ESPN The Body Issue: Is it ever right to pose nude?

ESPN The Body Issue: Is it ever right to pose nude?
Chicago's own Aja Evans, as photographed by ESPN The Magazine: The Body Issue

The sixth annual ESPN The Magazine: The Body Issue  is back and on newsstands July 11. This year, 22 of the US' most famous athletes, including Chicago''s own bronze medal Olympian, bobsledder Aja Evans, tennis star Venus Williams, the Oklahoma City Thunder's Serge Ibaka, and most curiously, Texas Rangers' first baseman, the rotund Prince Fielder, (who's listed at 275 pounds....appear in the issue.

Evans tweeted the big news:

@AjaLEvans And the list is out!!!! I am one of the 22 athletes featured in this year's @espnmag #ESPNBody Issue !!!!! #StayTuned

If you're an athlete, is it right for you bare your healthy, well-toned, lats and 12-pack abs in a venue like ESPN the Magazine? Sports Illustrated? Playboy? Playgirl? FHM? Maxim? Or for that matter, the U.S. Track and Field Association's annual calendar...for charity?

Evans made her feelings perfectly clear. In another tweet:

ESPN The Magazine started the body issue in 2009, according to Wikipedia, as a response to "a 24% decline in ad revenues for the first six months of 2009 compared to the same six-month period in 2008." The 2009 issue, reports Wikipedia, was a financial success, "achieving double the normal edition sales, greater sales than any bi-weekly issue in over two years, and 35% more ad sales than comparable issues."

And to prove, once again, sex sells. Time and time again.

Is it ever a good idea to pose nude, even under the guise of showing a 'perfect body' or a supine 'athletic form?' Or a 'regular person's form?'

If it's right, and all forms of body are acceptable, I was disappointed that the 2014 edition includes no one over 40.  Last year, I will say I was pleased to see golfer Gary Player, then 77, in all his barenaked glory.

77 year old Gary Player was one of eight featured covers in the 2013 ESPN The Magazine Body Issue. Why no 77-year-old WOMEN athletes? Did they ask?

77 year old Gary Player was one of eight featured covers in the 2013 ESPN The Magazine Body Issue. Why are no 77-year-old WOMEN athletes ever in the issue? Did they even ask?

A three-time Masters champion,  Player  was the oldest athlete ever to pose for the Body Issue. It's reported he keeps in great shape by doing 1,200 situps a day. He worked his way up from 1,000, according to the magazine's interview, as well as lying on a medicine ball, stretching, and working out with weights. In fact, he says,

"I exercise everything from my head to my toes every time I exercise: neck, shoulders, biceps, forearms, fingers, wrists, stomach, thighs, calves and feet. Most people my age, their feet ache, but I never have a twinge of pain because I've exercised my feet for years."

Why pose for ESPN the Magazine?

"My big dream now is to help people become healthy. Obesity, as far as I'm concerned, is the greatest problem facing the planet at the moment."

How many American kids are allowed to see the ESPN The Body Issue? Would you let your kids page through it, saying "Here, honey....you should try to look just like Venus Williams. And here, let me show you Gary Player. He's Grandpa's age.  Okay? Let's go for that!"

I can't imagine any parents out there who would willingly show ESPN The Magazine  Body Issue to their young children.  If I'm wrong, let me know.

But I believe everything is worth a discussion.  More than a year ago, I  spoke with Lesley Mann, the actress, about her nude scenes in "This is 40." She has two teenaged girls, Maude and Iris, who appear in films with their parents. Her husband, Judd Apatow, was the director on the film.

She was shown during a bedroom scene with screen husband Paul Rudd. Another was showing a breast about to be mammogrammed.

"Yes, I know. I said I'd never do nudity," she told me. "But after a while, you just get comfortable with yourself."

Leslie Mann laughs with husband Judd Apatow and the Tribune's Mark Caro.

Leslie Mann laughs with husband Judd Apatow and the Tribune's Mark Caro at a screening of 2012's 'This is 40.'

"Judd, how'd you feel filming her?" I asked. Uncomfortable with the question, apparently, he made a joke of it. "How'd I feel? As the director, I was trying to match colors...should I use a #6 blue filter? Or a #8 filter on that skin of hers?"

I'll admit, I have very mixed feelings. For years, I've tsk-tsked all forms of posing nude. But I'm like Leslie. After awhile, you do grow comfortable in the skin you're in. I went so far this summer as to post this picture of myself on Facebook:

I guess everyone wants to experience this one time in their lives...the beach shot. Some take it further than I ever will

I guess everyone wants to experience this one time in their lives...the beach shot post. Some take it further than I ever will!

I've also guest-lectured about it at Columbia College in Chicago, and Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Heights, and discussed it with friends, nieces, and nephews.

What I've asked students and family alike is this: "If you Googled yourself, would you be proud of what's out there for the world to see?"

It seems that as many times I write it, the more questions arise....especially in the era of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, where billions of people have downloaded images of themselves for their 15 minutes and counting.  Reputations will be made...and lost...in a millisecond thanks to social media.

What are your thoughts? The Token Female may use your answers in an ongoing dialogue on this subject!

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    Sports Commentator, WRLR 98.3 FM (http://wrlr.fm) Women's Sports Director, SRN Broadcasting; Guest Lecturer on Women's Sports/Women's Sports Issues

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