Sports Illustrated, You’re Part of the Rape Culture Problem


2Every day, I get my daily Sports Illustrated newsletter because I’m something of a sports junkie. I was surprised but pleased to see the site finally cover sexual harassment of women in sports in any form; in this case, female reporters. That’s page 2 above of my newsletter. And two stories below that?

3Notice a problem? The “Hot Clicks” are an everyday occurrence in the newsletter. Most days, it’s merely an annoyance. It’s not that I object to hot women on the internet. It’s that I object to Sports Illustrated covering men as sports figures and women as sex objects. I’ve looked over my last eight newsletters. There are ten stories that mention women, all either Hot Clicks or a puff piece and even a casting call for the swimsuit issue.

Another newsletter included details of the Patrick Kane rape investigation with more Hot Clicks. The only mention I can recall of a women in sports in the last month is the coverage of Serena Williams. Meantime, the WNBA is in the middle of playoffs. No stories on those teams in the newsletter.

Why does do this? They want clicks, and they believe their audience is all men who want photos of hot women, not stories about women in sports. What they don’t realize is that by doing this, they’re part of the problem.

When people talk about rape culture, this is what they mean. When the men are valued for their achievements and treated as people, and the women are valued for being hot and looking sexually available, being prizes for the men doing the important stuff. For further examples, see that awful Draft Kings commercial that ran all last year on all the sports channels that talked about how winners of the fantasy contest went from ‘having holes in his underwear to having bikini models in them.’ Because, see, women are a prize, like money or prestige.

Sports Illustrated, you are a part of the problem. Not the only part, but given the harassment issue of female journalists, if you’re concerned about the issue, first look to your own house. It’s not even a good business decision, according to an article in Forbes:

Females account for more than a third of 14 million-plus people that tune into major events like the NBA Finals, World Series, Daytona 500, and Stanley Cup Finals, according to data from Nielsen. And as for the granddaddy sporting event of the year, the Super Bowl, the 2011 figure jumps to 45.9% of the game’s 111 million viewers, or some 50 million women cheering on the Steelers or Packers. The NFL shop online puts out an entire line of female-targeted merchandise for every team. Maybe it’s time to lay the term ‘football widow’ to rest.

Meantime, I’m canceling my newsletter and switching over to They don’t cover women in sports either, just the NFL. But at least all I get is football news instead of having my gender being treated just as a piece of scenery.

Mad Max Fury Road image via Warner Home Video.
Mad Max Fury Road image via Warner Home Video.
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19 thoughts on “Sports Illustrated, You’re Part of the Rape Culture Problem

  1. when I talk about rape culture, I talk about rape, not people looking at women in bikinis.

    1. This is true, but the rape culture we’re all talking about starts with a society that accepts the sexual objectification of women. When women are treated as objects, they and their can be freely bought, sold, or even stolen – that’s what rape is.

      1. Your logic is way overextended. There is no logic I have ever seen or experienced that goes from “I like seeing pictures of hot women” to “I’m ok with sex trafficking.” It just doesn’t exist. Certainly the inverted pattern happens (men ok with sex trafficking like looking at “hot clicks”) but that’s not the causal link you’re describing.

  2. Thank you, Corrina! SI’s treatment of women has been normalized for so long it has become difficult for people to understand they really are part of the problem. I have three teen daughters that are more into typically geeky stuff than sports, but the culture is often mirrored in gaming, sci-fi, tech, etc. My husband and I are TIRED of doing battle with what they are exposed to, but we must. And btw commenter Ashley, when you split hairs about the definition of rape culture in an article about unchecked female objectification and harassment with a flip comment about bikinis, I am afraid you are part of the problem as well. Refer to the fifth paragraph that begins with “When people talk about rape culture, this is what they mean.”

