November 17, 2008

Contemplating the significance of Playgirl’s end

Posted in double standards, entertainment, gender, phallocentrism, pornography, power hierarchy, representation, sex work, sexism at 10:00 am by LB

There was an article today in the New York Times about the recent end to Playgirl magazine.  Recently it’s publisher cancelled the magazine’s distribution.  I pulled out a few things from the article that I felt were very telling:*

 
So [in trying to rebrand Playgirl after the emphasis on gay imagery by previous ownership and editors] she and her fellow editors, all women in their 20s and all relative neophytes to the world of magazines — and pornography — resolved to fill Playgirl with something different. They aspired to bring Playgirl back to its roots, back to a time when the magazine covered issues like abortion and equal rights, interspersing sexy shots of men with work from writers like Raymond Carverand Joyce Carol Oates.

All the while, the editors juggled the demands of the publisher, Blue Horizon Media, which they said pushed to fill Playgirl with even more nudes and fewer words.

[...]

“I’m not a publishing expert, but it seems to me like it would be impossible to sustain a magazine on the quantity of ads Playgirl sold,” Ms. Collins said.

Although the Playgirl Web site is still running, the graphic content is geared more toward gay men. None of the magazine’s editors are involved.

Ms. Caldwell [one of only 3 editors] said Playgirl magazine suffered from the twin malaises of rising costs and declining sales.

[...]

Playgirl was started 35 years ago as a feminist response to Playboy and Penthouse. (Playboy sued Playgirl in 1973 for trademark infringement; the suit was settled amicably.) Over the years, the magazine changed ownership, began catering more to gay men, and whittled its operations down. Still, the magazine drew an avid readership, Ms. Caldwell said, selling 600,000 copies per issue in more than three dozen countries.

[...]

“For better or worse, this was a real blow for feminism. We were the only magazine that offered naked men to women.”

In the end, Playgirl was run by a skeleton crew of these three editors, along with what Ms. Caldwell described as “a whole horde of eager unpaid interns.”

[...]

The magazine had no marketing or public relations budget, so its editors sought to revive the Playgirl brand themselves, throwing parties at a Lower East Side bar. After Blue Horizon denied a request to finance a blog, Ms. Collins built one herself, starting it on WordPress, a free platform.

Their efforts, the women said, got virtually no support; indeed, their higher-ups, all of them men, usually resisted their push to give the magazine editorial heft.

Early in 2008, warning signs surfaced. While newsstands sales were up, Ms. Caldwell said, so were production costs. 

[...]

The magazine’s editors said they were never told why the magazine was shut down. But, they said, they were always struck by the paucity of ads.

 

I quote these segments, because I can see the writing on the wall: pornography for women is not economically viable–see, Playgirl proves it!  But the recurring themes I see in the Playgirl story is a lack of conceptual, financial, and marketing support by the male-controlled publisher.  While the women editors wanted a mix of smart, political writings (a la Playboy), the men-in-charge wanted image content over textual content; while the (very small staff of) women thought up creative publicity schemes, they received no support from the male publishing heads.  Clearly, these women had a vision for where the magazine should go, and it didn’t seem to fit in with what the publishers had in mind.  Whether the publishers were trying to make the magazine fail, or were taking a laisse-faire approach, or would only endorse a women’s skin magazine that didn’t threaten male privilege or appeal to thinking women, they succeeded.  It seems to be that after 2 decades of gay-targeted imagery in Playgirl, that the publisher needed to include some additional resources in order to rebrand the magazine, something they clearly were unwilling to do. 

I also have to wonder what kind of assumptions dictated the actions (or inactions) of the publisher.  Was the too-small quantity of ads a result of the assumption that they couldn’t sell ad-space in a women’s sex magazine to businesses?  Are those in positions of power in the sex industry (read: white men) still unwilling to come to terms with women as sexual consumers, not just products?

So despite a strong readership, the magazine failed for structural reasons–a lack of institutional supports.  I want to point this out because I get pretty frustrated when women continue to see a lack in the cultural representation of their interests, especially regarding women’s sexuality (the doing part of women’s sexuality, not the being a sex object part of it), the common response to such critiques is “then do it yourself.”  Clearly, that’s not enough, because even a magazine with an increasing circulation and publishing longevity such as Playgirl is thwarted by the publishing powers-that-be, who quite like their position of power in the sex industry and their ability to dictate what sexual representations get distributed and which do not.  It’s clearly not enough to produce sexual entertainment that doesn’t degrade women’s humanity or agency when one does not own the means of production.  Sure, there are many women who have control over the direction their sex work takes; but what happens if the desired direction contradicts the kind of output that the publishing and producing higher-ups want?  Will these same women still have control if those who own the means of production are largely white men?  

This is of course not to say that the many women-run sex websites are not important or are irrelevant; indeed they are not.  One especially good one I’d like to point out is Ms. Naughty’s website and excellent sex blog.  But there is something to be said about the inclusion of women’s desires and women-as-consumers in mainstream venues, where sexual entertainment for women is highly visible and is part of the mainstream sex market, rather than relegated to a secondary, niche status.  Visibility is needed in order to challenge the assumption that porn=pictures of naked women in uncomfortable positions, or that porn=videos of women doing things that make men feel good or that (het) men like to watch.  I have written before about how all to often porn sites, by their very language and categories, assume that porn consumers are (het or gay) men.  I use one example in that post but there are many–for another quick example, this one is one I stumbled on a while ago claims to be a classy, couple-friendly site, with tasteful pornographic images, yet by their front page advertising, it seems to forget (at least) half of the couple’s potential sexual interest: there are no men!  Indeed, the site assumes that the woman-half of the couple would enjoy looking at women, but absolutely impossible that the man-half might enjoy looking at pictures of men, and that the woman-half’s possible (likely?) interest in male bodies is irrelevant to the couple.  The focus on male-as-consumer and women-as-product is true of the porn industry as a whole; how else does porn with two women get categorized as heterosexual by the AVN awards?  How else is there no distinction by the AVN between girl-girl and lesbian porn?  How is there a new starlet category for new hot female actors, but not male actors?**  And how else does the Gay Adult Video awards not include lesbian porn?  So in addition to challenging the assumptions of sex culture and the sex industry, there’s also a legitimacy effect of such visibility that gets lost when the expression and consumption of women’s sexual desires takes place primarily or solely in the expanse of the internet, rather than on store shelves, where it can be easily lost or never seen.  (This is why I list several sex stores and resources for women on my blogroll-”proving” a market for women consumers is important.)

It seems to me that this was the perfect time to rebrand Playgirl.  Because of the internet, there is easier access to a greater variety of sexual imagery (and according to 2006 statistics, women account for a third of online pornography viewers).  Not that it’s very easy to weed out the quality, non-sexist sites, or that those are as inexpensive, but it’s easier than in the past when one might have depended on the male-dominated and often sexist choices from your local sex shop.  I think women are more interested in sexual entertainment than in the past, because there is more available that speaks to them in a non/less-sexist way.  I don’t want to romanticize it–the bulk of porn is male-focused and rather problematic for sexist, racist, and heterosexist reasons, not to mention questionable labor practices.  But the internet has help with the, um, exposure of a greater variety of imagery available to those with anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-heteronormative, non-phallocentric sensibilities.  

It is unfortunate, then, that the Playgirl staff cannot get the support they need in order to be able to de-center phallocentric sexuality, and to provide equal opportunity eroticism + smart writing.

 

 

*disclaimer: this post is not meant to endorse Playgirl, per se.  My goal is to point out that consumer interest is not enough for an endeavour that threatens existing power structures, as well as to discuss why such endeavours are important for challenging gender ideologies.  All in all, I am using this recognizable example to discuss a structural issue.

**While I’m on the topic, can I say how sad the category of “young girl” feature is, defined as a film that markets females ages 18-21.  News flash: teenagers are girls, period.  Young girls are adolescents or younger.  18-21 year olds can only be marketed as “young girls” by an industry that refuses to identify its participants as women, denying them the intellectual and emotional maturity, responsibility, and independence that the term “woman” confers.

