Last week, the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue was sent out to roughly 3 million subscribers.
And that’s striking, given how deeply problematic the whole thing really is.
The swimsuit issue alone accounts for 10 percent of Sports Illustrated’s overall revenue. One out of every ten dollars comes from people paying to see women partially clothed in swimsuits. What this amounts to is the value of a woman being placed solely in how her body looks, and nothing else. One blog so aptly defines the swimsuit issue as the “literal fragmenting of women into parts of women.”
The current issue features some tennis athletes along with Olympians Simone Biles and Aly Raisman. All of these women will receive more attention for how they look in swimsuits than their athletic achievements. This one magazine proves women in America are not defined by what exists inside their brains or hearts, but instead on their looks.
I remember being in high school when I first had a subscription to Sports Illustrated. One day I got home wondering where my newest issue was. It was the week for the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue to arrive in mailboxes.
Before I could see anything, my mom came and handed me a magazine that consisted of about 12 pages of articles with all the pictures ripped out. The way of escape from temptation God provided me then was my parents intercepting the swimsuit issue and removing any images of women in bikinis that would otherwise warp my teenage mind.
I saw my first photo of a naked woman when I was 8 years old. Playing with my friend at his grandfather’s house, he took me into the bathroom where under the sink sat a large stack of Playboy magazines. Now almost 30 years later, despite all the time that’s passed, I can’t erase that first pornographic image from my mind.
When 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
At 8 years old, looking at any type of pornographic imagery was more out of curiosity than temptation. Then the teenage years hit.
Lust is a problem. Porn viewing is simply a symptom of the problem. And it’s a symptom that’s only getting worse.
The reality is that it’s incredibly easy to access porn these days. A few taps on an iPhone will have explicit videos running in seconds. There are apps and websites galore. And retailers are smart: I’ve even seen a display for the swimsuit issue placed right in the beer aisle of a grocery store. Talk about cross-merchandising. It was reported that the swimsuit issue of SI alone now generates more profit than all the other issues throughout the year combined. Safe to say that sex sells.
According to the Observer.com, the website PornHub released statistics showing that 4.6 billion hours of time were spent by people viewing videos on their site in 2016. That’s over 5,000 years of time. Even more disturbing, that number is an increase of 300 million hours from 2015. And of all the countries listed, the one with the most porn viewers was the U.S.
And while these stats are alarming, they beg the question does porn matter? Is it that big a deal? Porn is highly addictive. Not every person that ever views it gets hooked, but for the millions that do, their relationships with spouses and children can be ruined. They can experience extreme loneliness and depression. On top of that, their view of women becomes warped.
One of the most tragic components of porn addiction is how it affects relationships. Research shows that “after being exposed to soft-core sexual material, both men and women were significantly less happy with their partner’s looks and sexual performance. Studies also have shown the porn users feel less love for their partner or spouse compared to those who don’t use porn.”
I never considered myself a porn addict, but I can see how even viewing porn can affect someone. For me, as a married man, indulging in any porn, including glossy pages of tan women in bikinis, can be damaging. When I give in to the temptation lust gives me, I’m telling God that the spouse he has blessed me with isn’t good enough to meet my standards.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:28 that we commit adultery by even looking at another woman with lust. When viewed in that context, it’s safe to say there are a lot of men in America who have cheated on their wives, myself included.
Most men out there have struggled with lust at some point in their lives. It takes discipline to avoid letting it consume you. Like those who have struggled with alcohol in the past avoid going to bars and parties, I try to avoid things that will tempt me sexually. Things like swimsuit magazines and certain R-rated movies. I avoid going to Hooters so I won’t be distracted by a waitress. I try to make sure I don’t follow anyone on social media that displays any explicit images.
I don’t always get it right. I still fail a lot. But I have a desire to show my wife and both of my daughters that women should be valued and respected because they were created in God’s image, not because of how they look in a two-piece.
One may argue that the swimsuit issue isn’t porn. My response would be what does it do to your thought process when you thumb through the pages of scantily-clad women? Are you objectifying women and indulging in lust at all? It would be difficult to answer no. I think of this verse: “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.” (Psalm 101:3) There is no redeeming value for men in scanning through images of half-clothed women in a magazine.
I still have a subscription to Sports Illustrated. They’ve got excellent writers that do a great job of covering stories across the entire spectrum of the sports universe. And I’ve had years where I’ve still received the swimsuit issue and immediately tossed it in the trash. Now they give subscribers the option to “opt out” of ever receiving the swimsuit issue in the mail, and that’s a good thing.