Thursday, May 24, 2012

Should She Pose Naked in Playboy?

As soon as you get over the shock of discovering that Playboy magazine still exists, you find yourself facing an even greater shock.

On the website of a venerable magazine called Forbes you will find a piece of advice that is so bad it takes your breath away.

A woman wrote to columnist Susannah Breslin asking for advice:

“I’ve modeled casually for the last few years and am 23 now, working on a career in marketing/social media. I’m thinking about posing for Playboy. Is that something you think would hurt a young professional?”

Breslin’s advice: go for it.

If you were wondering where young women, and, alas, girls, get the idea that it’s OK to sext naked pictures of themselves, to dress like prostitutes, and to reveal all on a website, now you know, at least in part.

Clearly, Breslin is not addressing teenagers, but still she is putting the message out there, and once the message is out there, graced with the imprimatur of a reputable publication, word gets around.

It gets around to young women starting their careers; it gets around to mothers who are trying to prevent their teenaged daughters from getting too involved with sex too soon. Eventually, it will get around to the daughters too.

But, let’s be fair and balanced. Let’s examine Breslin’s reasoning.

First, she says that she has written for Playboy… for the magazine, for the television show, and for the online platforms.

But, how exactly is this relevant? She did not say that she posed naked for Playboy, and, if she did not, she does not say why she never did.

Apparently, it’s OK for the 23 year old, but it was not OK for Breslin.

Second, while working for Playboy Breslin met many women who would have given anything to strip for the magic bunny.

Has Breslin just given us the definitive answer to Freud’s question: What do women want? Or does her observationt say something about the kind of women you hang around with when you are working with a Playboy crew?

That was not a trick question. 

Third, Breslin says that it all about your personal brand. She wants us to think about the women who got their start posing for Playboy, women like Jenny McCarthy and Pamela Anderson. And think of that other wonder, Lindsay Lohan.

Those are Breslin’s examples, not mine. Somehow or other she forgot to mention Kim Kardashian, who rode her appearance in a porn video to fame and fortune.

Now, young ladies, these are your new role models. Forget about education and hard work. You can ride the wave to fame and fortune by taking it all off for Playboy.

Take the example of Jenny McCarthy. She has used her fame to launch a crusade against childhood vaccination. Possessing no knowledge of science, she concluded that vaccinations cause autism. She then used her fame and good looks to mount a campaign against vaccinations.

Physicians the country over said that it was based on junk science. To limited avail. More than a few mothers followed the advice of Jenny McCarthy and refused to have their children vaccinated… thus putting their children at an unnecessary risk.

And then there is the wondrous Pamela Anderson. Discovered at a hockey game in Canada, she became a favorite Playmate, and, later, an exemplary Baywatch babe. 

Her personal brand was further enhanced once the porn video of her wedding night hijinks with someone named Tommy Lee hit the web.

And then there is Lindsay Lohan. Wouldn’t you want to become like Lindsay Lohan? How well have things been working out for former prison inmate and recovering addict Lohan?

I am just being fair and balanced here. Before deciding to bare it all for Playboy ask yourself this: would you like Pamela Anderson’s life? Or Lindsay Lohan’s?

I report. You decide.

Admittedly, the concept of branding is all the rage nowadays. But do you really think that these women represent positive role models? Or better, solid brands.

As the term applies to three women mentioned by Breslin, being a brand means selling yourself, but in a dignified way.

Does Breslin really think that it is a good thing for a woman to sell herself? Is it OK if the price is high enough?

Would a woman be happy to have a video of her sexcapades with Ray J all over the internet if she could use it to make a fortune?

I report. You decide.

Fourth, Breslin addresses the counterargument. She acknowledges that when everyone has seen you naked it might affect how they see you.

In her words:

If you pose for Playboy and find yourself being interviewed by someone who’s seen you naked, will that change how they see you? Maybe. You may offend someone’s sensibilities, you may threaten a clique of female human resource managers, you may discover your coworkers make assumptions about you personally because you were willing to expose yourself physically.


