Sex Sells Sex, Not Women’s Sports

“The newest kid on the women’s sports block is finding that the old formula for attention-getting is as robust as ever. ‘Sex sells,’ says Atlanta Beat defender Nancy Augustyniak, who was astonished to learn she finished third in a poll of the sexiest female soccer players.”   —Wendy Parker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Last winter, champion alpine skier Lindsey Vonn won the downhill gold medal at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, the first American woman to achieve gold in this prestigious event. From 2008 to 2010, Vonn also won three consecutive World Cup championships, the first US woman and second woman ever to accomplish such a feat. For her unprecedented achievements, Vonn was named Sportswoman of the Year by the US Olympic Committee.

Even Sports Illustrated—notorious for its lack of coverage of women’s sports—couldn’t ignore this historic moment and devoted its cover to Vonn. SI’s cover, however, blatantly portrayed Vonn as a sex object and spoke volumes about the rampant sexual depictions of women athletes. Rather than emphasize her singular athletic talent, the magazine depicted Vonn in a posed photograph, smiling at the camera in her ski regalia. What was most noticeable—and controversial—about the pose was its phallic nature: Vonn’s backside was arched at a forty-five-degree angle while superimposed over a mountain peak.

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