ESPN: The Body Issue

ESPN The Magazine put out the 2012 edition of their Body Issue this past week. Of course since it features some of the top athletes in the world posing nude the issue
gets quite a reaction out of people.

Even though the pictures are always “tastefully done” and never actually show the private areas of the athletes, The Body Issue is for all intents and purposes an exploitative piece. Now some may argue that the nude or semi-nude pictorials are empowering, but there are many out there that wonder what is the difference between ESPN’s annual show-all and Playboy or other more risqué publications?

While I can understand some people’s reaction because they hear these athletes are posing nude, if you look at the athlete’s pictures in this issue you will see that there is a big difference between ESPN’s Body Issue and other publications.

Let’s begin with the fact that the The Body Issue only comes around once a year while other publications come out weekly or monthly. So undressed bodies is a subject matter that ESPN does not focus on regularly, unlike Playboy whose whole issue is based on baring all every single issue.

The Body Issue also features both men and women giving them equal “exposure.” It does
not focus on just one gender and show them in scantily clad clothes or showing off their cleavage. Athletes in all types of sports are photographed for the issue. There has been a sumo wrestler, a female shot putter, a 1960 Olympian, and several amputee athletes featured. The focus is on all athletes in sports and not just the “beautiful” ones that could have been models.

Of course ESPN is a business and is trying to sell as many copies of their magazines as
possible so they are going to put some eye candy in for both men and women. Even though they do this, they have kept from exposing athlete’s intimate areas for the sake of selling copies. They present a product that is even different from Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue in that they are not just showing hot women in bikinis to sell magazines. They are trying to show what a hard working athlete’s body looks like from working out and playing their sport for years, whereas other publications show off what plastic surgery and implants can make you look like.

The main aspect of The Body Issue that makes it more acceptable than other nude or semi-nude publications is that they do not over sexualize the athletes that are posing in the magazine. The point of the issue is for athletes to be able to show off their body in a way that does not just show it in a compromising manner. The athletes in these issues are posing in their element. Most of the participants are photographed incorporating elements from their respective sports.

This year’s edition is the fourth year and Suzy Hotrod posed in the 2011 Issue. The team USA roller derby captain was asked why she decided to pose for it. “It’s such good exposure for roller derby,” Hotrod said. “It’s the best opportunity to show that our sport is genuinely athletic. I want people to know that we are athletes, and we live our lives like athletes. We train hard, like anyone else posing for this magazine.”

This shows what ESPN is trying to get at by having a Body Issue. They are trying to show what athlete’s bodies from all kinds of sports look like. There is always going to be a sexual aspect when people are posing nude, but that is not the focus here. The Body Issue is trying to spotlight the sculpted and painstakingly crafted athlete’s bodies that we wish we had.

By C.J. Gardner, Jr. – cjgardner80@ou.edu

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