A Catholic youth organization in Poland has ended its partnership with Polish tennis star Agnieszka Radwanska, the fourth-ranked player in the world, after she posed naked for ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue. The issue, released last week, features Radwanska sitting naked in a lawn chair next to a swimming pool full of tennis balls…. “It’s a shame that someone who has declared their love for Jesus is now promoting the mentality of men looking at a woman as a thing rather than a child of God worthy of respect and love,” a Polish priest told The Telegraph. “If she meets a man who she can truly love and establish a happy family and raise Catholic children, then she would probably have to hide these pictures from relatives.”
It’s no secret that I have a few philosophical disagreements with the Catholic Church. Yeah…who knew, right? This really isn’t about my issues with the doctrine and dogma of the Catholic Church, though. It’s about a tired, corrupt hierarchy of (allegedly) celibate men who truly believe that they’re better equipped to make decisions about female sexuality than women actually in possession of said sexuality. It’s about how those men are so threatened by women and sex (neither of which they understand to any meaningful degree) that they’re determined to do whatever it takes to claim and maintain over the bodies and sexual/reproductive activities of women. That most reasonable people find Church officials like the unnamed Polish priest to be both ridiculous and unworthy of being taken seriously should be self-evident. Unfortunately, millions continue to be under the thrall of an organization that hates and fears women. Many of those are women who willingly accede to their own marginalization.
Women and their bodies seem to terrify the exclusively patriarchal Church leadership, and so they devote an enormous amounr of energy to ensuring that Catholics see the use of those bodies for anything but procreative, missionary-position sex as sinful, dirty, and wrong. As long as the expression of female sexuality is kept under wraps, those women are far less likely to express themselves in ways that threatens the Church patriarchy.
There’s absolutely no sensible reason for shaming Aga Radwanska for appearing in ESPN The Magazine’s The Body Issue. There’s certainly the potential for titillation if one choose to interpret any view of a naked human body as overtly sexual and licentious. That said, the only way one could reasonably interpret Radwanska’s photos as enticing sexual and therefor sinful is if they’ve repressed their own sexuality.
There’s nothing evil, sinful, or nasty about the human body, nor is The Body Issue in any way pornographic. Artist have admired and interpreted the human form for millennia; should we be required to cover any depiction of the human body and declare it sinful? The Body Issue is simply an appreciation of the bodies of athletes who’ve devoted their live to training and testing their bodies. If you choose to see The Body Issue as immoral and pornographic, that says more about you and your prejudices than anything.
Aga Radwanska did nothing wrong (unless being female and in possession of a great body is a crime) and she has nothing to be ashamed. The Catholic Church has power only insofar as they can convince women to be ashamed of their bodies and convinced that the naked human form is an evil and corrupting influence. Then again, that’s what you get when you accept the teachings of a church determined to repress all but the most narrow expression of human sexuality. If you accept those teachings I truly feel sorry for you, because you’re missing out on something unique and beautiful.