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Another Skirmish in Playboy Battle

August 15, 1994|JACK SMITH

I did not expect to be widely loved for my column applauding a federal judge for overturning a county ban on the presence of Playboy magazine in fire stations.

My point was that the magazine was essentially harmless, and that it might help firemen to while away the hours between alarms. I noted also that various women's magazines that I looked at while waiting for a manicure were much more prurient and sexually explicit than Playboy.

Diana York Blaine of La Verne writes, "When he argues that the prurience of women's magazines outstrips that of his favorite soft pornography, he misses the crucial difference." (I am always missing the crucial difference.)

She goes on: "Every article aimed at women readers encourages them to be something other that they (presumably) already are: better in bed, quieter, slimmer, more pleasing to men, responsible for birth control, etc."

Both magazines, she says, give women and girls the message: "The outside package is all that matters and you are born to serve. These rags tutor women to strive to become the very fantasy bimbo airbrushed into the pages of Playboy, not independent human beings."

I think those magazines should be in every waiting room. If nothing else, they help pass the time while waiting for a manicure. I learned, for example, how to have multiple orgasms.


Heidi Ferrer writes that "Women in Playboy, as in much of society, are the sex object. I repeat, object . Why then, do you think, Mr. Smith, that women's magazines have those articles about how to be sexy or what to do in bed? It's not separate, Mr. Smith, it's because of influences like Playboy." Well, if Playboy encourages women to look sexy, I see nothing wrong with that.

Ferrer notes that I wrote "the female figure has not changed much over the millennia," and points out that "the female figure in Playboy has changed even less." She argues that "all the bodies in Playboy are very similar. That being projected as sexy or ideal is part of the problem. There are a multitude of different female figures. Look on the street, Mr. Smith. Do they look like the women in Playboy? Does your mother? Does your wife?"

I'd rather leave my mother out of this, but the fact is, she was thin as a mannequin until the day she died. As for my wife, she could have been a bunny in her youth, and she still looks good enough for the cover of Glamour.

Evidently to show that she is not just jealous of sexy women, Ferrer describes herself as 24 years old; 5 feet, 8 inches, and 125 pounds.

"See," she says, "even women blessed with a figure close to society's 'standard' are sick of women being trampled on. We will never be equal if we are objects."

By the way, Ferrer addresses her letter to "Mr. Smith," noting that she does so "out of respect for the older generation." The truth is that no one appreciates the female form more than us old geezers. We might even be inspired to put out fires.

Ferrer asks: "How about the men who read Playboy? Is it harmless to them? What if a man goes through his life thinking that this is the way women should look, the way his woman should look? What if he beats his own wife because she doesn't measure up?"


Katherine Chiljan of Northridge writes, "I wonder if you really understand what the objectification of women means? It is the divorcing of women from their personhood, reducing their entire being to simply their gender. It is this mentality that directly or indirectly leads men to commit sexual harassment and rape. . . .

"How could you even compare women's magazine articles with Playboy? The women's articles you cited are not lurid, one-sided talks on the male sex; they are frank discussions on problems and pleasures of sex, with the aim of making it more enjoyable for both men and women. For affecting sexual behavior there is no contest between photos of naked women poised for sex and those women's articles.

"You, Jack, are among the brainwashed zillions who are slaves to their gender, and Playboy magazine (is) one of the masters who keeps you in chains. . . . "

Chiljan says she especially objects to my statement that "What would be more likely to inspire (a firefighter) to this act of bravery (fighting a fire) than pictures of live young women?"

"The message being," she writes, "if you are brave you will be rewarded with sex."

It's been that way since the days of King Arthur. Isn't it said that "none but the brave deserves the fair"?

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