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Does Playgirl magazine’s success prove that women like to look too?

The success of Playgirl magazine reveals some transgressive truths about female sexual desire, like, women value good looks too.
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Rita Silvan, June 14, 2013 10:03:56 AM

The Seventies were the heyday for great magazines. Publishers had money to splash and writers had an embarrassment of juicy subjects to choose from, the juiciest being the sexual revolution. Hence Playgirl, circa 1973.

Playgirl, a great magazine? Okay, no, not a great magazine, but its birth marked a great, big idea. Enough already with the ‘male gaze’ blah, blah, blah. Women like to look too. Some of us even want to look at glossy photos of naked men doing stuff men do, like fixing cars, hanging out in the jungle or lounging around on animal-print bedding in the late afternoon under a tropical breeze. A different dude, a different schlong. Every month, if you please. In fact, enough women like to look to keep Playgirl in business for 40 years, long after many other magazines have shuttered, their yellowed pages colonized by silverfish.

When Playgirl first came out I was desperate to get my hands on a copy. I had more than a passing familiarity with Playboy because during this time we had a basement tenant, Mr. Ramzi, a lovely, single, middle-aged man from Iraq. During the day when Mr. Ramzi was at work, I would sneak down to his room and flip through the thick stack of issues that lay next to the ashtray on his coffee table. I fantasized about working as a bunny at one of the Playboy clubs, preferably Chicago, the epicenter of all things Playboy, serving cocktails to businessmen and travelling salesmen. It seemed like the height of sexy glamour at the time.

If Playboy was good, I reasoned, Playgirl had to be great, being tailored specifically to women. It was several years later when I finally got the courage to actually go and buy a copy. But by then my taste in men had settled along the lines of skinny bisexual rocker/TV Vulcan/depressive poet. Wholesome-looking farm boys without undies just didn’t rock my world.

Yet, after four decades, Playgirl still reels them in—and not just gay men either. The magazine is transgressive because its success challenges the notion that women need a narrative, ideally a monogamous one, to be turned on. Numerous studies show that women and men respond with equal vigour to erotic images. In Australia, a study demonstrated that the size of a man’s penis can influence how attractive he is to women, while a more recent study used plethysmography, a measurement of blood flow to the vagina, to contradict the quaint belief that looks matter more to men than to women. This finding puts some unwanted pressure on men to step up in the looks department. In a 2012 Harris Interactive poll, seventy-eight percent of men and women said that being physically attracted to their partner was very important.

Fortunately, as they say in the millinery trade, ’there’s a hat for every head’. Recently, musician Billy Joel was asked about his relationships with beautiful women. “I always get compared to how beautiful they are and how not beautiful I am, and it’s kind of funny, It’s like “Beauty and the Beast”. I don’t mind being the beast, I want them to be good looking, and if they don’t mind me looking like me, why should I care?”

Readers, do you enjoy checking out erotica for women? Does a man’s physique matter? Let us know in the comments!


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Rita Silvan

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