Morality in Media President Blasts Wal-Mart For Displaying 'Sports Illustrated' Swimsuit Issue

NEW YORK - Seems that Wal-Mart can't catch a break. First they get bashed on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" for suing a brain-damaged ex-employee for $490,000 - her entire net worth - that she won in an insurance settlement on her injuries, and now they get shit from Robert Peters, president of Morality In Media (MIM), for displaying Sports Illustrated's 2008 swimsuit issue, which shows - surprise, surprise! - women in swimsuits ... and also some tit.

In a "news release" today, Peters reports receiving a letter from a woman in North Carolina, who wrote, "While visiting a new Super Wal-Mart last week, my 7-year-old daughter handed my mom (her grandmother) Sports Illustrated (SI) magazine's 2008 'Swimsuit Edition.' She said, 'Look Grandma, this woman isn't wearing a bathing suit top!' My mom then went to a Wal-Mart employee and told her what happened stating that this should have never be on a shelf where children can be exposed to it. The woman agreed and went immediately and removed all the magazines from the shelf.

"Today, we returned to the same Wal-Mart to see if the magazines were still gone. They were not. Wal-Mart had put the magazines back out on the magazine rack at the very same location as before, exposing children of all ages to the cover on the SI magazine (not to mention what is inside of the magazine)... Later, a manager was introduced to me. After explaining to him what happened last week and then just today, I asked him if there was anything he could do about this... He said ... he would have to put the magazines back on the shelf because SI rented space... SI was not considered pornographic, and that this issue is being displayed all over the nation. He told me to call 1-800-WALMART and log a complaint."

Passing over for a moment the concept that Sports Illustrated "rented space" at Wal-Mart to display its magazine - an interesting idea that adult video companies may think about inaugurating in adult retail stores - we can't help but wonder which of the mother's words have been replaced by the ellipses, since they seem to come at a critical juncture in the narrative - and we can't further help but wonder whether their removal serves MIM's agenda more than it serves the mother's.

We also can't help but wonder why mom didn't simply use the experience to begin teaching her daughter what the kid's own anatomy will one day resemble; talk about the function of breasts in mammals; and talk about how most places on earth outside of the Vatican and the Middle East don't give bare breasts a passing thought, but how America is so Puritanical that it's developed a mythology that anyone under age 18 must be shielded from contact with anything remotely sexual lest they somehow become harmed by finding out that they are in fact (or will be) sexual creatures, with drives and interests that may one day involve those breasts?

In any case, after receiving the letter, Peters leapt into action to condemn Wal-Mart - and, of course, Sports Illustrated itself - for displaying "soft-core pornography" in a place where kids could get their hands on it ... despite the fact that there's no evidence that minors of any age are harmed by seeing a naked female breast, and that many of them have had intimate contact with such breasts from the time of their birth until they were one year old or older, through breastfeeding.

Peters was particularly exercised about the fact that SI wasn't behind the "blinder racks" reserved for Playboy, Penthouse or Hustler - and, in some particularly conservative areas, Cosmopolitan, Bazaar and Redbook - to shield unwitting eyes from any hint of sexual (or simply unclothed) content.

"Surely Wal-Mart executives must realize that males don't purchase the Swimsuit Edition to view art or to choose bathing suits for their wives or girl friends," Peters declared. We're guessing, however, that most of the people reading the Swimsuit Issue do so as part of their annual subscription to the magazine, which for the 11 other months concentrates on sports talk, sports scores, recaps of games and other sports-related fare.

"In the first place, some models aren't wearing anything at all; many aren't wearing anything 'on top;' and most would be arrested in many localities if they appeared in a public place in the 'attire' (or lack thereof) provided them by Sports Illustrated," Peters assessed. "State or local public indecency laws typically prohibit individuals from appearing in a public place, like Wal-Mart or a public beach, while in a state of 'nudity,' typically defined to mean: 'the showing of the human genitals, pubic area, anus, anal cleft, or any part of the female breast below a horizontal line across the top of the areola with less than a fully opaque covering.' Many state and local harmful-to-minors sale and display laws also define nudity in this manner. Neither type of law uses the term 'pornographic.'"

It may be useful to point out that the nudity Peters is talking about is inside the magazine, where parents, if they're any good at their job, can prevent their kids from looking or tell their kids not to look - though again, if one does manage a peek, not only will the vision of "any part of the female breast below a horizontal line across the top of the areola with less than a fully opaque covering" not cause the kid any harm, most of the younger ones (7-year-olds included) will be completely uninterested in it because they haven't yet reached puberty; their bodies haven't yet manufactured the chemistry that will one day impel them to be interested.

"Rather than trying to discern whether a magazine depicting naked or semi-naked models is 'pornographic,'" Peters counseled, "Wal-Mart would be better advised to be on the lookout for magazines with 'models' that aren't wearing any or enough clothes. That way they will also see what a child can readily see, namely, models with little or no clothes on, like the emperor of old."

What we adults, of course, can readily see is another waterhead with nothing better to do than make a few bucks scaring parents into thinking something bad will happen to their kids if they accidentally catch sight of naked bodies.

Incidentally, the kid's mom "also has a complaint about the SI website, which advertises its 'SI KIDS' section almost next door to its indecent SWIMSUIT section," Peters reports. In this case, "almost next door" is three buttons away ... and what's a 7-year-old doing going to Sports Illustrated's website anyway - or any other website, for that matter - without parental supervision? And if mom already knows what's in the Swimsuit Issue, what's she doing on the site - besides perhaps scouting out "indecency" that she can rush to report to Peters, who can issue yet another tired screed on the pseudo-sexual dangers facing a 7-year-old girl who, in about five years, won't have to open a Swimsuit Issue to see tits; all she'll have to do is look down?