19 Comments »

  1. Nanella said,

    Very interesting. It’s easy to see how Playgirl’s success was undermined from the very beginning when you focus on the pertinent details. That porn for women is doomed to failure is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and a maddeningly arrogant attutide I’ve encountered myriad times: men can’t accept the fact that women are equally capable of being sexually stimulated by erotic imagery and will say/do anything to enforce this belief. I’ve seen men react with open hostility to the very mention of women enjoying porn on the same level that men do…they react as if their manhood is being threatened with a pair of hedge trimmers or something. Most of them can’t deal with it, which reinforces my belief that most men don’t want to perceive women as equals – the very thought frightens them. Even guys who enjoy watching pornos with their partners argue vociferously for the man = visual/ woman = tactile sexual dichotomy. I guess, what, they like to think those same girlfriends are merely appeasing them and getting absolutely nothing of sexual value out of the porn themselves. Therefore, I am forced to conclude that, according to general male standards, women are sexual *objects* that exist solely to please, which coincides nicely with the portrayal of female character(s) in 90% of mainstream pornography, which are merely fuckholes for servicing the male characters. Nothing new there, eh?

  2. lindabeth said,

    Completely agree on the self-fulfilling prophecy point…and that’s used as supposed “evidence” for women’s lack of interest period!

    Another related observation: that men who would want their female partners to view “all-girl” material with them won’t watch “all guy” material at the request of their partner also demonstrates that erotic imagery is never just neutrally erotic–there’s power involved as well. Otherwise, what would be so troubling about watching a variety of sexual situations…not just the ones that prop up sexuality as male-centered.

  3. I’ve seen men react with open hostility to the very mention of women enjoying porn on the same level that men do…they react as if their manhood is being threatened with a pair of hedge trimmers or something.

  4. Most of them can’t deal with it, which reinforces my belief that most men don’t want to perceive women as equals – the very thought frightens them. I guess, what, they like to think those same girlfriends are merely appeasing them and getting absolutely nothing of sexual value out of the porn themselves.

  5. Nanella said,

    “Another related observation: that men who would want their female partners to view “all-girl” material with them won’t watch “all guy” material at the request of their partner also demonstrates that erotic imagery is never just neutrally erotic–there’s power involved as well. Otherwise, what would be so troubling about watching a variety of sexual situations…not just the ones that prop up sexuality as male-centered.”

    Exactly! Or the trendy night out on the town for the hetero couple…a trip to the local strip club. Of course, the “ONLY women getting nekkid” kind of strip club is implied, because you’d never catch a red-blooded straight guy in a club where men shed their clothing and gyrate seductively. That’s just so *gay*, you know, and straight men are above that kind of thing. Sexual orientation isn’t an issue when it comes to women, however, whose feelings on the subject don’t matter nearly as much as the ability to be “cool” and “open-minded” and up for anything that gets *his* rocks off.

    How is it that women can be so oblivious to their own oppression? It’s worrisome at best.

  6. arctic_jay said,

    I was sad to hear about Playgirl’s demise; they were always had the most beautiful guys.

    Lindabeth, you’re proposing that if men, especially heterosexual men, in general, were willing to accept that men are valid objects of sexual interest for all demographics, then pornography for women would have a better chance of succeeding. I think it’s probable that men’s perception of themselves as sexual beings is an obstacle, but in order for it to be surmounted, it would help to understand the underlying factors of that perception.

    Men do not react negatively towards being portrayed sexually because they want to oppress women or out of castration anxiety. Those assumptions are just plain sexist and dehumanizing. Men react this way because they have a deep embarrassment concerning their bodies that is gender related. There was a Salon article written a couple years back about the popularity of lesbian porn with straight men. Many of the reasons the male author lister were obvious, but there was one that was surprising to have someone point out, but rang true: self-loathing. This is why for a long time male stripping was presented in heterocentric pop culture as humorous and silly. It helped to circumvent the embarrassment and self-consciousness. Fortunately, in a lot of ways, perceptions seem to be headed in the right direction.

    I think it should also be pointed out that there is pornography geared towards women that is hugely successful: romance novels. I think if someone were able to faithfully translate them, along with slash fiction, into a visual medium, it would be an enormous commercial success.

