Controversy Brews Over Sports Illustrated Cover

by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

(April 1, 2008) Featuring a topless model on its cover, this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue has crossed the line into the realm of soft porn, which is raising concern among experts about the magazine being displayed in stores within view of children.

The controversy is already brewing in the mostly unlikely place – Wal Mart.

A seven year-old girl was walking through the aisles of a Super Wal-Mart in North Carolina when she picked up the magazine and handed it to her grandmother. “Look, Grandma,” she said. “This woman isn’t wearing a bathing suit top!”

This account was included in an e-mail sent by the girl’s mother to Robert Peters, President of Morality in Media. “My mom then went to a Wal-Mart employee and told her what happened stating that this should have never been on a shelf where children can be exposed to it,” the woman wrote. “The woman agreed and went immediately and removed all the magazines from the shelf.”

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end here. “Today, we returned to the same Wal-Mart to see if the magazines were still gone. They were not. Wal-Mart had put the magazines back on the magazine rack at the very same location as before, exposing children of all ages to the cover of the SI magazine (not to mention what is inside the magazine) . . .

“Later, a manager was introduced to me. After explaining to him what happened last week and then just today, I asked him if there was anything he could do about this…He said…he would have to put the magazines back on the shelf because SI rented space…SI was not considered pornographic, and that this issue is being displayed all over the nation. He told me to call 1-800-WALMART and log a complaint.”

In an interview with Christian Newswire, Robert Peters said, “In my opinion, SI’s Swimsuit Edition 2008 is ‘soft-core pornography.’ With Playboy magazine, we have full nudity; with the Swimsuit Edition, partial nudity. Otherwise, there is no difference that I can see.

“Surely Wal-Mart executives must realize that males don’t purchase the Swimsuit Edition to view art or to choose bathing suits for their wives or girl friends. In the first place, some models aren’t wearing anything at all; many aren’t wearing anything ‘on top;’ and most would be arrested in many localities if they appeared in a public place in the ‘attire’ (or lack thereof) provided them by Sports Illustrated.

“State or local public indecency laws typically prohibit individuals from appearing in a public place, like Wal- Mart or a public beach, while in a state of ‘nudity,’ typically defined to mean: ‘the showing of the human genitals, pubic area, anus, anal cleft, or any part of the female breast below a horizontal line across the top of the areola with less than a fully opaque covering.’ Many state and local harmful-to-minors sale and display laws also define nudity in this manner. Neither type of law uses the term ‘pornographic.’

“Rather than trying to discern whether a magazine depicting naked or semi-naked models is  ‘pornographic,’ Wal-Mart would be better advised to be on the lookout for magazines with ‘models’ that aren’t wearing any or enough clothes. That way they will also see what a child can readily see, namely, models with little or no clothes on, like the emperor of old.

“Wal-Mart can then much-better decide whether to put the magazines behind blinder racks or to not sell them to minors or to not sell them at all.”

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