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Playboy unplugged

The famous first Playboy centerfold – of Marilyn Monroe in the December 1953 edition – is  now considered artistic rather than pornographic. But how much of this has to do with her fame and the passage of time? And how many other Playboy centerfolds could we say this about?

The famous first Playboy centerfold – of Marilyn Monroe in the December 1953 edition – is  now considered artistic rather than pornographic. But how much of this has to do with her fame and the passage of time? And how many other Playboy centerfolds could we say this about?

Whenever I was asked about my “walls of inspiration” – which have followed me to each new job, albeit with a changing cast of characters – I always responded that they were a feminist gesture, that I would remove them the day Playboy magazine folded.

Well, Hell has frozen over and I’ll have to remove my men. (Yeah, right. More on that in a bit.)

Playboy hasn’t folded but it might as well go the way of Maxim and other “lad” mags. It has announced it will no longer be carrying nude women, although provocatively dressed women will still be a feature. Such is progress.

The reasoning is that the magazine can’t compete with the more explicit content you can get for free on the Net. But it’s not just a case of yet another publication undone by technology. In recent years, women have reclaimed the pinup, the burlesque show, erotica, even the pornographic movie as a controlled expression of their sexuality. (This is more complex than it would seem. What women can’t control, as the sexy selfie has demonstrated, is who views these images of themselves and what the viewer thinks about them or does with them. Remember, too, that prostitutes often say they are in control of their destinies as well.)

The fact remains that women are still the primary sex symbols in our culture, and Playboy has contributed mightily to the denigration of those symbols. I don’t buy the argument offered by novelist Jennifer Weiner in the Oct. 18 edition of The New York Times that Playboy offered a more “innocent” exploration of sex. Everything is relative. For its time, Playboy was racy with no other thought but to offer women as objects. (Did anyone pay any attention to the bios that accompanied the photos?) Whereas I never put up a (clothed) picture of an actor, athlete, singer or dancer whom I didn’t admire for his brains and/or talent as well. Women see everything in context, especially men. They’re not just interested in a pretty face but in a guy with a sense of industry and humor who’s kind to others, particularly children. Looks are the whipped cream on the sundae. Which is why I never understood why former Congressman Anthony Weiner and former Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Favre would email pictures of their private parts to women. What they should’ve done is sent women photos of themselves adopting rescue puppies or taken underserved children to a ballgame. Or at the very least they should’ve sent women images of their big stock portfolios.

But then, men love to compartmentalize, don’t they? If you look at brain scans, you’ll see that there is a difference in how men and women’s brains work. Men thinking – only a portion of the left frontal lobe is in action. Women thinking – both hemispheres light up. There’s a metaphor there.

And there is something else. As long as rape remains a searing factor in world culture, and as long as men remain its primary instigators and women, its primary victims, I intend to keep my men on the walls, just the way I like them.

Framed and contained.

When I was a young reporter, I used to plaster the walls around my desk with pictures of hunks – Tom Selleck and Bruce Springsteen being faves. Now they’re middle-aged men and, let’s just say, my heart has gone on, although I still enjoy the Boss’ music and reruns of “Magnum P.I.”