Haresh Shah

From Only One Nipple To Pubic Wars And Back

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How ludicrous the censorship can be isn’t  even worth discussing. The books that once considered to be obscene and pornographic are now hailed  classics. Just to name three: Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence, Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller and Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. And Nabokov even went on to win the Nobel Prize for literature.

That Playboy launched in December 1953 will face continuous hounding of censorship was a given.  Hugh Hefner did fight many battles and endured incessant harassment from the self-appointed moral guardians of America and the world.  Even so, it wasn’t up until January 1971 – full eighteen  years after Playboy was born that he dared show a partial patch of pubic hair on that month’s Playmate, Liv Lindeland. Nothing for a few months after, until October when one got a glimpse of a dark bit peeking through an out of focus foliage on Playmate Claire Rambeau. And suddenly the shroud was lifted. Also with the arrival of Penthouse on the American shores from its initial launch in the Great Britain, what Hefner termed to be the “pubic wars” broke out between the two publications.  It was no longer just pubic hair, but what came to be termed among the editors and the photographers as explicit “crotch shots” began to appear in both magazines in an effort to outdo each other. Until at some point, Hefner decided to scale back by saying something to the effect that its silly, we are not going to imitate the imitator.

While the US Playboy would never dare show the frontal nudity on its cover even today, not even  breasts, there was no such restriction in Germany back in 1972 when the German edition was launched. In its very second issue it had a Polaroid layer peeling off a photograph of the  sleeping beauty with her fully exposed breasts staring right at you.  For none of the Western European editions, “to be or not to be” of  breasts or even pubic hair has ever been an issue. They don’t deliberately go out of their way to run explicit covers, because it is universally believed  and accepted that nothing makes one want to pick up a magazine more so than a friendly face making an “eye contact” with the readers.

Enter Japan – the edition launched in July 1975. Even before its launch, it was possible to buy the US Playboy in the country.  But the local laws dictated that no magazine showing pubic hair could be distributed in Japan. How do you get around that? Simple. The customs hire a bunch of teenagers,  throw  them together in a cramped room, pile huge stacks of imported magazines in front of them, hand them fat tipped black magic markers and make them go through each photo and scratch a big blob of  wet black ink in the pubic region. Voila, now the Japanese youth would be  saved from their carnal temptations and the corruption of their innocent minds.

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