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Sexualizing athletes and the “body issue.”

People don’t seem to scoff when they see a model posing essentially naked or barely covered by an inanimate object, but when it comes to athletes there seems to be some negative backlash and anger.

Why is it the fact they’re an athlete that seems to spark outrage?

It seems more and more athletes are the ones modeling than the “traditional model.” It starts off smaller, for clothing lines and colognes, but becomes provocative.

ESPN’s 2013 Body Issue is filled with naked athletes posing for the camera – athletes like Washington Wizard’s Guard John Wall, or four-time X Games silver medallist Elena Hight. The issue was called “bodies we want.”

“Your body is all you have in this lifetime, so taking care of it and honouring it is a huge part of my life. As an athlete, you ask so much of your body all the time, so what you do to get that response is important,” she said in the issue about why she posed.

Many are enraged at the objectification of women in the photos and the taking athletes out of their element and sexualizing them. Although she does appreciate the power and intensity of the photos, Kimberly Belmonte wrote in SPARK Movement, “Most of the women are posed in objectifying positions, staring coyly or sexually at the camera.” While in some photos this proves to be true, there are many more, such as 2012 Olympic bronze medallist in boxing Marlen Esparza, whose first photo is of a strong, powerful woman.

A woman smiling coyly does not mean she is being demeaned, but rather she is tapping into her sexuality and expressing it through her eyes and lips.

One of San Francisco’s 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s photos is of him staring intensely into the camera, followed by six-time X Games medallist Tarah Gieger, who is mirroring his style and staring right into the camera – a strong smile and confidence radiating from her.

Hundreds of years of art have drawn, painted and sculpted the human form. These photographs are simply another seam in the patchwork of human art.

Professional athletes treat their bodies like temples, and their strong physical stature is one of the ways everyone can see their hard work, dedication and determination in a physical way.

It’s not just women posing, but men as well. In some instances they are sitting in a bubble bath – which is one of Wall’s photos – leaving very little to the imagination. Would you say that is demeaning to men? Absolutely not. They are choosing a way of expressing themselves, and displaying their eccentric personalities through photograph.

They’re all naked; exposed. They are in a human’s most vulnerable state, but doing it with strength and confidence. These photos should not be looked at as a means of belittlement but as a means of empowerment.

Much of an athlete is based on the physicality of the person. Photographs such as these simply highlight the physical aspects of their time spent locked away in a gym, track or on the slopes. With those bodies, why hide it? I say flaunt it.

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