Pondering Playboy: Berfrois Interviews Carrie Pitzulo

From Berfrois:

Berfrois: How radical was Playboy for postwar America?

ScreenHunter_14 Sep. 05 08.54 Pitzulo: I’m not sure I would use the word “radical.” I would say that in the 1950s, Playboy was subversive in various ways: It celebrated free sexuality amongst single, “nice” girls, which was contrary to so much of postwar popular culture. Mainstream culture in those years acknowledged women’s sexuality, but insisted that marriage was its only appropriate outlet. But Playboy, whatever the motivation, selfish or otherwise, sent a message that good girls like sex, too. The magazine even subtly championed tolerance for homosexuality in the mid-1950s.

In the 1960s, Playboy became explicitly political and maintained a liberal stance on the various issues of that decade; civil rights, Vietnam, women’s rights (including abortion and access to contraception) as well as speaking out strongly in favor of gay rights, which at that point in time was a potentially radical stance.

However, what keeps me away from that word in a broader sense, concerning the whole of the magazine, was its intense consumer emphasis. That was right in the mainstream of American culture in the prosperous postwar years. Even as the culture moved toward the left in the 1960s, and critiques of capitalism grew more prominent than they had been in decades, Playboy defended consumption. It’s only tweak of consumer ideology was to say, in the face of criticism, that Americans should consume wisely (with consideration for the environment, etc.), but Playboy continued to promote consumer capitalism as a worthy goal.

More here.