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Before There Was #MeToo There Was Playboy

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Message Martha Rosenberg
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Playboy Shaped a Generation of Sex Attitudes
Playboy Shaped a Generation of Sex Attitudes
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If you were born after the 1990s, ask your parents about Playboy magazine. It is hard for younger generations to believe but in the 60's, 70's and even 80's, a dirty old man in a bathrobe with a pipe--Hugh Hefner--largely dictated the sexual behavior and treatment of women.

While men of those decades read Playboy magazine "for the articles," the nude pictures of "playmates" white-washed porn so that Dad and Granddad could enjoy it. After Playboy's first issue in 1953 with a nude Marilyn Monroe, it convinced such women as Bo Derek, Suzanne Somers, Farrah Fawcett, Jenny McCarthy Cindy Crawford, Pam Anderson, Daryl Hannah and of course Anna Nicole Smith to shed all.

Playboy "clubs" across the nation featured waitresses donning a white tail, bunny ears and corset (for curves) to serve male customers. When they brought food they were required to perform a back-arched, knees-bent "Bunny Dip" to excite the men. The Playboy Club job manual said, "Always remember, your proudest possession is your Bunny tail. You must make sure it is white and fluffy."

The revisionist film Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel says Playboy helped rescue orphans during the Vietnam war, supported a group helping runaway young people evade prostitution and was an early civil rights voice, "liberating" the segregated New Orleans Playboy Club so that African-American men could enjoy bunny dips too.

While we all know Bill Cosby's Playboy Club roots, the film showcases other celebrities praising Playboy who may shock viewers such Dick Cavett, David Steinberg Alex Haley, Robert Culp, Tony Curtis, Kiss' Gene Simmons and James Caan. Even the late Rev. Malcolm Boyd, author of Are Your Running With Me Jesus, appears in the movie apparently also okay with a philosophy that deems half the world worthy of wearing bunny tails.

The film barely touches on the murder of playmate Dorothy Stratten in 1980 by her partner and the suicide of bunny Bobbie Arnstein because of a drug scandal in 1975.

What Retired Playboy?

While Playboy still exists as a magazine, it is not the sexual arbiter it was for women in the 60's, 70's and even 80's. Even before the Internet, Playboy was caught between two trends that left it without a niche: on the one hand soft core "laddie" magazines, Victoria's Secret catalogues and issues of Sports Illustrated and on the other hand hard core porn.

Like female lawyers defending Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, it was no doubt hoped that a female Playboy CEO, Hefner's daughter Christie Hefner, would show it wasn't sexist. Serving as CEO from 1988 through 2008, Christie Hefner told the Daily Telegraph as a "feminist" she would not take the magazine hardcore. Dad overruled her and bought X-rated television stations in 2001.

In fact Christie may have been the ultimate casualty of the early #Metoo philosophy called Playboy. Not pretty enough to be in the magazine and not male enough for power, dad "transferred future control of Playboy Enterprises to his two young sons" reported the New York Times in 2002--not to Christie, despite her decades of service.

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by (more...)

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