It's almost time for that yearly rite of passage...the Sports Illustrated "Swimsuit Issue".
It's a rite of passage because it's the traditional first step for young men into the world of pronography. (The Swimsuit Issue had a more prominent role before the Day of the Internet...now it's not nearly so much a defining object, but until something replaces the glossy, dog-eared, loose-paged magazine-in-use, it'll still be something of a cultural icon.)
Yes, pornography. The pictures in question are specifically designed and posed to encourage sexual excitement in young (and not-so-young) men.
The swimsuits themselves are designed to enhance and reinforce the imagination by emphasizing that which they don't expicitly show. This is an effective "hook", in that it follows the old show-business dictum, "leave 'em wanting more".
At this point there's still a balance in many boys. They're titillated, but there's a sense of right and wrong still operating. They want more, but deep down they recognize that "more" is a Rubicon they find themselves hesitant to cross. Most cross, though, egged on by their hormones, or their peers.
And where will they find more? The next step used to be the soft-core pornographic magazines like Playboy. Appetite whetted, hook set, and the next step to a magazine kept in a rack behind the cashier's counter was easier to take.
Today, for many young men, the next step is the Internet...but for those whose access isn't as free as they might like, the magazines are still there.
From there, the road descends further and further. What are the limits of low? I don't know, and I don't want to.
The result of this path, whose first few feet are set before our sons' feet by a "reputable" magazine, is disappointment in relationships, and marriages that could have been a lot stronger than they are. Pornographic images stay with the male mind for a long time, and how demeaning is it for a wife to feel the hidden blade of comparison, the comparison with a woman whose only existence for the viewer is in print, or digital.
Boys will be boys, you might say.
Yes. And one day they'll be husbands.