  7. lindabeth said,

    interesting comment, jay. I still think much of it has to do with protecting their male privilege, but I can see how that could be rooted in part by their own bodily insecurities–the understanding that if they had to live up to the same scrutiny that they have been able to put put women under, they would be sorely lacking and would have to spend time and money “working on it”, the way that all women do–from applying makeup and tweezing eyebrows to plastic surgeries.

    However, your suggestion that romance novels are pornography for women is just silly.

    1) I’m talking about visual pornograpahy;
    2) the literary equivalent of visual porn is erotic writing, which is not what romance novels are, and can be and is enjoyed women and men;
    3) the idea that erotic literature is a “women’s version” of men’s visual pornography that goes back to the age-old justification of men as sex consumers/women as sex objects–that women aren’t “visual”, which is just false–studies have shown that men and women are close to being equally aroused visually (Which makes sense, since what arouses you is kinda a matter of conditioning. Women have had more access to non-gay visual images of men, so of course women are becoming more responsive to them. Men have just had access to them for the last 75 years, so it seems as if men have “always” responded to pornified images of women. It’s not merely a question of are they aroused or aren’t they, but the kind of images available matter.)

    And I would argue that erotic lit is very visual, and that many women (and men!) enjoy it because it takes the objectification out of the sexual encounter and allows you to visualize it for yourself, to imagine the bodies, feelings, emotions, and pleasures that can be stunted by porn that focuses on the aspects of sex that cater to men’s desires (whether visual, situational, or physical) and objectifies the women involved by reducing them to tits, pussies, and never-ending moans.

    So no, romance novels are not “women’s porn.”

  8. arctic_jay said,

    “I still think much of it has to do with protecting their male privilege…”

    I really doesn’t. There’s no privilege to had in being denied consideration for a certain type of societal value. Now, you could make an evo-psych argument that it would benefit wealthy men to deny men’s physical sexual attractiveness, since it would prevent them from having to compete with poor, but handsome men for women’s attentions, but that would be hard to prove, and even if true, it would still be a detriment for the vast majority of men. Men’s perceived sexual inferiority, pop culture has shown time and time again, is a major source of their grief.

    “…the understanding that if they had to live up to the same scrutiny that they have been able to put put women under, they would be sorely lacking and would have to spend time and money “working on it”, the way that all women do–from applying makeup and tweezing eyebrows to plastic surgeries.”

    You’re missing my point. Men, especially the younger generations, are not worried about becoming sexual objects because then they’ll have to spend time and money on their looks because they already *are* spending a lot of time and money on their looks. My point was that men see themselves as inferior, not due to lack of effort, but due to the fact they’re male. That’s why there is still embarrassment surrounding male strippers, models, and pinups even though they’ve put in as much effort and look every bit as gorgeous as their female counterparts.

    I plan on responding to the second half of your response in length, but I currently have to leave my computer.

  9. lindabeth said,

    Jay, we are coming from much different places if you think that men not being continually evaluated as sex objects is denying them a place of societal privilege. There is an immense privilege in having the bulk of mainstream sexual images cater to your sexual desire, existing primarily in terms of your needs, and in establishing a class of people whose existence in porn is to cater to propping up your sexuality. That, then, this same class of people has consistently been devalued in real society, socially valued in terms of their sexual or maternal value to men, the latter who continue to maintain a disproportionate amount of social power in both political, economic, and decision-making terms; their work largely unpaid; when it is paid they are paid less; their traits are considered devalued; their intelligence is considered inferior. Sorry, women’s sexualization has not conferred to them societal privilege.

    Sure, heterosexual men may be spending “more” time on their appearances perhaps than before–or they’re at least admitting it now (since metrosexuality made it not “gay”). But to say “a lot” is quite a stretch, IMO.

    But your argument doesn’t follow: if men feel inferior simply because they’re male, then why would they feel embarrassed around male stripper, who, by your logic, these same men would perceive as being just as inferior? Nah, men’s embarrassment and discomfort comes from homophobia, plain and simple. Because a guy can’t find a man’s body or sexuality sexy, cuz that would make them gay and all.

