I think there needs to be a clarification here, because many people don't realize this, especially women who have little exposure to pornography...

There is Playboy... and there is everything else. Playboy owns the market on softcore stuff, so no one else even bothers to try. Penthouse, Hustler, et. al. all compete with each other to distribute smut of the hardest quality.

Despite what is written above, Playboy is really nothing at all like Penthouse. It's closer to Maxim in content than other porno mags, with the key distinction being that people appear nude in Playboy. There are interviews with actors, stories about pro athletes, and reviews of movies, books, and albums. Basically Hugh's saying "We're gonna give you an interesting magazine that you can actually read, but we realize that you like seeing naked chicks, so that's what we're going to give you."

There is no sex in Playboy. Oh, there's the innuendo, the dirty cartoons, and the like, but this is softcore stuff. Women leaning against a piano naked, testing out the durability of a mattress naked, or reading Aristotle's Poetics naked. If you want some contrast, go to Playboy's website, and then Penthouse's. Or even better... show a girl a Playboy and a Penthouse side-by-side. Ask her which one is more offensive.

It is generally accepted that you can use a Playboy pictorial to launch your career (see: Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCarthy). Er, well, I guess you could call it a career. You can also put on a resumé that you were a columnist for Playboy and still be taken seriously.

So anyway, that's the difference.


The guy who owned the little grocery store was usually there during the day, working his ass off. I dated his daughter, Debbie, a few times later on. She was born on February 29; I'll never forget that. When Leap Year would pop up, they'd put her picture in the paper with the obligatory caption, "Guess who's four years old today?" Or whatever the number was.

The grocery store was just across the street from the schools. The elementary school, the junior high and the high school for that little town were all in the same area. And I lived one block away. It's safe to say that I spent a lot of my young life walking to and from that grocery store. And I got to know Mr. Harrison very well during those years. There were two little check-out aisles and only one of them was usually open. And he was usually the one doing the checking.

It began innocently enough, with the purchase of some candy or gum when I was little. Then, when I was around twelve years old, I started buying cigarettes from him. He had a boy who was a couple of years older than me, so I guess he knew this was just part of the deal of being a dumbass kid in that little town. This was long before the Federal or State or City Government thought they knew more than me about what the hell I should be doing with myself. It was a better time.

Hugh Hefner changed everything when I got to be around 14 or so. Somehow this asshole had conned ma and pa grocery owners and City Councils and all sorts of folks into thinking that just 'cause he had an interview with Norman Mailer or some other pretentious prick in his magazine, that it was OK for anyone to sell pictures of naked women wherever they damn well pleased. I, of course, was quite interested in seeing these pictures.

The problem was twofold. First, I couldn't really afford the high price of a Playboy magazine each month. I think they were a couple of bucks back then, and that was a lot of money. It was a better time.

Second, I really couldn't bring myself to take one up to the counter and try to buy it, anyway. I mean, cigarettes were one thing, but this was something else: Something else entirely. So, I started doing what any little dumbass fuckwit would have done: I started stealing them each month.

Oh, I was so clever. I'd walk in (to a store where I'd been going since I was a third grader) and casually walk over to the magazine rack (where I'd never spent two seconds of my life before) and pick up some news magazines and pretend to read through them. All the time, I'd be giving Mr. Harrison that glance with which all bad shoplifters give away their game. Then, just as he'd go to put some ground beef in a bag for some lady, I'd snatch (hehehe) that Playboy and stick it down my pants and pull my shirt over it. Then I'd stroll around the store and pick up a can of potato sticks (BBQ flavor) and some bubble gum and go check out.

I knew he knew, and he knew that I knew that he knew. It was pitiful. This little dance went on for months. The only time I'd venture over to the magazine rack was around the 5th when the new issues came out. I couldn't have been more obvious. Or horny. And I guess that's why he let me get away with it. I could have at least paid for one of the damn things at some point during this time. I could have at least done that.

So, thank you Mr. Hefner for all the pretty pictures. And thank you for all the great articles and cartoons. But fuck you for turning me into a petty thief and ruining a relationship I'd had for years with a grownup who actually cared what happened to me. I really didn't need to see that stuff. I would have had a better time.

Playboy Magazine was founded in 1953 by Hugh Hefner. The magazine would go on to be a source of controversy for years to come and was the first of its kind. It was a magazine solely for men, featuring pictures of beautiful nude women and also featuring articles by some of the best writers of the time. Each magazine has a featured "playmate", interviews with a variety of people, fictional writings, and also art. Since its beginnings, the company has grown from a single man to an operation that has its stakes in many different areas, such as publishing, entertaining, licensing, and on-line sales and publishing, and a multi-million dollar philanthropic foundation. Playboy has paved the way for many other less "classy" magazines, but still remains at the top of the list for most sold men's magazines.

The magazine came at a time when men were only short time back from WWII, and women were sent back to their homes after having worked to support the war. The pendulum swings from left to right, as the metaphor goes. While the magazine was accepted and became popular in the 50s, it was OK for the men as long as it wasn't their wives. In the 60s there would be a backlash against the magazine and other "smut", as the women's rights activists would quickly dig their claws into what they saw as blatant objectification. The question is still debated as to whether Playboy and other magazines are visions of what men really want. Was the ideal woman of the '50s one that was portrayed in a magazine such as Playboy?

The overwhelming conformity and good natured behavior that was expected of people in their daily lives perhaps led to this new magazine coming out. Hefner was brought up as a strict Methodist, and went against his upbringing by laying out the first Playboy Magazine in 1952. This was a magazine that had not only soft core nudity, but also had a variety of articles that educated people would want to read.

The first issue of Playboy Magazine sold approximately 50,000 copies in the United States. The first issue didn't have any date on the cover because Hefner had no idea if he'd have enough money to publish another. The magazine got immediate attention from the world due to it's pictures of Marilyn Monroe, but it also accomplished something else. It revolutionized ideas about what a bachelor's life should be like. A bachelor wasn't looked at as someone in a stage before marriage anymore, but as someone who may potentially choose to be single. Being a bachelor was now a choice and lifestyle. The magazine appealed to its target audience by focusing on topics such as drinks, types of cigar, men's fashion. These would later become key elements to the playboy lifestyle for years to come and even today.

Once the magazine became more successful, Hefner was able to get more successful people to be in his magazines. Models for Playboy started off with people like Marilyn Monroe, and to this day have featured such people as Farrah Fawcett, Cindy Crawford, and Sharon Stone. Interviews have also included such people as Bob Dylan and Bill Gates. There have been articles by famous journalists such as Nat Hentoff and David Halberstam. There have also been fiction series in the magazine by people like John Updike, Tom Clancy, and Kurt Vonnegut. In short, the magazine was the first of its kind because it was the beginning of a "men's entertainment" genre of magazine, and it had basically intelligent content that was aimed at a specific audience.

Sources:
Petersen, James R. The Century of Sex: Playboy's History of the Sexual Revolution, 1900-1999 Boston: Grove Press, 1999
Edgren, Gretchen. The Playboy Book: Forty Years.New York: General Pub Group (Reprint edition), 1994

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