Add To Your Grocery List Some Mainstream Porn

 

A glimpse at the Hannah Davis Sport Illustrated Swim Issue, hitting new stands this month.

A glimpse at the Hannah Davis Sport Illustrated Swim Issue, hitting new stands this month.

Another title I was considering for this post was “Why Hannah Davis’ Mons Pubis Is Now Your Family’s Business”.

As I don’t personally know Hannah Davis and I assume neither do most of you, it just felt a little icky to be talking about her private lady parts. Despite the fact that Ms. Davis made the world her gynecologist this past week when the cover of the 2015 Sport Illustrated Swim Issue was unveiled (and by that we mean seriously unveiled), there is that fine line of critiquing our hyper-sexualized society while not slut-shaming the female pawns who participate in it.

And can you blame a girl? Hannah Davis is a young but successful model who has aspirations of building a lifelong career and business empire for herself, following in the footsteps of other SI swim cover alums like Kathy Ireland, Elle Macpherson, Christie Brinkley, Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks. She knows the SI cover was the launch pad for all of these women and Hannah Davis is no dummy. As far as business decisions go, for her it was a smart move and she’s going to cash in on that patriarchal bargain.

Where does the person end once the commodification of her body begins?

Let's be honest, here is what SI is selling by the millions on news stands.

Let’s be honest, here is what SI is selling by the millions on news stands.

Really, “Hannah Davis” could be any girl. We had the same discussion about Kate Upton and her 2012 cover. I’m sure there was a line of models waiting for Hannah’s cover spot, all just as eager to strike the same pose if it reaped the same rewards. Davis isn’t on the cover because of some amazing personal accomplishment or successful endeavor. No broken sports records or championship title. Taking off her bikini bottom on the cover is her accomplishment. Davis is on the cover of the swim issue for nothing other than the sex appeal of her body – her lithe but Photoshopped-to-high-heaven waxy, plastic looking body. Thanks to Photoshop, those are a dime a dozen these days.

For the past week I’ve only seen Davis referenced as “Derek Jeter’s girlfriend”, because a woman’s place in society naturally orbits around her relationship to a man. This is sadly ironic for a woman who is not only gorgeous, she’s actually a very talented athlete. You’d just never know it because this week, all Hannah Davis is known for is showing her bare girlie bits on a magazine sold for $20.00 at your local grocery store or 7-11.

Let the record reflect, the woman on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swim issue was a championship tennis player and member of the Virgin Islands National Volleyball team before she embarked on a skyrocketing modeling career.

Now that that’s all out of the way, whether or not you plan to be one of the estimated 2 million people who will own a copy of this issue let’s embark on a discussion about why the SI cover girl’s pubic mound matters to us. Actually, her waxed-bare pubic mound, because that’s also part of the story.

This is mainstream.

What once would have been an inside-the-magazine shot is now the acceptable cover, with no age barrier to see it. And there's a lot to see.....

What once would have been an inside-the-magazine shot is now the acceptable cover, with no age barrier to see it. And there’s a lot to see…..

Mainstream means not niche erotica or reserved for adults in the back of the store by the other lad mags with a brown paper wrapper.

This image is mainstream. For the general public, with no barrier of entry for minors.

Rest assured – this will be eye level with your first grader at the store with the tag line “Going down south”, all words your seven year old can read while he stares at this woman’s genitals playing peek-a-boo and asks you why she looks like a little girl “down there” if she is a grown up because you are a grown up but you have a furry wiener.

This will be right up front at your local grocery store or book store. It will be on the new stand at the corner store or gas station. Believe me, this will be EVERYWHERE, as AdWeek reports: “Our strategy this year was to go bigger across every single channel,” said the magazine’s vp, publisher Brendan Ripp. “Sports Illustrated has never tried to launch something this big in the experiential space.”

An image that would have been considered pornographic not too long ago is now 3:30pm I’m just here to buy milk and a loaf of freaking bread mainstream. I can choose whether or not I or my young children look at porn. I don’t get to choose whether or not they will see Hannah Davis’ mons Venus. Her junk is going to be right there in our faces.

