How Playboy Pioneered Modern Rape Culture (and what we are doing about it)

Dear Readers,

This month (October) is dedicated to raising awareness around rape culture. The Relationship Blogger seeks to inform readers and writers alike on global topics that are culturally toxic. Rape culture certainly fits the bill. It’s everywhere. It’s accepted. It’s misunderstood.

Nothing illustrates this better than the conflicted public response to Hugh Hefner’s death. Hefner has been called a “sexual revolutionary” for his work creating Playboy Magazine. But it was and is not revolutionary to objectify women’s bodies, especially when pairing their bodies with well-written, often educational material, thereby creating cognitive dissonance.

If you are unaware, cognitive dissonance is defined as “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.”

Putting objectification of women’s bodies at the same level with scientific and cultural education worked to normalize consumption of the female form. After all, reading for learning is acceptable, and Hefner created a scenario in which one could make an argument for pursuing Playboy content beyond its spreads, thereby pioneering rape culture–a way of thinking based on the idea that sexual control of a woman’s body or image is acceptable.

I had a conversation about this with my husband, mentioning how my male friends changed their attitudes toward me once they had access to pornography. He asked me what might have made Playboy less nefarious. He asked a question I feel has merit and will mention here, “What if all of the articles had been written by the women pictured?”

That’s a big what if. One I haven’t completed my answer to except to say that at least it would have shown women have more than parts that receive. We have brains that cognate. We think, feel and exist beyond our bodies just as men.

Women do have the right to choose how and where they are seen and treated. This is consent. It is the axe for hacking apart rape culture.

In our October 2017 issue, you will be reading many pieces on consent, communication, assumption, making sex better and awareness of rape culture from men, women and nonbinary artists. We hope you will come away educated. We hope you will share. We hope you will also write with us. Your voice matters, especially on issues such as this one.

What’s more, as promised,  the TRB team is working to replace images which objectify women with a visual aesthetic that represents more than only the cis-gendered, white, heterosexual relationship. Perhaps you would like to be a TRB visual artist? If so, please contact us.

Thank you for being here.

Shawna

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie is a mental wellness advocate and writing coach in Bloomington, IN. Her work has recently appeared in Role Reboot, The Manifest-Station, Huffington Post and On the Verge Magazine. You can find her most regularly on The Honeyed Quill.

1 Comment
  1. Reply Tricia Barker
    Tricia Barker October 8, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    Great post! You make a good point about how male friends changed how they related to us after Playboy. I remember reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover on the lawn of the first college I attended. Several guys gave me a thumbs up for reading that book, and I thought it was great that men were reading books. Later, I realized that an excerpt from that novel was in that month’s issue of Playboy. It was a funny moment, but a discouraging one too. Porn influences men’s judgments about women. Obviously, I wasn’t a prude judging my my reading choices, but I would have rather been viewed as an open-minded English major than someone with a connection to porn.

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