Hidden in the corner of the bookstore or S/U-bahn kiosk, tucked away behind Men’s Health and Sports Illustrated, you’ll find the predecessor of internet porn: Playboy magazine. With its iconic bunny logo, a half-naked woman sprawled across the cover, the sexually frustrated (or sexually liberated, depending on your views) literary baby of editor in chief and herder of the infamous Playboy Bunnies, Hugh Hefner, is sure to be found. Although the man selling the copy stared at me with a look of strangled amusement and raised eyebrows, the magazine really isn’t that different from most men’s magazines I’ve come across. Surprise, surprise, it’s actually a magazine with words. Yes, proper articles written by famous and reputable journalists and there are more pictures of clothed people than naked women, so go figure. The theme of the April 2014 issue? Sex & Music – two things (generally) universally enjoyed.
Like most magazines, Playboy has a variety of sections:
- Letters – apparently Playboy has female readers, too!
- Food – how to cook carrots
- Drinks – ciders
- Style – watches & blazers
- Auto – extensive info on Mustangs & apps for driving
- Travel – Coachella, where skimpy bikini-clad girls are waiting to welcome you
- Tech – earbuds, with plenty of notes on how each brand is great to use when you’re pulsating sweat at the gym
- Entertainment – movie reviews using bunny ratings & an attempt to lure readers to go watch Dom Hemingway using a “tease frame” of a topless Emilia Clarke
- Raw Data – a highly useful page for your next trivia quiz. How many cocktails does James Bond drink a day? 6-7. Apparently, Stockholm listens to Abba 110% more than the rest of the world, and when asked “Married people having an affair is morally unacceptable,” the US is fond of fidelity coming in at 84% saying “yes” whereas the French have looser morals with only 47% saying “yes”
- and many more
The most striking aspect to me about this magazine was how “normal” it was in terms of content and style. Yes, there was a lot of sexual wordplay and an abundance of sexual puns (“[Lina Esco] gets some thoughts about topless equality off her chest”, “[his] flaccid taste in music”, “undress rehearsal”, etc.), but many of the articles were interesting and several of them were also written by women. One of the first pages started with “Hef Sightings, Mansion Frolics, & Nightlife Notes” – something that I thought would set the tone for the rest of the issue.
Instead, there were articles on prison births, the use of recreational drugs for psychotherapy and psychiatric purposes and the lack of government funding in that area, DNA profiling, destroying your online footprints, an interview with Stan Lee (a comics genius), a feature on the Central Park Five drama that was then rudely interrupted by a 5-page photo spread of a hot babe accompanied by a supposedly “erotic” introduction that sounded more like a cheap porno description, some fiction, the best NSFW music, 20 questions with Iggy Pop, an amateur article on “how to be a DJ” in case you’re unemployed and looking to become what dozens of other people claim to be, and many many more. The issue ends with another nth-page exhibit of nude female beauty and some intimate details of playmate updates (BREAKING NEWS: Miss October 2013 was chosen for Side Boob Sunday).
One of my favorite articles was a column by a guy who decided to work from home and “figured [that his] new life would be manly.” In other words, that
I would be a man of intrigue; no one would ever be sure where I was. There would be mid afternoon workouts, mid afternoon drinking, mid afternoon sex, mid afternoon leaving right after sex because I really have to go do some work now. I would work from mountaintops, South African beaches…the Playboy Mansion.”
Instead, he’s faced with the stark reality of:
I am in a small room in my house, wearing sweatpants, a T-shirt and the underwear I slept in, which is the underwear I wore yesterday, which if I don’t shower soon will be the underwear I wear tomorrow. I have examined the contents of my refrigerator 10 times. I have watched a fair amount of porn. Although I have not smoked any marijuana, it’s unclear how my day would be remotely different if I had.
And all in the attempt to be manly. And all coming from a lame guy who’s only joy from working at the office was all the women he could flirt with. And now he’s surprised that when you spend all your time at home, you also end up having to do a lot of chores like cleaning and cooking which he claims are making him a “1950s housewife” instead.
The editors like to mix things up, clashing the more serious stories such as a feature on an underground radio station in Syria, with a lighthearted pair of breasts thrown in every now and then. This month’s issue featured Playmate of the Month, Shanice Jordyn, who shows off how well she can roller skate naked and reveals all her secrets in her ‘Data Sheet’ containing her measurements, turn ons, turn offs, ambitions (Playboy will launch her career, she hopes), perfect date, as well as a bedroom selfie (which was surprisingly SFW), a picture at the mall, and a sneaky Ed Hardy ad (“Rocking my Ed Hardy hat!”). Bonus: it comes with a 3-page fold-out poster you can hang up in your room.
