‘But just the cover!!’

‘So you judge the book by its cover? But if you do, have you ever given a closer look to any of the Cosmo covers?’

There is a momentary contemplative silence.

‘Come to think of it, Cosmo does have some suggestive covers.’ The answer comes from Crystal.

‘And have you ever paid attention to their cover blurbs? Excuse my French, but most of them seem to screaming how to get a man and keep him, how to seduce him, how to, how to… And if you don’t have a man, you are fucked? How more demeaning to women can it get?’ As I am writing this, just out of curiosity I pulled up some recent Cosmo covers. Here is just a quick sampling of what’s on the offer. How To Turn On A Naked Man, 50 Ways to Seduce A Man, 20 Ways To Make Him Scream, Sweet & Sexy Moves, What To Do When Your Guy Gets All Quiet?

I have gotten their attention. I see a slight smile of wonderment on Crystal’s face. Amber still seems to be not convinced. So I continue.

‘You know, I have been in publishing business all my life and have worked all around the world. In my opinion Playboy is one of the four best mass market consumer magazines in the world.’

‘What are the other three?’ Asks Joe.

Time, The New Yorker and New York.’

‘If that’s so, why is there a need for the nudes?’ It’s Amber again.

‘Well, because among other things, men also like women! Your dad is sitting here right next to me and hope he doesn’t kill me for saying this, but as I sit here right next to you two, in my mind’s eyes, I am undressing both of you. That’s the nature of the beast. And Hefner decided not to ignore that part of being men.’

Not that I have convinced anyone, because since Adam and Eve were shamed to cover themselves with the fig leaves, the nudity has remained a taboo in the minds of even the most knowledgeable people – at least in the puritan United States of America. Precisely the reason Playboy took off like a rocket.

‘So you have a problem with the nudity!’ I conclude. ‘You know, only in America anyone would have an issue with it.’ And then I ask.

‘Have you seen any of the Before movies? Especially the last one, Before Midnight?’

‘No I haven’t seen them all, but did see Before Sunrise when it first came out!’ Amber answers.

‘Well, you should see the third one. Now the characters of Jesse and Celine played by Ethan Hawk and Julie Delpey are married and have two kids. While vacationing in Greece at some friends’ house, the friends treat them to a night in a romantic hotel, while they take care of their kids. The night doesn’t turn out the way it should. They have a candle light dinner out in the garden and are back in their room and are getting amorous. Julie is now topless and just before they ease into the bed, they break into an argument, which lasts for ten to fifteen minutes. During all this time Julie’s breasts are exposed. And when Entertainment Weekly asked how Julie felt about her being topless all through the long argument, even before Julie could answer, Ethan jumps in with Only in America anyone would ask this question. Julie’s answer that follows basically says, hey, I am 43, and I think I’ve got nice breasts, so what’s there to hide? Later I read her saying in a GQ interview, real women don’t make love with their bras on! So there it is in nutshell.

If not exactly convince, I left everyone thinking about it. I find it quite disconcerting that even after sixty three years of publication, the image of Playboy has remained pretty much the same in people’s minds and is not likely to change in my life time. I can’t help but think of what Albert Einstein once said: It is harder to crack a prejudice than an atom.

©  Haresh Shah 2015

Illustration: Jordan Rutherford



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On Friday, July 17, 2015


Almost twenty years before the World Wide Web made its debut, French Telecom introduced Minitel. They gave away to their millions of subscribers free of charge those clunky small screened devices attached to the telephone lines, which provided all sorts of information and services which then morphed into coded telephone numbers, what for us today would be a web address. One of them was Playboy chat line. And it was based not in Paris, but in the most charming second city of France: Lyon.

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