BY POPULAR DEMAND, I HAVE REVISED A FAVORITE SUMMER COLUMN OF MINE, AND I OFFER IT TO YOU HERE. YOU MAY ENJOY THIS ONE MORE BY LISTENING TO IT, BUT IF YOU FEEL LIKE READING IT, PLEASE GO RIGHT AHEAD.
It's finally summer, the living is easy, and sex in the media is even easier. As you read this, you are participating in history. This is the first swimsuit edition of a column ever printed.
For years, sex, skin, and swimsuits have been used to attract people to products, publications, and productions. Many in the media resisted joining the flesh peddlers for as long as they could. But when "National Geographic" – of all places --came out with a swimsuit issue about five years ago, that was the straw that broke their sunscreen-slathered backs. I held out as long as I could, but now the realities of today's competitive market have forced my hand. I have mixed feelings about being the author of this historic commentary, but I'm a realist. If I don't compete, I'll go the way of the dinosaur – the dinosaur who did not wear a swimsuit, I might add.
So, right now I'm sitting here in my 100% nylon made-in-Hong Kong "Tommy Bahama" suit. I should tell you that "Sports Illustrated" started the whole thing with its first swimsuit issue in 1964. Every year since then, the issue has grabbed readers' attention during that winter lull between the Super Bowl and the baseball season. "Sports Illustrated's" wise editors have continued to display beautiful people in bathing suits in the middle of winter, frolicking in warm, sunny places. That way, the reader whose car may be buried in snow, can vicariously be on a beach, looking at some model wearing a ridiculously expensive suit that nobody would ever actually swim in.
Looking out my office window here in Southern California, watching the wind kiss the palm trees as the mountains hover watchfully in the background, I want to tell you a little of the history of this phenomenon. The success of "Sports Illustrated's" famous issue got the attention of other magazines. "National Geographic's" February, 2003 swimsuit issue only opened the floodgates that much more. Then there was no way to hold back the water that models dip their pedicured toes in. Of course, the people at "National Geographic" and other highly regarded publications are always quick to point out that their swimsuit issues are "tasteful."
At the time, "National Geographic's" editor said that its swimsuit issue was all about "fun and wonder -- as well as total astonishment at what some people will wear in public." Really? If this were completely true, why didn't we see an edition of "National Geographic" devoted to "100 Years Of Ugly Golf Pants?" If it were purely an anthropological and sociological study, why didn't they choose, "The Majesty Of The Loose-Fitting Flannel Shirt?" or "Sweat Pants Worn by Those Who Made a Difference?"No, they chose swimsuits for the same reason all the other magazines did. And for the same reason that I'm sitting here wearing one. Because sex sells.
I'm not a prude.I like gratuitous sexiness as much as the next person. But it's just gotten out of hand.(By the way, now I'm changing into my blue Nautica suit with the orange trim). There are places that are appropriate for semi-dressed people to be displayed, and places that are not appropriate.
Who's going to be next? "Scientific American" could accompany the photos with explanations of gravity-defying design techniques.Are "Newsweek" and "Time" going to have issues devoted to, "The Swimmers of Congress?" And "Reader's Digest" should have no problem showing us even briefer bathing suits. I don't even want to try picturing the first swimsuit issue of "The Christian Science Monitor."
But I shouldn't be criticizing others as I sit here typing away, wearing the latest in swimwear. Actually, right now, I'm switching to my 100% polyester Polo Sport suit with the little fishes on it. There. I hope that's not embarrassing to anyone. I have to admit, it's quite comfortable.
Even though I'm a participant in all this, I can honestly say that I'm not sure where it will end. How many of us will be strong enough to resist the temptation to show more and more flesh as we work? But I will give you my word about one thing. I will never write one of my columns while wearing a thong. Well, if I do, I promise it will be a tasteful one.