FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Not Your Father’s Playboy

Playboy’s June issue features a 3D centerfold – complete with the requisite geeky 3D spectacles. This latest gimmick, just a few months after their Marge Simpson feature, speaks to desperate times for the magazine. Hollywood certainly got a boost from Avatar’s 3D experience, but Playboy’s circulation has plummeted from more than 3 million in 2006 to about 1.5 million today, and is never going to be a favorite with the younger porn crowd. Playboy’s trademark soft-focus images, even in 3D, of women wearing coy smiles and little else, are no match for the industrial strength porn that is now all over the internet. Boys and men brought up in the internet age have very different tastes than their fathers, whose own access to porn was limited by the amount they could pilfer from their fathers or older brothers. Today, access is unlimited anytime anyplace, from computer screens to cellphones, and this  cheap, anonymous accessibility has sent demand soaring.

When Playboy first came out in 1953, many thought that Hefner was on his way to prison and the magazine was destined to die a quick death. Instead, Hefner became a media celebrity and Playboy was such a success that it helped to lay the foundation for a multi-billion dollar porn industry. What made it a success was the willingness of companies to advertise in Playboy. While skittish at first about placing their ads in a porn magazine, within a few years of publication Playboy was seen as a perfect environment by corporations to advertise products aimed at the upwardly mobile middle-class male. Flush with ad dollars, Playboy seemed untouchable in the 1950s and 60s as it built an international empire.

In 1969 a full page ad appeared in the New York Times featuring a bunny in the crosshairs of a rifle. The caption read “we’re going rabbit hunting.” This was an ad for Penthouse magazine, which would hit the newsstands later that year. The next few years saw Playboy and Penthouse battle it out to see which one could be the best selling porn magazine in this country. Their theater of war was the female body, with each trying to produce the more sexually explicit magazine. In August 1971, Penthouse carried its first full-frontal centerfold and in January 1972 Playboy did the same.

The real winner of this conflict was a strip club owner from Ohio. Always the savvy businessman, Larry Flynt saw that the Playboy and Penthouse war had pushed the envelope on what was considered acceptable mainstream porn imagers, and Hustler was born in 1974. Known for its explicit imagery, its tasteless humor and its overt contempt for women, Hustler set a new standard for the porn industry that ultimately helped open up the hardcore market. By the time the internet hit, these three magazines had laid the economic, legal and cultural groundwork for the images that now make up much of the mainstream porn industry.

What is out there today may shock many not familiar with porn websites. As boys and men click around today’s popular sites they are assaulted by images of body-punishing sex that pushes women’s bodies to their limit. Gone are the coy smiles and in their place are women saying they love it and begging for more. But if you look carefully, some are grimacing, others crying and many look uncomfortable as their body is penetrated, pummeled and pounded by any number of men as they call her a whore or a slut. This is available to anyone who can turn on a computer.

Called Gonzo by the industry, it is not your father’s Playboy. It is cruel and brutal and it creates a taste for harder and harder porn. One Gonzo producer told Adult Video News that “One of the things about today’s porn and the extreme market, the gonzo market, so many fans want to see much more extreme stuff that I’m always trying to figure out ways to do something different.” This is a real problem for the industry because it has done just about everything you can do to a woman’s body. When I interviewed producers at the Adult Entertainment Expo held every year in Las Vegas, they told me that this was an industry fast running out of ideas. This particular producer’s latest movie showed a woman being anally penetrated as she lay in a coffin.

In this world, Playboy seems rather quaint in its sexism.  It is a throwback to a bygone era when men had their porn delivered in brown paper envelopes. Playboy helped pave the way for today’s porn and during the process, made itself obsolete.

GAIL DINES is a professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Wheelock College and chair of American Studies. A nationally known lecturer and author, she is a founding member of Stop Porn Culture. Her new book, Pornland: How Pornography Has Hijacked out Sexuality, will be published in July by Beacon Press.  She can be contacted at gdines@wheelock.edu

 

WORDS THAT STICK

 

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
April 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Omar Shaban
Gaza’s New Conflict: COVID-19
Rob Urie
Work, Crisis and Pandemic
John Whitlow
Slumlord Capitalism v. Global Pandemic
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Strange Things Happening Every Day
Jonathan Cook
The Bigger Picture is Hiding Behind a Virus
Paul Street
Silver Linings Amidst the Capitalist Coronavirus Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Control of Nature
Louis Proyect
COVID-19 and the “Just-in-Time” Supply Chain: Why Hospitals Ran Out of Ventilators and Grocery Stores Ran Out of Toilet Paper
Kathleen Wallace
The Highly Contagious Idea
Kenneth Good
The Apartheid Wars: Non-Accountability and Freedom for Perpetrators.
Andrew Levine
Democracy in America: Sorry, But You Can’t Get There from Here.
Ramzy Baroud
Tunisia Leads the Way: New Report Exposes Israel’s False Democracy
David Rosen
Coronavirus and the State-of-Emergency Pandemic
Matthew Stevenson
Will Trump Cancel the Election? Will the Democrats Dump Joe?
Ron Jacobs
Seattle—Anti-Capitalist Hotbed
Michael T. Klare
Avenger Planet: Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Mother Nature’s Response to Human Transgression?
Jack Rasmus
COVID-19 and the Forgotten Working Class
Werner Lange
The Madness of More Nukes and Less Rights in Pandemic Times
J.P. Linstroth
Why a Race is Not a Virus and a Virus is Not a Race
John Feffer
We Need a Coronavirus Truce
Thomas S. Harrington
“New Corona Cases”: the Ultimate Floating Signifier
Victor Grossman
Corona and What Then?
Katie Fite
Permanent Pandemic on Public Lands: Welfare Sheep Ranchers and Their Enablers Hold the West’s Bighorns Hostage
Patrick Bond
Covid-19 Attacks the Down-and-Out in Ultra-Unequal South Africa
Eve Ottenberg
Capitalism vs. Humanity
Nicky Reid
Fear and Loathing in Coronaville Volume 2: Panic On the Streets of Tehran
Jonas Ecke
Would Dying for the Economy Help Anybody?
Jeff Mackler
Capitalism is the Virus!
Andrew Moss
Incarceration, Detention, and Covid-19
Farzana Versey
Prayers, Piffle and Privation in the Time of Pandemic
Will Solomon
In the New Dystopia
Dean Baker
The Relative Generosity of the Economic Rescue Package: Boeing vs. Public Broadcasting
Dr. Leo Lopez, III
We Need a Lot More Transparency From the CDC
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Reflections on a Glass of Homemade Cider
Rashid Nuri
Homegrown Crisis Response: Who Grows Your Food?
Mark Luskus
Worst Case Scenario: Healthcare Workers Need Masks, ASAP
Volker Franke
The Virus That May Bring us Together
Mitchell Zimmerman
A Q & A on the GOP’s Call for Elder Sacrifice
Olfat al-Kurd
COVID-19 Could Be Catastrophic for Us: Notes From Gaza
Eileen Appelbaum - Roesmary Batt
Hospital Bailouts Begin…for Those Owned by Private Equity Firms
Nabri Ginwa
Carcinogens
Jill Richardson
Efficiency vs. Resilience
Lee Ballinger
Eddie Van Halen and the Future of Humanity
David Yearsley
Beset by Bach
Robert Koehler
Developing a Vaccine Against War
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail