If you’re like me, you do your best to scroll past images on the internet all the time to see the content you want to see, but at what point are we simply tolerating pornography? Are we even sensitive to what we’re seeing these days, or have we become numb to it?

It used to be that Sports Illustrated was a relatively safe magazine for moral people who liked sports. I grew up in the 90’s, and it was a big deal when an athlete made the cover of the magazine, just like it was a big deal when you saw someone on a Wheaties cereal box.

My friends and I, we all liked Sports Illustrated.

There was one issue, however, that was clearly not intended for child consumption: The Swimsuit Edition. Even then, it was pretty clear that the swimsuits in the magazine weren’t like the ones you’d see at the pool. In hindsight, the company was obviously trying to make some cash on sex-appeal without stooping to the level of Playboy. You don’t really think about that stuff as a kid, though. You just sort of move on.

If you were a person with a moral compass that did not permit leering at mostly naked women, you dealt with The Swimsuit Edition by tossing it in the trash. When you pitched it, you were saying, “These women are attractive, and part of me wants to flip through every page to see what might be seen – but I won’t do it, because it’s not right to lust after half-naked women.”

You could still be a fan of Sports Illustrated without looking at swimsuit models. You could still read about sports from some of the best writers in America. You could choose one without the other if you wanted.

Then came the internet, and today – for me – it’s time to put the final nail in the coffin for Sports Illustrated.

With the internet, pornography went mainstream. It’s simply a matter of fact that most American men are consuming massive amounts of pornography. As that consumption exploded, companies like Sports Illustrated could no longer entice viewers and readers with The Swimsuit Edition unless they, too, were willing to dip their toes into full nudity.

So that’s what they did, one small step at a time.

Girls went from wearing skin tight clothing that perfectly shaped the body, to sheer clothing that gave a clear sense of the tones beneath. Then came the body-paint and the pasties. These aren’t actually swimwear at all, just nudity with some distortion. Here, however, the slippery-slope theory rang true, and now we’ve arrived at naked women with no distortion at all.

For those of us who love reading Sports Illustrated but find pictures of naked women morally unacceptable and socially destructive, this is particularly painful because you can no longer separate the sports from the girls.  Today, if you visit that website to read the tremendously talented writers who are published there, you will find yourself unable to avoid the constant advertisements on every single page with pictures of mostly, or even fully, naked women.

On Monday of this week, I sat down to read Peter King’s famous column, Monday Morning Quarterback (MMQB, for short). I would guess this is the most read column for Sports Illustrated by a wide margin. It’s so popular that in recent years, the company has given Peter King his own website and staff centered around this particular weekly feature.

By the time my eyes had reached the second paragraph of the column, an advertisement appeared on the right side of the screen. There was a naked woman with a link to a page on Sports Illustrated’s website. I took a screenshot and emailed the Sports Illustrated through the contact form. I cannot, in good conscience, link to it here.

The woman was standing in water, but her entire upper body was above the surface of the water. She wore some sort of fishnet on her body, with her hands behind her head as if she were about to do a sit-up. The fishnet did not cover anything. Her breasts and nipples were fully exposed with no concealment or distortion, thrust out to accentuate what clearly needed no accentuation.

My first thought was, “Am I seeing what I’m seeing?”
Second thought: “What…wow…”
Third thought: “This shouldn’t be on my computer screen.”
Much delayed fourth thought: “How can anyone call that a swimsuit?”

There is no beach or pool in the history of the universe where what I saw on that website would pass as a swimsuit. A nude beach is just that – a beach where no swimsuit is required. That is the only place I can think of where this would be appropriate. If a woman tried to walk down the street in most places in that outfit, she’d be cited for indecent exposure.

Let’s call it what it is: nudity.

Knowing that I don’t look at nudity on my computer, I still wanted to be sure that there wasn’t something in my internet habits that the advertising algorithms had used to target me specifically with that image. I went to several other computers around the office and visited the same column. Each and every time, the same image showed up.

I never heard anything back from Sports Illustrated, so today I tweeted Richard Deitsch – a Sports Illustrated writer who covers media for the company. I asked two questions: (1) are the ads appropriate for Sports Illustrated and (2) is si.com a safe place for kids to read about sports?

He was kind enough to promptly reply: “These are Swimsuit galleries. It’s part of the brand. It lives on the site. As for what kids should read, that decision is for parents in my opinion.”

So let’s break that down.

First, does Sports Illustrated actually expect anyone to believe that topless photos of women are swimsuit photos? Sports Illustrated may put them in whatever gallery they please, but this is clearly pornographic. Hugh Hefner was selling photos like this in Playboy for decades before the internet rendered his magazine irrelevant.

It’s nudity. It’s pornography. It’s been called that forever. Sports Illustrated is simply classifying it as “swimsuit gallery” material because calling it a “nude gallery” would undoubtedly hurt the brand.

Second, let’s be clear, this is the brand. Sports Illustrated is paying for advertisements that feature naked women. They’re paying for this because when people see naked women, they want them to think “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Gallery”. This isn’t an accident. When you think Sports Illustrated, they’re paying for you to also think, “I can see naked women.”

Third, Deitsch is being somewhat insincere when he says, “It lives on the site.” That’s insincere because it deliberately understates the prevalence of naked/half-naked women on www.si.com. It’s not as if these galleries are simply hosted on the website under a link that says “Swimsuit Gallery”.  These images are everywhere, all over the website!  They live on the site the same way sauce lives on a plate of spaghetti.  We might better say, “They are the site.”

And finally, we have to seriously consider what Deitsch is saying when he writes, “As for what kids should read, that decision is for parents in my opinion.”

Let’s be real here. Deitsch can’t say “no”, can he? I mean, how could he – an employee of Sports Illustrated covering media – publicly say that in his opinion kids aren’t safe at his website. So instead of saying the obvious – that children should not be exposed to naked women – he says, “Well…that’s up for parents to decide.”

Yeah – no kidding, man. Of course it’s up for parents to decide. But the point of the question is that it’s pretty clear what most parents would decide if they only realized there was a decision to make!  But most parents reasonably assume that their children aren’t going to see pornography when they read articles on Sports Illustrated! That’s the point. Parents assume that certain places on the internet will be reasonably appropriate for their kids.

Increasingly, however, this is not the case.

If your children visit Yahoo.com after a celebrity awards show, they will inevitably see half-naked celebrities splattered on the front page. If they visit www.espn.com after their Body Issue, they’ll see naked athletes with various athletic equipment covering up nipples and lower regions. And if they visit www.si.com, they’ll get the whole unfiltered centerfold shot on any given day.

The internet is becoming a smaller world everyday for people who want to avoid seeing nudity. You don’t have to search for it. You don’t have to click on anything to see it. It’s just thrown up there in your face whether you want to see it or not.

So I’d like to encourage anyone reading this to write a quick little note to Sports Illustrated by clicking on the link below. It will only take a few seconds of your time to let them know that there are still consumers out there who don’t want to see naked women all over their website…that there are still people out there who think it’s wrong to look at pictures of young women as if they’re sexual objects.

Any company that makes pornography their brand should be off-limits for Christian people.

https://preview-service.api.si.com/contact

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