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August 16, 2004

Oh! Oh! Oh-lympics

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The American media's back-and-forth on this week's hot (hott!)-button issue of Olympic women posing nude or nearly so for Playboy and FHM has for the most part been predictable. It's an outrage! It's empowering! It's an outrage but I've got a raging hard-on!

So thank the media gods for the Brits, who are always more willing to step back from the fray and offer big thoughts. OK, so it's a bit loopy in that European sophisticate way, but I find an article like this one by Simon Barnes of the London Times refreshing compared to the shrill American stuff.

The 16 days of the Olympic Games are a prolonged feast of many different things, and one of the incidental and totally unavoidable matters is prolonged exposure to the most dramatic forms of physical beauty that the human frame can come up with.

And beauty of this youthful and unthinkingly physical kind cannot fail to have about it a whiff of the erotic. It is not that the Games are about eroticism. They are about winning and losing, just as a Bloody Mary is about vodka and tomato juice. But all the same, there is a lot more about a good Bloody Mary than those two ingredients. The Olympic Games cannot escape and does not wish to escape that special tingle on the lips that is provided by a subtle shake of the Tabasco of sex. ...

In the Ancient Greek Games, nudity was both celebrated and taken for granted. That naked sport was incidentally erotic was also accepted with some enthusiasm. Men didnít have sport because it was erotic, but they took on its incidental eroticism without coyness or defiance.

Did that bore you? Funny stuff and another empowering photo after the jump.

One of the fun things about prudes getting worked up over sexy photos is that they always manage to describe these awful, awful images with the most eagerly salacious possible language. Critics' descriptions of the FHM and Playboy pics are almost hotter than the photos themselves.

There's U.S. high jumper Amy Acuff wearing sneakers and nothing else as she caresses the bar in front of her. In another shot, she's caught running in midair, her right leg strategically bent to cover her southern hemisphere. U.S. swimmer Haley Cope stretches in a full-page, full-frontal nude shot with arms poised for a backstroke (though it's hard not to confuse it with a breast stroke). The camera leaves no doubt as to how closely she shaves.... The cover features members of Team USA flaunting their gold-medal bodies, thumbs pulling down the dental floss of their white bikinis. Athlete Jenny Adams has one arm around Amy Acuff's hip, as if to suggest some men's fantasy just might come true. Inside, volleyball player Logan Tom seems to be peeling off underwear that would fit a 2-year-old. Swimmer Amanda Beard looks as if she's tearing off what's left of a torn swimsuit. Track and field star Jenny Adams looks as if she's posing for a wet T-shirt contest." --Regina Brett. Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

Damn! I mean, I was pretty captivated by this photo, but not even I'm perverted enough to have come up with "peeling off underwear that would fit a 2-year-old."

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But the winner of the most outraged hyperbole of the week goes to Stanley Crouch for this gem. You half expect to see him on Madison Avenue waving a photo of a woman being fed into a meat grinder: "Women cannot usurp pornography. It devours all who walk through its doors, chews them up and spits them out in a series of images that help define all women as predictably sexual in certain ways. Souls and brains and independence do not survive in pornography."

Mmmmm... pornograpy.

Update: Mmmmm.... lesbian volleyball.

Posted by Daniel Radosh

Comments

Skenazy seems to feel personally betrayed by any of her fellow females who would willingly pose semi-nude, happily using their bodies to amuse men. One gets the impression that a woman can never be a sexual being; her body is something she must always hide, lest the evil menfolk make an object out of her. She can never feel good about and enjoy her sexuality. It is somehow wrong to be comfortable with men looking at you. A real woman can never willingly participate in sex.

S. seems to feel personally betrayed by any of his fellow males who would willingly pose semi-nude, happily using their bodies to amuse women. One gets the impression that a man can never be a sexual being; his body is something he must always hide, lest the evil womenfolk make an object out of him. He can never feel good about and enjoy his sexuality. It is somehow wrong to be comfortable with women looking at you. A real man can never willingly participate in sex. (Get it?)

Can't we all just pose for porn and get along?

Men just are more vocal about why they watch female sports. Yes, I watch women's tennis because I like to be teased with those upskirt shots. The tennis is even better, too...

Women are checking out the guys butts, biceps and etc., but don't go around saying anything about it, so women making us sexual objects is never a issue. It goes both ways!

I'd be willing to take the "it's an outrage" crowd a little more seriously if there was any evidence that the writers had heard of even one of these women before the magazines came out. But all we get is people who don't watch women's sports complaining about how these athletes are demeaning women's sports. Here's a new rule: if you can't name any female Olympians since Mary Lou Retton, you lose your right to say things like "isn't winnning a medal enough?"

I actually care about sports like swimming and track and field, and I still didn't know some of the women in FHM or Stuff. And I won't watch them in the Olympics unless their sport is interesting and they're good at it (and all these women are very good at their sports).

Despite what these pundits claim, I think most of us can appreciate a woman both for her skills and for her looks, and not feel that one detracts from the other. It's too bad these columnists can't accept these women as athletes simply because the Olypmians also happen to be attractive women, but there is a solution: set up a meeting where Logan Tom spikes a volleyball down Stanley Crouch's throat, Amy Acuff kicks Richard Roper in the head and and Jenny Adams runs over Lenore Skenaszy.

Jesse-- If I can't actually name her but well recall an adorable skiier who was repeatedly referred to as "America's Downhill Darling," does that count?

Anyway, I just looked at the Playboy pictorial. It's pretty good. It's certainly refreshing to see the magazine acknowledge the existence of women with different body types (and hairstyles). Of course, they'd probably do better at convincing people that the admiration of the naked body in no way distracts from who these women are as athletes if they didn't call Haley Cope "Haley Clark." Whatever. She's totally hot.

Well, unless I'm completely misreading this post (and all the posts about Lindsay Lohan), you're not complaining about the photos. So I really couldn't care less about whether you watch these sports or not. I just think it's very hypocritical of people who don't pay attention to women's sports in the first place to complain that the photos are what take attention away from the sport.

I agree about the Playboy photos. And the short Q&A with each athlete (yes, I actually read them) had much more to do with sports than anything in the FHM, Stuff, or Maxim pictorials (funny how everyone ignores those last two just because they didn't put the Olympians on the cover).

By the way, the NY Times says that Clark is Haley Cope's married name. Although that doesn't explain why Playboy used it since she's competing as Haley Cope.

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