The waxed-bare pubic mounds of women are no longer reserved to adult-only porn, it is just a normal part of our society who ignores the implications of pornography norms infiltrating our general sexuality. Specifically, the infantilization of women and what taboos that blurs when it comes to our kids and sex.

And think about this for a moment — If the real Hannah Davis walked into the grocery store and exposed herself like that to my kids, I’d rightfully say “What the actual HELL?”, call the cops, and have her charged with indecent exposure to a minor. But when Hannah Davis’ indecent exposure is done in a public space by a corporation to make money…….

We also conveniently ignore the immense pressures (emotional and financial) on women to not look like grown women but rather a prepubescent large-busted sex goddesses who show no signs of eating, aging, injury, or childbirth. If you do, well the good doctor can just snip that for you if the $78,342 you’ve spent on beauty-in-a-jar didn’t do the trick. Some salons even offer “virgin waxes” for tween girls, in case you want to pass on your insecurities to your twelve year old.

And if this is mainstream, consider next what must be going on in pornography to stay titillating and edgy? Because my mom is going to see this at the Piggy Wiggly and if she is going to shrug and look the other way, just what do we have to do to shock and excite these days? And how will women’s bodies be used as object to achieve that?

Davis herself said on the ‘TODAY’ show last week she didn’t see what the big deal was. Davis was born in 1990, so she’s never known a culture in which sex wasn’t marketed directly to little girls and women were not sexualized for mass corporate profit. Maybe her parents taught her differently, but these were the cultural waters she was swimming in. It is hard not to get wet. If her parents didn’t discuss this with her growing up, how could we expect her to know better? But we know better, and we should be doing better. We should demand better.

This is mainstream and that matters.

It matters if kids see highly sexualized images like the SI swim cover because it sexualizes children and their childhood. This SI swim cover didn’t happen in a vacuum. SI isn’t the downfall of society. It is a symptom of a MUCH larger problem, and to pretend otherwise is just being obtuse.

Sexualization is everywhere, and it interferes with a child’s healthy development and introduces concepts to them they are not yet ready for. It teaches gender roles where a beautiful young woman is the f*ckable object for whomever happens upon her, and the agency is given to the male/male gaze. It teaches boys to expect entitlement over a woman’s body. This isn’t “empowerment”, this is employment. This isn’t nudity, this is the sexualized commodification of a woman’s Photoshopped body being used to earn a corporation millions of dollars.

Sports Illustrated wants this issue sold everywhere. My kids are always out and about with me, there is no way they wouldn’t see this. They are just-turned-9 and almost-7. They would be confused why a sexy lady has “big boobs but a little girl’s vagina”. And how would YOU go about explaining the infantalization of women coupled with body norms for pornography production to a first and third grader?? Really, tell me please how you’d sit down some afternoon and go about that, telling kids who still believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy that pubic hair gets in the camera’s way during sex scenes and now that porn is such a mainstay of our culture the norms of what had been a subset have crossed over and are right there for everyone and their preschooler to see. Remind your little daughter not to absorb these impossible beauty norms and remind your son that real, not-digitally-altered women don’t look like what he’s looking at.

My kids go to school with kids whose parents care much less about media’s impact and the representation of women than I do. My kids don’t live in a bubble, they live in the real world. I want a world for them where women aren’t seen as objects sold on glossy pages for $20.00. That impacts all of us, whether we buy it or not. 

The majority of parents aren’t discussing sexualization nor using media literacy with their children, and I’d rather we look at this as a community of concerned, intelligent adults rather than one-offs and “Well, my kids are fine. Your problem.” Or, “You bitches are crazy go find something better to do.”

But the issue isn’t just, “Oh! What of the children?!”

The objectification of women, the entitlement over women’s bodies created by a society dominated by the male gaze, the crossover of pornography norms into mainstream culture, and the perpetuation of the Beauty Myth spell trouble for ALL of us, whether individuals care to recognize that or not.We are only as good as our lowest moment, and this is about as low as it gets for half the population that would love to be seen as equals or even – and I’m going to get crazy here for a moment – full human beings.

 

Melissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can read her blog at: www.pigtailpalsblog.com or connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals).

Comments

  1. I’m very grateful that you wrote this and are doing this work. It’s so much more important than the vast majority of our society realizes. God bless you!

