Playboy rode the wave within culture of burgeoning, liberal views of sex. Hefner saw an emerging trend and grabbed on to the momentum. He knew men wanted the fantasy of selfish and plentiful sex, and Playboy offered it up in its pages. Women as full humans with their own ideas, and pleasure that needed communication and effort to accomplish was and isn’t part of that equation. Women as blank slates and masturbatory objects, sure. The latter sells far better, and Playboy is a business after all.
It’s the obliteration of women.
If this seems hyperbolic, consider this: In 2017, over sixty years since Playboy was launched, most men (and women) don’t fully understand what or where a clitoris is. Let that sink in for a moment. This is anatomy central to a woman’s enjoyment of sex and it isn’t taught, openly discussed, or even widely acknowledged. Below, I have linked to the Cliteracy Project
. It’s fascinating stuff if you think women’s bodies are worth understanding (I’ll try not to be disappointed by the meager amount of clicks).
My own education has been hard-won (pun intended) with reading, researching and insisting that my pleasure be part of the equation. I am thankful for feminist blogs and books, without which things would have been much more difficult. Even with all that, I can’t say the men in my life dove in with the sort of gusto and intellectual curiosity I brought to the table. The best I can say is that I have managed to get what I need on the margins. I see this as a trickle-down gift of Hugh Hefner’s image of the modern, American male. The effort is in acquisition of 'high value’ females.
I sometimes ask men if they take the time to read about women’s sexuality
. The answer is overwhelmingly a blank stare. It never occurred to them. I find this so odd because if the object is plentiful sex then it seems a natural to learn how to do it well.
Pick up a 1970’s edition of The Joy of Sex and you’ll see something that’s much closer to the original intent of the sexual revolution. Egalitarian sex with sketches of real bodies immersed in mutual pleasure. I know because I found my parent’s version under the bed at age eleven or twelve. I feel immense gratitude that this book informed my ideas before popular culture could convince me to be a bit player in my own sexual life.
There is no revolution that requires women to be a bland, palatable canvas. Playboy, and it’s mascot, Hugh Hefner, had the narrowest of lenses for what real, connected sex with a woman could be. I would argue that the work of the revolution is either incomplete or left society worse for wear.
The Playboy aesthetic lives on in acceptable versions of beauty even today. Newscasters could be interchanged with centerfolds with a simple wardrobe change.
Part of the reason I write this digest is that I want to show how complex and multidimensional a woman can be and still be an excellent friend, lover and mother.
This is still a radical notion.