Honor Thy Playmate

Steve Sloca Steve Sloca <gokings@comcast.net>
Sat, 17 May 2003 17:02:58 -0400

Donna Tavoso wrote:
"It is a different world today and as much as it has changed the
world we live in, it has also changed the women who are Playmates."

Donna's comment is a profound one, and it is the reason for the
existence of this group.  We are attempting to explore how the world
is different from the '60's and '70's (when Playboy had double its
present circulation and a much higher reputation among young men), and
how Playboy needs to change to accommodate this different world.
However, before one can criticize or applaud Playboy's current
attempts to adapt, it is important to ask "How is the world of 2003
different from that of the '60's and '70's and what trends in culture,
society and mores are most affecting Playboy's readership and
reputation as it approaches 50.

In my view, the most profound change in the world of today versus the
so-called "Golden Age" of Playboy is that women today have achieved
near-equality with men, both in terms of the workplace and as visible
spokespersons on TV, radio and other media, and in terms of social and
economic status and power in society.  No longer is it socially
acceptable for men to regard women as either mere sexual objects or as
"arm candy" to show off to friends or to populate one's parties.  The
former cultural icon that a women's role was to stay home and take
care of kids while continually looking good to please her husband has
been soundly rejected by most young women of today.  Thus, a magazine
that tries to portray women as pretty accouterments to a man's ego (a
la the "Hefmates" or the gaggle of peroxided, balloon-chested bimbos
that have graced Playboy's centerfold in recent years) is doomed to
social disapproval, and untimately extinction, in a world where women
hold at least half--and maybe more than half--of the power.

In the midst of this "feminist revolution," we have seen the rise of
magazines like Maxim, FHM, et al, whose appeal is to the disaffected
or clueless "lads" who either don't understand modern women or don't
know how to relate to them.  Thus, the leering, beery-eyed, sophomoric
snickers in Maxim's pages appeal to men who find themselves unable to
cope with women who might be smarter, more successful or more
competent than they are.  Moreover, by eschewing full nudity, Maxim
and its ilk have, so far, flown under the radar of today's women.  My
24-year old son, who was raised in house full of Playboys (I have a
huge collection and displayed it at home), subscribes to Maxim and not
Playboy.  Why?  His fiancee "tolerates" Maxim but won't allow Playboy
in the house they share.  This toleration may not last for long.  Few
women, my son's fiancee included, read the Maxims that their men
purchase; but if they did, they likely would deposit it in the same
trashcan in which they put Playboys.  The decision of Wal-mart to drop
Maxim from its shelves may only be the tip of the iceberg which may be
about to scuttle the Maxim boat.  Once modern women realize the
attitudes and types of male behavior that Maxim exalts, I predict that
this publishing phenomenon will be brought to an ignomious end.

Thus, any attempt to "Maximize" Playboy would be, IMHO, a big mistake,
one that will only hurt Playboy's sales and brand in the years ahead.
Better Playboy should ask, "Why is our brand, which was once an icon
of the urbane, educated, liberal, upwardly mobile male, so
unacceptable in their households today?"  In my view, it is because
Playboy is regarded by women to be demeaning to how women see
themselves today.  Many women see Playboy's nudity as exalting the
"women are mere sexual objects and arm candy" theory and want no part
of it--and don't want a man who subscribes to such an attitude, or to
a publication that, in their minds, expouses it.  Running "titilating"
pictorials of "B-list" semi-celebrities or portraying the "ideal"
woman to be a peroxide blond with DD plastic tits will only convince
more women that Playboy is publication published only for "dirty old
men" and macho creeps.  Given that women today have a big say in how
the household budget is spent, and an equal right to demand that their
men adhere to their values, this bodes ill for Playboy's current
editorial direction.  Thus, while many women in the '60's and '70's
fantasized about being the pampered wife or girl friend of the
handsome, wealthy "playboy" (and thus idealized the Playmates of that
era who they saw as fulfilling those fantasies), a majority of today's
women look down at the Playmates as being little better than
prostitutes to a discarded male-dominated past.  If Playboy is to
regain the leadership of the sexual revolution it began, it has to
turn around these beliefs and make itself relevant to a society where
women are big breadwinners and often control the purse-strings at
home, and a society where women play a major role in shaping social
values and public opinion.

And there is a need for such a publication.  Women are sexual beings,
just as men are; and they have just as much desire to be appreciated
for their sexuality as men desire to appreciate them. The flood of
applicants for each Playboy "casting call" reflects, in part, this
desire.  And the average "women's magazine" from Cosmo to Woman's Day
present a view of feminine sexuality which is as just as sophomoric as
Maxim's view of their "laddie" readers.  The plethora of man/woman
jokes portraying men as beer-guzzling, tit-leering bozos is as much a
result of the "feminist" media as it is of the image of such men
offered by the "lad's" magazines.  There is, to my knowledge, no
publication that bridges the gap between male and female sexual and
social fantasies and presents fully nude photography, articles, essays
and humor which would be acceptable to both men and women in today's
world.  If Playboy could achieve that status, it might regain its
former 7 Million circulation and its former honor as the leader in the
Sexual Revolution.

Can you envision a nude boy/girl centerfold in a romantic setting shot
by Playboy's top photographers?  How about the Playmate AND her
boyfriend openly discussing their sexuality in an expanded
"Centerfolds on Sex" feature?  Or an illustrated article on what a man
should buy for his mate for birthdays, Valentine's Day, etc.--written
by women from the feminine perspective?  (And, or course, the converse
for gifts his mate could buy.)  How about a nude pictorial
illustrating the most common feminine and male fantasies, coupled with
a psychologist's explanation for the bases for these fantasies and a
sexologist's suggestions as to how couples can use these common
fantasies to enhance their love life?  The possibilities here are
endless.  If I had a few Million to spare and wanted to be the new
"Hef," that is the magazine I would strive to create.