  2. I just want to say I have read your book. I love it! I have bought it for friends who are having girls, and they love it! My daughter has a few of your t- shirts and her fav quote is just be full of awesome !

    Keep up the good work. And thank you.

  3. Marisa Winegar says:

    Three things have me thinking. On the one hand, we sell magazines with pictures of women taking their bikini bottoms off, so far that you can see the model has a good waxer. I think she has the right to show what she wants to, but I don’t think it is slut shaming to question whether this is an appropriate image for a mainstream magazine cover, or to question the impact of these images on young girls trying to figure out where they belong in the world. On the other hand, a legislator wants to ban yoga pants in Montana. Imagine women being arrested because their workout clothes fit too tightly when they go out for a jog! I guess she’ll get a nice cavity search which will surely teach her to cover up after that. You shouldn’t be ashamed to have a cavity search by the side of the road in Texas, as officers who have perpetrated such an assault on innocent women are back on the job. But you should be ashamed to wear yoga pants in public. See? And then a popular film is about a woman who is coerced unwillingly into BDSM activity that she does not enjoy, but people can’t see that the problem is not the sexual activities, but her lack of consent. Some fundies are shaming women for being turned on by being dominated in the bedroom – while pretending they don’t actually encourage women to be literally submissive all the time, unless it’s a sex game that they might enjoy. And the “sex positive” people, some of them, can’t seem to see that sex games and fantasy are fine IF the woman is actually into it, which in this film she is not. It seems our society is incredibly confused about what to do with the fact that women have bodies. Can somebody please tell me when women’s bodies will belong to women?

  4. SO MUCH THIS. The epitome of mainstream “beauty” is a woman who looks like a little girl. Ick.

  5. Interesting article. What do we do about it? I’m a 60 year old female SI subscriber. I like Baseball and Football.

  6. Melissa, I love this piece about as much as I hate the SI Swimsuit Issue! I appreciate especially that you point out how shaving — denuding, really — the pubic area is infantilization, because the implications of that are so very dangerous. It’s everywhere in porn (both the men and women are bare), and now it seems to be the preference of many adults too. Of course, the teenagers who are growing up thinking porn reflects “real sex” think that’s what genitals are supposed to look like, and so it goes on, and on….

  7. Allison Benton-Jones says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful writing about this.

  8. I completely agree with your article. How do we get this to stop? Our poor girls are growing up thinking that’s how they should act and our boys are growing up thinking girls are just an object. Society needs to stop thinking of women as an object only then can we stop violence against women. It’s a lot easier for someone to abuse something they perceive as an object than a human being.

    • Hi Marnie –
      Yes, your post was wonderful! It is linked above in my post from the words “how would YOU go about explaining”, fourth paragraph from the bottom. I also shared your post on the PPBB facebook page and many parents found it helpful. I’m so glad our paths crossed, I’d like to explore your work some more and connect when we can. My parent community is always asking for help with talking about sex and sexuality to their children.

      Keep up the wonderful work!

    • Thank YOU! I so appreciate your work too.

  9. Truly, thank you for posting this.

    I see the world through the lens of being a daddy to two daughters. They are each gorgeous, but I will do everything I can to ensure they know it’s their brilliance, curiosity, compassion, warmth, and seemingly endless capacity for empathy that defines them.

    Please keep helping us teach our girls to know their value. Your voice is incredibly, incredibly important.

    I cannot wait to read “Redefining Girly”!

    Rev. Eric Moore
    California (MO) United Methodist Church

    Bless you.

    • Thank you so much, Eric. Your daughters are very lucky to have a father who is tuned into how toxic culture can be for them. I know my husband sees the world very differently now as he raises our daughter. I hope you enjoy the book!

  10. Margo Mason says:

    Thank you. This is an excellent article and I applaud you and what you stand for. I will be passing this article, along with your website information, onto my step daughter who is the mother of my 6 month old granddaughter. Onward, Ms Wardy.

  11. Your article makes many good points, but it is undermined by the repeated references to shaving / waxing of pubic hair as equivalent with trying to look like a child, which is ridiculous. Is a woman shaving her legs trying to look like a child? Of course not, it is simply the current personal grooming style in our culture. You may not like it or not choose to do it personally, but trying to equate it with some kind of infantilization is ridiculous, and distracts from the good points the article makes.