    But this is all getting quite off-topic…If anyone is keeping men from being properly appreciated as sexually appealing bodies, it’s the men holding the reins in the adult and non-adult entertainment industries, not the women themselves, who represent a significant market base who is looking for sexual imagery of men, only to struggle to find good stuff. But this whole post was to point out that people like the ex-Playgirl editors are trying to serve that market, valuing male bodies and all, and it’s the male-dominated industry that is unsupportive. The whole idea here (confirmed in the comments, as well) is that men themselves are resistant to women as consumers of pornography that they like and create, that does not assume a male audience (and quite frankly, does not assume a female one, either. Much of the porn made by women as an answer to mainstream sexism is rather gender-neutral in terms of who it’s for…it’s only “for” women in terms of that it aims to be non-sexist). So if men are wanting their bodies to be seen as sexually desirable, why would they (whether partners, friends, or industry execs) be so resistant to women wanting to see desirable men in addition to desirable women, doing things that are sexually arousing to whomever, really-male or female? So while I find your theory interesting, it does not explain the culture-wide resistance to men’s sexualization. In fact, it contradicts itself.

    You don’t have to convince hetero women that men’s bodies are attractive and desirable–they know it and are seeking it out– you have to convince the industry men with the power that it is in their financial interest to further the cause, because it’s sure not in their political (in terms of sexual politics) interest to.

    Curious, do you have any basis for your theory about men feeling physically-sexually inferior simply because they are men, and that this causes a problem for them? I buy it that men feel like women’s bodies are more sexually desirable; I have a hard time believing that this really poses any sort of identity crisis or self-esteem issue, unless it’s that men are increasingly feeling like they don’t “measure up” to the (slowly) increasing images of heterosexual men available to women via internet, which you already stated is not the “problem” as you see it.

    Thinking about the romance novel=”women’s porn” bit again, that really is pretty insulting to women. I felt insulted when I first read it, and the more I think about it, I’m really bothered by that. Separate but equal is not equal, and I think women get to decide what’s porn and what’s not. You might think romance novels “mean” the same to women, but women will tel you otherwise. They may have in the past, cuz it was all women had, but that wasn’t the same then, and it sure isn’t now. That would be like me telling a man that R-rated movies with graphic sex scenes are porn enough for him, so that other stuff is superfluous. Maybe it is too close to the “domestic life is happiness for women; career accomplishments are happiness for men” kind of logic. No thank you.

  10. arctic_jay said,

    “But your argument doesn’t follow: if men feel inferior simply because they’re male, then why would they feel embarrassed around male stripper, who, by your logic, these same men would perceive as being just as inferior?”

    Are you serious with this question? A gay person who feels shame because of a cultural perception that homosexuals are promiscuous will likely feel that shame surface when he sees other gay people acting in a wanton manner in public, especially if that person has also acted in a wanton manner himself. This is because when you identify with a group, your esteem concerning that identification is influenced by how other members of that group present themselves. When a man who lives in a culture that often says men’s bodies are unattractive sees a male stripper, he’s faced not only to make a comparison between his body and the stripper’s, but also between men’s attractiveness and women’s, and having the conventional cultural perception, sees the male stripper as publicly humiliating himself and men in general.

    “Nah, men’s embarrassment and discomfort comes from homophobia, plain and simple. Because a guy can’t find a man’s body or sexuality sexy, cuz that would make them gay and all.”

    Far from being mutually exclusive, homophobia and male self-loathing are inextricably linked. There is almost no cognitive leap necessary between a man finding his attraction to men’s bodies disgusting and just finding men’s bodies disgusting.

    “So if men are wanting their bodies to be seen as sexually desirable, why would they (whether partners, friends, or industry execs) be so resistant to women wanting to see desirable men in addition to desirable women, doing things that are sexually arousing to whomever, really-male or female?”

    Part of it is homophobia. Part of it is shame over wanting to be sexually desired for one’s body (narcissism is a natural trait of humans in general, but it is only seen a natural to women; with men it’s seen as a flaw). Part of it is men aren’t truly convinced that women care that much about their bodies due to what they’ve been taught about their own attractiveness.

