Friday, Feb 25, 2000 5:00 PM UTC

The swimsuit issue is here!

Wimpy, artsy, dishonest porn delivered to your door -- now in 3D!

Here it is sports fans! Babes, bikinis, water and palms (both kinds)! A narcotic blend of masturbatory fantasy and high fashion all in the name of good sportsmanship. And this time — because you wondered last time, “What will they think of next?” — there are 3-D glasses! An actual souvenir that will fit in your underwear drawer or glove compartment. Christ! Even the kids can get ahold of them and do no harm!

I speak, of course, of the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated, the only porn product sanctioned by people who publicly, and sometimes profusely, object to porn. When is porn not porn? When it is delivered to the house by an employee of the federal government without a brown wrapper.

Which used to be the reason I could begin to understand the whole thing. I figured the deeply inhibited man might subscribe and get 51 weekly issues of S.I. as a beard for that March swimsuit edition while millions of 14-year-old boys loitered near mailboxes nationwide, hoping that access to the late winter issue would coincide with their parents’ trip to Cancun.

My heart breaks for both parties, of course. But it occurs to me that the Internet has rendered this whole pathetic scenario obsolete. Of course, they don’t make laptops small enough to really work in a tree fort or powder room, but I haven’t really investigated the Palm V for its special porn advantages.

Personally, I hate the Internet and I prefer old-time porn. Call me old-fashioned, but I like those nasty little black-and-white photos that guys would show around the locker room — 4-by-5 pictures of slatterns in white panties giving head to scrawny guys wearing Lone Ranger masks and black socks. Hell, in those golden days of snapshot smut — “from Tijuana” we always heard — even the donkeys wore black masks. And those women were so skanky you just knew they’d be available if only you could track them down, probably at some Great Plains roadhouse where they slung hash on the night shift.

Availability is definitely not a quality one imagines for those swimsuit models. And my understanding is that the tarts one finds on the Internet don’t even exist. Modern day blow-up dolls: absolutely the refuge of the truly perverted.

Porn was better when it was dirty. When the very conveyance — say, the printed page or a personal slide viewer — could be tattered and worn or stained. Of course, there is still plenty of good, nasty pornography available in dirty bookstores for those of us unafraid of being observed entering or leaving a place called Frenchy’s. Real men, for instance.

Maybe the worst part of this whole S.I. thing is the duplicity, the laugh-out-loud assertion that once a year, the hip dandy who actually thinks Rick Reilly is funny and football is an allegory for life takes a moment to — just this once — enjoy intimacy with supermodels in thongs. That arty artifice — those stabs at creativity — really grates. It is subterfuge! Denial! A lie!

It does a disservice to porn in its most honest form. Plus, it’s wimpy. It reminds me of the outburst of a very wise Hustler editor who, when presented with a too-tame photo spread by a new photographer, said:

“Now who the hell is going to look at that and stop what they’re doing to go jack off?”