Dear ESPN, Let’s Have a Chat About Your P*rnographic “BODY Issue”

espn body issue

Dear ESPN,

I don’t really LOVE sports all that much, but I grew up with a brother that does. So in my house, as soon as we got cable, we had ESPN on. Through the years, ESPN has been a great source of live sports, sports news, and some excellent sports documentaries. However, now it seems that it is unfortunately a home for softcore p*rn, thanks to the ESPN Body Issue.

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I know that the “Body Issue” of your magazine is supposed to celebrate athletic bodies and athleticism, but pardon me if I object to all of the subjects being fully nude. I think we could definitely still celebrate their athleticism if they had workout clothes on. Just sayin.

ESPN body issue

The header on your website says the ESPN Body Issue contains “too many awe-inspiring moments to count.”

For MOST of the people who look at these photos, “awe” is not going to be what they’re inspired with. Rather, it will be lust. Lust and temptation. You see, all of our brains react when we are confronted with photos that feature nudity. Even when the nudey bits are covered with a carefully placed softball bat…and sometimes because the nudey bits are covered with a carefully placed softball bat. P*rnography addiction is a public health crisis in our country, and I’m sorry ESPN, but your 2018 Body Issue ain’t nothing but a big ol’ GATEWAY DRUG to p*rn addiction, disguised as a sports magazine.

I GET that all these athletes have beautiful bodies. They were fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God.

But it doesn’t matter how “artistic” you’re trying to be here: what you’re actually doing with the ESPN Body Issue is providing an opportunity for people to look at sexually explicit photos by dressing them up as art.

We have filters on our internet, but I honestly would not have thought to block my fourteen-year-old son from looking at ESPN.com. And yet I know that if he saw these photos of a naked female athlete with only a ski pole covering her breasts, that his teenage male brain would SURELY want more…and would possibly go looking for it. And what of men and women who are ALREADY struggling with p*rn addiction? There are folks in p*rn addiction recovery every day working so hard to GUARD their eyes and hearts from those kinds of images, and BOOM! — they go to check some sports scores and the cover image on the front of your website is a naked woman with a strategically placed basketball.

It’s just SO UNNECESSARY!

At least you’re an equal-opportunity exploiter; the ESPN Body Issue features not just women, but naked men, too. These are images I know my husband would not want me viewing, just as I would not want him viewing the nude female athletes. The human brain isn’t STUPID. Our minds easily “fill in the blanks” covered by those strategically placed footballs, running batons, and arms and legs. And for many, this will be the first step on a slide into or back into consistent p*rn use, which, good old science has told us, is damaging to the brain, to relationships, and to sexual function.

As a mother and as a wife, I am very very grieved by your Body Issue making nude images so very easy to access. Not only would most people not think to block ESPN.com if they ARE filtering their internet, I imagine that these images might even make it through some filters as well. You know, because they’re “artistic.” My husband and I have put so many safeguards in place to protect our kids from p*rn, which, by the way, most American kids have now seen by age eleven. ELEVEN! And you’ve really made it, with the ESPN Body Issue images so easy to access, that much harder for us to do that.

ESPN, I’m not asking you to stop celebrating the beauty and athleticism of the human body, but I AM asking you to put some clothes on them. In one photo, where athletes Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe are turned to the side, you can’t really see ANYTHING of their athleticism in the profile. If you put some shorts and a tank on them and let them turn to the front and flex, THEN we might actually see something to be “awe-inspired” about. As it stands now, their portrait just shows naked side-butt and very pale skin with very little body fat. By taking their clothes off, you’ve done their bodies a disservice.

I hope and pray that next year, the ESPN body issue will feature athletes whose beautiful bodies are covered by actual clothing items, not sports props. Why don’t you look into some of the evidence of how the brain processes nude photos, and get back to me. I’ll be here, waiting.

Sincerely,

Jenny Rapson

***

I know many who read this will say I’m a prude and disagree with me. To each his or her own. But let me tell you, people who truly struggle with p*rn can be brought down by something as little as a swim suit ad, and these pictures go leaps and bounds beyond that. Parents, if your kids use ESPN.com, you will want to have a talk with them about how it’s off limits for the forseeable future.

If you are looking for resources on how to protect your kids from p*rn, may I suggest the websites Protect Young Minds and Protect Young Eyes. These are different sites, but both with tons of resources to help parents p*rn-proof our kids. I’d especially recommend starting the conversation YOUNG – as soon as your child begins using a device that has apps or  internet on it (even if the device is yours and not theirs) because accidents happen and p*rnographers hoping to make customers for life make it very easy for our kids to see p*rn. I really recommend the book Good Pictures, Bad Pictures by Kristen A. Jenson as a starting place. I know we as parents worry about telling our kids “too much too soon,” but the reality with this topic is, it’s more likely to be “too little too late.”

In the digital age, we parents have to be prepared to do hard things to protect our kids. And one of those hard things is telling them about what we’re protecting them from.

You can do it, Moms and Dads. And they will be the better for it.

 


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Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.