    “Separate but equal is not equal, and I think women get to decide what’s porn and what’s not. You might think romance novels “mean” the same to women, but women will tel you otherwise.”

    LOL. Tell that to AKA_Smith, a woman who is a feminist who posts on Salon’s feminist blog, Broadsheet. Here’s a quote on a post on this very same topic:

    “Women in this thread who have mentioned romance fiction have been almost entirely ignored by men in this thread as having proffered a form of porn that men refuse to acknowledge as actual porn. (Probably they do this without ever having read any romance fiction.) The fact is that women purchase far more novels of almost all kinds than men do. Is it that men can’t read? Hardly. I know of little evidence that most men don’t read as well as women do.

    First, women like story. They like plot, character, and the emotions involved in constructing a story. Second, Svutlana is on to something with her comments about scratch and sniff.”

    And this by Anna68:

    “I think it comes down to mis-defining porn as male-oriented porn, ie skinflicks, magazines with naked women (or men), etc.
    There is plenty of sexual material out there created for women, but we don’t call it porn for many reasons, including cultural prudery. We call it bodice rippers, romance novels, slash fiction, or “erotica” and women consume this stuff in huge quantities! (The romance genre is over 50% of the US book market. Why do you think that is?)”

    “So I think there are all these studies that take male porn and study womens reaction to it, and conclude that we don’t like it all that much and therefore we don’t like porn all that much, when the truth is hidden in plain sight.”

    Link:
    http://letters.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/feature/2008/11/17/playgirl/view/index9.html?show=all

    And my point wasn’t that romance novels are “women’s porn.” Romance novels are porn, period, whoever reads them, but they’re far more popular with women.

  11. arctic_jay said,

    “So if men are wanting their bodies to be seen as sexually desirable, why would they (whether partners, friends, or industry execs) be so resistant to women wanting to see desirable men in addition to desirable women, doing things that are sexually arousing to whomever, really-male or female?”

    Part of it is homophobia. Part of it is shame over wanting to be sexually desired for one’s body (narcissism is a natural trait of humans in general, but it is only seen a natural to women; with men it’s seen as a flaw). Part of it is men aren’t truly convinced that women care that much about their bodies due to what they’ve been taught about their own attractiveness.

    “Separate but equal is not equal, and I think women get to decide what’s porn and what’s not. You might think romance novels “mean” the same to women, but women will tel you otherwise.”

    LOL. Tell that to AKA_Smith, a woman who is a feminist who posts on Salon’s feminist blog, Broadsheet. Here’s a quote on a post on this very same topic:

    “Women in this thread who have mentioned romance fiction have been almost entirely ignored by men in this thread as having proffered a form of porn that men refuse to acknowledge as actual porn. (Probably they do this without ever having read any romance fiction.) The fact is that women purchase far more novels of almost all kinds than men do. Is it that men can’t read? Hardly. I know of little evidence that most men don’t read as well as women do.

    First, women like story. They like plot, character, and the emotions involved in constructing a story. Second, Svutlana is on to something with her comments about scratch and sniff.”

    Link:

    http://letters.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/feature/2008/11/17/playgirl/view/index9.html?show=all

    If you read the entire comments, most of the women on there agree with her. And my point wasn’t that romance novels are “women’s porn.” Romance novels are porn, period, whoever reads them, but they’re far more popular with women.

  12. arctic_jay said,

    “Sorry, women’s sexualization has not conferred to them societal privilege.”

    I didn’t say the imbalance of sexual value confers privilege in all aspects of societal relations. It does confer women numerous advantages. Women are paid a lot more for sex work, escorting, modeling, stripping, and in other sex related industries. Culturally, woman need only be attractive to be seen as valuable mates, while men need to be attractive and successful. You must realize that if our culture is in fact as you say it is, if there wasn’t the dichotomy of sexual value between men and women that there is now, then men would not value them at all and they would occupy a much lower position in society then they do now.

    “But this whole post was to point out that people like the ex-Playgirl editors are trying to serve that market, valuing male bodies and all, and it’s the male-dominated industry that is unsupportive.”

