Much like most children born between the years of 1980 and 1990, the first experience I ever had with Playboy magazine came to me through my father.
Of course, I like to think my experience is unique if only because my father is a minister and the specific picture to which I so fondly refer was and still is hung on our living room wall.
Confession: there may have been men in my past who have kept Miss September through August hung on their refrigerators but despite the fact they say women date men who remind them of their fathers, my dad isn’t one of those. In fact, naked women have nothing to do with my first introduction to Playboy.
“Did you know,” my dad often recounts at the beginning of this story, “that there is not even one reference to him laughing in the entire Bible?” We all shake our heads in disbelief.
“Jesus wept,” he quotes, before saying something like, “unusually suspicious, don’t you think, considering how human it is to laugh.”
It came to pass that my father found the illusive portrait of the laughing Christ in a copy of the magazine and, no artist name in sight, then copied it from the pages of that issue onto a piece of cardstock and framed it, leaving my mother to the final decision as to where it would be hung.
“Playboy!” my dad always tells people when then spy the picture from the dining room table. “Can you believe it came from Playboy?”
Five years ago, the picture made such an impression on a couple my parents were friends with they had to track down a copy all over again as a gift.
When the news reached me this past week that Hugh Hefner and Playboy CEO Scott Flanders decided the female body had run its course in the magazine I felt the strangest sense of pride. It was as if I had known all along Playboy had the potential of Esquire — that it was hiding this ulterior motive all along. Sure, they were paying the bills with boobs, but there was a separate philosophical statement being made in those pages — a social commentary not only smart, but provocative.
The original goal of the magazine, according to Flanders, was to normalize the female body. Whether one agrees or disagrees with this, no one can deny that the mission has been accomplished. Sure, it’s always a jolt to the senses when nudity comes into the picture, but it’s no longer a shock-and-awe scenario.
I was listening to a conversation on the radio the other day talking about how the vision for the new Playboy was for it to become a conversation piece — something one could leave out on the coffee table during a dinner party. The hosts spent the five minute slot debating whether Playboy had ruined its chances of this simply based on its past.
The woman argued she wouldn’t feel comfortable picking it up, while the male announcer stated he might feel embarrassed to leave it out in the first place.
When my husband and I got married in March, our parents proved their friendship by bringing their twin copies of the laughing Jesus with them to the ceremony. In three quarters of our wedding photos, two laughing Jesus’ (Jesi?) can be seen partying with the rest of our families.
I smiled when I heard the commentary surrounding whether or not Playboy could ever normalize itself like it did the female body.
You see, it doesn’t take nudity to be provocative — sometimes all it takes is reading between the lines. If you were to ask the three dozen ministers who have commented on that one picture over the past twenty years, Playboy has been doing just this since it first hit the press.
Oh, and girls had nothing to do with it.
— Andria Parker is an Instagram-obsessed idealist with at least 600 words to share on every topic, ever.