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Ashley Harkleroad: First Female Tennis Player on Playboy

It's nothing new for female athletes to pose for Playboy (Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard and former volleyball player Gabrielle Reece have both posed), but Ashley Harkleroad is the first pro female tennis player to appear on the cover. Although she may not be well-known, she does rank in the top 100 in the world and recently moved up to 72. Harkleroad decided to pose for Playboy to show that athletic women could be sexy. Um, I'm not sure where she heard that they weren't, but I guess there are worse reasons to pose nude.

Her eight-page spread in the August 2008 issue is causing quite a stir on the tennis scene. She said:

"For me, I have a very natural body. I'm an athlete who is fit and not very big-busted at all. I'm proud of that. I wanted to show that female athletes, who are fit and muscular, can have very beautiful bodies just like regular models. l'll be the first tennis player ever. That's kind of cool."

I think it's great to be proud of your body, especially when Playboy's definition of sexy has traditionally been thin and big-busted ladies. To hear what Serena Williams said in response to Harkleroad's photos and to see the first page of her layout


After hearing about Harkleroad's photo shoot, Serena said, "I can't say right now it's in any thought of my mind to be in that mag, but I'm happy for her if that's what she wanted to do. It takes a lot of courage." Well that's supportive and non-judgmental.

Although this photo isn't very revealing, as you turn the page, there are some topless shots of her on the court. Realistic? Harkleroad said, "I really didn't think it was that big of a deal." Do you admire this tennis player for showing off her athletic body, or do you think she's undermining the credibility of female athletes? Should there be some kind of rule about professional athletes posing nude? Would you want to show off your body if you worked hard to be fit and toned? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. I am truly curious to hear what you all think.