  3. Great article. Women account for more than half the population, yet women’s sports are nonexistent on tv. We know people want to watch it based on the Women’s soccer teams this past year and in 1996 when women dominated on the field in the Olympics. Ask you sons and Daughters who their favorite female athlete is. Most won’t be able to tell you one or will mention a tennis star. Why? Women do great things all the time. It is time for TV and Etc share this with the country!

  4. I remeber when geek dad used to write about geek stuff, or being a geek dad. Not that this isn’t an important topic but I think im unsubscribing because I’m tired of off topic articles, reviews that don’t review, and a barrage of “daily deals”.

    1. We certainly do still write about those things, and we have also always brought up important issues like this which do affect families and how we raise our kids. Now, if you’ve been reading GeekDad for a long time, hopefully you noticed that we left Wired a while ago to strike out on our own. Due to the legal settlement attached to that departure, which we are still paying off, we have to make ourselves a successful company, and that includes ads and yes, daily deal posts. It does not, I hope you’ll notice, include pop-ups, auto-playing videos, sitewide takeovers, and other more intrusive advertising that is common to sites like Wired. We are trying to walk a line where we can bring our readers good content, and earn our keep in such a way that doesn’t deter them. I think we’re doing that. Hopefully this better explains why some things have changed around here recently, and you might reconsider leaving.

  5. Corinna is completely wrong. SI is not the problem here, Corinna’s whiny attitude – and her willingness to criminally defame all men as rapists because women don’t measure up – is the problem.

    I’ve got news for you Corinna. Women’s sports are by and large, *boring*. You simply can’t accept that, can you? You can’t accept that in almost category of every sport, the very best women aren’t even average when placed among the best class of men. No shame in that, because men are bigger, stronger, faster, more coordinated, and their brains are better equipped for catching, throwing, and other tasks requiring geospatial awareness. That’s just how it is.

    Nobody cares about women’s basketball, unless they happen know some girl that plays. Nobody cares about women’s golf, or women’s soccer, or tennis, etc., for the same reason. And they never will.

    As far as your whine about “objectifying women”, I’ll give you half credit. Feminists have done their best to destroy chivalry, and the honor and restraint that system imposes upon men, and you are reaping your rewards. Women are indeed more than objects of desire for men. And yet, at the same time, they always have been objects of desire, and you’d better hope they always will be.

    The problem is how to balance that natural situation in such a way that both men and women are honored and respected as much as possible. Your smeary little whine does nothing to achieve such a balance.

    Corinna, if you want to replace the idea and system of chivalrous and gentlemanly behavior from men, balanced by demure and graceful, but self-confident and assertive femininity from women(think Barbara Stanwyck, Kate Hepburn), then let’s hear your suggestions!

    But right now, all you’ve done is make the situation a little bit *worse* by tearing down men – again. Shame on you. And if you want to read about women’s sports – feel free to publish your own sports magazine. And leave SI alone.

    1. If you read the article, you’d find out that I’d don’t insist Sports Illustrated cover women’s sports (though it would be cool if they did more), I questioned why if they were to include women in their newsletter at all, they weren’t about sports but about sexy women.

      I’m in the totally radical position of wanting my Sports Illustrated to cover sports!

      And my solution was to swap to, which also doesn’t cover women’s sports either, but does at least cover sports without coating it with some objectified clickbait.

    2. The thing is, chivalry was great if you happened to be a white dude of noble birth. Not so great if you were a peasant. One of its central features is the arrogant notion that anyone not a white male nobleman was so inferior that they needed protection and supervision. Chivalry toward women was basically “look, these frail and dainty creatures are too fragile and stupid to take care of themselves, so we have to do it for them,” which basically boils down to a rule of etiquette suggesting that a gentleman seduces rather than rapes his conquests.

      So much better, yeah.

  6. Oh, the mansplaining from Freddy! My day was just not complete until I got me some mansplaining that runs us around the bush instead of actually addressing reality, conflates a specific argument on a specific problem into a universal condemnation of malehood, and then proceeds to “school” the “whiny” woman on why she is, of course, *wrong* about something this man has never experienced and chooses to ignore… because actually addressing it somehow threatens his manliness and status as a superior being.

