Ethics Alarms MailBox: “Does The Naked Teacher Principle Apply To Bodybuilding Teachers…or Mothers?”

Bodybuilder mom

Since the NTP is back in the news—Kaitlin Pearson, whom Ethics Alarms dubbed the perfect example of the Naked Teacher Principle, was allowed to continue her job as a teacher’s aide—this is a propitious time to address a question I received off-site by an esteemed reader, who sent me a photo similar to the one above (but of another female competitive bodybuilder/mom—who is 50 years old) and commented, “This is a picture of a local soccer mom with a teenage son. Is she setting a good example for her son, and does her conduct trigger the Naked Teacher Principle?”

Let me finish with Kaitlin first. I personally wouldn’t have let her continue, if only because she was not forthcoming about her other pursuits when she interviewed for the job. That doesn’t mean that the resolution of her particular case is in defiance of the NTP. It states,

…a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.

I have never said that the principle requires such a teacher to be dismissed, but only that she could only blame herself if she was. Many factors come into play in such situations, and it may be that the slight variations from the NTP formula were decisive for Kaitlin—she’s not technically a teacher; this is a primary school, where the sexual issue may not be as much of a problem, and she’s enough of a celebrity (and so attractive) that some unrelated biases may have been working in her favor.

Back to the reader question: I don’t think there is any application of the NTP to mothers, whether they are bodybuilders, lingerie models, Playboy centerfolds or strippers. Parents can have a wide range of parenting problems related to their occupations and avocations, and they should be be able to balance the issues and deal with them; it’s just one more part of parenting. It’s not easy when your mom plays a serial killer, a prostitute or a “Baywatch” lifeguard on TV, it’s not easy when your mom or dad is a politician who is being ridiculed in the press, it’s not easy when your mom is an Olympic weightlifter, or when one of your parents is morbidly obese. I don’t think any of these disqualifies someone from being a parent, and an unusual athletic pursuit like female bodybuilding or fitness competing is no different.  And yes, she’s setting a fine example for her sons—defying female stereotypes, showing diligence, discipline and sacrifice, seeking strength, longevity and health.

I think the question is worth pondering, however, where a secondary school teacher is involved. Does the photo above, easily available on the web (all competition photos would be) raise the same issues as the kinds of photos that invoke the Naked Teacher Principle, like this, of NTP subject Cristy Nicole Deweese…


…who was in fact fired from her teaching job? I don’t believe it does. The naked photos that trigger the NTP are always sexually provocative in nature and usually intentionally so. Bodybuilders, who do wear as little (or less) on their bodies as some of the victims of the NTP, are nonetheless doing so in the pursuit of their sport, not to titillate. While it is true that some find bodybuilders sexually arousing (most do not), that is not the objective of the activity. There are biases, some understandable, against participants in this sport, but they are athletes, and to declare that the appearance of women who compete in bodybuilding contests render them unqualified to teach would seem to disqualify any female athlete, and some male athletes too, whose competitive garb are necessarily revealing, like swimmers, divers, gymnasts, runners and volleyball players.

The distinction gets tougher when the competitive bodybuilder also begins posing for sexual effect, as in this:

Bodybuilder sexy

What is this? A fit woman seeking to inspire by showing the results of her hard work and dedication? Or an intentionally provocative  muscle-cheese-cake photo guaranteed to spark the fantasies of 8th grade boys and render their ability to concentrate on algebra futile? I would come down on the side of the latter, and argue that if Andrea were a teacher, she would have an obligation to 1) let her employers know that such photos existed before they hired her 2) either have a pre-emptive strategy to deal with the issue when such photos became available to her students, or 3) not pose for such photos.  Yes…I think this kind of bodybuilding photo triggers the NTP.

But it’s a thin line, isn’t it?


Sources: Masslive

Graphic: Girls With Muscle

22 thoughts on “Ethics Alarms MailBox: “Does The Naked Teacher Principle Apply To Bodybuilding Teachers…or Mothers?”

