Playboy Bunnies Are Scary

Would you like to be a Playboy Bunny this Halloween? The Bunny is a popular costume, and you may have some fun. But one real, live ex-Bunny paints a bleaker picture.

Lili Bee had once worked at the New York City Playboy Club. One day when a Bunny/Playmate emerged from the shower Lili was “struck by how absolutely human she looked.”

Curious about the Playmate’s spread, Lili flipped through the stacks of Playboys that sat in the Club’s employee lounge:

In front of me was sprawled virtual perfection, not a flaw in sight, her skin pore-less, tawny, with the texture of velvet. Her eyes were sparkling and bright. Her lips perfectly moist, parted ever so slightly to show off her perfect, non-rejecting smile.

Her body was portrayed in much the same way: All good features were highlighted to the extreme, and the less than perfect were ‘corrected,’ which is to say, rendered invisible.

Yes, the centerfolds were pretty. But so were her aunt, her boyfriend’s sister, and the woman who had handed her the New York Times that morning. In fact,

Most women were attractive if you could just see them outside of the narrow rules, and yet it seemed that Playboy had extolled some illusory woman as the absolute gold standard for perfection.

That presents a scary perspective for your average women. A fear that she can never live up to an ideal. She might undergo scary surgeries or diets to try to achieve that “perfection.” Or wear tortuous outfits to create an unreal shape. In fact, the Bunny costume is kind of scary.

In its shape-shifting, Lili’s outfit was painful and the boning left marks around her ribs. When feminist, Gloria Steinem, worked undercover as a Bunny, she had to wrap gauze around herself to keep the boning from rubbing her raw. And the stuffing the breasts sit on to make “anyone” look large-breasted was sweltering and tight. In fact, the costume was “so tight it would give a man cleavage,” Steinem recalled. Even the modified outfits that actresses wore for last year’s cancelled Playboy TV series were described as, “tight,” “constricting,” and, “Child, you cannot breathe.” All this pain to create the illusion of an “ideal” female figure that does not exist in reality.

Today Lili is leery of all that Playboy has created: Unattainable ideals that will hurt American women for the next 40 years, and counting…

So women can feel they don’t match up. And men can feel deprived, never finding the idealized perfection.

A little scary.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social 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. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on October 31, 2012, in body image, feminism, objectification, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. ANY woman can dress up as a playboy bunny! Fuck playboy’s *official standards*. I know plenty of women who don’t even come close to measuring up to playboy standards of beauty and still get plenty of gawks every time they walk down the street dressed to the 9s.

  2. I don’t necessarily agree that Playboy has set up unattainable ideals. All these women who are in playboy, are really young and still have their youth. When you are younger it is easier to obtain the kind of body they advertise in their magazine. Yes, not everyone is going to have size D breasts, unless you want to cough up a couple grand. But on the other hand, even though these women have large breasts, the ones who had to pay for them, their breast don’t look natural by any means. This is most likely why playboy doesn’t always put just fake large breasted women in their magazine. They also put natural breasted women.
    Also I don’t think Playboy is the culprit for advertising unattainable ideals. Society is the culprit. If you look at Playboy throughout the years, they show women who are considered hott for that time period. Playboy advertises the acceptable trends for that time. Yes, the women in Playboy now and days are very skinny. But skinny is the growing trend. If you look at Playboy during the time Marilyn Monroe and Betty Page were around, skinny was not trendy. Women wanted curves, and that’s what was considered attractive at that time. So if you are going to blame someone for giving unattainable ideals, don’t blame Playboy, but blame society. If everyone wasn’t into being so skinny, we wouldn’t have extremely skinny girls in Playboy.

  3. I personally would never want to dress up as a playboy bunny for halloween because for one it is just not my style and two i honestly could never fit the image to be one! I have always struggled with not being satisfied with just being me. I always think no I should still loose acouple pounds, my hair could still be alittle longer, no i need these kinds of clothes people are wearing. I am definently not like that anymore and im growing to accept myself way more than i ever did when i was growing up in my high school years. But if other girls are like me they cannot help but want to look just like those playboy girls that are admired hoping that if they ever could look and be like that that they could finally be at peace with themselves. But now i realize how un glamorous thier lives are and how painful and unhealthy it can be for those girls to achieve those looks.

  4. It’s sadly common for girls to dress up as playboy bunnies for Halloween. Even though I think it’s something that’s very played out, girls probably think since its the one day its “okay” to dress like a whore, why not be a playboy bunny. Since playboy bunnies are seen as the perfect women, it’s no surprise that girls feel they will look beautiful in that costume. Since these sex objects are seen as desirable, this pretty much lays out that if you aren’t sexy and wear revealing clothes you won’t be beautiful. Since men like half naked girls, that’s how girls should look. Ever since I’ve been a little girl my mom told me I would find a man who loved me unconditionally for who I was. Little girls are raised with the thought in their head that they will find their prince charming so I think growing up, girls are always trying to impress the guys they like cause their desperate to have a boyfriend. I think this is unhealthy because a woman doesn’t need a man to be happy with life.

  5. I read her article, and it was really interesting. I think that those ideals are still scary, but until all young people are made aware of the fact that these are completely unreal images, they won’t stop idolising them. I find it really upsetting that there are young girls out there who photoshop every image of themselves before putting it on facebook because they can’t bear the way they look. The constant exposure to the “perfect ideal” is damaging our youth.

  6. Throughout my teenage years I always watched the “girls next door” or “kendra” I read Kendra’s book also that she wrote about 2 years ago. I followed playmates very closely but i never realized that their bunny outfits were so tight. It is sad that girls want to be Bunnies for halloween like that is a great image society is putting out for younger girls to look like. Who would want their daughters or sisters to go out basically naked and representing something half these girls do not even know the real story behind what being the bunny means. It is horrifying that young women and girls do not find themselves beautiful so they look for an excuse to make them feel beautiful for a night…

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