    FatFreddysCat, thank you for giving us such a fine example of mansplaining a real problem into something that is inherently the author’s fault—what would we ever do without you to teach us how we’re ignorant, uppity, whiny, and wrong?

  7. I have often wondered what the SI Swimsuit Issue has anything to do with sports. None of the “garments” displayed have anything to do with competitive swimming or diving.
    I realize that the Swimsuit Issue is the magazine’s biggest, best-selling issue of the year. It’s the one issue that non-sports fans will pick up – because, hey! Hot Chicks!

    But the fact that they don’t really cover women’s sports, or women IN sports (such as Danika Patrick in automobile racing – where, gasp, she has the temerity to compete as an equal with MEN) is the reason I don’t bother with the magazine. I like sports, though I’m not an all-consuming fan. But I like sports of all sorts.

    As for FatFreddysCat, Dud (yes, I left the /e/ off on purpose), since you make such a deal about evolutionary preference of men over women, I’m hoping you don’t have plans to reproduce. Because usually (outside the matter of rape), it is the WOMEN who make the decision , and you are not demonstrating any qualities that would be deemed useful for the continuation of the species. Just so you know, many women do compete as peers to men in some sports. As for women’s sports being “boring”?? Seriously? Women’s figure skating? Downhill ski racing and slalom? Platform diving? These are boring? Nevermind things like women’s volleyball and soccer, where there is fierce competition on the court and field? Or that in the first half of the twentieth century in SEVERAL sports, the most exciting athlete around was… GASP… a woman, Babe Didrikson? You need some education. These are things that the younger generations ought to be informed on, and so Corrina’s observations are quite on point about parenting issues.

    1. The really puzzling part about the Swimsuit Issue is that for the past several years, the central feature of it has been women who aren’t wearing swimsuits, but whose bodies are painted to look like they are. What’s the point of that?

    2. Dear Sara and pals,

      Anybody that headlines an article with the nasty destructive smear phrase “Rape Culture” needs a few things explained to them. And Femsplaining doesn’t get the job done even halfway. So, if it takes a joyfully married and multiply reproductive MALE (with happy successful boys AND girls in house) to explain it to you, then so be it.

      There is a major war on boys being conducted in America; boys and men are being told every day that what they are is bad, and the phrase ‘rape culture’ is a primary weapon in that war. Educate yourself Sara Beach. My SATs were 99th percentile nationwide, I speak multiple languages, and if If you know half the engineering, economics, history and philosophy that I do, then you’ll know more than most people. If so, SARA, make use of your knowledge, and quit excusing the nasty language by the author (who I’m sure is a lovely, wonderful person otherwise). The relentless feminizing of our culture, and especially of our young men, is a Very Bad Thing.

      Why, here’s a nice young gay guy to timely explain it even more to you:

      I know that a lot of women felt chafed and repressed under the American Patriarchy, as mild as it actually has been (eg see Arab culture, and African, Indian, Chinese etc etc.). Legitimate gripes, no doubt. But it made this country the most free, and the most wealthy, of any in history. And you are tearing it down, without any recognition of the massive cultural disintegration and pain you are heedlessly causing. We will ALL be paying for this destruction for a long time.

      BTW – I love Babe Didrikson, and figure skating.

      1. Wait it was American Patriarchy that made us the most free (we aren’t), and the most wealthy (we aren’t even in the top 5, we barely squeak into the top 10), of any in history? Here I thought it was Capitalism and American Exceptionalism.

        Did you seriously bring up test scores from when you were 17?

  8. “It’s not even a good business decision, according to an article in Forbes”

    I bet you a $1 that you’re absolutely wrong and SI knows exactly that link’s click-thru rate and how much money they make off that link and how it compares to the alternative links they could put in there. Do you really think their emails are so haphazard to think otherwise?

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