email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
269 Amazing Sex GamesA History of MarriageA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyActionAll the WayAmerica UnzippedAmerica UnzippedAmerica's Sexual TransformationAmerican EugenicsAmerican GirlsAmerican HookupAn Interpretation of DesireAnarchism & SexualityAnatomy of a BoyfriendAnatomy of LoveAnthony GoicoleaAnticlimaxArt and HomosexualityArt/PornAssuming a BodyAutoportraitBachelors and BunniesBecoming OrgasmicBehind the Red DoorBest Sex Writing 2005Better Sex Through YogaBetter Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBetween Mom and JoBeyond Diversity DayBeyond SexualityBeyond SpeechBeyond ToleranceBig Porn IncBill HensonBodies in DoubtBody ImagesBonkBoys Don't CryBreasts - A DocumentaryBrothelBuying SexCase Studies in Communication about SexCase Studies in Sexual DevianceCaught in the WebCelibaciesChildren and SexualityChildren and the Politics of SexualityChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChristy ReportClay's WayClinical Manual of Women's Mental HealthClose toYouClumsyCold HitCollege SexComing of Age in AmericaConfessions of the Other MotherCybersexCyborgasmDare... to Make Love with 2, 3, 4... or MoreDare... to Try BisexualityDating: Philosophy for EveryoneDeadly ButterflyDebating Same-Sex MarriageDeep GossipDeparting from DevianceDesire, Love, and IdentityDigital DiariesDilemmas of DesireDirty MindsDirty StoriesDisorders Of DesireDisorders of Sex Development:Doing ItDoing ItDoing It Down UnderDown and Dirty Sex SecretsDude, You're a FagEarly Embraces IIIEmerald City BluesEmotionally InvolvedEnjoying Guilty PleasuresErotic CapitalErotic InnocenceErotic PassionsEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEveryday PornographyEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorExploring TranssexualismFade to BlackFagbugFaking ItFamilies Like MineFast GirlsFinal JeopardyFinding H. F.Fire on the Mountain DVDFor Lesbian ParentsFor The Bible Tells Me SoForbiddenFrictionFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Shame to SinFuckologyGay, Straight, and the Reason WhyGender in the MirrorGender OutlawsGeography ClubGetting RealGetting the Love You WantGirls & SexGirls Gone MildGirls Gone SkankGLBTQGoddess WorshipGoing DownGood GirlsGood PornGood Sex IllustratedGreat Answers to Difficult Questions About SexGuide To Getting It OnHandbook New Sexuality StudiesHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHard to GetHardcore from the HeartHear Us Out!HeterosyncraciesHit & MissHomosexualitiesHookedHooking UpHow Sex Became a Civil LibertyHow Sex ChangedHow Sex WorksHow To Be GayHow to Do Things with Pornography How to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanHow to Make Love Like a Porn StarHow to Think More About SexHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenHysterical MenI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'll Be Your MirrorIf Men Could TalkImpotenceIn a Queer VoiceIn Praise of the WhipIn the Mood, AgainInsatiable WivesIntense Games DVDInvestigating Young People's Sexual CulturesIt's Perfectly NormalIt's Perfectly NormalItís Your HourJane Sexes It UpJock SturgesJust Between UsKama-Sutra--The Secrets to the Art of LoveKids Gone WildLegalizing ProstitutionLegalizing ProstitutionLet's Get This StraightLets Talk about SexLetters to Penthouse Vol. 50Likely to DieLittle ChicagoLoose GirlLosing Matt ShepardLoveLove and DesireLove and SexLove JunkieLove Lust DesireLove SickLustMad for FoucaultMagical ThinkingMaking American BoysMaking Babies the Hard WayMaking Chastity SexyMaking Peace with PornMaking ScenesMale SexualityMalefemaleMaster BreastsMating in CaptivityMedicalized MasculinitiesMelancholia and MoralismMenMental Health Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities MiddlesexMoney ShotMoral Panics, Sex PanicsMy Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me UpMy HeartbeatMy Horizontal LifeName All the AnimalsNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew Sex Now DVDNightswimmingNone of the AboveNormalNormalNot GayNot The Marrying KindNot Under My RoofNothing PinkOedipus WreckedOn Being RapedOne Hot SecondOne Hour in ParisOpenOrgasmOrgasm Inc.OrgasmologyOrgasmsOver 100 Truly Astonishing Sex TipsOverexposedPeekPeriod PiecesPervPhilosophizing About Sex Philosophy of Love, Sex, and MarriagePin-up GrrrlsPINSPlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPolicing SexualityPolyamory in the 21st CenturyPornPorn NationPorn StudiesPorn UniversityPornifiedPornlandPornographyPornographyPornography, Sex, and FeminismPosition Of The Day PlaybookPray the Gay AwayPredatorsPremarital Sex in AmericaPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyPrivate Dicks - Men ExposedPrivate Practices DVDProblem GirlsPrudePsychopathia SexualisQueer PhilosophyRapeRape Is RapeRated X - A Journey Through PornRazmatazRecruiting Young LoveRedefining GirlyRedefining RapeRegulating SexRelax, It's Just SexRethinking Gender and Sexuality in ChildhoodRethinking RapeRunning with ScissorsSatan's Sex BookScreening SexSelling Sex ShortSexSex & Single GirlsSex (Ed)Sex and SpiritSex and the American TeenagerSex and the SoulSex and the Soul, Updated EditionSex and WarSex at DawnSex by NumbersSex DetoxSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex in CrisisSex ObjectSex OffendersSex on the BrainSex PositionsSex Q & ASex, Family, and the Culture WarsSex, or the UnbearableSex, Therapy, and KidsSex, Time and PowerSextasySexting and Young PeopleSexual ArtSexual Boundary ViolationsSexual DevianceSexual DisordersSexual EcstasySexual EthicsSexual FluiditySexual IntelligenceSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySexual Orientation and School PolicySexual PleasureSexual PredatorsSexual Teens, Sexual MediaSexuality in AdolescenceSexuationSexyBookShameShamelessShy GirlSlutWalkSmall FavorsSmutSocial Control of Sex OffendersSome Assembly RequiredSplit ScreenStir-FryStraight to JesusStrange BedfellowsStripped BareSurviving Sexual ViolenceSymptoms of Being HumanTalkTalk to Me FirstTechniques of PleasureTestosterone RexThe Anthropology of SexThe BabiesThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Big Book of PornThe Birth of the PillThe Blue Moon Erotic Reader IIIThe BodyThe Breast BookThe Breath of Tantric LoveThe Busy Couple's Guide to Great SexThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Chemistry Between UsThe Clitoral TruthThe Education of SophieThe Emergence of SexualityThe End Of AliceThe End of SexThe Erotic EdgeThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Essential KamasutraThe Fate of GenderThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Gay Baby BoomThe Good Vibrations Guide to SexThe Happy Hook-UpThe Hite ReportThe Humble Little CondomThe Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive OrgasmThe Illustrated Story of OThe Love CureThe Madness of WomenThe Men They Will BecomeThe Mirror of LoveThe Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Moral Panics of SexualityThe Naked Truth About SexThe Nature of Sexual DesireThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New Gay TeenagerThe Notebook GirlsThe Only Girl in the CarThe Order of the Poison OakThe Origins of SexThe Other HollywoodThe Other PlaceThe Other Side of DesireThe Perils of MasculinityThe Perversion of YouthThe Philosophy of PornographyThe Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary ReadingsThe Pleasure's All MineThe Politics Of LustThe Porn TrapThe Pornographer's GriefThe Pornography IndustryThe Praeger Handbook of TranssexualityThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Purity MythThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Right to Be ParentsThe Secret Lives of GirlsThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Sex MythThe Shared HeartThe Sleep of ReasonThe Smart Girl's Guide to PornThe State of AffairsThe Story of SexThe SurrenderThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Tenth CircleThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Trauma MythThe Ultimate Guide to Sex and DisabilityThe Vagina MonologuesThe ValleyThe Violence of CareThe Virgin BlueThe Virginity ClubThings Tom LikesThinking KinkThinking XXXToo Hot to HandleTransTransTransgender Children and YouthUltimate JudgementUltimate SexUndoing GenderUnlikelyUntangling the WebVirginVirgin NationVirgin Sex for GirlsVirgin Sex for GuysVirginity LostWhat Does Consent Really Mean?What Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?What's Wrong with Homosexuality?When Jeff Comes HomeWhen Sex Goes to SchoolWhen the Piano StopsWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Who Has What?Who's Been Sleeping in Your HeadWilhelm ReichWired for IntimacyWomen and Child Sexual AbuseWomen and MadnessWritten in the FleshYou Know Me WellZen Sex
Both critics and supporters alike have much to say about the infamous centerfolds in Playboy. Carrie Pitzulo, author of Bachelors and Bunnies: The Sexual Politics of Playboy takes a slightly different stand by examining not only the centerfolds, but also the articles and advice columns in Playboy, and the correspondence and memos sent between Hugh Hefner and his staff. In doing so, Pitzulo argues that the sexual politics of Playboy were more progressive and egalitarian than previously credited, and that their vision was more complex than previously noted.
