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Jan 23,2001

Culture & Politics

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Sex and Sports

A look back at the difference sex appeal, gender, and sexuality make in the games we play

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by Jeff Merron

It's all about desire, and you've got to play with passion. It's the year in sex and sports.

From male and female athletes posing nude, to the media's not-so-subtle fascination with Anna Kournikova, to debates about exploitation and self-expression, sex plays a complicated, often controversial role in the culture of sports and sports coverage.

Culled from the SurfJones archives, here's a look back at notable stories on sex and sports in the media in the year 2000.


The Australian women's soccer team -- the Matildas -- has sold more than 60,000 copies of their Y2K nude calendar. "I think something drastic had to be done to raise the interest," said defender Amy Taylor. (Playboy)

Surfing from work? You can bypass Playboy and read the story behind "the world's most sought after calendar" at a good old-fashioned sports site. (


In a stunning display of subtlety, Sports Illustrated's 2000 swimsuit issue comes with 3-D glasses. "We chose 3-D photography because we could think of no better way to bring our readers closer to the girls," explains the issue's editor. Some folks are not amused.


The Matildas aren't alone -- the Hockeyroos are doing it, too. Check out "Sex and the Sports Girl" and find out why. (The Australian)


Michigan's Naked Mile ain't what it used to be, so the traditional leaders of the run, the rowing and lacrosse teams, are boycotting this year's event. (Michigan Daily, via Obscure Store)

Masconomet (Mass.) High School football co-captain Corey Johnson has got a date for the senior prom -- a young man named Michael. Johnson told teammates he was gay earlier this year and the reaction was ... acceptance. A truly heartwarming story. (NYTimes)


SI for Women's swimsuit issue is here, full of beefcake and cheesecake. (Sports Illustrated for Women)

But it's not one-handed reading. SIFW features athletes, not models. Shaq and Sheryl are "too busy getting fresh air and exercise to think about our needs." (Feed)

Aussie men get naked, too. Exhibitionism is running amok Down Under. The "Sydney Dream" issue of Black White magazine just came out, and 29 athletes stripped. "Generally speaking, athletes are not shy -- they're proud of their bodies," said editor Karen-Jane Eyre. (

The Bare to Breakers is a sub-event of the "textiled" Bay to Breakers. Isn't this what the Greeks had in mind a few thousand years ago? "Although numbering only a few dozen amid a sea of tens of thousands of participants, the Bare-2-B'ers' demonstration is one of the Bay to Breakers' greatest crowd pleasers." This SF road race is on Sunday. (Bare to Breakers)
• Unofficial count was 112 streakers in last year's race, a record. (SF Examiner)


SI's Anna photo gallery accompanied by writing that seems to be straight out of a romance novel. "On the court she is like a trim sloop, skimming across the surface, her long signature pigtail flying about like a torn spinnaker in the wind. Her lines are perfect, the colors pure." (CNNSI)
"Nymphet at the Net" -- Maureen Dowd weighs in on "The Lolita of tennis." (NYTimes: Posted June 5, 2000)
The good people at have some fun at SI writer Frank Deford's expense.

"Redknapp is a bit of a porky boy these days". Euro 2000 widows sound off on "ugly football blokes." Watch out for munters, mingers, beasts, horses, and one "sex god from the planet freakout." (Euro 2000 Widows) (link not working: posted June 21, 2000)

"I burp. I flash. E-9." The winning White Sox now have buzz, and fans very dedicated to helping them win. The bleacher babe who uttered the above remark Friday night was planning to distract Yankees right fielder Paul O'Neill while cooling off at the same time. Also: Chisox web site "page turns" are up. (Chicago Tribune: posted June 26, 2000)

The camera's love affair with Tiger Woods, all of him. David Thomson suggests that watching Tiger dominate the field is one thrilling experience: "In the gravest reveries of pornography there is seldom such sustained rapture, such uninterrupted emphasis on human male being, breathing, existence and persistence."


A love letter to CuJo. Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Curtis Joseph is Lynn's object of obsession, and she writes about this eloquently. "Cujo the goalie is, in the position of the team's protector and great hope, a preternaturally skilled player, one whose athleticism takes the form of variations on the Kama Sutra, and who eyes, framed by the bars of his cage, are ...." ( posted July 17, 2000)

Can basketball save Thailand's village girls? The Carleton College women's basketball team made a trip to northern Thailand recently. The goal: to help prevent Thai girls from migrating to Bangkok to serve in the sex industry. "We all realize there is no quick fix," said one team member. "But building awareness is what we want to establish within the girls." (Salon)
Read the Carleton team's journal entries. ( posted July 20, 2000)


Nudity is a subversive act. So says Sally Jenkins. When Jenny Thompson posed nude for Sports Illustrated, she pulled off "a nifty piece of cultural jujitsu," argues Jenkins, a Washington Post columnist. That is, she exposed her muscles.
The Thompson profile and photo. (Sports Illustrated: posted August 21, 2000)

Joanna Cagan argues that women athletes who pose in the nude are reinforcing the status quo, giving men power over women's bodies.

Next page: September to December


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