sins of the flesh

America The Beautiful: Swimsuit Issue 2015

The 2015 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition came last week to the usual uproar. The magazine ran reminders for a month reminding anyone who didn’t want nearly nekkid swimsuit girls sent to their home to let them know. Simultaneously, the parent company ran endless ads on television making sure everyone else could get a copy.

I saw my first naked lady picture when I was ten, in a man’s magazine in the Rexall Drug Store in Demopolis, Alabama. The front cover mentioned uncovered cover girls. I honestly had no idea what that was until I turned to that page.

Having spent those first ten years in close proximity to True Believers in the Baptist faith, I expected something bad to happen before I could close the magazine and race from the store. Maybe not brimstone but definitely fire.

I had already seen my cousin naked when we negotiated this bargain about showing each other ours. That seemed pretty innocent to me compared to growed up naked women with fully developed parts being captured on glossy magazine pages. Two years later I was permanently lost.

We moved to Tuscaloosa, next door to a family with four daughters. Two of them were near my age. Not only were they proudly developing boobs, but they had discovered where their dad hid his Playboy magazines. I think those two just liked to see me sweat.

I thought about naked ladies when I read about Matt Lauer’s leering interview with Hannah Davis, this year’s SI cover girl. Matt nervously asked her if maybe she was showing too much. I had to wonder what too much is these days.

We live in a world where one major religion still keeps women covered from head to feet to protect men from having impure thoughts; a fruitless endeavor. The major Western religion frets over the same but has a sliding scale.

Christianity once featured the same dress code for women as Islam does today. Little by little, women have been allowed to show skin. Just since I’ve been paying attention, we’ve revealed a lot more flesh. When I first began noticing the Youngblood girls, seeing a navel was a big deal. I Dream of Jeannie wouldn’t allow Barbara Eden to show hers. Now they don’t even pixilate bare butts on Naked and Afraid.

Around that time the two-piece bathing suit was invented, followed quickly by the bikini. Surely the world was near extinction. Somehow we survived God’s wrath. Little by little, we have allowed public display of women’s bodies to push the envelope.

This year’s SI Swimsuit issue is evidence. Several of the fetching young models left half their suits at home. In one photo, the poor girl’s bikini is sitting on the table next to her. She’s naked as a jaybird. Musta been in a hurry to get the light right.

All this raises a question. Which religion is right? Both Islam and Christianity believe that women’s bodies can make a man do really stupid things. Both once demanded women cover themselves to protect the men folks. But today, only one remains true to that standard.

Here in the land God deemed his favorite place, we continue to stretch the limits of what is decent, yet stubbornly attempt to legislate what might be indecent. Seems to me it is one or the other; black or white. Either men are unable to control themselves around women and the ladies need to wear bed sheets, or men are fully capable of resisting sins of the flesh and anything goes.

Except for yoga pants. There needs to be a size limit on those.

Mike Cox

Mike Cox

Mike Cox currently writes a weekly column in South Carolina for the Columbia Star called "It's Not a Criticism, It's an Observation." He is trying to grow old as gracefully as possible without condemning the current generation in charge to doom. Each day this task gets harder as the overwhelming evidence mounts. He currently has two published books; Finding Daddy Cox, and October Saturdays. His columns have won three South Carolina Press Association awards since 2003. Mike has three sons and two grandchildren and lives in Irmo, Sc, just outside of Columbia.