    Actually the quotes you provide don’t support your argument. The publishers pushed for more nudes and resisted the editors’ suggestion for more written content. You actually have the male publishers assuming that more naked male bodies would better for business and the female editors saying less naked male bodies. Playgirl, Chippendales dancers, and Boy’s Gone Wild are all erotic brand names marketed towards and intended for women, founded by men, two of which seem to mostly attract a male audience. Most men would love to believe that women where as interested in their bodies as they were of women’s bodies and would fully support an industry catering to them, but there seems to be little evidence convincing them of that.

  13. [...] 25, 2008 A discussion on the commercial failure of Playgirl magazine here. This is of course not to say that the many women-run sex websites are not important or are [...]

  14. lindabeth said,

    Jay

    I’m not going to continue this conversation here, since your comments really aren’t pertaining to the topic of this post. It’s interesting that you seems to insist that women don’t want naked men, and that men perceive this about women, yet my post is about the lack of institutional support given to women’s endeavors to provide said naked men to women. So you seems to be telling me what women want (or don’t want) despite evidence to the contrary. And the sex industry has not been a place where women’s desires have been listened to or catered to, so it’s no wonder the perception is there that women don’t want “it”; on the contrary, women just don’t want the sexist, male fantasy that the sex industry produces. As the internet has exploded with porn, and as alternatives to the sexist malestream are being produced, women have been consuming more and more. So it’s been more of an issue of getting stuff out there that women actually want to see. Playgirl was trying to do this, and their efforts continue to be suppressed. And wanting more non-image content rather than a mag pumped with naked men doesn’t mean that women don’t want to see the men, only that they wanted to produce and edgy, classy, intelligent magazine with a variety in content–much like Playboy gives, yet no one is saying that because Playboy only has 3 spreads and lots of articles that men aren’t interested in the women!

    Most of your comments, though, are a whole other topic that is not best discussed on this post. If I have time, I may turn this topic into a post of its own, and then we may continue the conversation here.

    And if you have a blog yourself, maybe you can make a post of exactly what your thoughts are, and then we may proceed with a conversation about it. To introduce into the discussion contentious claims on a post that doesn’t really address those issues is less than productive in a blog context. If you do such a blog post yourself, let me know, and I’d be happy to discuss with you.

  15. Nanella said,

    “…on the contrary, women just don’t want the sexist, male fantasy that the sex industry produces.”

    Bingo, bingo, and, bingo. Not only is your garden-variety porno so drippingly sexist that arousal is only attainable if you’re a masochist and get off on watching women being degraded and subjugated, they’re so eye-rollingly cheezy that the only physiological reaction they inspire in me is gut-wrenching laughter or regurgitation of dinner. I have come across porn that simultaneously turns me on, makes me laugh, and makes me queasy…now that’s an interesting experience.

    “And wanting more non-image content rather than a mag pumped with naked men doesn’t mean that women don’t want to see the men, only that they wanted to produce and edgy, classy, intelligent magazine with a variety in content–much like Playboy gives, yet no one is saying that because Playboy only has 3 spreads and lots of articles that men aren’t interested in the women!”

    It’s mind-boggling how MRA trolls can so casually discard factual pieces of information that contradict their arguments. Playboy as little more than a catalouge of nudes would’ve died an untimely death, too.

    Let’s not forget that because there is such a dearth of suitable porn for women at the moment, what *is* readily available, the high-quality stuff, costs an arm and a leg. How can porn for women sites charge such exorbitant prices for membership and still manage to stay in business, I wonder? (A one year subscription to Playgirl is $100!) It’s because women are desperate for a quality product, and so they shell out the money. And, good gawd, the Playgirl models are worth it!!

  16. Nanella said,

    “Culturally, woman need only be attractive to be seen as valuable mates, while men need to be attractive and successful.”

    Can you be any more anachronistically stereotypical, Jay? Old, harmful stereotypes deserve to die a painful death. All the successsful men I know want to date, or are dating/married to, successful women. All the attractive women I know want to date, or are dating/married to, men who reside in their same league of attractiveness. More often than not, like socioeconomic classes attract like socioeconomic classes, and people of similar attractiveness get together…

    Beauty as a commodity, as a status marker, is an entirely different subject.

