Thursday, February 15, 2007

I Just Read It For the Articles.

Dana Goldstein over at Campus Progress posted a piece a few days ago taking Jon Zobenica to task for an essay in The Atlantic that said that Playboy Magazine wasn't as mysogynystic as it was reputed to be.

From her essay:
...The essay is entertaining reading, but I think it's obvious why it's especially appealing to sensitive young men. Zobenica makes them feel like it's not only okay to read Playboy, but that it's mature and heck, even feminist. Fundamentally, this is just a rehashing of the infamous male excuse--"Hey, I was reading it for the articles!" I'm not an anti-porn feminist by any stretch of the imagination. But when I pick up Playboy, it's hard for me to take seriously the "Advisor" column's advice about sexually respecting your real-life girl when the centerfolds, month after month, have obviously fake gigantic boobs, identically hairless and child-like vaginas (Playboy seems to have a policy to never show women with visible vaginal lips), and completely flat stomachs. Women get upset by this because 99 percent of us can't live up to this standard and are bothered by the idea that the men in our lives find it attractive. And many of us, myself included, don't even find these women beautiful.
So I think that when talking about Playboy, it's always pretty disingenuous to overlook the pictures. Because really, when reading the magazine, nobody ever does.

Here's the thing--- Yes, Playboy does have pictures of naked women. I'm sure I'm not doling any new information out to people by saying that. There's not someone out there reading this that thought "I had no idea where to turn to for pictures of naked women, but thanks to Freedonian, I do now!"

Know why that is? We're in the internet age. There's not a single sexual proclivity imaginable that you couldn't find pictures of out there by turning off "Safe Search" in Google and simply typing in the phrase. It's a sign of the times that I had to tell my email filter to automatically delete any email that uses the word "barnyard" in its subject line.

So yes--- If I buy an issue of Playboy (I haven't in a long time), I will most certainly look at the pictures--- For about thirty seconds. I'm a man, so I'm wired that way. Naked woman within reach-- Yes, I will look.

When mankind first discovered fire, we didn't think "Let's cook some steaks". We thought "Hey, we can now see naked women in the dark". The first thing to roll off of a printing press was not, as rumored, The Holy Bible--- It was a set of naughty drawings. And yes, in this modern age, the internet has been turned into a vast database of naked women.

So if you want to objectify women, you're certainly not short of options. And frankly, most are going to be more graphic than Playboy. If anything in any given issue of the magazine is to hold my attention enough to actually make buying it worthwhile, it's going to be the articles.

That inevitably leads to the magic question: What would Playboy be without the pictures? Certainly, they would have to work a bit harder at putting out a quality magazine. I checked into what was in the current issue (Research, you know. Although I can honestly say that I saw nothing in my research beyond lingerie pictures), and I can say that as much as I may like the TV show "Entourage", I'm not willing to pay six bucks to read an interview with Jeremy Piven. Next month--- Who knows? They're interviewing Bill Maher. I might get it, give my thirty second glance at the pictures, and spend a half hour or so reading the Maher interview.

And while Dana is discomforted by the ideal of beauty presented in the magazine, common sense should tell you that it's not what men are looking for in real life. Very few women look very much like a Playboy Playmate (And having seen a couple up close, I can tell you that not even Playmates tend to resemble Playmates all that much)--- Were they the only ones with dates last night? Men aren't "settling" when they date a real woman, are they? Speaking from the male side of this particular coin, I feel safe in saying "of course not". A woman can be the most beautiful woman in the world to a man (And I don't just mean in a biological sense--- I mean a real man) without ever having anything more in common with a Playmate than "Yes, they're both women".

There's a vast chasm between pretty and beautiful. Pretty is an accident of genetics that arranges features in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Beauty is all about who a woman is. It's in her intellect. It's in her sense of humor. It's in how she carries herself, how she presents herself to the world.

Those aspects of a woman are harder to spot visually, granted. No woman has ever walked past a construction site and heard catcalls of "Nice sense of humor, baby" or "Show me your brains!" But at the end of the day, it's what we look for.

I can certainly understand Dana's feelings about Playboy. Once upon a time, you picked up a magazine with pictures of naked women, and there just happened to be a short story by T Coraghessan Boyle and an interview with Bob Dylan within the same magazine.

In this modern age, when Playboy-type content and much more graphic content are mere keystrokes away, men pick up a magazine with a short story by T. Coraghessan Boyle and a Bob Dylan interview in it, and there are naked women within the same magazine.

Yes--- We buy it for the articles.

Hat tip to Matthew Yglesias.


JB said...

You aren't receiving emails with ther word "barnyard" in the subject line? My God, man, that's why you aren't getting some of the memos! Why, you're missing half of what Pesky sends, all by himself. And three-quarters of Wintermute!

Freedonian said...

That explains a lot, my friend. I just thought I was being left out of the loop!

JB said...

Btw, Free, send me your new personal email address again; I've misplaced it.

Freedonian said...

Coming your way, friend.

Dabney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dabney said...

I should have known you two would be hogging the comments on the Playboy post.

I think that Playboy has always been respected for their articles and the interviews that they get, and I don't really have a probelm with it. As Freed says, you can find much worse with very little effort.

By the way, did you actually buy it - because I would love to read the Piven interview.

Freedonian said...

Sorry, I didn't get that one. I haven't actually bought one in a few years now. But I probably will get next month's issue for the Maher interview.

David Holt said...

Not that I'm much of a Playboy expert, but I think the fake boobs of Playmates are probably less damaging and unattainable to women then all the size 0's in Cosmo, etc.

David Holt said...

And to the idea that "reading it for the articles" is a total load of crap, I'm not so sure. Any guy who wanted porn could get plenty for free (I just have to check that damn spam filter to find every variation of it known to man.) If he's buying a magazine instead, it seems like he's probably wanting something else out of it too. But what do I know?