Playboy Doesn’t Objectify Women?

The notion that Playboy turns women into sex objects is ridiculous. Women are sex objects. If women weren’t sex objects, there wouldn’t be another generation. It’s the attraction between the sexes that makes the world go ’round. That’s why women wear lipstick and short skirts.

That’s what Hugh Hefner says, anyway.

If this is true, then…

Why do women want to have sex with men? Men aren’t sex objects.

Why do men have sex with women who aren’t sex-objecty?

This doesn’t make sense.

There’s a difference between being sexually attracted to a woman and seeing women as objects that are all about sex and little else.

I don’t feel that I’ve been treated as a sex object by most of the men I’ve dated. And I’ve ended relationships with those who did see women in that way. They’re so annoying!

So I don’t buy it.

Playboy has certainly played a part in objectifying women. Hefner just can’t see it because he thinks we fit naturally into that limited box.

And by the way, women’s bodies are not inherently more sexually alluring than men’s. The male’s buttocks are just as attractive as the female’s. But the camera does not gaze at a man’s derrière as it does a woman’s. So we learn to see women’s bodies differently.

You think men are hard-wired to be drawn to women’s breasts? What about native societies where women walk around topless? And no one cares. The breast fetish isn’t biological. More on that later.

Notions like Hefner’s simply help those who objectify to feel better about it.

Popular Posts on BroadBlogs:
Anything Good About Being A Sex Object?
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Men Aren’t Hard Wired To Find Breasts Attractive
Women Learn the Breast Fetish, Too
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Beautiful Women’s Hips Are Thinner Than Their Heads?
Men Finding Fewer Women “Porn-Worthy”

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on August 10, 2010, in body image, feminism, gender, sex, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I agree that socioeconomic and sociocultural backgrounds play a role on how women are viewed in society.

    Also, I agree, Hefner does take a stab at objectifying women. But, I do disagree that his attempt at objectifying women is to make men feel better about it. Hefner’s success would imply that the market for such images and perspectives is not only valid, but thriving due to the proof, which lies in the circulation of magazines like Playboy, or perhaps Maxim (to a lesser extent).

    Assuming one man and one woman are equal objects of desire….a man is far more likely to view the woman as an object of desire, specifically based on a photo (or some sort of image without any knowledge of either the man’s or woman’s personality). This was clearly the case in a recent survey taken in a psychology course. Men are more inclined to objectify women and are generally more focused on visual stimulation, than are women.

    This is not to say that women cannot have assets which supersede physical makeups – a woman’s intelligence can be far more attractive than outer beauty, given the right set of circumstances. Also, the two can certainly work in conjunction with one another, e.g. a man and woman develop an intense relationship nurturing love and affection, but simultaneously, the man can look at Playboy and objectify those women, while maintaining a healthy relationship with their partner.

    Furthermore, we see many women’s magazines which objectify women – for women. The images in magazines such as “In Style”, “Vogue”, “Cosmopolitan” and others in the like, specifically feature women’s photos. Not only are they displaying photos, but the photos in which they display do not reflect the physical aspects of an “everyday” woman. Several arguments have been made regarding the weight of the models in these photos, which ultimately send messages of unobtainable stature – for example, many models have eating disorders to maintain their physical weight and perceived beauty, whereas a man is very infrequently accused of making choices that could significantly reduce their health.

    Also, if SOME women don’t perceive this notion of physical sexual prowess, than why do we see so many breast implants, plastic surgery and other physically altering techniques in order to make themselves appear more attractive to the other sex?

    IMO, certain types of women with alluring assets, play to those superficial roles. Men, by nature, gravitate towards women with alluring physical characteristics. Although, I would not say this criteria would suffice in the development of a meaningful relationship.

    Perhaps it might be summed up by the man’s intent to attract a woman with exceptional physical features when looking for a superficial “hook-up”, but the focal point is quite different when looking for a relationship or a long lasting partner.

