Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

A literary review of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

The “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit issue is porn. It’s glossy, thematic, well-produced, light-of-day, cleverly self-referencing porn, but that doesn’t alter the fact that it’s porn. It passes at least two parts of Warren Burger’s obscenity test in that we all know it appeals to prurient interests and – I will argue – it lacks serious literary or artistic value.

If you don’t agree with me yet, consider this test. It’s on your coffee table. You start thumbing through it. Then, you hear your girlfriend, wife or close female friend coming into the room. Do you quickly put it down for fear of her joking on you? I told you it was porn.

I have absolutely no moral objections to any porn with of-age, consenting subjects. But this publication exemplifies a debilitating pornography-related problem in our culture. It entails everything from Fox News’ see-through desk that shows off Megyn Kelly’s legs, to Anderson Cooper’s bicep-friendly T-shirts, to lingerie football, to just about everything “Maxim” publishes.

Porn should not be melded with journalism. It’s unnatural and awkward. You never see Ron Jeremy look into the camera while pummeling a 19-year-old and say, “The drone bombings of Pakistan are a clear symptom of our military-industrial complex.” And with good reason. Journalism cannot win out or shine through when paired with porn. It will always become the Colmes to pornography’s Hannity.

Consider this approximation of content for this year’s issue:

– Fifty percent: porn

– Ten percent: brief, formulaic profiles of the women who make up said porn

– Ten percent: 300-to-500-word filler articles on how they made your porn

– Twenty-five percent: ads that are also porn

– Five percent: cologne samples.

The third component mostly sounds like a freshman English student is studying abroad and fulfilling some obligatory journal entry about where the hell he is. On page 170, Randall Grant gives me a vivid picture of India’s geopolitical zeitgeist and cultural melting pot by writing things like “Countless cows (which are, of course, sacred in India) roamed the streets, while grey langur monkeys seemed to inhabit every tree.” He goes on to report: “That was the first instance of what would become a recurring theme on our trip: animals.” A truth no journalist or biologist could argue with.

In some instances, the writers are reduced to Wikipedian recitations. From page 120: “Not only is the Atacama the world’s highest desert (altitude: 8,000), it’s also the driest.” Thank you, and good luck catching Carmen Sandiego.

That’s the main reason I think the swimsuit issue is detrimental and should end. It reduces great journalists to writing things that are the literary equivalents of a retirement home pamphlet. These are writers who can make Tim Duncan seem dynamic and John Daly seem complex. They not only make sports smart. They make them appear relevant.

But there’s no poetry in a picture of a beautiful woman in a beautiful place. There’s nothing to report. Except, of course, endless comparisons between the woman and her sanguine surroundings. This year’s cover girl’s feature puts her on a beach in the Maldives and is appositely titled “Treasure Island.” (Did you get the reference?) The models in it, the sub-headline claims, “took this tropical Indian Ocean paradise by storm. Shore was nice.” The editor who wrote that probably went to an Ivy League college. Last week, he or she probably cried in the shower.

Some, after conceding that the issue is porn, would argue, “But Josh, I grab the swimsuit edition instead of hardcore material because it’s tasteful pornography. There’s depth to it. Women are not simply treated as vulgar objects. They are not abused or humiliated, and the models feel empowered by their participation.” I invite you to look at pages 78-81 and reconsider. This poor women has had penciled onto her some ugly, scaly bathing suits meant to resemble the Sobe “Lifewater” brand patterns. She turns provocatively toward the camera as a nearby headline claims: “0 calories, 0 inhibitions.” That’s more humiliating than anything Ron Jeremy could possibly do to you, even with props.

Josh Veazey is a senior majoring in telecommunication and film. His column runs on Wednesdays.

More to Discover