranging from hardcore (actual sex acts) to softcore (nudity, implied sex acts) to "pin-up" (nearly unclothed); there's other ways of subdividing the material, but you get the idea. SISI started out as "pin-up" material, and has evolved towards, perhaps into, softcore territory.

20/2/08 6:48 PM  

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