Surprisingly, and in contrast to women’s magazines, Playboy featured very few ads. (In Vogue, you’ll easily find at least 1/4 – 1/3 of the magazine contributing to the needless massacre of trees.) Unsurprisingly, the ads that are featured reveal a lot about who the average Playboy reader is and should be. The pie chart below shows the details:
By far my favorite section was Playboy Advisor, Playboy’s Aunt Agony section that answers “reasonable questions” on the average male’s daily drama. This month, the following topics plagued the XY minds:
- Guy A wants to know if there’s a term for his “anti-fetish” (in his case, high heels and therefore strippers, too) (Surprise! It’s called a “turn off”!) & why he has those specific turn offs.
Aunt Agony’s psychoanalysis reveals that “Maybe [he] subconsciously see[s] spiky heels as a potential castration weapon – a sort of footwear version of the vagina dentata. Maybe the added height they give a woman is threatening to [his] manhood. Maybe [he] suffered some early-childhood trauma at the hands of a woman in high heels. Maybe [he has] a good taste in shoes and can tell that the high heels in most porn are cheap and tacky.”
- Guy B is considering a Prince Albert penis piercing.
Cons: no sex or masturbation for 6 weeks as well as an increased STD risk.
Pros: increased pressure & stimulation for both him & her. (Not the potential other “him” as well? Apparently, when the cover states ‘Entertainment for Men’, they actually mean ‘Entertainment for Heterosexual Men’)
- Guy C doesn’t like his girlfriend’s new tattoo.
- Guy D wants a beard like one of those Duck Dynasty guys.
Apparently growing a beard 4-6 inches beyond your chin can take several years.
- Guy E looses interest in girls after dating and hooking up with them a few times.
- One of Guy F‘s “biggest nonsexual fantasies is to travel to London’s Savile Row and purchase a bespoke suit and pair of shoes” and he wants to know how to sound “cool and sophisticated” when the tailor asks him whether he “dresses to the left or to the right” when getting a suit made.
i.e. Which side his penis hangs to. Apparently most men’s penises tend to dangle to the left.
- Guy G requests a custom-made cocktail recipe.
- Guy H is in a shitty marriage where his wife doesn’t want any form of intimacy and the kids have noticed it and are using the bad marriage against them and and and… Dilemma: to cheat or not to cheat?
- Guy I wants to know if he’s gay after having an enjoyable threesome with his girlfriend and a transvestite.
- Guy J wants to build a man cave in his house for poker parties, watching sports uninterrupted, and playing loud music. Problem: his wife thinks it sounds “crazy” and “will look ugly and decrease the value of the house.”
Enlightening and reassuring indeed. As you can see, average problems stressing out your average guy. One starts to wonder what questions the Playboy editors did not deem “reasonable”…
Besides the ample entertainment offered by the advice section, Playboy extends its services to men by providing them with a page full of horrid party jokes that are so awful, they’re more likely to get you laughed at and ignored than at the center of attention. (But just in case you’re desperate, try this one: “Why do blonds look so hot when they drive? They don’t understand how to work the car’s air conditioner.”) Feel free to send your worst jokes to Playboy (firstname.lastname@example.org) and if you’re lucky, Playboy will pay you $100 to feature it in one of their issues.
While the magazine was really fun to read and I found a lot of the articles to be interesting, it’s also fascinating how the magazine provides a glimpse into American (pop) culture and interests. In a brief interview article, you see how Americans are much more shocked by nudity in the media than Europeans, for example. Also, the topic of drugs sheds light on how the American government is so terrified of the notion of recreational drugs that it refuses to fund potentially important research on how certain psychedelics may help treat psychiatric conditions. And finally, in terms of pop culture, the obsession with Taylor Swift continues with an article predicting who she’ll date next along with some “sample lyrics” of her possible break-up response hits on her hypothetical 2017 album, Chapter 11.
In conclusion, Playboy really is a fun and interesting magazine and I found it to be much more entertaining than the average women’s magazine. Although I do still have zero interest in cars. I just want a Mercedes Benz without the lecture on all the techy aspects, thanks.