Yesterday Dr. Faustus happened to email me a link to a review by Roger Ebert of a new documentary about Hugh Hefner. I found Ebert’s commentary about the social significance of Playboy magazine to be more interesting than his take on the movie, though:
You may believe Playboy was the enemy of women. It objectified their bodies. It schooled men to regard them as sex objects. It stood for all that feminists fought to correct. There is some truth to that, but it doesn’t impact upon my experience, and the best I can do here is be truthful.
Nobody taught me to regard women as sex objects. I always did. Most men do. And truth to tell, most women regard men as sex objects. We regard many other aspects of another person, but sex is the elephant in the room. Evolution has hard-wired us that way. When we meet a new person, in some small recess of our minds we evaluate that person as a sex partner. We don’t act on it, we don’t dwell on it, but we do it. You know we do. And this process continues bravely until we are old and feeble.
Yes, Playboy presented women’s bodies for our regard. Yes, they were airbrushed and photo shopped to perfection. Not a blemish, not a zit, not one single chewed fingernail. This process of perfection doesn’t deny nature, it reflects it. When we meditate on the partner of our dreams, the mental image we summon is without flaw. We don’t dwell upon a pimple or a bad tooth or a little underarm fat. We meditate on the gestalt. We meditate on being accepted and loved by that wonderful person.