This year’s swimsuit issue lays bare all the contradictions of the #MeToo movement    

This year’s Valentine’s Day, with its airs of romantic love and devotion, came during what may have been the climax of the confused #MeToo movement: a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue without any actual swimsuits.

In the name of empowerment, naked models in the February issue are wearing words of love and human dignity, written in black marker on their skin, instead of the traditionally tiny bikinis. These words are meant to inspire titillated men to look past their skin to their personhood, an act that would require superhuman virtue. 

Our modern culture has done all it can to strip Valentine’s Day of meaning, pulling it down from its height as the commemoration of a Christian saint associated with romantic love to an opportunity to release movies about perverse sex.

St. Valentine would hardly be shocked, since he is said to have been martyred for secretly marrying Christian couples. Christian marriage, with its demands for purity and continence, was a scandal and an obstacle to the pagans of his time, steeped as they were in the base sensuality of the cult of Venus.  

This kind of marriage is still a scandal to the post-moderns of our time, steeped in sexual liberation and pornography. Marriage — the permanent and mutually sacrificial union of equals — was and is the glorious reward for the romantic lover, and silliness to the one who simply lusts. 

St. Valentine would not have been surprised by the models in the “swimsuit” issue, although he would have been saddened. The pagan world was, like ours, soaked with sex, even without the help of the venereal pornography of the Internet. 

And like our modern #MeToo women, pagan women also must have felt the indignity of being treated solely as objects to satisfy lust. They could not have felt it any more strongly than the Sports Illustrated models who posed naked, rejecting sexual objectification by painting their skin with words that express the complexity and nobility of their persons, words like “natural”, “optimism” and “mother”. Their womanhood, thrilling and individual, inspires the romantic love of St. Valentine, while their nakedness, exposed to strangers, is simply an apparatus that produces sexual pleasure.

The tragedy, of course, is that the models, and the world along with them, believe that a culture soaked in sex, which celebrates their prurient nakedness as empowering and liberating, is one that could also read properly the signposts of their dignity written in marker on their skin. Impossible.

When the Christian barriers of purity and dedication have been demolished in the name of “liberation” and reduced to legalistic concepts of consent, then impersonal sexual impulse reigns supreme. By posing naked, the models are arousing that impulse in men who can only view these women in relation to their own desires. The words on their bodies demonstrate their longing for the personal recognition of the romantic lover, who wants the Beloved herself in all her specificity, rather than the pleasures any woman can bring.

The “swimsuit” issue is a pictorial explanation of the dissatisfaction and unhappiness that mar the lives of Western women today, who by historic standards enjoy unheard-of prosperity, health and freedom — a dissatisfaction expressed in the #MeToo movement. It is no wonder women feel oppressed and abused, exposed as they are from puberty through old age to callous treatment from men who view them solely as the apparatus of sexual pleasure. 

Compounding the problem is the situation encapsulated in the Sports Illustrated “swimsuit” issue. Posing naked to titillate strange men is pure, sordid Venus, no matter how many signs of personhood you draw on your skin. This is not empowerment but slavery to the tyranny of sex, which occupies the space that wholesome and dignifying romance — Valentine — should rightfully fill.  

Really, it’s an ancient/modern tragedy. The #MeToo women, and especially the poor naked models in Sports Illustrated, are longing for Valentine in a world of pure Venus.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, coming to the U.S. at the age of 11. She has written for USA TODAY, National Review, The Washington Post and The New York Times, and has appeared on CNN, Telemundo, Fox News and EWTN. She practices radiology in the Miami area, where she lives with her husband and five children.