    • Thanks for your comment and taking the time to be so thoughtful about it. I also have some points of disagreement w/you:
      Re “I disagree that his attempt at objectifying women is to make men feel better about it”
      • I actually believe Hefner objectifies w/out an intent to do so. He thinks that women are just naturally objects. I don’t. In future posts, you may better see how his work, among others, creates an objectification that doesn’t naturally exist
      • By making men feel better about porn (dressing up playboy w/literature, good articles) he sells more mags
      Re: “Hefner’s success would imply that the market for such images and perspectives is not only valid, but thriving due to the proof, which lies in the circulation of magazines like Playboy, or perhaps Maxim (to a lesser extent).”
      • Just because something is wildly successful doesn’t make it valid. Hitler was widely successful at his attempt to vilify Jews, Slavics, etc.
      • In the past, religious right has been successful at vilifying gays
      • In the past racists were wildly successful at dehumanizing blacks (at first to justify slavery, and later to keep blacks from political power.
      Re “Assuming one man and one woman are equal objects of desire”
      • One problem: They aren’t equal objects of desire. Why’s Playgirl bankrupt when “men’s mags” are thriving? I’ll be discussing more later. But you acknowledge this when you add: “….a man is far more likely to view the woman as an object of desire, specifically based on a photo”
      As you say, “Men are more inclined to objectify women and are generally more focused on visual stimulation, than are women.”
      • You assume that’s biological, while I believe it’s cultural (I’ve got a post on that coming up soon).
      the man can look at Playboy and objectify those women, while maintaining a healthy relationship with their partner
      • Maybe. Sometimes they don’t, when they’re overexposed to porn. Will discuss later.
      Re “we see many women’s magazines which objectify women – for women”
      • Absolutely. Women learn to objectify women, too.
      RE: the photos in which they display do not reflect the physical aspects of an “everyday” woman.
      • Yep. Got a post coming out on that 10/21
      Re: Also, if SOME women don’t perceive this notion of physical sexual prowess, then why do we see so many breast implants, plastic surgery and other physically altering techniques in order to make themselves appear more attractive to the other sex?
      • Not sure what your point is here. It doesn’t seem to be anything that disagrees w/my post, or my perspective, but you write as though it is.
      Again, re “Men, by nature, gravitate towards women with alluring physical characteristics.”
      • In a future post you’ll see that I disagree.

  2. I am actually an avid fan of Girls Next Door. Which is a TV based on Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends. But I do not watch it because they are in Playboy or anything like that. I watch it because it shows them as normal young women.
    I do agree that Hugh Hefner and the Playboy company do objectify women. Half of the magazine is filled with naked women and having them do pictorials of potential guys fantasies. To think that a women is sexy shouldn’t involve them having to take off their clothes. Women can be sexy with clothes on.

  3. “There’s a difference between being sexually attracted to a woman and seeing women as objects that are all about sex and little else.”

    SO true! Couldn’t have said it better. Women can be sexy, but should never, ever be considered ‘objects’ or anything less than the equality of a man.
    In my opinion both men and women are sexy but it is majority women who chose to display themselves sexually for others to see. It is not uncommon for a woman to want to be desired, looked at, or to feel the need to be pretty or sexy.
    I agree Playboy, along with many other magazines, movies, and advertisements play a part in objectifying women but it is in fact those women that freely chose their position. No one forces them to pose, dress, or appear how the do. In most cases it is their own decision and they themselves who want to be looked at, admired, and felt sexy. It is the women who belittle themselves to those standards, not always the men who are entertained by it. The women can see the demand for it so they chose to continue to supply it.

    • Ok, but consider the phrase “these women chose to pose this way.”

      1) Their posing that way affects women who haven’t chosen to pose that way.

      2) When women present themselves as sex objects they may “choose” to, but this choosing is affected by internalization. Internalization occurs when “society” comes to live in our own minds. That is, when we see the world the way society has told us to see it. It’s a bit like brainwashing.

      • Yes, that makes sense. I can recall learning about internalization in a previous sociology class… Conforming to norms that are set by other individuals of importance or the society that you are surrounded by. I understand your correlation with ‘brainwashing’, these standards are set by others, not necessarily ones own beliefs.
        I still would like to stress my point about supply and demand. In essence, these women are ‘brainwashed’ to theses standards of desirability and attractiveness and therefore chose to display what they have to offer based on others needs or interests. The sexual and provocative display has reached an all time high and continues to expand through the limitless options the internet provides. In many ways it is disgusting, but because there is such an intense craving for it, the market will only continue to flourish, fulfilling the desires of the individuals that make up the society.

  4. I agree with you. I do believe Heff does objectify women. Playboy puts women in positions most women would find very uncomfortable naturally. Yes he is successful, but that is because there are many many men who just see women as sex objects. I think you can be sexy and turn a man on with out being completely nude and in a spread eagle position.