  1. I’m really glad you tackled this issue. I read your earlier post on Kaitlin Pearson and agreed that it was quite clear cut, but immediately began thinking ‘what-if’s. What if the person had posed for pictures years before becoming a teacher? What if a person had posed for private photos and a vengeful ex posted them online? (And we won’t even go into the cases of ‘revenge porn’ and how people can be photoshopped.) How can we balance holding teachers to a certain standard with accepting that teachers are humans and may have made past mistakes? And as you discussed above, how do you decide what is sexual and what is not?

  2. I don’t think that photo at the end is that bad.

    It sort of reminds me of your ethics hero from a few days ago (the one that posted the unflattering pictures of herself).
    Essentially you have a female athlete who is (quite reasonably), taking advantage of both her athletic skill and her good looks to get paid for modeling.
    Modern advertising/society does tend to sexualise these pictures of good looking young women, and the degree of overtness is probably subjective.

    If she were also a teacher to make ends meet (not uncommon with people in underpaid/funded sports), would it really be fair to say she couldn’t undertake any sort of advertising contracts because almost by necessity (the market being what it is) they will make use of her good looks by (to some degree?) photographing her in poses where, yeah, she looks hot (=sexualization).
    You could postulate that some things are OK and some things are not … (a matter of taste frankly), but as soon as you bring in some subjective threshold about what is OK, it makes things ethically sticky in my opinion.

  3. My mom was very attractive and young-looking all through my school years.
    You wouldn’t think this could be a burden but sometimes it was.
    The question I was most asked during that time was, “that’s your mom???”
    And no, she wasn’t in naked pics or a body builder. heheh

  4. Potential male heterosexual bias alert: photos of male atheletes/sportsmen can be highly sexually charged for girls and gays. Prohibit similar poses for male teachers, even fully clothed? What about horse owner photos? (you’d have to think girl to get that one maybe)

      • Oh dear. No absolutely not Granny. I thought I was being brief but very clear. I hope i can make it plainer (and please do call the foul I make each time you don’t follow my langauge immediately. For example a simple ‘Huh?’ will usually prompt a restatement from me). Believe it or not, I do re edit my comments 3 or 4 times and think about the languge divide, before hitting ‘Post Comment’.I deliberately use US slang words and idiom when I know it and though I find US culture baffling at times I try to bear the US reader in mind.

    • Restating that comment for granny and others.
      Is there a whole female/gay school population that the NTP examples I’ve seen so far are missing? Boys are easily … distracted, by sex at a certain age. I understand girls are too – but in a manner more besotted and less … tumescent, as I understand it. Many girls (I think this would be common in the US as it is in the UK?) will idolise particuar pop and sports stars and keep a special poster or picture to swoon over. And girls in school will similarly swoon over an attractive male teacher, the disturbance to behviour and attention (as I understand it) is less universal, more selective but every girl must have a favorite at any one time (teacher or non teacher). And I understand the disturbance is more intense and long lasting.
      If I am wrong – read no further.
      Certain images inspire unfullfillable youthful romantic notions. I am more familiar with music star images than sports images but from what I’m told… Such images might include, for example, teacher as horse rider, not in an everyday snap – in a photo shoot, of glamour or fashion style. I say this because my experience, perhaps unique? is that some/most grils around about puberty have a ‘horsey period’ in their development and cowboys and other men of the riding type seem to be asociated with high value masculine traits: superior quality potential sex partners. Masculine traits I can think of associated with horses might include authority, power, status, virility, wealth – and the physical dominance that a man on a horse has over a mere pedestrian. For whatever reason, from a small sample, girls dig horse men.
      Whether my girlfriends/experience are aberrant or lying or I’m mistaken about specifics – I think it might be agreed that there is a tumbling painful hormonal emotional phase in girls as there is in boys. And girls are as vulnerable, or more so, to being distracted from their studies. A male teacher who allows himself to be, imaged fully clothed imaged or naked – but sexy, or featured in any intentionally sexually attractive manner is not respecting his contract with the school to responsibly care for his pupils. And the NTP may apply. The case may be harder to prove for a male but the ethic of intention to neglect duties would be the same.