  17. lindabeth said,

    “Let’s not forget that because there is such a dearth of suitable porn for women at the moment, what *is* readily available, the high-quality stuff, costs an arm and a leg.”

    This is so true, and it often unacknowledged. I often hear people argue that there’s no disparity issue since anyone can find “anything” on the internet that appeals to them. Even if that were true (and I don’t believe it is, since spending hours upon hours of combing through gay-oriented sites to find a small handful of tasteful photos of attractive men does not fit the definition of “being able to find”), the quantity differential between what’s available to het men vs. het women or lesbians and gay men vs het women or lesbians is enormous, and the price tag differential is significant, in that it’s relatively easy to find free porn for men that appeals to a wide variety of interests and that’s good quality (except maybe less objectifying imagery, but I think even that’s easier to find), and practically impossible to find any quality porn of men’s images for women that is free, and the same goes for true lesbian imagery. As far as non-sexist video porn that isn’t male-centric goes, that’s also pretty impossible to find for free.

    This feels like, men are owed it, women must earn it. Which is how, in heterosexual terms, sexual access to the other sex has always been constructed under patriarchy, and no, the “sexual revolution” didn’t adequately address this.

  18. lindabeth said,

    Not to mention that in the traditional/stereotypical terms in which Jay is attempting to speak, men do not need to be attractive. That’s been the whole thing, right? Women must be attractive, men must be successful. Women are for sexually pleasing men, men are for financially supporting families. Blah blah. It seems, however, that the latter has changed with more than 60% of women in the paid workforce, but the former hasn’t changed nearly enough. The latter has allowed women to become more focused on appearances than they were before, but we see examples of desirable, powerful, successful men everywhere who are not attractive, with young beautiful wives. And don’t forget the attractive standard for men is at a much different bar than it is more men.

    I agree with Nanella, class is more important than anything in “real life”; men seem to think they deserve more attractive women than they are, but know they’ll typically have to “settle”.

    In the media representations, though, women must be attractive to be successful, whereas men’s success does not depend on their appearance.

    If there is a land where men “must” be attractive and successful, but women must “only” be attractive, I’d be interested to visit there, because that’s certainly not here.

  19. M said,

    I realise that this debate is a couple of years old, but it’s still relevant, so I’d like to share my point of view on this debate as well. As a guy, I’ve always been interested in the debate concerning whether men can be seen as sexually desirable in terms of looks or not.

    “Sure, heterosexual men may be spending “more” time on their appearances perhaps than before–or they’re at least admitting it now (since metrosexuality made it not “gay”). But to say “a lot” is quite a stretch, IMO.”

    I think the above argument is a good indicator of the problem in question, and frankly I think it’s a bit hippocratic! Many guys wouldn’t mind being seen as attractive by women, yet at the same time they seem to be wanting to dictate what should be considered attractive. Maybe this is just some mere defense mechanism to protect themselves from the scrutiny of the beholder (which would be women) and not to having to work hard to attain attractive bodies, I don’t know, but it kinda defeats the very idea of becoming attractive in terms of bodily beauty since that itself involves a portion of objectification whether you like it or not. And last time I check objectification involved working to attain a beauty ideal externally set by the subject, i.e. the beholder.

    You just can’t expect to be evaluated as attractive while expecting to keep the key to what’s considered attractive. It may be hard, it may be brutal to live up to others expectations as what’s considered the male ideal is a very “hard and muscular” body type, but still – it’s what’s needed if you really want to be seen as very attractive. I admit that I can relate to it personally as well. As a student I worked part time as a stripper, and I think that’s one of the hardest thing I ever did. I was already reasonably fit when I got the job, so it was a reality chock to be told by the owner that I needed to build some more muscles and to tone up, i.e. that meant she thought I wasn’t “ripped” enough. So, a period of hours in the gym everyday and excruciating diets followed. But I’m not complaining. It was my choice, and the point is that if you want to be desired, then work for it.


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