The cold, hard truth is: if she poses naked for Playboy, other people will definitely see her differently.

They will take her as someone who does not respect herself. Thus, they will feel relieved of the obligation to respect her. They will see her as someone who is more interested in selling herself than in doing a good job.

And, rest assured, the women she works with will immediately shun her, not because they are threatened, as Breslin says, but because they do not want to associate with someone who is vulgar and unprofessional.

Can you blame them?

Fifth, Breslin caps it all off with a piece of wisdom straight from the therapy culture. Where else would you go to find the most mindless way to rationalize bad advice?

In her words:

Do you want to let what others may or may not think dictate what you do or do not do? If you legitimately want to pose for Playboy, who cares what anyone else thinks?

“Legitimately?” What would it feel like to want to pose for Playboy “illegitimately?”

Reducing it to its essence, Breslin’s advice amounts to this: follow your bliss, do what you want, ignore what other people think and, by the way, forget about whose feelings you might be hurting?

This is a warm mound of therapy culture advice.

Allow me to ask a few more relevant questions: who might be hurt by this exercise in free and open self-expression? No woman is an island. No woman or man should make this kind of decision without reflecting on how it will affect the other people in his or her life.

So, what would the woman’s parents say? How would they react when they see a naked photo of their daughter displayed around town? How would her siblings feel? How might it affect her relationships with her friends, and future husbands? 

And then, what affect will posing naked have on her personal life?

To my mind these ought to be fundamental considerations. Breslin ignores them?

I don’t need to tell you, because you probably know more about this than I do, but none of the women Breslin mentions are married. Jenny McCarthy is divorced. Pamela Anderson is twice divorced and once annulled. Lindsay Lohan has never married.

If you want a life like theirs, then go for it. Otherwise, think again and again and again.


CatherineM said...

Excellent book by Seth Mnookin called the Panic Virus eviscerates Jenny McCarthy and RFK Jr for their unsubstantiated anti-vaccine campaigns. Jenny went from being an "Indigo mom" with a "Crystal" child celebrating her son's traits to claiming he had autism that she cured with a non-gluten diet. The same story was used for each phase and she sold "autism nutrition" stuff and clothes through her site. RFK Jr. fabricated a story in Rolling Stone claiming a conspiracy between doctors, the CDC and drug companies (calls doctors who make vaccines "bio-stitutes." When Rolling Stone had to do so many corrections and inform the readers of the "mistakes" (fabrications) in the story, they said basically, "it's fake, but true."

Excellent, and well sourced book (nearly every statement by Mnookin is sourced).

I also don't think it's a coincidence that her career had crashed and then she found these new roles to make money.

I know this is about Playboy, but the whole ant-vaccine thing has done so much damage and those 2 (and Oprah for promoting them) have blood on their hands as far as I am concerned.

Joe said...

It almost seems like the worst insult possible for a young women to hear is "Nobody wants to see you naked!" That means that posing isn't so much a form of attention seeking (with the attendant judgements made about poor decision making skills), so much as a form of validation.

The "Girls Gone Wild" culture is not shamed by this.

n.n said...

There seems to be a campaign to degrade human beings to the sum of their parts, to the level of a common animal. This doesn't end with pornography and prostitution, but continues to abortion, embryonic and fetal stem cell therapy, principal organ transplants, etc. There is a fine line that divides all of these domains, and some subset of humanity is not only obsessed but motivated to cross it. No wonder there is consumption of psychotropic drugs, promiscuity and betrayal, dreams of instant gratification to justify involuntary exploitation, and a general and progressive dysfunction in society. People are being actively lead astray. To deny not only their dignity but that of others. A methodical and insidious devaluation of human life. Perhaps we are nothing more than simian derivatives and the significance of consciousness is deceptive.