      As for gay guys, wrestlers, boxers, football stars; naked; in the shower, smiling to camera? Oh my….

      Girls three paragraphs – gay guys two sentences. That ratio shows you why I tried to put a complex thought briefly. And probably why it failed.

      • And in case that left anyone with a question in mind about me : No, as it happens i’m straight. But I was acting amateur for 20 years and have had many heart-to-hearts with gay guys over that time and fully support the cause.

        • Bruce, I think us Wyoming people are a little too straightforward, and maybe a little too unsophisticated to puzzle out meanings that have been crafted to be vague. A sort of tone deafness to clever ambiguity. I don’t usually parse out what the “meaning of is is.”

          If you’re saying that teen age kids of both sexes especially in the early teen years are easily aroused by images then yes that’s true.
          However, a teacher can’t be held responsible for a student’s fantasies when there is no deliberate attempt to be sexually provocative. Kids can get aroused by almost any image. A simple picture of a teacher unless they are actually naked or near naked is different from posed soft porn. Athletes in the the attire needed to perform the sport are not pornographic if they are playing. (Although it’s sometimes distracting, I’ll admit.) But there is a line, and the naked teacher examples on this blog show that it is crossed often enough to be a problem.

          I get the sense that you think that since some people are aroused by things that others would not find provocative that there should be no standard, or that the standard is hypocritical. A reductio ad absurdum argument?

          I’m guessing you think it’s prudish or unfair or hypocritical to fire teachers who violate a standard that can’t be easily defined. To that I say with Justice Potter Stewart “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it,…” And soft core porn is equally recognizable when seen by a reasonable adult.

          • Granny, i have clearly vexed you and for no actual reason. My second attempt cannot have been at all clear. I apologise for accidentally misleading you. That was not my intent at all.

            You have grasped the opposite of my meaning and my intention and my position on the issues. And misunderstood my writing as destructively critical of the NTP whereas actually i only struggle to understand it as a principle (as opposed to a casebook of diverse examples or a localised issue specific rule which requires a definition of good and bad quite separately in order to be appliied). The NTP has always baffled and bothered me. Where is the nub, the essence, the common denominator between the variety of examples Jack has supplied? Where is the root in an axiom or secondary principle? People tell me it is very straightforward, but i cannot get it in focus. Frustrating.

            The conclusions to fire the teacher I am almost always in agreement with. The teacher must be very responsible with kids that age. Yes, I could not agree more strongly, only teachers who set themselves up as sexually provocative in images and allow in whatever way the material to come into the attention of pupils should be fired. Without appealing to the NTP or anything other than gut instinct that neglect is a clear abuse of the trust placed in them.

            My struggle today was with the NTP and non-nudity as applying potentially to the rather different dynamics of girls as they emerge sexually. I would want more severe restrictions on those male teachers. More cautious interpretation of intentions and less leniency to neglect. Why should abusive or neglectful men get away with the same thing that the soft porn women are doing, just because men can turn girls to jelly and still keep their clothes on? Nude or not, an abuse of trust is an abuse of trust. I would actually hope for your agreement.

            As for the remainder of your comments, you seem to feel I am being patronising? I can’t be anything but surprised and somewhat distressed at the notion. I grasp and scrabble to come up to the right level of discussion on this blog. Mostly I fail and I am very conscious of the fact. You might, I suppose, be misreading a side effect of my ‘struggle for altitiude’ which is that I do begin to write less spontaneously as I struggle more, and that may sound ‘posh’ or ‘clever’ or fake to some people. i don’t like it myself, but it’s an instinct that I find hard to control.

            I can promise you, I do not craft my words to be deliberately vague. I am not that clever. I struggle to be clear. I struggle to be succinct. I am an urban man. I have my limits.

            But I don’t actually, for example, know what the meaning of the word ‘parse’ is. Yet (I will look it up).

