“ESPN the Mag or Playgirl?” asked a friend along with their Facebook post linking to this year’s ESPN Body Issue. it’s definitely a nude Olympian Bonanza—featuring nude photos of 27 Olympians—but it’s definitely not Playgirl…or Playboy. Although there are technically more women pictured than men (seven members of the U.S. Women’s Volleyball team posed together, throwing off the count), the shoot is surprisingly equal opportunity in terms of its admiration—and oh-so slight sexualization—of the male and female athlete’s form.
In the past, the shoot has garnered big criticism for its overtly sexual photographs, especially of women, perceived as catering to the magazine’s mostly-male gaze. But in its fourth year, the ESPN Body Issue seems to be telling fans that they’re aware of past criticisms, and doing their best to show men and women in a favorable light. Most of the photos are more athletic than sexual–many of the athletes are photographed in the midst of their sport, and all of the captions include body stats (height and weight) as well as quotes from each athlete about their training and body. Some are more sexual (Carlos Bocanegra, of the U.S. men’s national soccer team, got a sultry pose, above, and an athletic one, in the gallery below); some are just playful or simple. But in general, they seem to have done a good job of featuring men and women in all kinds of poses to please all kinds of readers.
Check out the photos for yourself and tell us if you think their Body Issue is equal opportunity or not:
All Photos: espn.go.com