Join The Conversation
Stephie-Hobbs Stephie-Hobbs 9 years
I think she looks fantastic, and if she wants to show off her body, who are we to say it's a bad thing? She feels like she's proving something; that she's saying women, especially athletes, can be sexy with their natural bodies, and don't need to be DDs to feel attractive. If she feels she's doing something positive for other women out there, then good for her!
sldc sldc 9 years
Ditto comment #17. She has a great figure and while I am not judging he r as a person, I am sorry she feels the need to do this at all. Seriously, men are gonna wank to her photos and I am pretty sure that isn't going to help women athletes in any way.
chocolatine chocolatine 9 years
I've never seen a really talented/accomplished woman in any field pose for Playboy, or even tamer-but-still-objectifying mags such as Maxim. It's never the #1's, it's always the #72's. It's nothing more than a desperate cry for publicity, and a surefire way to not be taken seriously.
joannn joannn 9 years
I love Ashley, but her spread was not classy or tasteful (like Amanda Beard's). And she sounded pretty shallow in her interview. She needs to have a better team around, rather than her coach cum manager cum boyfriend who pimped her out for this shoot
Silverlining10 Silverlining10 9 years
Also, there's a big difference between almost-nude and completely nude. I would like to think that a suggestive photo shoot with some clothing on is a bit classier than a full-frontal nude picture of a girl posing with a tennis racket.
Silverlining10 Silverlining10 9 years
Well, I complained with David Beckham posing almost nude. I'm definitely not a sexist. I'm not naive enough to think only women get objectified, but the topic was specifically about women, and not men and women doing nude spreads.
gumdrops334 gumdrops334 9 years
In men's defense, men are objectified as well. No one complains when David Beckham poses almost nude for Armani!! And I can assure you, plenty of women have pleasured themselves to that image. It's sexist to think that only women are objectified. If you take away Playboy, you can take away every shirtless ad/picture/move scene of the hot famous men you admire. With that being said, I like that Ashley did this, kind a gives the smaller-chested women some reassurance that we are sexy too. It's sad that we need it, but all the PB models with fake boobs really get in your head.
justanerd1975 justanerd1975 9 years
I think it undermines women but we (in general) are never going to stop doing things like this because it makes us feel good
idawson idawson 9 years
yeah i think this is pretty lame not in her decision to do it but it would appear that she is trying to fast track her role as a sexy tennis player. as a tennis fan i really did not know who she was until i heard about this story a couple of weeks ago. for me she still has to prove what she can do on the court - but i guess she has accomplished what she wants she is on the radar.
Silverlining10 Silverlining10 9 years
I really think someone with such talent posing nude for Playboy is a bit classless. These women work soo many years to become such recognized athletes, then they want to show their naked bodies off for men to pleasure themselves with? It really distracts from their talent because their athletic ability is now overshadowed by their nudity. I understand female athletes are less appreciated than male athletes, but trying to gain that extra publicity by posing nude is a bit questionable. I'm not sure if these women are exactly doing these photo shoots for empowerment because there are many empowered women who have not revealed a single breast. I.e. Regardless of whether one is a fan, Oprah is an empowered woman, and has never posed for Playboy.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 9 years
Why does a role model necessarily have to be sexless though? I read Playboy, and I certainly haven't been hurting in any way because of it. Men and women are both portrayed as sex objects all of the time, so why not do it on your own terms and think of it as a powerful thing?
lady_jade lady_jade 9 years
when i think of this mag, i roll my eyes. it's silly to pretend that it's selling anything other than the obvious. I love when people say "but it's artistic, the human body is beautiful" which yes is a valid point, but forget the purpose of this magazine and others like it. i think those kinds of excuses get drummed up to entice young women to be a part of it. I have a very cold opinion about this industry as a whole because i was hired to be a production assistant a few years ago for what turned out to be soft-core porn films (at the time I thought I'm a liberal gal w/zero problem with nudity and OK with my own sexuality-why not?), and though i quit before production even began, what I learned about the people (NOT the models) who move between jobs on film sets or in mags or websites was really revolting. The many tricks the guys use to make female nudity (and the objectification of) palatable to the mainstream is only to serve the almighty dollar and what is sexually arousing to a straight male demographic. SO I guess this lady doesn't mind being fodder for that. I rarely bring up that experience, but felt like sharing because it's so common for people to not know what something like this is rooted in. I love Serena's statement-she's so diplomatic, always.
angelfromlsu angelfromlsu 9 years
I kinda thing this layout looks tacky. But if I posed for playboy I would hang it up in my house and makes copies for all my friends. I don't really think nudity is a horrible thing as long as it's tasteful.
teacherturtle1 teacherturtle1 9 years
hmm.. i just think it would be a great thing if more wives were confident to be nude around their husband. or rather, simply that people have a great body image and self esteem. the body is beautiful in all shapes and sizes. and it is a wonderful thing to enjoy the one you love.. your better half. i'm an old fashioned guy :p, and also believe God has the best in mind for us, and he cares what we have in our hearts, kinda why i mentioned marriage. but yeah, people pose nude all the time now, and well even though i don't agree with it, i think we've become desensitized as a society.. more so our younger generation to nudity. not to say nudity is shameful in itself, rather in the manner its done. :)
picky-ka picky-ka 9 years
i think that there is a certain reputation and level of class that tennis players should have. having an athletic and toned body is definitely something i think is wonderful and beautiful [although her body isn't that great], i think being a professional athlete, she shouldn't have done this. professional athletes are role models to young people. hollywood has already spoiled their reputations as role models, it would be quite a shame to see the sports world follow suit!
Beaner Beaner 9 years
I would never pose nude, but people should be allowed to do what they want. I just can't help but feel sad for women who feel like they need to do this, like they feel bad about themselves, and having people ooh and ahh over them will magically make them feel better. It's the same with strippers and prostitutes, and models to some degree. It's like they need other people's acceptance. Anyone agree with me?
nikolem2 nikolem2 9 years
I think it's kind of ridiculous. Why are so many women always feeling the need to take their clothes off and "sexy?" Isn't it enough to just be a professional tennis player (or whatever you want to be/do in life)? What does this teach women, girls, and men to think of women? Women will never stop being objectified as long as they continue to willingly let themselves be reduced to a body or a body part.
angelfromlsu angelfromlsu 9 years
She looks great but her arms are a bit skinny. Serena's body type is what I think of as athletic. I think it would be a honor to be asked to pose for Playboy. Athletes can do it if they please. Tennis players are more individual agents than teams so I'm sure professional basketball/football/soccer players have more things to consider before posing.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 9 years
I think it's fantastic! It's good to show sexy in a different way than fake boobs and bottle-blond hair.
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