Friday, March 15, 2013

Has the Swimsuit Issue Gotten Too Explicit?

Swim Daily recently called out a series of “natural wonders,” 2013 shots of the models without their suits.
The phenomenon is not entirely new. A few naked shots have sprouted up from time to time. Sometimes the discarded suit is nearby…
…sometimes there’s no sign of it in the shot at all…
…and sometimes the suit is replaced by found objects.
I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it provides a nice little double-take. It’s fun to see these models dip their toes into something a little more risqué.
On the other hand, the suit is a valuable part of the equation.

And here we stumble upon my cognitive dissonance with regards to the swimsuit issue.

The magazine occupies a separate space in my mind from other girlie magazines. It’s not as explicit as Playboy, which seems to be specifically about those areas that a bikini covers up. It’s not as trashy as Maxim and other lad-rags, which seem a little lower-brow in hair/makeup/wardrobe/photography (and, often, the models). And it’s definitely not as, well, biological as full-on porn.

I guess I see it as a more innocent venture, kind of a knowing cheesecake that—yes—deals with sex. But in a fun, lighthearted, squeaky-clean way.
I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Look at the media attention that surrounds the issue. The models read the Top Ten list on Letterman. They appear on morning talk shows and get interviewed by chipper hosts of both sexes. They ring the NYSE closing bell.
“The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” with its sunny, goofy, daytime charm and its audience of women 25-54, has Kate Upton on as a guest to talk about penguins and the perils of Antarctic bikini posing.

Most girlie mags are consumed furtively. SI seems to inspire a bit of a grin. Sure, Playboy puts out hardcover collections of its photography. But you get the feeling that Sports Illustrated swimsuit books might actually see the top of a coffee table from time to time.
I will stop here and say that there are several people who would claim that the swimsuit issue is an awful, exploitative, damaging piece of pornography, just as horrifying as any hardcore dirty video. (Maybe all the more horrifying for how easily it goes down as part of mainstream culture.)
Anyway, on one hand I think I’m being melodramatic by referring to the photos as “explicit.” They’re pretty coy, as far as nudity goes. On the other hand, maybe I’m just uncomfortable with the tacit acknowledgement that my sweet, cute, innocent cheesecake is at heart just a collection of dirty pictures.

But still. It’s the swimsuit issue—shouldn’t there always be a swimsuit?


Max Headroom said...

I think the pictures with the swimsuit in the picture, such as the one of Rebecca, which is a favorite, are cute and fun and innocent. It's like we're catching the model in the nude and it's like "OMG *laugh*" all around. Or even the one with Fernanda, a bit more teasing, but still playful.

The ones with the model strategically covered by sand or sand dollars or whatever, a bit more risque. Obviously, it's being directly implied her naughty bits are being hidden, sexualizing the pics.

And then like those first two at the top, the model is completely naked but isn't showing anything. I actually think those are the least risque of the bunch. The female body is art. But I don't see those pics as being as sexualized as the others.

Swimsuitologist said...

I actually love the one of Fernanda on the railing.

I see what you mean about the sand dollars being more sexual. It manages to draw more attention to those areas than just plain old nudity might. Bridget Hall has her shot where she's wearing a bikini made of snow, and Sarah O'Hare has one made of sand--same with those.

TuckerStokes said...

I like there being a few of these but I don't want them to consume the entire issue but a handful make the issue more interesting