In researching this issue, I was really struck by a quote from Playgirl photographer David Vance: “It was fairly easy to get people to pose nude right off the street. I only remember one model who was reluctant to show his penis.”
Why is that? Is it because men don’t have to be afraid to appear naked and sexualized, whereas appearing naked as a woman means to sacrifice your modesty, and this society treats you like you’re nothing without that good girl grace? People get outraged about women breastfeeding in public, but Greg Louganis (Olympic gold medalist, August 1987 model) said his mom showed off his nudes at her bridge club — crowing, "This is my son."
Esquire said Playgirl’s true legacy is the way it normalized sexually objectifying men, but it feels like a different brand of sexual objectification.
We view Playboy bunnies as permanent harlots and Playgirl models as regular dudes, like ‘this was just a funny thing that they did and we won’t let it define their life and worth.’ To argue against that, Hanson told BBC News that Playboy used to be a respectable place for women to "show themselves off.” She called it “a poor girl's pageant, grandmothers would approve.”
I see more layers to the convo. A friend and I groaned last night at the bar about how men can be smart and sexy, but some people still act like women can’t also be both. Sexy male teachers get modeling contracts, sexy female teachers lose their jobs.
In Playgirl’s case, maybe the reception has to do a bit with the audiences. Queer culture tends not shame sexuality and desire as much, and women don’t share the urge to belittle someone and assert their own higher status before they consider that person fuckable. Even when they want to bottom, guys need to be on top. —D