Playboy Feminism

Posted by ap507 at Oct 21, 2015 03:30 PM |
Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans discusses how views on pornography have changed and the shifting nature of Playboy

This post contains some graphic language

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Sexual Liberation

The history of Playboy and the history of my own sexual life interleave. In my early teenage years in the late 1960s my limited knowledge of pornography extended only to the following: seeing a magazine behind the bike shed and feeling upset by it; and holding the view shared with my peers that 'wankers' were sad guys who couldn't get real girlfriends. Wankers were the ones in raincoats with hands in their pockets that we girls avoided in the bus shelters on the journey back from school.

I remember when that collective view of pornography changed, and it coincided with very powerful and genuinely liberating revolutions that were happening in the 1960s and 1970s: the introduction of the birth control pill which, for a brief period at least, offered the promise of sex without consequences for women; feminist resistance to the virgin/whore double-standard; the introduction of the abortion law and so on. I came to my first sexual relationship during the brief heady moment when patriarchal and misogynistic views were challenged but before pornography had got a grip on our collective imaginations. How lucky I was and indeed am!

The 1960s and 1970s were coterminous with the growth and expansion of Hugh Heffner's Empire and his entrepreneurial rebranding of the pornography consumer from 'sad loser' to 'everyday normal guy'. Playboy's messages, coined amongst the febrile idea that 'free love' would not only liberate us all from the shackles of sexual repression but from 'the system', was both a product of the sexual culture and helped mobilise its major ideological, political and ethical shifts.

In innovating a magazine in which serious articles and interviews combined with pornographic images Heffner was seminal in shaping the following ideas: firstly that respectable middle class, educated men should feel no guilt at masturbating to pornography; secondly that women performers are glamorous 'stars' who are handsomely paid in their chosen career; and thirdly that pornography contributes to a feminist revolution which finally permits women sexual expression without shame.

In sanitising pornography from its dirty image and de-shaming men's consumption of it, Playboy opened up a cultural space in which all our sexual lives - men, women and children - have subsequently been shaped...

  • You can read the full article on the Huffington Post here
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