  5. I watched Hefner last night via net flix documentory about him defend the idea that he wasn’t objectifying women in a negative way but that women are in fact objects of sexual desire AND he goes on to say “as well much more ” . It made me ponder…hence I came to this blog. When I was a kid in 60′s I viewed girls and women based on a society that was very image concious and what I consider to be disfunctional. A society that has much to learn. I like many boys had an extremly low self esteem and handeled my sexual drive through fantasy and masturbation during those early years and many years after and magazines like Playboy fueled my fire. Based on my own experience physical attraction is in fact a big part of a mans attraction to women for sex and if you don’t have the skills to meet your needs, like attract the ones you want and begin to explore sex, than you do what millions of frustrated men do, buy a magazine or these days go online and satisfy that urge…which is not really very satisfying and further fuels low self esteem. Human sexual urge is right up there with hunger and thirst and Hefner didn’t invent the sexual urge. As a businessman he was just lucky because he saw an opportunity before anybody else to mix sexual desire with modern intelectual culture and his empire exploded, much like other ideas that lead the way. In reality I think he exploited mens and boys sexual drive more than the notion of objectify or debase women .I don’t believe there are any examples where he deliberatly humiliated or repressed or ridiculed women as a gender. If anything I believe he wants liberation from repressed society on many levels political and social for everybody as attested in his writing. But he won’t stop a multibillion dollar empire in the works. The best that he could have done (had he known how) would have been to educate males as to how to attract the opposite sex successfully and feel better about themselves without resorting to fantasy…but that is parents and even societies job and through love, compassion, education and expression of ideas hopefully that will occur. We are progressing..it just takes time.

  6. I will freely admit that I watched a lot of “Girls Next Door”, the show about Hugh Hefner and his three girlfriends, when it was on E!. The post on broad blog makes a good point that he doesn’t really know that he is objectifying women the way we think he is. When I watched the show he came across as a fair, honest, respectful, professional man, who happen to have a lot of young women around him. He never objectified them in the show they did that to themselves. I never once saw him get angry or raise his voice at one of them.
    I think that for men like Hugh Hefner there isn’t a negative connotation associated with “objectifying” women. In a way I think he is celebrating what he thinks makes them women. I would argue that in some ways men are naturally drawn to women with large breasts, butts, and especially hips because instinctually that shows you that they can bare a lot of children. They have a lot going on, they are sturdy enough to be a mother, and that shows. I have yet to meet a man that prefers a woman with no curves what so ever. It’s just not naturally a good child carrying shape.
    On the other end of the spectrum, it is hard to objectify men because their clothes are so baggy! If women walked around with potato sacks as dresses I doubt we would be turning a lot of head, regardless of the shape underneath. It’s easy to forget that men have distinctive features as well because they have loose fitting pants, underwear, tops, and jackets. If they wore tight clothes that revealed all assets, top and bottom, I’m sure there would be a lot more buzz about whom is “hotter” because of their body.
    I think that the objectification of women has been taken out of the hands of men, and women are now continuing the trend. Sexy images are everywhere and women are baring skin to sell products, attract attention, and prove they are hot. I think men reap the benefit of that by sitting back and looking but I think women are now the driving force and they end up objectifying other women because sex sells.
    Why not objectify men in the same way? It’s simple, women appeal to both women and men. Men appeal to women, and some men, but I think most men would feel uncomfortable seeing a half-naked man on the cover of a magazine. Women, in general, have no problems admitting other girls are attractive, and can tell you exactly why they are. Women are a universally, relatable icon, so they are easy to objectify. It is easier for them to draw people in.
    I’m trying to come at this at an observer’s point of view, so much of this is simplified, but I believe you have to look at all motives involved for objectifying women and I think you will find that it’s not all men that drive this.

    • Being angry at someone is not a sign of objectifying them. Encouraging people to see women primarily or only in terms of sex is. That’s his whole thing. What he’s made his money off of. And it is a social construction.

      So is what we find beautiful. The waste hip ratio is the most universally agree-upon indicator of “attractive,” yet a huge stomach of fat is preferred in some (poor) cultures. And both men and women learn the breast fetish, and learn to see women as sexier than men. (Why would nature make women see women as sexier than men if you want to reproduce the species? Instead we all learn to see the world through male eyes, because their vision is what we’re bombarded with.) The fetish is not universal. A preference for large breasts is not universal. Breast size has no effect on a woman’s ability to produce milk and is no indication of her health. The fetish is created by selectively hiding and revealing. See the posts I refer to under “popular posts.”

      The particular body type most celebrated today is one that few women can manage. But it causes women to buy a never-ending line of products to try to achieve that look. Corporate America was pretty clever to come up with that notion.

      And women do often unconsciously internalize the notion that they should come across as sex objects (and I make a distinction between “sexy,” which is a part of what a woman may be and “sex object” is when sex is ALL she’s about).

      But all the models you see promoting the idea of “woman as sex” are there because they’re being paid, often by men, who have also internalized the notion.

      If no one critiques it, everyone goes around just assuming that women are just “naturally” that way, and no change occurs to expand women’s possibilities.

  1. Pingback: Men Are Naturally Attracted To Unnatural Women | BroadBlogs

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