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Playboy, Feminism and Being a Gay Girl

9 Oct

I have been pondering a question that came to mind the other day. How can you reconcile feminism and lesbianism with an interest in Playboy Magazine? I had been watching a documentary on Hugh Hefner and I was thinking about what really attracted me to the magazine (other than the glaringly obvious). And how could I reconcile this with my feminist ideals around the depiction of women in the erotic and porn industries, and being a woman attracted to other women reading a men’s magazine?

To put it simply I love photography and artwork (particularly Pin-up art from the 1940’s – 1960’s) that pays homage to the female form, that focuses on the female subject, that depicts women in all their beauty. And with this there must be a sense of respect from the lens or the paintbrush or airbrush. In my opinion most of the photography and artwork in Playboy subscribes to this. And there is sometimes an ‘old school’ vibe to the images in that they are shot in the style of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Also, there appears to be no exploitation, little or no pornography (as in sexual acts) and these artistic pieces are for the purposes of showing the female form in all its glory. Yes, in many ways these photographs and artwork are purely erotic and for the purpose of arousing a primarily male audience. But I think it goes beyond that. There is a ‘worshipping’ of the female form.

As a lesbian I can view these images, with a sense of admiration of the female form. As a feminist I can view these images with a sense that the women depicted are not being exploited, they have chosen to be photographed nude or semi-nude, and they are open minded.

There is also an element of admiration for the positive role that Playboy Magazine played in the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. It was magazines such as this that bought the discussion of sex and depiction of public hair out of the shadows, from the land of the taboo and bohemian, to everyday society. And thanks to this we can discuss such things openly and we are much more aware of our sexual selves, which is natural to us human beings.

I’m not saying I like all aspects of the magazine. Most articles are of little interest to me. Certain styles of photos depicted,such as the one with a more men’s magazine aesthetic, don’t always appeal to me. I don’t really like the whole playmate presence beyond the photo shoot in the magazine. This could be where I have a flawed like of the magazine.

But all said and done, I just like to look at beautiful photography and artwork depicting women.

Note – these are my own personal views and opinions. I realise others will have views differing to mine, and I respect those ideas too.

20131009-181156.jpg (July/August 2013 issue of Playboy Magazine)

A Feminist likes Playboy Magazine

13 Dec

I was in two minds over clicking the ‘like’ button on the Facebook page of Playboy Magazine a few weeks ago. On one hand, I like how women are depicted in the magazine and its presentation. On the other hand, as a feminist, I am opposed to the objectification of women for men that appears to be presented by the magazine.

I like the style of photography and presentation of the magazine. There is a classiness to it as opposed to other more pornographic mens magazines. I am a big fan and greater admirer of some of the Pin-Up girl artists who have contributed to the magazine over the years (Alberto Vargas and Olivia De Berardinis). These artists speak of pure admiration and wonder at the beauty of the female form, and present their work in this way. No exploitation or degradation.

I also like the fact that when the magazine was first published in 1953 it represented sexual liberation and the changing of attitudes towards sex and sexuality. I am interested in Hugh Hefner’s story as he had a hand in modern society breaking free of sexually conservative values and pushed natural things such as nudity and sex into the mainstream. I think it is interesting from a females perspective that there have been female editors, pin-up artists (such as Olivia De Berardinis) and photographers who have contributed to the magazine over the years.

Another major factor for me is that the women featured in the magazine don’t appear in my eyes as being exploited or simply a sex object. There is sense of respect. How the individual model feels when she poses for a photo shoot for the magazine is important. Is she in control of how she displays her body and how she is presented? Is she doing it for herself? Does she feel empowered and confident? Is this how she wishes to present her own sexuality? A good an example of this is burlesque performer, model and entrepreneur Dita Von Teese. Dita certainly appears to be a very empowered woman who is in control of her career, her body and her sexuality, and she has graced the cover Playboy and been featured in the magazine. I strongly believe that the women depicted in the magazine are in control of how they are represented and they are not exploited nor degraded.

Moving on from what I like about the magazine, from a feminist perspective I feel strongly about is the objectification (or perceived objectification) of women for a mostly male audience. But is it solely objectification? I think it is a combination of presentation of the female form for admiration and for erotic reasons. Yes, there are elements that the women depicted are to there as erotic stimulants. Purely for a mostly male audience to get ‘their rocks off.’ I am still undecided about this. I think there is objectification, but it is done somewhat differently to pornographic, and particularly hardcore pornographic magazines. Additionally, I don’t like the embracing of plastic surgery enhanced beauty that appears popular in the magazine, and certain ways that female sexuality is presented.

These are the reasons why I was in two minds about ‘liking’ the Playboy Magazine Facebook page. I was uncertain how my ‘liking’ the page would appear to My friends. I wanted to say that I like this because of the depiction of attractive women and not the objectification and perceived sleaziness.

But since ‘liking’ the page and contemplating this further, I am no longer in two minds. I like it for the reasons above and my feminist (sex positive feminist) ideals don’t completely oppose this. There is a celebration of the beauty and sexuality of women, and although it is mostly from a male perspective, I myself as a lesbian and a sex positive feminist can appreciate and take what I want from it. Since then I have set about reading some scholarly articles on Playboy and feminism.

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