Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in Modern America

Tom Bissell in The New Republic:

Playboy%20pic The historian Elizabeth Fraterrigo asks us to accept a somewhat unlikely premise, which is this: A titty magazine that has been culturally irrelevant since the late 1970s was at the forefront of many of this nation’s most important social upheavals and reconfigurations. It is to her book’s credit—and, it must be said, to Playboy’s—that one closes her book largely convinced that she is right.

The collapse of the U.S. Postal System’s de facto censorship apparatus? Playboy had a hand in that. Changing attitudes about sex outside of marriage? Playboy was part of this, too. The specious notion that a high-earning, free-spending bachelor is some kind of epicurean rebel? Playboy yet again. The feminist movement? Playboy “was partly responsible” for it, as Gloria Steinem once admitted. The now common glossy-magazine practice of advertising luxuries that readers cannot possibly afford? Thank you, Playboy. The idea that a man could have fine clothes, a sweet smell, an uncorked Bordeaux, and remain masculine? Yes, believe it or not, Playboy paved the way for metrosexuality, too.

More here.