Pitzulo takes us through an historical journey of the 50s, 60s and 70s by focusing on the issues that Hefner and his staff grappled with in terms of male and female sexuality. Pitzulo also describes the cultural norms of the time and the ways in which Playboy negotiated, resisted or conformed to these standards. Pitzulo argues that even though Playboy was often more progressive than its cultural counterparts, she notes that non-threatening wholesome femininity was advocated, while Playboy was promoting inclusive heterosexuality.
Even though Playboy started out as a male-oriented, hedonistic and often female-bashing magazine, Playboy still took a more progressive stance towards women’s issues and women’s rights than previously assumed. During the 1950s, 60s and 70s, Playboy celebrated the concept that women were sexual beings with needs and desires, rather than prudish and asexual, thereby defying the notion of the sex double standard. Playboy also celebrated a new kind of man, one that was interested in fashion, design, cooking and interior design, thereby blurring the gender roles. This new man was very different from that of the 1950s traditional male. Therefore, the goal of Playboy was to be a guide for men, providing a new take on American manhood.
Even though Pitzulo focus mostly on the written material in Playboy such as the articles, columns and memos written during that time, she also discusses the centerfold pictures in chapter 2. Pitzulo argues that the centerfolds do not display crude sexuality but were sexually liberated during a time when nudity and female sexuality was not promoted. The centerfolds were, however, still sexualized. At the same time, Pitzulo explains the view of Hefner who states that the women were not dehumanized and perceived as objects due to the fact that much information about their lives, families and hobbies were also included along with the photographs.
In chapter 3, Pitzulo discusses in depth the male lifestyle promoted by Playboy, focusing on consumerism and male attractiveness. As such, Pitzulo states that men are becoming increasingly scrutinized and objectified. Pitzulo uses examples of male models in underwear whose heads were not included in the pictures, and nude pictures of the celebrity Burt Reynolds among others. Pitzulo also mentions the challenges Playboy faced in the 1970s, such as antifashion and the feminist movement.
In chapter 4, Pitzulo describes how Playboy ultimately does not only celebrate sexual liberation for both women and men, but also grapples with the notion of homosexuality. Even though Playboy supports homosexuals, they take a stand for heterosexuality, often stating that Playboy is for heterosexual men. In the last two chapters, Pitzulo describes Playboy’s stance towards feminism, as well as the critique and support that different feminists offer. Pitzulo argues that Hefner supported much of the feminist movement in terms of women’s liberation, job equality, sexual freedom and abortion. At the same time, Hefner very much critiqued radical feminism for being asexual and irrational.
Even though Playboy supported equality for both women and men independent of class, gender and race through monetary contributions and by bringing up topics through articles and discussions, Hefner’s own stance on heterosexuality, the sexualization of women and the denial of credibility of radical feminists displays a complex notion of women and men. As such, Pitzulo really engages the reader in the complexity of thought and action described in Playboy. At times, Pitzulo might credit Hefner more than others would for being progressive, even though Playboy is often contradictory in its beliefs. The discussion of male objectification is also contradictory at times, especially since many of the early centerfolds were unknown American women while some nude male models were celebrities. Therefore, the objectification of women could be said to include all women, whereas male objectification can be applied in some situations. Pitzulo also describes how Hefner raved about the work of sexologists Masters and Johnson, while contributing financially to their research. At the same time, feminists have critiqued the credentials of Masters and Johnson and their work for focusing on men’s sexual interests rather than women’s.
The language used by Pitzulo is easily understood as she goes through an historical analysis of Playboy and the culture in which it was formed. The book would be of interest not only to anyone who finds the history of Playboy interesting, but students and teachers in women’s studies, gender studies and men and masculinity studies. Students and teachers in sociology and psychology may also find the book to be helpful. Even though the book is very approachable, it might be suitable for a more mature audience since centerfold pictures appear in the book.
© 2011 Hennie Weiss
Hennie Weiss is a graduate student in Sociology at California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism.