When Did Playboy Become Respectable?

Anti-Playboy sign at IHAC fundraiser, 6/9/06 Last month I posted about a demonstration I participated in outside of the Playboy headquarters in downtown Chicago. We were there to protest a fundraiser benefiting the Illinois Coalition for Adolescent Health — a group that has recently partnered with Planned Parenthood of Greater Chicagoland to form a coalition whose goal is to strip all funding of abstinence-only education for Illinois schools and instead require them to use condom-based sex education programs. Recently, a reader who goes by the name of “Another Annie” commented on the post:

OK. I’m not even going to address the idea that comprehensive sex ed is instrumental in teaching kids to use condoms PROPERLY, so that they DO NOT fail as often… Or that if you treated young girls like human beings and not like mere baby incubators and let them have access to Hormonal Birth Control, diaphragms, the sponge, spermicidal gels, or any other number of barrier/hormonal birth control methods, the condom failure rate wouldn’t even matter. All I’m going to say is that if you’re surprised that Playboy Magazine supports comprehensive sex ed in schools, you need to crawl out from under your rock a little more often. Playboy, in addition to promoting and publishing some of this century’s finest writers and columnists, has long been an advocate for healthy, egalitarian relationships between the sexes. And for them, part of that is teaching men and women alike how to protect themselves, should they choose to have sex–no matter when or with whom.

I wanted to reproduce Another Annie’s comments here because by the time she posted her comment, the original post was off the main page, and therefore most readers of this blog would not otherwise see it. Another Annie’s comments here are extraordinarily clarifying, and, in my opinion, emblematic of the “pro-choice” worldview. Another Annie’s first point was this:

OK. I’m not even going to address the idea that comprehensive sex ed is instrumental in teaching kids to use condoms PROPERLY, so that they DO NOT fail as often…

Most of us, regardless of our views on “comprehensive” sex ed, have heard this line of argument before. What never ceases to mystify me is the term “proper use” when referring to condoms. Whatever does this mean? Does it refer to “perfect use” — a statistical term that, given human nature, has absolutely no practical relevance to ascertaining the effectiveness of condoms? Or does it mean something else? Regardless, when referring to condom use, the term “proper use” rings hollow, considering that in 2001, a scientific panel co-sponsored by the CDC, NIH, FDA, and USAID looked at 138 peer-reviewed, published studies and found that — with the exception of AIDS and the female-to-male transmission of gonorrhea — “epidemiological evidence is insufficient to determine the effectiveness of condoms in actual use for preventing most other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)”. Noted chastity speaker Mary Beth Bonacci summarized the panel’s findings:

Basically, it boils down to this: There is no evidence to indicate that condoms prevent the heterosexual transmission of most sexually transmitted diseases. None.

Another Annie’s second comment was this:

Or that if you treated young girls like human beings and not like mere baby incubators and let them have access to Hormonal Birth Control, diaphragms, the sponge, spermicidal gels, or any other number of barrier/hormonal birth control methods, the condom failure rate wouldn’t even matter.

I’ll leave the straw man alone and simply make the observation that I can scarcely imagine a society that is more heavily saturated with condoms and other forms of artificial birth control than ours is today. Given Another Annie’s argument here, one would expect to see an inversely proportional relationship between, on the one hand, the availability of condoms and birth control, and, on the other, rates of unplanned pregnancy, abortion, and STDs. In reality, however, we’ve seen just the opposite. Another Annie’s third comment was this:

All I’m going to say is that if you’re surprised that Playboy Magazine supports comprehensive sex ed in schools, you need to crawl out from under your rock a little more often. Playboy, in addition to promoting and publishing some of this century’s finest writers and columnists, has long been an advocate for healthy, egalitarian relationships between the sexes. And for them, part of that is teaching men and women alike how to protect themselves, should they choose to have sex–no matter when or with whom.

“Surprised”? Who’s “surprised”? As I noted in the original post, it came as “no surprise” to me that Christie Hefner (Hugh’s daugher, herself the current Playboy CEO) was chosen as the guest of honor at the ICAH fundraiser. Nor does it surprise me in the least that Playboy supports “comprehensive” sex ed, since both share the bedrock principle that the primary purpose of sex is self-serving pleasure. The claim that Playboy “has long been an advocate for healthy, egalitarian relationships between the sexes” is beyond absurd. How can the profoundly selfish, unhealthy thoughts introduced into a man’s (or boy’s) mind by looking at pictures of the Playmate of the Month possibly foster in him a desire to see women as anything more than sexual objects? And since when is Playboy respectable? (Then again, maybe I’m overreacting. After all, in another comment on the original post, reader and frequent commenter Lauren insisted that “Playboy is NOT porn”, and — from the way I read her comment, at least — seems to believe that the pictures of naked women posing in Playboy constitute “art”.) As I noted in my original post, Christie Hefner was the one who decided that the company could make more money by producing increasingly harder-core pornography — something that even her father was reluctant to do for a long time. It’s an utter shame that so many self-styled “women’s advocates” turn a blind eye to the abundant evidence of a connection between pornography and violence against women. Another Annie also hints — perhaps unwittingly? — at where we’re headed if advocates of Individualized Sexual Expression At All Costs have their way:

And for them, part of that is teaching men and women alike how to protect themselves, should they choose to have sex–no matter when or with whom.

Taken to its logical conclusion, it would be impossible to hold this belief while simultaneously rejecting laws against pedophilia. As we’ve seen, the Netherlands is already moving in this direction, and — please God, I hope I’m wrong — it’s probably only a matter of time before it enters a full gallop.

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