Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition: Shows Too Little!
Amidst likes and positive comments, I was appreciative to have the dominant, cultural view represented in Mike's reply (not interested in speaking to the choir):
"Gotta disagree. The women are beautiful. Didn't God create beauty to be appreciated? These women are objectified the same way pro football players are. But we can appreciate the ferocity of football without it turning into something ugly."
My reply below. Join the conversation on my Facebook page.
Mike, if we're going to have this conversation, we have to be reasonable about what's going on, and what those managing this industry clearly understand about what is happening.
(1) No one would or should doubt the beauty of the human body. But at the outset, let's keep this in mind: we're not talking about appreciating the human person in one's totality, which would entail more than a photo. As such, this "appreciation of the body" apart from the full, human person is, by definition, limiting. As John Paul II put it, the problem with pornography isn't that it shows too much, but that it shows too little.
(2) And what exactly are we appreciating of "the body"? If you're being true to that claim, are we being presented with God's designed beauty in all bodies, involving a wide range in body ages, types, sizes and poses? Hardly. We're talking about a particular, culturally-construed stereotype of body, in mostly-naked, seductive poses that essentially say "take me." More than just evoking beauty, they're meant to arouse. These portraits are not appealing to men/women of any great ascetic or spiritual appreciation (though this could be the case, but let's be real...), but to that which is most primitive.
(3) If you knew behind the scene, the commercially-driven insecurities associated with this world, particularly for the women involved but extended to all women-- and how it carves out a false masculinity... you'd see it makes dupes of us all (see my article on this, with a great, corresponding documentary film clip).
(4) I'm not declaring any particular person lustful, nor suggesting to what degree they may be lustful, but if the driving force is that "sensual" thing in someone, meant between a husband and wife, of an intimate nature-- it is, as Jesus Christ said, adultery: "I tell you this, if you look lustfully upon someone you have committed adultery." (Matt. 5:28) Let's be honest. These portraits derive their power (SI's largest distribution and money-making edition) precisely in their capacity to incite men into a sexual relationship, albeit in the realm of imagination/ internal. I don't know of a single wife who would be "ok" with her husband being sexually engaged with another woman at any level. There's nothing private about a man giving part of himself to another woman. It is patently and relationally destructive.
(5) The test. Would you mind your wife, daughter, mom on the front cover?
Not my rules. Not my design. But you know what, I know it to be true. We live in a veritable sea of real destruction in individual lives, marriages, and an entire culture... all because people have come to accept this objectification as benign. Heart, body and soul - I have vowed, and my wife deserves, my total, complete self-gift (as much as I am able with God's grace). Our love says "all of me." This total gift is God's design for our transcendence, our means of literally imaging and participating in the Trinity. The apple is shiny, and seemingly benign, but it is poisonous. Don't buy it. God desires for us great things, not evil, but leaves the choice to us.