Comparing Female Athletes and Models in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues from 1997-2013

Open Access
Alwine, Lauren R
Graduate Program:
Media Studies
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 17, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Michel M Haigh, Thesis Advisor
  • female athletes
  • models
  • sexual objectification
  • sports illustrated
  • swimsuit issue
Research has examined the portrayal of female athletes in Sports Illustrated (SI) magazine. Much of this research has focused on the sexual objectification of these women. The coverage draws focus away from their athletic abilities and onto their feminine attributes. The present project conducts a content analysis of the photographs in SI swimsuit issues from 1997-2013. Photographs were coded for: sport, pose, overall appearance, and setting. Results indicate the depiction of models and athletes used in the SI swimsuit issue has changed over time. The portrayal of models and athletes differ very little in the amount of passive and sexual poses. There is concern for the continued ambivalence created by the media, which constructs the idea female athletes must rely on their sexuality and feminine features rather than their athletic ability to gain visibility.