Tuesday, March 4, 2008

My _Playboy_ Finally Arrived in the Mail

For the last couple of years, I've been collecting "girl watching" sources. I have several albums of music "to watch girls by," a girl watchers fridge magnet, a Seagrams "girl watchers bar guide," The Girl Watchers' Guide (book), and a few other odds and ends. Ebay has been my friend for this project and allowed me to buy sources and artifacts that archives and museums have not collected.

My most recent acquisition just arrived: the August 1959 edition of Playboy. I finally just bought this magazine because I was having a hard time getting my hands on a copy from that year through traditional library means. U of M Ann Arbor's libraries will collect Good Housekeeping and has microfilmed copies of Glamour, but no Playboy that old.

My purpose in acquiring a copy was to be able to compare The Girl Watcher to Playboy. The former was published only in the late 1950s and I have been able to buy two issues of it off of ebay (I had to bid on one of them many times... someone in Japan really wanted the same issue!). I don't know if there were more ever published. Once they were in my hands, however, figuring out what to do with them took some amount of time.

After carting them around for over a year, pulling them out to show friends and family, I finally decided to call the magazine "soft-core porn." But this label was questioned by my writing group recently... they wanted more information and all of them referenced Playboy. How did it compare to Playboy of the same era. So I bought an issue. But not just any issue. Nope, I bought the issue that had the same model, June Wilkinson, as The Girl Watcher had featured in that same year, 1959.

Now, I have not read the issue cover to cover, but my impression is that Playboy in the 1950s was really, really tame. There are a few shots of Wilkinson's boobs, but that's it for nudity. I'm not sure that even qualifies as soft core! By comparison, there were fewer nipples, but far more 'provocative' poses in The Girl Watcher.

I guess I just find it amusing that, despite its reputation, Playboy of the 1950s doesn't fit into any definition of pornography that I've ever come across. The old adage of "I just get it for the articles" really had to apply in 1959, anyway, because there really wasn't much else!

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