    • Hi John –
      Thanks for reading the article and I’m glad you liked most of it. I understand your point when we’re looking at an individual woman’s choice with how she grooms herself. In that regard, I don’t have any opinion one way or the other. I believe, strongly, in women having agency over their own bodies.

      My infantilization comments are more of a macro look at this – specifically the commodification of sex and what demands are placed on a woman’s body in order to participate and capitalize on that. When we take that angle, we see there is very little, if any, variety in what these female bodies look like, and all of them are waxed bare. From porn to fashion modeling to the red carpet, we’re seeing one bare mons pubis after the other. In this setting these women’s bodies are products, and there are norms and messages the marketers are trying to sell us there.

      Here’s more on that topic if you’d like to look deeper into it:
      “The sexualization of girls and the infantilization of adult women are two sides of the same coin. They both tell us that we should find youth, inexperience, and naivete sexy in women, but not in men. What does it mean that feminine beauty is conflated with youthfulness, but masculine beauty is not — that we want women to be both cute and sexual? It means that we feel comfortable with women who seem helpless and require taking care of, perhaps we even encourage or demand these traits from women. Perhaps these childlike characteristics are most comforting in women who are, in fact, the least needy; I submit that we are more accepting of powerful women when they perform girlish beauty. When they don’t, they are often perceived as threatening or unlikable.” Sociological Pages (http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2013/08/08/power-mickey-mouse-and-the-infantilization-of-women/)

      And timely as Valentine’s Day is tomorrow: http://www.forbes.com/sites/sabrinaschaeffer/2014/02/14/valentines-day-gifts-speak-to-the-infantilaztion-of-women/

  12. Thanks for this piece. You put into words my visceral disgust when I saw the cover. My 14 year old son is a huge sports fan and reads the regular SI issues. My daughter is almost 12. I hate that they are exposed to this and it makes my job harder as a parent who is trying to instill in them the values of self respect, respect for others and equality. Glad I found your site through this post. I wish I knew of it while my kids were younger too!

    • Thank you, Lisa. It is great that you are aware of these issues and are guiding your kids through them, especially during these important years of their emerging sexuality and beginnings of romantic relationships in the not too distant future.

  13. I have one major problem with this article. The “what will I tell my children when they ask uncomfortable questions” argument is the same one used against trans* people and homosexual couples and even public breastfeeding. Being a parent entails having uncomfortable conversations with your kids.

    I feel like your article would be stronger without that particularly cheap bullet point.

    • Alicia –
      I think you are misinterpreting the “what will I tell my children when they ask uncomfortable questions” part of this and really misunderstanding in general what this blog does. First, this it isn’t about “uncomfortable questions”. This is about age-inappropriate mainstream, hyper-sexual, bordering-on-pornographic media at eye level with kids forcing questions on families that our children are not developmentally ready for. There is a difference, and the difference in an important one.

      More to that point, this blog (and my book, “Redefining Girly”) is dedicated to guiding parents through those conversations so yes, most certainly being a parent entails having interesting and sometimes difficult conversations with children.

      And secondly, I had no troubles explaining trans people or homosexuality to my kids because just like breastfeeding, it was explained as a natural part of life and being human. The sexualization of culture and the mainstreaming of raunch-for-profit is not normal or healthy, and I refuse to shrug my shoulders and accept it. So that’s not a “cheap bullet point”, that’s an actionable item and why I so strongly encourage families to use media literacy in their parenting.

  14. I am Soo grateful to have stumbled upon this blog. Consider me a forever fan now. In fact, if it’s alright, I am going to repost your blog on mine (with a few added comments on behalf of my teen who struggles with body dismorphia). #HolisticMamas will change the world!

Trackbacks

  1. […] to leave this young woman to weather the storm of public opinion over the exploitative revealing of her mons pubis on the cover of a mainstream magazine while they rake in millions and millions in […]

  2. […] “I Am Powerful” jpeg & tweep Melissa Atkins Wardy for your excellent piece: Add To Your Grocery List Some Mainstream Porn and powerful book Redefining […]

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