Men appreciate irony of barely clad models in swimsuit issues


February 22, 1993|By MIKE LITTWIN

The annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is out, and I don't want to hear any complaints.

You say, it objectifies women.

I say, what's your point?

Of course, it objectifies women. Of course, it has nothing whatever to do with sports. Of course, it has spawned a batch of imitators -- Inside Sports swimsuit issue, Sport swimsuit issue, Guns & Ammo swimsuit issue (in which women dressed in bikini fatigues fire off rounds on an AK-47), Mother Jones swimsuit issue.

But it's all a joke. Don't you get it? Millions of men rush out to buy the various swimsuit mags every year simply to make an ironic statement on sexist behavior.

Do women actually think that men leer at the fishnet top Ingrid's wearing on page 91 or rush to tell their friends about page 122 where Stacey's got on this unitard (a uni-what?) and has her behind mashed against a pillar? Do they think so little of us?

If we were supposed to take this seriously, there couldn't be a photo shoot from Alaska. Here are women in only swimsuits and boots frolicking like so many frostbitten snowbunnies somewhere near the Arctic Circle. Sure, that looks degrading, if taken out of context. I think the editors are challenging us to find the context in which it wouldn't be degrading. I'm still studying.

OK, I can tell you're not entirely convinced. So, I'm going to quote from the press release on the cover woman (they don't say cover girl anymore, because that would be demeaning), whose name is Vendela. One name, please. Like Cher. Or Charo. Or Plato (who, however, probably never wore spandex).

Anyway, the press release says: "Vendela is an aspiring actress. . . . Her musical tastes run from Madonna to Mozart. She is fluent in five languages. . . . When she isn't working out (she exercises two to three hours a day) or entertaining, she performs volunteer work for the homeless."

You see, you see. This can't be serious. This has to be a takeoff on those Playboy centerfolds, who, though always completely naked and posing in these completely impossible, yet admittedly intriguing, positions, always say their favorite book is "The Brothers Karamazov" and their hobby is inventing a cure for AIDS.

Some of you think I've got this wrong, and it's not a joke. Maybe. I still don't want to hear any complaints.

I'll tell you why. I'm shopping the other day at the Giant, and I'm waiting at the checkout stand where there are dozens of women's magazines. This is the scariest place a man could ever venture.

All you have to do is read the headlines from actual magazines to understand:

What Men Really Want on a Date.

Faking the Big "O" (which I originally thought had something to do with dribbling past Oscar Robertson).

What Other Couples Do in Bed.

What Men Will Do for Sex (this is from the Ladies Home Journal, for heaven's sake).

What's Wrong With Your Sex Life?

And then there's the Cosmo Quiz. You know about these quizzes. Your lover doesn't satisfy you because:

A. He's a filthy pig.

B. He's a callous jerk.

C. He's a callous pig.

D. He's a filthy jerk.

E. All of the above.

Why do women read these magazines? Don't they understand how frightening men find them? Every man knows deep inside there's a magazine somewhere that says just because he never remembers his anniversary, or the names of his children, he may not be sensitive. All these magazines love the word sensitive.

Here's the real danger: The last thing a man wants to read is a story that describes what's wrong with a woman's sex life and find out what's wrong is exactly what he always thought was right.

You want to hear a semi-true story? A friend of mine comes home one day to find one of these magazines open to a certain quiz about what Mick called satisfaction. His wife has taken the quiz and left the magazine where he's sure to see it. His score, out of a possible 100, is somewhere under 20. The advice for those who score under 20 is to contact Dr. Kevorkian.

He calls me in some desperation and asks what he should do.

I say he should ask for a recount.

He says seriously.

So I tell him to go out and buy himself the SI swimsuit issue. If his wife is understanding, she'll give him a few bonus points for irony. If not, he can still see Kathy Ireland in a bikini.

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