            If I may I’d like you to understand I think we should go much further. than NTP. I’m, just between you and me, considering the cases of Ms Jean Brodie, Andrew Crocker-Harris and Mr Chipping from The Prime of Ms Jean Brodie, The Browning Version, and ‘Goodby Mr Chips’ respectively in the most general sense of sex and all that goes with it in terms of teaching. The results I’d say being in the first case dismiss, in the second dismiss (until the last pages – redeemed) and in the third hero worship. I hope you see that my concerns go way beyond the superficial and open and shut matter of nudity – of course teachers can’t make nude and soft porn films (in fact almost no one should but that’s another matter)

            Back to basics, back to morals, back to hard work and self discipline and devotion to duty. No nudity (of course not), no off-duty misconduct, healthy married life, a perfect example of responsible mature adulthood and family life – that’s what I want from teachers. And that includes being a good example in matters of romance and sexuality which for me means not ethics but morals: dignified courtship, marriage, privacy, respect, continence, discretion and family life including children – and real sincere grown up passionate devotion in bedroom matters. I would want teachers to set the best example of an iron law that children are to be protected by the whole community from sexual matters they can’t handle, ie none before puberty (except for developmental reasons – by which I mean informing and guiding, preparing for puberty – with morals included) and as necessary child by child during puberty (when it is very complex). About the only differences I can expect between you and I would be my permissiveness to gay marriage and gay teachers and multiple divorces and very open and frank adult exchanges about sex (but not any form of looseness in conduct). I’m practically Victorian on such matters. I’d be very interested in your comments – you sound as though you have relevant experience. But maybe another time.

            • You know, I struggle with the NTP as well. I as near as I can figure out, in it’s essence, the NTP basically boils down to, were the photographs or film for the primary benefit of the straight male gaze? If so, then NTP. If the activity was not for the straight male gaze, but only a side benefit, then no NTP. Males are generally excused from NTP, except in the most flagrant cases of nudity and pornography. Their cheesecake pics are fine, for the most part.

              Thus, a woman in a bikini in Swimmer’s Daily, no NTP. The same woman, in the same bikini for Sport’s Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, NTP. A woman, chest uncovered, nipples showing, breastfeeding her baby, no NTP. Same woman, same amount of skin showing, no baby, NTP. Woman on nude beach sunning herself, no NTP??? Same woman in a photography studio, NTP.

              NTP basically asks us to put ourselves in the shoes of a horny adolescent boy, with some morality judgments on the appropriateness of the activity that the teacher was engaged in thrown in.

              • deery, that’s very helpful, thanks. The next time I see Naked Teacher Principle, I wili read it as Horny Boy Inappropriate Female Teacher Alarm.

            • I’m sorry I misjudged you and your meaning. I’ll assume you are being straightforward from now on and interpret your comments from that position.
              I most certainly do not have any relevant experience on the naked teacher principle other than 23 years as a teacher in grades K-8.

  5. “Bodybuilders, who do wear as little (or less) on their bodies as some of the victims of the NTP, are nonetheless doing so in the pursuit of their sport, not to titillate. While it is true that some find bodybuilders sexually arousing (most do not), that is not the objective of the activity”

    I agree that’s an ethically relevant distinction, and a clear one. It’s clear to mature adults, anyway. Schoolboys are another matter. There might be a problem with a teacher who posed like the mom in the picture.

  6. Bodybuilding inherently an erotically-charged/driven activity. The exaltation of the muscular body is not devoid of erotic meanings. It is not honest to try to desexualize bodybuilding; it cannot be desexualized in any form because muscles are secondary sex traits and that means inevitably the muscular body sends erotic messages. In fact, one of the main reasons for people to start bodybuilding is increasing their sexual attractiveness. If you have ever watched any bodybuilding sjow you will noticed that it is not uncommon that some bodybuilders perform is erotically stimulating ways, even the industry itself makes sure to out sexuality on stage as it is the case when a male-femal couple of bodybuilders perform together, they will usually perform in a way that suggests and exalts heterosexual sexual attraction.

    It was ancient Greek homosexual men who invented the Greek body ideal not only driven by men’s natural interest in athleticism but also their natural attraction to muscles so saying bodybuilding is not sexual is a lie.

Leave a Reply to wyogranny Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.